Fine Gustave Vichy Automaton of a Japanese Mask Seller
- Sold for:
- Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2314
- Date / Time :
- November 03, 2005 10:00AM
Fine Gustave Vichy Automaton of a Japanese Mask Seller, with papier-mache head, brown paperweight eyes with articulated lids, down lashes and arched feathered brows, open smiling mouth with inset teeth, pierced ears and black hair wig swept back from the forehead and held in an elaborate bun by silk flowers, beads and combs, holding a large red paper parasol in her left hand, a noh mask in her right, and two more masks representing male and female characters hanging from a painted tray suspended by a ribbon around her neck, the going-barrel movement in the body playing two airs and causing the figure to bow her head and look from left to right and then slowly raise the mask to her face, while blinking and twirling the parasol in time to the music, in turquoise satin kimono with embroidered motifs of flamingo and flowers, gold silk brocade underskirt, ochre satin sleeves, embroidered copper obi, and upturned silver slippers, ht. 35 in., with parasol 44 in., with pierced Vichy key and acorn stop/start, (good movement and tone).
Literature: Christian Bailly, (1987), Automata, the Golden Age, pp. 70 and 235.
Note: Paris in the 1890s was enthralled by the mysteries of the East, its culture, characters, and customs. Gustave Vichy created a series of automata inspired by life in China and Japan, as seen through Western eyes. Other examples from this series include the Chinese smoker and his companion piece, the tea-drinker. The Mask Seller is the largest of the three, and her movements and costuming the most sophisticated. Her mechanism is concealed entirely within the body; the action which rotates the parasol is created by gears turning in the shoulder.
Vichy called this model the "Japonaise" and "Marchante des Masques". She appeared in the catalogue as a "modele depose", the 19th century French equivalent of an American patent, a process reserved only for a maker's most important pieces. With her lifelike movements and impressive size, the Mask Seller is uniquely Vichy in design.