Auctioneers and Appraisers

Rare "Gambling" Monkey Magician Automaton by Jean Phalibois

Sold for:





Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2314
Date / Time :
November 03, 2005 10:00AM


Rare "Gambling" Monkey Magician Automaton by Jean Phalibois, with papier-mache head, articulated lips, eyes and right arm (shoulder, elbow and wrist), a staff with sun medallion in his left hand and a wand in his right, standing beside a table with glass dome containing five dice, the going-barrel movement with six wood cams causing the monkey to turn and lower his head to look at the dice, rolling his eyes and moving his lips as he taps the dome three times with his wand, then waves the wand in the air and rotates it to reveal that the numbers and on the dice have changed, in conical magician's hat and black velvet robes edged in satin and decorated with cut-paper and metal-thread, on ebonized base with climbing ivy trellis, two-air pull-string musical movement and later glass dome, ht 22 in.

Notes: Christian Bailly (1987), Automata, The Golden Age, 1848-1914, p. 162. Antonia Fraser (1972), A History of Toys, p. 109, for a similar magician. The movement to change the dice is extremely rare amongst magician automata: a cam wheel with a single projection slowly lowers the centre of the table throughout the sequence and then rapidly releases it once during each rotation. When released, the spring-loaded part of the table throws the dice, changing their sequence.
It has been suggested that these "gambling" magicians were originally used to entertain casino guests. Two models were produced. The first, described in an 1885 Silber & Fleming catalogue, stands behind the table and places a brass cover over the dome while the dice change: "Mechanical Piece, under a glass shade, representing a Monkey Conjuror. Richly dressed figure standing behind a table, on which is a small glass shade with three dice. The figure places a small brass cover over the shade and then raises it, the numbers on the dice changing meanwhile. Two airs of music. "The second, this model, stands beside the table and waves his wand while the dice change. The current costume is a copy of the original, which is included (in a reasonable state of preservation) with the lot.
Estimate $10,000-15,000


Christian Bailly, Jean Phalibois, conical magician , metal-thread, Antonia Fraser, similar magician , magician , Fleming, Dice, Dice games, Games