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Rare Signed Automaton Barrel-Piano by George Hicks

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Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2383
Date / Time :
October 28, 2007 10:00AM


Rare Signed Automaton Barrel-Piano by George Hicks ink-stamped on soundboard G. Hicks, Cylinder, Piano Manufacturer, 17 Chapell Street, Caledonian Road, London, with thirty-key action, eight-air barrel driving four carved, gilt and polychrome-painted automata figures in mirrored enclosure with original papers and double-leaf folding lid, in figured rosewood veneered case with boxwood and ebony banding, sound aperature formed as a proscenium with pilasters and red silk curtains framing brass Royal Coat of Arms, bun feet, leather carrying strap, and original brass S-form crank, ht. 37 1/2 x wd. 19, figures 7 1/4 in. Note: It is rare to find a signed Hicks barrel piano; the impressive size of this piece, its larger than usual number of keys, and the presence of the Royal Coat of Arms, suggest a special commission.
The Black Forest automata found in barrel pianos and organs are often allegorical, nearly always drawn from folklore, and often resemble American folk carving in their painted decoration. The automata in this example represent (left to right): King Gambrinus, the mythical originator of beer, cross-legged upon a barrel, tankard and carafe in hand, with articulated arms, left wrist, head, eyes and mouth; an ape in jester costume and bicorn hat strumming a guitar, with moving wrist (missing right paw and neck of instrument), eyes and lower jaw; a crouching Roman soldier with articulated knees, ankles and right arm (originally holding a spear); and a Russian arms-collector with articulated head, axis and right arm depositing a coin into a trough.
The figures are driven from the barrel operating ten levers. Three of the figures are on fixed bases; the arms-collector is mounted on a moving axis which can be shut off from a lever at the side. Automata, mechanism and case are in unrestored, original condition; the changing mechanism requires attention, as do the actions of the automata; the winding escutcheon is missing.
Estimate $8,000-12,000


George Hicks, London, Caledonian Road, Black Forest, articulated head , arms-collector , Automaton, Robotics