Rare Lambert Automaton of "La Lecon du Chante" (The Singing Lesson), c. 1890, depicting a singing master elegantly-posed with baton and ebonized music stand directing his female student, the gentleman with papier-mache head, brown glass eyes, articulated eyelids and lower jaw, curly chestnut-brown mohair wig and moustache, the lady with unmarked Jumeau bisque poupee head impressed 6, straight neck, closed mouth, threaded blue paperweight eyes, pierced ears with earrings, blonde mohair wig arranged in center-parting with braid and long curls decorated with silk and wax flowers, bisque shoulderplate and hands holding leather-bound book of sheet music, on velvet-covered base with going-barrel mechanism driving eight cams and large two-airs-per-turn cylinder movement, in original costume, the gentleman in black acorn-sprigged satin tailcoat with blue lining over embroidered waistcoat, garnet buttons and tie-pin, jabot, gold silk breeches and gilt fob, the lady in fitted two-tone green satin bodice and overskirt, silver-gray silk brocade skirt with short train, and gauze lace sleeves, ht.26 x wd.28 in, (costumes mainly original with some restoration, lady with tiny earring chip), twelve movements.
>The man looks from side to side and inclines his head to read from the music score on the stand. He keeps time with the baton in his right hand and directs imperiously with his left, all the while blinking and moving his mouth in song, or possibly only to berate his student with his haughty expression. She, meanwhile, looks from side to side, raises the book of sheet music, and throws her head back in a dramatic fashion, as though reaching for a high note. Both figures have double-articulation of each arm characteristic of Lambert, with a long cycle and a total of twelve different movements.
Literature: Bailly, Automata, the Golden Age, pp. 179, 180.
This is the only example known of the larger version of "The Singing Lesson" described, but never pictured, in the Lambert catalogue as No. 5 (bis). The smaller version, which appears as No. 5 in the catalogue, features two children, whereas in this version, the automaton depicts two elegantly-dressed adults. It was intended as the companion to a Lambert's "The Conversation" which portrayed the same figures in a seated pose. The one illustrated in Bailly p. 179, from the collection in Monaco, shows the man dressed as an incroyable or dandy in near-identical marquis costume to the automaton offered here. There are two known examples of "The Conversation", and one example of the smaller "Singing Lesson", now in the Kobe Doll Museum.
Bailly suggests that Lambert's automata may be placed in two different categories: the series of girls with three or four simple movements, engaged in demure activities, and the more elaborate pieces, produced in very small numbers, which stand out stand out because of the originality of their subject, their size, sophistication and the variety of their movements. The Singing Lesson falls into the second category. The absence of an illustration in the catalogue suggests that it was produced strictly by commission, its complexity putting it beyond the budgets of even many wealthy customers. Certainly, it is one of the largest and most complex automata offered by this maker, who provided a custom-built mechanism and a larger than usual cylinder movement, specifically mentioned in the catalogue, to provide a suitable accompaniment for the musical subject matter. The Singing Lesson is also notable as a rare example of an automaton designed, like the Pierrot Serenading the Moon, to be viewed in profile.