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Musical Automaton Picture Clock: Low Tech Entertainment

One of our most interesting offerings in our October 31st Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments auction is this gilt-framed musical automaton picture clock of a Blacksmith’s Shop (Lot 457, Estimate $5,000-$7,000), attributed to Xavier Tharin, c. 1880.

Automatons go as far back as the middle ages but some people refer to the  mid 19th to early 20th century as the “Golden Age” of automata making. The industry was thriving in Paris during that time with makers like Vichy, Lambert and Roullet & Decamps. These objects were curiosities for the prosperous individuals of the day.

This elaborately decorated arch-top giltwood and gesso frame has  two cherub-like figures flanking the Roman numeral porcelain dial in the arch and is a site to see. The hand-colored lithograph depicts a farrier’s shop and a village scene in the distance provides much entertainment.   The scene animations include a maiden washing the laundry on a river bank, a procession of villagers along the streets, and a train passing over the canal.

The shop depicts two smiths working on an anvil, one operating the bellows, a farrier shoeing a horse while the horse’s head nods, and a dog wagging its tail, all while music plays.  The clock has eight-day time and gong-strike clock movement with a single-air pull-string cylinder musical movement and two separate spring or going barrels which operate the pulley systems.

Take a look at the video above to see it in action and come preview it in our Marlborough gallery this week.

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