Monday, January 25, 2010

DaVinci's Last Supper - automaton by Phalibois

Shown here is a rare automaton by the famous maker Phalibois representing Davinci's painting The Last Supper. It is a large scene-style automaton measuring about four feet in length. It could be the only one of its kind in the world.

The Last Supper automaton will be going to auction along with one of Pierrot Serenading the Moon by Vichy, and another large scale scene of a ship rocking on the ocean in front of a rotating backdrop of a city shoreline in Europe.

These three automata were featured in a traveling exhibition that toured Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the early 1920s, under the name of The London Mechanical and Electrical exhibition.

The auction is to be held on 25th February 2010 in New Zealand by Art+Objects under the name "The Newman Collection".

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture The folks at the incredible Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog have sent word that there is new autoamta exhibit in Madison, WI at the Chazen Museum of Art running from January 16, through March 14, 2010.

From the exhibit press release:
"The Chazen Museum of Art presents the delightful work of fourteen international artists in Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture. Meticulously crafted to perform complex, surprising, and often comic movements, these mechanical sculptures tell quick fanciful tales of nature, myth and magic, the creative process, and sheer make-believe. More than 25 hand-cranked artist-designed automata, most loaned from the private collection of University of Arizona art professor emeritus Michael Croft, will be on view January 16 through March 14, 2010. Videos will play in the gallery to show the animated workings of the pieces. Museum admission is free."

Here is a link to more information on exhibit on the Chazen Museum web site.

[ Thanks to the Cabaret Mechanical blog! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, November 13, 2009

The amazing kinetic sculpture of the late René Ach

The amazing kinetic sculpture of René Ach
Sadly, I have only just learned of the remarkably talented kinetic sculptor, René Ach. The link below is to a long, well-made video that shows the tremendous skill and artistry possessed by the late artist.

Here is a link to a long QuickTime video of the work of René Ach.

[ Thanks Phil Sing! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Roullet & Decamps pipe-smoking automaton

Automata that appeared to smoke were a common theme around the turn of the century. Here is a smoking automaton made by the famous firm of Roullet et Decamps.

From the eBay listing:
This ca. 1880 automaton by the quality makers, Roullet & Decamps, is in fully original condition. As described on pages 209-212 and page 321 of the Automata: The Golden Age 1848-1914 by Christian Bailly, the "Black Smoker" is a very rare automaton in this original condition. The "Smoker" has some fiber loss from the jacket and a small area of fiber separation on the left front shirt. When tobacco or a lighted cigarette is placed in the pipe and the mechanism activated, you are entertained by two different aires from a magnificent miniature musical movement.

Body movements include the eyes, lips, head and both arms. When the right arm with pipe is raised to the "Smokers" lips, the tobacco glows as the mechanism "inhales" the smoke. The eyes move in delight, the head moves from right to left, and the lips move (slightly) in anticipation. As the right arm is lowered, smoke billows from the lips as the "smoker" exhales.

Here is the complete listing on eBay for the Roullet & Decamps smoking automaton.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Take a look at this video of a charming new piece by Pierre Mayer called "The Harlequin", which looks to be inspired by a classic automaton of old.

See more automata by Pierre Mayer on his web site.

[ Thanks Phil Sing! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton

Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton
Here is an interesting antique smoking automaton in working condition currently listed on eBay.

From the eBay description:
He has the following movements: Head moves back and forth and tilts upward. Leg raises and lowers, giving the appearance of crossing, the arm with pipe raises and lowers. the arm with feathered fan raises and lowers. A concealed bellows gives the appearance of inhaling and exhaling smoke. Both the SMOKER mechanism as well as the MUSICAL Automaton mechanism are both in good shape. The SMOKER bellows and Tubes are fine and he will actually "inhale" and "exhale" SMOKE. There is an old repair to the base of the wood stool. A piece of the wood base that covers the mechanism is also missing but a simple fix. A hard to find piece in excellent original condition.

Here is the link to the full eBay listing for this Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Video of antique walking peacock automaton

I posted last month about an antique walking peacock automaton by Roullet and Decamps that was on eBay. I'm happy to report that the peacock has found a good home and will soon be getting a new coat of feathers.

Visit the AutomataMania Workshop to see more pictures of the walking peacock clockwork automaton.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roullet & Decamps walking peacock automaton

Roullet & Decamps walking peacock automaton
Here's a cool antique automaton from the famous French automata-makers, Roullet et Decamps. This spring-driven peacock from the turn of the century walks forward while moving its head from side to side. The tail feathers (missing at present) move too.

From the eBay description:
This is a nice "PAON MARCHANT...."WALKING PEACOCK"....MADE BY ROULLET-DECAMPS, PARIS, FRANCE C.1890-1910......The body is made of mache paper it is in regular conditions with details. It doesn't have feathers...... The mechanism is in good conditions and it is clockwork and working, it walks to the front and moves the head from one side to the other side and the tail too...... the measures 6.5 inches large by 8 inches tall.

Here's the full listing with 12 different photographs of this walking peacock automaton.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, July 31, 2009

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton
There is something charming in a mechanical rabbit automaton playing the Maracas. This one was made in France circa 1910 the by the famous French manufacturers ROULLET & DECAMPS .

From the eBay description:
When wound, the rabbit hops up and down as he shakes the maracas and his ears go up and down. He is covered with real rabbit fur and has glass eyes. His maracas are replacements that are made of hard plastic just like the original ones were, but they have been painted to simulate the originals (the one original maraca that still remains is included in the auction but is no longer attached to the toy, as you can see it is laying next to the rabbit in the last two photos). Though the replacement maracas are not original to the toy, they do make noise just like the original maracas would have and are just slightly smaller than the originals. The rabbit's fur is quite dingy from age and has been patched up here and there, but he still looks pretty good and is very amusing to watch! The rabbit measures just over 10" tall to the top of his head (ears laying out flat), and his ears are over 4" long!

Here is the full eBay listing with a ton of photos of this Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The imaginary universe of artist Robert Coudray

The Poète Ferrailleur (scrap merchant poet) Museum at La Ville Stéphant, houses an imaginary universe created by a French artist Robert Coudray of France.

See more by this artist on Robert Coudray's web site.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton
In an effort to show some of the classics on a regular basis, here is a vintage Jumeau automaton depicting an girl playing the piano.

From the eBay listing:
The automaton encompasses an EXQUISITE toy piano measuring 14 1/2" high, 6 1/2" deep and 14" wide, with an antique Jumeau head doll measuring 20" tall standing in front, making the total depth of the automaton about 14" from the back of the piano to the back of the doll.

The piano is made of ebony and walnut veneer wood with original fancy BRONZE side handles and two elaborate three-armed CANDELABRAS in the front, with IVORY KEYS and original music holder with antique French lithograph SHEET MUSIC! Unlike most stamped Jumeau heads that were used for automatons, this one is a size 6 RARE INCISED DEPOSE bisque head with red artist's marks! She has her original long brown MOHAIR WIG and CORK PATE, brown PAPERWEIGHT EYES, and STUNNING painted facial features and modeling! We did not want to compromise her originality by removing her original wig and pate as they are still attached firmly to her, but from well lighting and scrutinizing the outside of the bisque it appears to have no hairlines, chips, cracks or restorations!

She wears FACTORY ORIGINAL clothes including a cotton red jacket and matching skirt embellished with fancy black SOUTACHE trim, original white ORGANDY jacket collar and undergarments with pleated under slip and matching pantaloons, both trimmed in identical lace! Antique JET GLASS doll earrings, antique dark brown leather shoes with silver buckles and antique black cotton socks, and an original black satin JUMEAU hat with silver BEE INSIGNIA and red plumage complete her overall ORIGINAL FABULOUS presentation!

The automaton has FOUR melodies including the famous French tune "La Toreador" from the opera "Carmen", and FOUR distinct movements including PAPER MACHE hands that move up and down on the piano, and sideways, simulating "playing" of the ivory and ebony keys, as she "glances" moving her head from side to side and then up and down, as if nodding her head to the beat of the music! When the original key is wound and the knob is pulled out on the side of the piano, the entertainment begins as this lovely little girl gives her MELODIOUS CONCERT!

All movements are in good working condition and the tunes are consistent except for times where there is a fading in and out of the music, but overall still PLAYING BEAUTIFULLY!

Here is the full listing with many additional photographs of this antique Jumeau piano player automaton

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Siegfried and Roy automaton by Pierre Mayer

Here's a fantastic automaton by Pierre Mayer depicting magicians Siegfried and Roy. The video shows the magicians transport and transform. You also get an up-close look at some of the mechanics behind the magic! So cool.

See more of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on his web site.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage
Here is a classic vintage automaton motif -- the rabbit eating a head of cabbage from the inside out. This one (like many) is of French manufacture and is currently up for auction on eBay.

From the eBay item description
Clockwork windup mechanism that when wound activates both the movement of the rabbit and the music box inside. After winding just pull the activation rod and the music begins. Rabbit emerges from the cabbage with a slight turn to the right, chews a small piece of cabbage in its mouth, raises and lowers its ears while chewing, quickly makes a slight left turn and drops back into the cabbage. Rabbit fur covered metal skeleton with glass eyes.

Here is the eBay listing with many additional photographs of the rabbit eating cabbage automaton.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Video of vintage automaton cat restoration

Here is bit of video from the folks at Automatomania showing the inner workings of a antique cat automaton made by the famous makers Roullet and Decamps.

From the YouTube description
This is an automaton of a fur covered papier mache cat by Decamps of Paris Circa 1900. The film shows the restoration at the stage where all the parts have been repaired and the cat is tested prior to re-assembly.

Note the tail curl, it is a realistic action achieved with wooden balls wedged along a tapering spring within the tail, the cord pulls on the last ball only to curl it. This is a fragile part of the cat and is always broken in antique examples I have seen.

The restored cat is now for sale and can be seen at the Automatomania shop online shop.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 15, 2009

New site for the magical automata of Pierre Mayer

The magical automata of Pierre Mayer
My friend, collegue, and hero -- Pierre Mayer -- has a new web site featuring his amazing work! He specializes in contemporary wood automata that perform magical illusions. Be sure to check it out!

See all of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on is new web site.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Giant girl puppet on the move again in France

I've posted in the past about the giant marionette of a little girl created by a group called Royal de Luxe. Brought to life with the aid of cranes, block-and-tackle, and a team of puppeters, the girl was on the move again last month in a piece called "La géante du Titanic et le scaphandrier".

Here is a link with photographs and more information (in French) on La géante du Titanic et le scaphandrier.

Shown here is a video segment of one portion of the performance.

[ Thanks Bonne-voglie! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roullet and Decamps smoking monkey automaton

Here is a good video of a smoking automaton -- once a popular theme. This one, made by Roullet and Decamps, features a monkey puffing away on a cigarette.

From the YouTube description
This monkey has been trained to smoke cigars and cigarettes. He was made around 1900 by the Parisian firm of Roullet and Decamps and is made of Papier Mache covered with real fur. His enigmatic green glass eyes show just how much pleasure he gets from a fine tobacco.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reproduction monkey automaton sewing machine

Reproduction monkey automaton sewing machine
From the Sewing Machine Collector site:
Over 100 years on, and the sewing machine legacy left by Max Sandt appears to be alive and well. As a tribute to the father of figural automaton sewing machines, a French enthusiast has created the gilded monkey. The project, which took three years to complete, certainly seems to have attracted attention, for a full story is to be filmed for French TV. A series of only ten machines has been produced. The stitch plate carries the serial number together with further identification marks. These fully functional chain stitch machines are not inexpensive, but the edition has sold fast. As long as no more are made, they will surely become highly desirable in future years. And speaking of the future, our creative machine manufacturer reports that further projects are already in hand....
Here is the original posting on The Sewing Machine Collector site.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 02, 2009

Antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Antique Sailing Ships Automaton Music Box
The two small wood and paper ships inside this 19th-century automaton have French flags, so it is likely of French make. The base of the scene is hollow so it can house a Swiss music Box and the tiny mechanism that causes the two ships to rock up and down on the painted tissue paper waves. A very charming antique automaton.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Beautiful horse automaton by Jacques Monestier

Beautiful horse automaton Jacques Monestier
I posted a few days ago about automata maker and sculptor Jacques Monestier's beautiful and useful prosthetic hand.

Here is another stunning piece depicting a trotting horse. When someone approaches, a sensor detects them and an electric motor on a timer sets the horse automaton in motion. The horse trots and stretches its head and tail. The horse is made of bronze and copper and covered in gold leaf.

The artist clearly has some extraordinary metal-working skills.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 08, 2008

Antique French swimming automaton toy

Antique French swimming automaton toy
Here is a very interesting antique swimming doll toy. I have never seen of these before. I would love to see it swim!

From the listing description
Late 19th century, painted wood, metal and porcelain, with red cotton swimsuit, in its original box, the figure, 9'' H x 8'' W x 2'' D, est:$800/1200. Provenance: With Theriaults, Annapolis, MD

Here is a link to the eBay listing for this Antique French swimming automaton toy.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 05, 2008

Jacques Monestier - Automata Maker and Sculptor

prehensile prosthetic hand
Jacques Monestier is an automata maker and sculptor. For over 30 years, he has also worked with amputees to devise creations like this very beautiful and functional prehensile prosthetic hand. The artist explains that the hand uses the same basic principles as a human hand. The fingers are made of three articulated phalanges each. The thumb is rigid and is directly opposite the index finger.

To see video of this and other marvels visit the web site of Jacques Monestier.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

Classic automata film: Princely Toys

Here is some very rare film footage of vintage French automata from the collection of Jack Donovan. The film was shot in 1976.

Thanks to Michael and Maria Start of Automatomania for this video.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

L'Homme Serpent automaton by Michel Bertrand

L'Homme Serpent automaton by Michel Bertrand
Inspired by a Vichy model, this acrobat automaton was created by Michel Bertrand of Switzerland in 1990. Bertrand used many original Vichy/Triboulet parts including the sculpted head, the ingenious torso mechanism, and a six-tune musical movement.

From the auction listing description:
He lies on his stomach upon the table which swivels as he makes a scissor movement with his legs while nodding his head. He then raises his legs. The table swivels again. He raises his head, lifts his stomach off the table and arches his back in an amazing contortionist manner, with his legs raised high. He repeats the scissor movement before lowering himself back onto the table and scissoring his legs once more in the horizontal position.

An amazing piece with a strong and prestigious lineage.

Here is the full auction listing for The Serpent Man, L'Homme Serpent automaton.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

19th century life-size musical peacock automaton

19th century French musical peacock automaton
This truly astounding automaton depicts a life-sized peacock with a fanned-out tail spanning over 7 feet.

From the auction listing:
The Peacock begins its grand performance in the tail-down position, regally he turns his head and body separately from side-to-side. then he proudly raises his elegant tail plumage and fans his tail out for the fullest effect. The bird then turns side-to-side again, such that all can appreciate his beauty. At the conclusion, he lowers his tail back down in a graceful and realistic manner. All the while, music plays.

The maker is unknown and no other examples of this model are known to exist! The size, age, condition, superb construction, and uniqueness set the estimated value of this automaton between $50,000 and $75,000 USD.

Here is a page with the full description with a video of The Magnificent Peacock automataon.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Great Video of Giant Spider, La Princesse

This footage of the enormous mechanical spider recently on the move in Liverpool, England was filmed and edited by Giselle Leeb.

Watch the giant spider of Liverpool arrive at the city hall, wake up after a sleep and, in a nice bit of dramatically sped up footage, crawl up a building to rest.

La Princesse was created by a French company, La Machine, as part of the Liverpool European Capital of culture programme.

[ Thanks Giselle! ]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Unique Gothic Automaton Clock Depicting a Mystic

Gothic Automaton Clock Depicting a Mystic by Theroude
Here s a very interesting and unusual vintage automaton, probably made by the famous French maker Theroude. Quite a fascinating piece. This and many other fine automata are going to auction today, August 23rd, 2008.

An excerpt from the auction description:
"Rare Gothic Automaton Clock Depicting a Mystic, probably by Theroude, c. 1850, the figure with carved and painted wood head, glass eyes, articulated jaw, brass bedplate carrying multiple movements from ten levers, including lateral and vertical motions of the head and arms, the right arm also articulated at the elbow and wrist, carved wood legs articulated at the hips, knees and ankles, four-gear train with rack-and-pinion concealed in the rocks behind him, in fantastical papier-mache grotto landscape with steps to natural arch, urn and pitcher beside animated glass-twist waterfall, ledge with crucifix and books, roots, foliage and cavernous ceiling supported by twisted branches, on oval ebonized base with beaded brass lips and 3 1/2-inch Roman enamel dial with Breguet hands, the brass going-barrel movement driving removable pinned wood barrel, fourteen cams, pulley and gong with two hammers, independent large four-air cylinder movement no. 9381, and eight-day clock with platform escapement and countwheel, strike on bell, stamped Boviller, Paris, ht. 32 1/2 inches."

Here is the complete listing with more information and additional photographs of the Gothic Automaton Clock Depicting a Mystic.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Roullet et Decamps Automaton has Odd Surprise

Roullet et Decamps Automaton has Odd Surprise
This finely made automaton by famed Parisian makers Roullet et Decamps features a young woman with a rather odd surprise hidden in her basket.

Check the additional images on the eBay listing for this Roullet et Decamps Jumeau Automaton to see what I mean.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock
Here is another stunning piece going to auction on August 23rd, 2008.

From the eBay listing by Skinner Auctioneers:
"Rare French Quarter-Chiming Table Clock with Wizard Automaton, c. 1870, the black marble case with bronze figure of a boy dressed as a wizard, his right arm articulated at the shoulder for lateral and vertical movements, standing before a nest of four bells, which he strikes with a hammer on the quarter hours to play a tune, with six-inch dia. silvered brass dial with Roman numerals and pierced latticework, gilt bezel with beveled glass, brass ball feet and eight-day, spring-powered, three-train movement chiming quarters and striking the hours on a gong, ht. 25 in."

Here is full eBay listing for this French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Henry Phalibois Automaton of a Laughing Clown

Henry Phalibois Automaton of a Laughing Clown
This Laughing Clown automaton by Phalibois is going to auction on August 23rd, 2008 by Skinner Auctioneers.

The clown's mechanism contains a going-barrel movement with four boxwood cams and single-air cylinder movement that cause the figure to look from side to side, wink his eyes, slap his sides with his his hands, and shrugging his shoulders rapidly, so that his whole body seems to be shaking with laughter.

Here is the full eBay listing for the Henry Phalibois Automaton of a Laughing Clown.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes, 1615

Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes was a book written by the French engineer Salomon de Caus (1576 - 1626). Salomon de Caus was known for his work as a garden-architect and hydraulic engineer. His designs incorporated mechanical fountains, mechanical music, and automata. His interest in these mechanical devices may have been influenced by the recovery of ancient texts by Hero of Alexandria around this time.
Automaton by Salomon de Caus
One of his books detailing the workings of many automata is now available in digital form online courtesy of Le Conservatoire numérique des Arts & Métiers (CNUM). His treatise from 1615 entitled Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes, avec diverses machines tant utiles que puissantes, auxquelles sont adjoints plusieurs dessings de grotes & fontaines has been digitized.

Even if you don't speak 400-year-old French, there are dozens of excellent illustrations that are a testament to the ingenious mind of Salomon de Caus.

Here is a link to the digital version of Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes.

Thanks Falk!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Film of the Workings of French Picture Automaton

Here is a detailed video showing first the back and then the front of an elaborate French tableau automaton.

The first half of the video shows you the cardboard, paper, thread, wire, and clockwork that makes the piece move. The second half of the video shows the animated country scene with animals, people, and machines in lively motion.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Video of Three Jaquet-Droz Automata in BBC Film

While a bit longer than most videos I like to post, this one is worth a look. The first several minutes contain footage of the three famous automata created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz: The Musician, The Writer, and The Draftsman.

The automata footage is in the first few minutes. If you are curious about the French Revolution, Mozart, and Ben Franklin, by all the rest of the clip. Pretty interesting stuff, actually.

The video is from part 8 "The Drive For Power" of a 13 part series "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski available as a 5 DVD set.

Here is a link to the The Ascent of Man 5 volume set.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Props

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & PropsHere is an eBay listing is for a set of vintage Cirque International clowns made in France. The two clowns come with props that include a set of parallel bars, two chairs, and two ladders. Both are just under a foot tall.

As a nice surprise, the seller has a copy of the original instructions detailing the clowns, their actions, and original price!

The clown in the purple outfit is an automaton with a working wind up mechanism. When wound this clown lifts his head, arches his back, and performs acts on the parallel bars, chairs, or ladders.

The second clown, in the light blue outfit can be posed in various positions and will hold the position into which it is put.

Here is the eBay listing for Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Apparatus.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$12,000 French Harp Player Automaton c. 1870

French Harp Player Automaton from 1870I don't have much to say about this other than it must be a both amazing and creepy to see this rather expensive automaton in motion.

From the eBay listing:
"Musical automaton, French, 1870, purchased from Theriault's, cost was $12,000, harp has been restrung by Classic Tin Toy Co., beautiful working order, the hands move across the harp, the head turns back and forth, the eyelids move, as well as the mouth..."

Here the link to the full the eBay listing for French Harp Player Automaton.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vichy Automaton of a Drunkard on Park Bench

Here is a short video of an automaton by Vichy depicting a drunken man on a park bench. I find the figure's movements very convincing: the sloppy swaying and shifting, the heavy eyelids, the silently muttering to himself.

Vichy was known for the subtlety of motion their automata possessed. Vichy showed several automata at Paris Universal Exposition of 1878. One observer noted that, "...Vichy's automata are distinguished by the flexibility and precision of their gestures...". One hundred and thirty years later, I can't argue.

Vichy is one of one of several French automata makers covered in the large format hardcover Automata: The Golden Age 1848-1914

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Classic Automata from Skinner Auction, July 2006

Take a look at this generous video clip of a variety of classic automata by many of the famous French automaton makers.

I especially like the Monkey Duet tableau and the fact you get to see the workings of the piece.

You can learn more about many of the makers of these automata from Christian Bailly's book: Automata: The Golden Age.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

Automaton of Magician Doing a Levitatation Trick

I adore and admire the work of automata maker Pierre Mayer. Here is one of his recent pieces depicting a magician levitating from his stool. Simply amazing!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre:

Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata

The latest piece from French magician/automatist Pierre Mayer, this piece is based on the cigar smoking magician Fechner, who levitates above his stool, even more puzzling is that the arms raise during the levitation without any links to the mechanism -- many magicians have already been fooled by this!

Do visit the CMT online shop to see Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata and MANY superb automata.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Automaton of Laughing Man with Lifelike Motion

Here's an automaton to help you get your week off to a good start. This laughing man automaton is part of the collection on display at the Musée de l'Automate in Souillac, France.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jacques de Vaucanson - Automaton Maker

Jacques de is a great site offering information about automata, automaton makers of old, videos, DVDs, books, and music boxes. They have translated their entire site into several languages, including English.

I posted previously about Vaucanson's Duck Automaton. They have an entire page dedicated to this innovative man.

From the Site:
Both a technician and talented watchmaker, Jacques de Vaucanson made himself famous from England to Russia from his creation of sophisticated androids. He also created inventions such as the rubber pipe, the weaving loom, and the never ending chain.

Visit to learn more about Jacques de Vaucanson.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vaucanson's Defecating Duck Automaton

One of the earliest well known automata was The Duck by Jacques de Vaucanson, first exhibited in 1739. Vaucanson (1709 - 1782) was a French engineer credited with creating fine automata that some regard as world's first robots. He is also credited with creating the first completely automated loom.

Here is a link to a video featuring a reproduction of Vaucanson's duck automaton on YouTube. If I am not mistaken, this reproduction was made by Frédéric Vidoni for the Museum of the Automata in Grenoble, in order to pay tribute to Vaucanson.

Here is a link to an earlier post with a photo of Vaucanson's duck, showing some of the workings of the original mechanism.

More on Vaucanson and his creations can be found in these books:
* Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life
* Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris during the Age of Revolution

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Shadow Automata of Emmanuel Cottier

Dedicated reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog and kinetic sculpture expert, Falk Keuten, has offered some additional information on The Musee National De Monaco.

He tells me that there they have had on display a mechanical shadow theater by the artist Emmanuel Cottier -- a clockmaker who lived near Geneva.

The exhibit documented in photographs and posted online is from an earlier exhibition at the museum of Carouge near Geneva. The mechanisms are fascinating. The text is in French. For non-French speakers, simply follow the link in the lower right labeled "Pour voir la suite..."

Enjoy the Shadow Automata of Emmanuel Cottier.
[Thanks Falk!]

You can learn more about this collection at The Musee National De Monaco from the book: The Mechanical Dolls of Monte Carlo

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Musee National De Monaco - Automata Collection

A reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog has kindly directed me to a fantastic museum with automata.

If you find yourself in the south of France and like automata, the Musee National De Monaco is an incredible museum.

They have a collection of Parisian automata from the latter half of the 19th Century.

I am told they offer a tour in which the guide operates many of the automata for visitors.

Visit the web site for the Musee National De Monaco.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Robot Factory - Steampunk Windup Sculptures

Fascinated with machines since he was a boy, artist Serge Jupin creates metal automata from found objects.

At you can purchase his amazing retro-future works.

The robot shown here is known as Wattson. I love this stuff. These are tin-toys for the Steampunk generation.

Robot Factory automata are original handmade limited editions, numbered, and signed. Each robot comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Visit ROBOT FACTORY to see his full line of automata.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good post about The Writer by Jacquez-Droz

I posted about The Writer by Pierre Jacquez-Droz back in June of 2006. My post links to a film clip by the film-maker Philipe Sayous.

I met Monsieur Sayous in Paris in 2005. His films are very well made. I recommend them especially to educators. (Be sure to order the NTSC version if you live in the States and buy a video.)

Here's a new post on what may be the most amazing automaton ever created: The Writer (at Fogonazos).

We should all keep in mind how difficult it is to write with pen and ink. The Writer is so carefully thought out, that he taps the quill on the edge of the inkwell to remove excess ink before beginning to write.

I found the recent post via this post on

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Book: Essential Robert-Houdin

The Essential Robert-HoudinRobert-Houdin (1805-1871) revolutionized the art of magic with his incredible stage mysteries and lifelike automata, and he thankfully left a number of books recording his philosophy and techniques.

All the classic works of the great master of magic, Robert-Houdin, under one cover, lavishly illustrated with hundreds of beautiful prints, engravings, and photos. The Essential Robert-Houndin cointains the following books:

  • The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic

  • Card-Sharping Exposed

  • The Secrets of Stage Conjuring

  • The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin

  • The Priory (Robert-Houdin's automated house)

  • Selections from Robert-Houdin's never-before-translated scientific writings

To my knowledge this work is only available at The Miracle Factory

Labels: , ,