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.


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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

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Automaton by Vichy - Clockwork Mechanism Inside

This is the repaired inner mechanism of a Vichy automaton made in France in 1875. The complete automaton depicts a lady who breathes, closes her eyes, turns her head, fans herself, and lifts her glasses to her eyes.

You can learn more about Vichy and the other famous French automaton makers from the late 19th century and early 20th century from the Automata: The Golden Age 1848-1914.

Thanks to the experts at AutomatomaniA for this wonderful video. AutomatomaniA is the UK's only specialist automata restoration company.

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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.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vichy Gymnast Automaton Uses Free Object

Of all of the automata I have seen working in person to date, I would have to say that this acrobat by Vichy is among the most impressive. The engineering sophistication is astounding.

From the eBay listing:
Rare Coin-Operated Vichy Automaton Gymnast with Two Chairs, with papier-mache head, brown glass eyes, smiling mouth with painted teeth, arched brows and theatrical make-up, standing between two white-painted chairs on paneled oak base with coin-slot, massive going-barrel motor driving five cams and four-air cartel cylinder movement, in the original spangled gold satin theatrical costume decorated with silver sequins and glass beads, ht. 35 1/2 in....

The sequence begins with the acrobat standing, poised, between the two chairs. At the drop of the coin, he raises the chair in his right hand waist-high, flexing his wrist three times so that hand and chair outstretched. He then lowers the chair to the ground and, with his hand still grasping the top rail for support raises his body into a handstand position, tilting the chair so that only its back two legs are resting on the stage. When his body is at ninety-degrees from the base, he raises the chair into the air, once again flexing from the right wrist so that the chair is horizontal and his entire weight rests in his left hand while simultaneously raising his head as if to survey the crowd, until body and chair are held in perfect alignment, before gracefully lowering himself back to a standing position. As a finale, he stretches his hand to release the chair, raising his free arm in the air, and bowing his head for applause.

It is a huge challenge to make an automaton interact with a free object. This is an amazing example both for its complexity, the size of the object, and the leverage it must exert on the figure. This is Vichy at their best.

The Vichy Gymnast Automaton is on eBay and will be part of the live auction held by Skinner Auctioneers on October 28th, 2007.

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