Musical automaton "African Lyre Player"

    Musical automaton "African Lyre Player"

    France, Paris

    Circa 1867

    Vichy, Gustave

    Papier-mache, metal, fabric, cardboard; sewing, painting, mechanical work

    Height 69 cm


    Standing upon a red velvet covered flat base is a figure with ebony black-complexioned papier mache head with brown glass eyes, leather eyelids, open mouth with row of small teeth, black fleecy hair, carton torso and legs, wire upper arms, metal hands. The figure wears red silk satin and gold brocade royal costume with metallic soutache and fringe, necklace of gold coins and stars, metallic trimmed slippers, and holds a gilded wooden lyre. The figure turns its head from side to side in a circular manner, nods, blinks eyes open and closed, and plucks the lyre. The automaton plays two tunes.
    In 1867 Vichy created a series of superb black automata, likely designed to appeal to Eastern and African royalty traveling to the Paris International Exposition.