Mechanical Compositions

Musical automaton “Afro American farmer”

    Musical automaton “Afro American farmer”


    Circa 1900

    German Hoyt

    Metal, glass, wood, cardboard; mechanical and carpentry work, chromolithography

    53 x 40 x 8 cm


    Portrait of Afro American young man made in chromolithography technique on cardboard is in narrow painted with light color glazed frame. The man is wearing typical clothes of unwealthy American farmer of the late 19th century - blue plaid shirt, dungarees with single strap and a cloth hat with floppy hat. The portrait is comprised of several movable cardboard layers placed above the picture primary surface. Control mechanism with spring motor and winding key is inside wooden case that is attached to the painting rear side. The mechanism, connected by wire rods with the moving elements of the picture, is activated by a lever .When the automaton is switched on, the picture comes to life – the head tilts from side to side, and eyes move from left to right, up and down, eyelids close and open, and mouth opens and closes as well. Three layers of lithography are centered in small oval, and for this reason when they are set in motion, layers overlap slightly, revealing or hiding the layer below them. As the ovals of layers eventually, complete the circle, the facial expressions visible in the illustration change from one extreme to the other. All transitions from a sad look to very cheerful and back are very smooth and imperceptible for the viewer. The performance of 2D automata by German Hoyt is truly amazing. The design is rather simple, hence the result and effect continues to amaze the audience nowadays.