Singing Birds

“Two singing birds” box

    “Two singing birds” box

    France, Paris

    Circa 1860

    Bontems, Blaise

    Wood, metal, glass, painted feathers; mechanical and carpentry work, intarsia, casting, polishing

    54 x 44 x 32 cm

    On metal plate: “OISEAUX CHANTEURS/BLAISE BONTENS vers 1860”


    The box is mounted is wooden four-sided ornately shaped case. Each side with curved surface, decorated with intarsia in the form of frames made of fine wood veneer, embedded one into another. The case is covered with thin metal ornamented rim from below. The case ribs are closed with openwork cast onlays merging into feet. Cast openwork carrying handles are  on the right and left sides. Cast baluster formed by a chain of ornately shaped rings is on the upper edge. A meadow with the vegetation cover imitation, made from moss twigs, dry leaves and grass, papier-mâché stones and a mirror fragment featuring a puddle, is on the case upper side. A tree surrounded by wire branches with pink artificial flowers and green leaves is standing on in the meadow. Mechanical bird with blue plumage on the mantle, black feathers on the head and orange - on the breast is sitting on the top of the tree. Another bird with yellow breast, black head and red mantle sits on low rack next to the tree. The rack is adorned with a branch with green artificial leaves and red berries. The entire composition is closed with glass casing with thin metal binding. The shape of the curved glass surfaces (facets) follows the shape of the case sides, the top side is also curved. Winding hole is in case the front side, the plate with the maker’s name is below. A pull-out button for starting the movement is on the right side. At the bottom, The case bottom side is closed by wooden panel, on which a cam mechanism with bellows, small piccolo pipe, movable piston and spring drive is mounted. The spring is key-winded. When the movement is winded and activated the birds chirrup, turn their heads, open and close their beaks simultaneously with the movements of their tails. The winding key is in the set.