Objects with musical mechanism and automaton

Singing bird toiletry box (necessaire)

    Singing bird toiletry box (necessaire)

    Western Europe

    Circa 1870

    Wood, brass, steel, mother of pearl, feathers, glass, paper, cardboard; woodwork, parfling, filigree work, cardboard works, gilding, photo printing

    40 х 28.5 х 18 cm

    On the key grip "12"; on the scissors "GERMANY"; signatures on the photos.


    Singing bird toiletry case (necessaire) in black wooden polished box with the hinged top lid, with figured edges of dark red colour. The top side is decorated with onlay yellow metal, mother of pearl, royal and palm wood. The center of the composition is a cartouche placed in oval and framed by the pattern comprised of acanthus leaves and stylized lozenge figures, divided into four parts with quadrifoil in the center. The composition is surrounded by wide rectangular frame of double ribbons inlaid with metal, mother of pearl, palm wood, enlacing pearly strips. The same frame adorns the case front side with brass keyhole of the French lock. Round brass keyholes and figured pivot rod of the singing bird movement are on the right lateral side. The tray with beds (pockets) for needlework accessories is in the case. It is finished with velvet and satin of variuos shades of blue and gray colours and patterns of wavy braid. Scissors, thimble, needle box, sewing awl and hook for knitting are fastened in light velvet beds that are in the tray central part. Two coils for threads are in cardboard compartments. Two oblong satin pads for needles are on the right and left sides. Lodgements with two glass bottles are in the box corners. Three compartments for storing accesories and little are near the front side. Openwork filigree gold-plated lid of the mechanical bird is in the oval window in the tray center. The ornament is comprised of tight spirals with balls in the center, located between curls. Circular flower with four layers of petals with a ball in the middle is in the center of the composition.

    The lid is automatically opened when the movement is activated; a miniature bird in painted feathers appears from under it. It turns in place, flaps its wings, opens and closes the beak. The sound movement imitates bird’s chirping. At the end of the program, the bird is hidden under the openwork filigree lattice and the lid is lowered. The engine with the increased spring is located horizontally next to the bird’s movement. Two folding cardboard doors with metal pivot lock are inside the necessaire lid. Mirrors in ornately shaped frames made of curled cord are on the doors' external side.

    Passepartout of blue and gold paper are on the inner sides of the doors and lid. Sixteen photographic portraits of the visiting format (64 x 100 mm) are inserted in the passepartout. Large steel key with conic rod and oval ring grip serves for the movement winding; small key with simple bit locks the necessaire.
    Visiting cards with photographic portraits appeared due to the efforts of the Parisian photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri to expand the number of the clients of his studio. In order to reduce the cost of making a portrait and its price, he decided to reduce the size of the print. In 1854, Disdéri patents a method of obtaining several - four, six or eight negatives on a single glass plate, which allows to reduce the time of printing portraits considerably. Prints pasted on thick cardboard in the format of a standard business card, 6.2 x 10.3 cm, were very popular in the second half of the 19th century, thanks to the fact that Disdéri correctly defined the set of his customers among the aristocracy and the emerging class of bourgeoisie. Celebrities quickly appreciated the opportunity to increase their popularity due to the possibility to distribute their portraits among wide audience. In 1858, Emperor Napoleon III decided to have a photo taken by Disdéri. His portrait was immediately sold in hundreds in Paris. Photographs of visiting format became a subject of collecting; they were stored in special albums, and presented to friends and acquaintances. The name of the photographer, his rewards and the studio address were placed on artistically designed reverse side of the cards.