"Little Schoolboy in Dunce Cap" under the heading “The Exhibit in Details” (video)

The second half of August is a time of preparation for the upcoming school year for many of our young visitors, their parents and teachers. The school bell will soon ring for many schoolchildren. For some of them, it will be the first one! Pupils are in for many exciting things - new knowledge, clubs and study groups, sports and outings with friends. We congratulate those whom it concerns on this significant event and wish everybody success and good luck in undertakings.

A sought-after musical automaton from the museum Collection exposition "Little Schoolboy in Dunce Cap" is under the heading “Exhibit in Detail” today. French artisan Gustave Vichy created it circa 1900.

The automaton is a figure of a boy sitting on wooden bench. The child has very expressive unhappy facial features, barely holding back tears. He is dressed in school uniform of saturated bright colours, including striped stockings and patent leather shoes. The boy holds an embroidered handkerchief in his right hand, a plaque with a portrait of a girl is in his left one, a wicker basket with lunch stands next to him on the bench. The amusing automaton plays two melodies and performs six movements: the boy quickly turns his head from side to side, raises his right arm, then his left one, as if hesitating whether to continue misbehaving or to study after all. Periodically, the ears on his cap move up and down rapidly and he taps his left foot on the school bench. Music plays throughout the scene.

This amusing character was popular in French culture in the late 19th century. The figure is based upon the illustrations of Castellin the children's novel “Jean Who Cries and Jeanne Who Laughs” written in 1865 by the Russian-born French author Countess de Ségur (1799-1874)*. This naughty boy often sat in the corner of the schoolroom wearing a dunce cap and the French inscription 'ÂNE' (donkey, fool).

The video features musical automaton by Gustav Vichy "Little Schoolboy in Dunce Cap"

*Sophia Feodorovna Rostopchina married Countess de Ségur, was a French children's author of Russian origin. Her works enjoyed enormous popularity in the 19th – 20th centuries and are still being reprinted in the 21st century.