The Order of Things. Exhibit in Detail
The second edition of the column "The Order of Things: Exhibits in Detail" is focusing on the musical automaton “Singing bird in a bouquet of flowers”, created circa 1880 in Paris, in the workshop of Blaise Bontems (1814-1893).
The Automaton is realized in the form of a mechanical bird in the midst of artificial flowers. The bouquet of flowers is placed in wide porcelain jardinière decorated with painted scene of romantic couple discovered in sylvan landscape by a rival who covers her eyes. With lower gilt rim and shell feet. The bouquet is comprised of a variety of flowers made from glued and water colored fabric. The flowers and leaves are fixed on wire stems. Some elements are dry plants. A bird perched on a green wire branch is in the center. The figurine of the bird is covered with natural brown feathers of several shades. The bird's eyes are made of black glass and its beak is made from ivory. The automaton mechanism with spring-loaded key-operated motor is mounted inside the vase. The keyhole is at the bottom of the vase side surface, the thumb trigger is on the vase bottom side. The bird moves when the mechanism is switched on. The head turns from side to side, the beak opens and closes, the tail rises and falls. The action is accompanied by bird trills played by musical movement that is comprised of a whistle with going barrel and bellows. The sounds are produced coordinated with the movements of the beak and tail. This is because a single cam-operated motor controls all of the bird’s movements. Winding key is in the set.
A variety of caged mechanical singing birds, mounted in snuffboxes, boxes, vases or clocks and equipped with winding mechanisms, were very popular in the 18th - 19th-century Europe. Originally, they were used as a mechanism for teaching pet canaries to sing. Then the mechanical birds became a common household accessory.
In the museum Collection section “Singing Birds”, you will find all sorts of mechanical singing birds.