16 February 2009

The National Museum - the Monkey Orchestra

'Automaton - a device, which under the form of an organized being, hides inside springs that enable the latter to make movements imitating acts of a living body,' Diderot and d'Alembert Encyclopedia, 1790.

The collection of 80 automatons brought together by Madeleine de Galea is a perfect illustration of the Golden Age of these objects, dating from 1850 to 1915. These miniature works of art are essentially the fruits of the four most famous manufacturers at the time: Descamps, Lambert, Phalibois and Vichy.

The automatons made at the end of the 19th century were luxury toys designed for adults. They were displayed in the home as artwork although intended to amuse friends and family alike. They embodied at the time both social success and innovation.

Here we see part of the Monkey Orchestra, made by Phalibois in 1890.

The Villa Sauber today houses some of the most beautiful automatons ever created and at certain times of the day some are activated for the enjoyment of visitors to the Museum.


Halcyon said...

They look a little scary! Do they still work?

Janet said...

Colorful costumes and a whimsical orchestra!

Anonymous said...

We see, they do look a "little" scary but not all look like that we hope!!!

However, thankfully the article explains alot as to "why" the woman whom owned so many of them since they were one's symbol of 'status' and dedication to "innovative' technology!! explains a whole lot!

it wasn't some one whom was lonely and wanted strange company!! is a relief!!!

Always intriguing to read about these things. As we all know a womans love of dolls is never quite diminished if only in the context of distant enjoyment in the musee environment! bravo!!!

Marie-Noyale said...

I have seen a small orchestra like this in an Antique show in NY the work on the costumes was extraordinary and the music lovely!!

Dave-CostaRicaDailyPhoto.com said...

Interesting post. Animated toys and figures are still made today. I had a client 20 years ago that designs and manufactures animated Christmas displays for shopping malls and similar items, including carousels with fanciful carousel animals. Its website is www.Barango.com, and you can view some of the animated figures. The company was developed in San Francisco by an Italian immigrant family.

angela said...

How marvellous those colours are. I never could resist a bit of sparkle..

Hilda said...

You mean they still actually work? Wow. Truly amazing and those costumes are fantastic!

bitingmidge said...

It's wonderful that you've been allowed to take photos of them as well. The lighting of the displays seems perfect, or were you working very hard?

Sunshine Coast Daily Photo - Australia

Jilly said...

Bitingmidge, in fact I just snapped a few shots and then was told I couldn't take more. Well actually I was allowed to take the Charlot that started this little series. I took three of the Monkey Orchestra. Two were dreadful. This was taken with a flash that rebounded off the glass, so I cropped that out and this is what is left! Total luck I could show it at all really and nothing at all clever, I'm afraid!

bitingmidge said...

Well in that case I wish for some of your luck!


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