Antiques Blog

18th Century Androids?

Yes, indeed. The word Android has been bandied about in our 21st Century culture as if it was a modern phenomenon. In fact, these amazing androids or ‘automatons’ date back to early Greece, with the more complicated and interesting ones created in the 18th Century.

Why a blog about these wonders of mechanics?  It was all inspired due to our most recent antiques shipment from France and an 18th Century Piano dated 1775.

18th Century Piano dated 1775

18th Century Piano dated 1775Although we bought it in France it was handcrafted in England in 1775 which was the Coronation year of King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette.  When I tried to search for images of 18th Century women playing the piano I stumbled across an amazing automaton of the Queen of France herself. One thing led to another, and before you know it I was discovering a whole world of interesting fascinating automatons.  I found the whole idea so interesting that I felt that this week’s blog should be devoted to the subject. I hope you find the information as amazing as I did.

The Marie Antoinette automaton was created by Peter Kintzing and David Roentgen in 1784.  She hastily purchased the automaton the following year and placed it in the French Science Museum of the 18th Century for all to see. Click here to see the Marie Antoinette Automatron

Marie Antoinette automaton

Automaton’s began their appearance as far back as Ancient Greece, but the complex beautiful creations flourished as early as the 1700′s.

Larry and I stumbled across a dealer in the South of France that was selling a whole selection of different automaton’s from the 18th and 19th Centuries, my favorite being a fabulous acrobat that climbed up a ladder, did a handstand, at the top, and climbed down the other side.

I instantly fell in love with the acrobat (dressed in a black and white diamond pierrot outfit) in almost perfect condition and was willing to purchase it at no matter what price. Little did I expect a 40,000E quote that instantly shot down my dream of owning such a magnificent piece of mechanical genius.

Monaco Automaton

There were many magnificent creations done in the 18th Century including a Swan which moved with lifelike gestures, a little boy that composed poems, and drew pictures, and even a chess playing Turk who played against Napoleon himself and won. ( this Turk was a hoax actually as a small person was installed inside the automaton and actually controlled the automatons’ moves )

The Chess playing Turk featured below is a reconstruction as the original was destroyed in a fire in New York in 1885.

(By the way, I did buy a 19th Century automaton of a bird singing in a gilded cage. It works beautifully and is the constant source of irritation for my little dog Tuffy who would like nothing more than to eat it alive)

Please click on the links below to see some of these magnificent creations.

Until next time!

Mark

Click here to see the Silver Swan automaton

Click here to see the boy who composes poems and draws

Silver Swan Automaton

Kempelen Chess Automaton

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