An Exhibition-Standard silver-gilt, gold, enamel and pictorial enamel singing bird box, by Charles Bruguier,
Swiss, for an unknown Russian commissioner,
Serial number 93.
Russian import marks to hidden compartment edge.
The most astounding enamel case Charles Bruguier produced...
When wound and the start/stop slide slid to the right, the bird immediately rises through the richly gilt pierced and chased grille, moving head, beak, wings, tailfeather and moving body from side-to-side to outstanding paused sequential birdsong.
The movement signed C. BRUGUIER to plate beside male winding spindle, also signed C. BRUGUIER Á GENEVE to centre ground of the top plate, early format 1-1-2-2-3-3-4 song sequence from the eight cam-stack, bellows with full brass paddles and frames, 7-groove fusee wheel for the blued chain, all regulated by extraordinary 8-spoke cartwheel governor in polished brass.
The bird with superbly layered feathered plumage in dark brown, red, olive green, apple green, turquoise and cream, banded iridescent highlights in deep red, orange and green, black eyes with gilt surrounds. Of proud proportions and with quick sweeping movements to all aspects.
In the astounding case of tooled and chased silver, Florentine gold appliqués and spectrum colour enamel infills. The bird lid interior with rounded geometrically shaped enamel heart in pastel pink adorned with large pink rose, bluebells, and leaf trails, tooled frame with white enamel infilled C scrolls and further enamel infills reaching to the edge in clipper blue and blood red to the four crowns.
The bird lid exterior with very fine painted enamel study of a large lakeside villa, most probably inspired by the views over Lake Como, with the villa on the lawn coursed mount, tree lined terrace, a walled garden to foreground and on the sunset blessed lake two sailing boats head towards the high mountain peaks, all capped in snow, with the skyline of very rare thin transparent enamel under which the engraved and engine turned silver displays the sunburst effect into the clouds above.
The lid framing of enclosed adverse corners and crescent scrolls, with each C scroll having raised enamel in light blue, opposing crests in slight transparent red and the remaining ground beautifully tooled. The main lid displaying the finest ensemble of colour, chasing and detail, with the textured Florantine gold appliqués in high relief and of great detail, featuring flower buds, flower heads, stems and leaf trails extending across the tooled and engraved lid with superb infills in deep lagoon blue all the way through to olive green, highlights in black and white, repeated in full to all sides in matching spectrum enamels with geometric cartouche to centres, the corners with slender figure of eight knots in deep blue enamel against tooled ground, indent polished base edge.
The underside with very complex silver-gilt engraving with joined flowing spandrels linked by scrolling leaves, the centre with flower spray arrangement and the ground throughout of wave-line decoration supported by diamond arranged petit-point details for the repeating diamond effect if held afar.
With hidden key compartment at rear, very closely fitting for almost invisibility when closed, with a period key, start/stop in plain polished silver-gilt to front-right and the movement screw positions sited in the very early position at base edge corners.
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Point of interest -
There are a number of very fine features and technical wonders on this example by Charles Bruguier, which deserve to be noted.
Starting with the movement, the governor is strikingly different to the sort usually seen on Bruguier boxes, either by Charles or Jacques. A number of design trials were on-going during the 'awakening decade' of singing bird movement technology of the 1820s. Cam sizes, bird sizes and spring power regulation differed from one maker to another, as well as differing in two examples by the same maker. It was very much an exploratory time for the likes of the famous Swiss horological masters.
This movements' cam stack is set slightly further inside between the movement plates, offering a marginally better and efficient use of spring power, as the running gear between drive spindle and stack drive cog uses smaller cogs but with thicker teeth, reducing the amount of friction through length-of-path to escapement.
The most startling difference is the governor itself. The now trademark design of Bruguier's fan containing many fins is instead a large circumference cartwheel, with eight very thin and slender spokes, joined with a continued rim of the same width and thickness. This is a very interesting design, as it would have required the maker to adjust perfectly the tooth pitch between endless and drive cog as the resistance with a cartwheel governor is the mass of the metal on this part, not the wind resistance against each of the open fins radiating from the centre.
To help counterbalance this, the endless is much shorter and the helix of a wider ratio.
The case is a true masterpiece of enamel colour use and coverage. A seamless hue change from one end of blue to the other flows on most singular shapes picked out in the infills to top and all sides. Despite the firing stage requiring a full finish after the pigments were applied, all colour aspects are seen without fault. Supported by the tooling, the visual lift across the entire case is quite moving and the finish created by the use of gold in abundance as appliqués to main lid breath-taking.
The only other known C. Bruguier singing bird box which has similar parallels, is probably the one featured on page 126 in Mechanical Singing-bird Tabatiéres by Mayson. That box is serial number 107 and is slightly later in manufacture and much plainer in appearance; however, the main lid does have several features of note which point towards the strong possibility of the same hands handling the enamel design and execution.
The Russian import marks when once seen were quite expected, once the quality of the case was examined in detail.