A magnificent and rare mottled tortoiseshell, gold and pictorial enamel singing bird box, by Charles Bruguier
Serial number 234
One of the most complex and melodically perfect bird songs ever heard
Make this your Bruguier to treasure...
Stamped to one of the twin spring loafers C. BRUGUIER Á GÉNEVE.
When wound and the gold start/stop slid to the right, the bird lid opens and the bird magically appears, moving beak, turning head, bobbing tailfeather, flapping wings and moving whole body from to side, perfectly synchronised to the birdsong in 1-1-2-2-3-3-4 sequence from the eight cam-stack, before drawing to a close when bird disappears and the lid closes.
The bird with finely banded and layered feathered plumage in darkened green, turquoise, mustard yellow, red, and lime green, all accompanied by flashes of red and green iridescence cleverly chevron-layered into the plumage, rising up through the finely pierced gold grille with exceptionally executed tooled scrollwork, highly polished border with raised edge, lid interior with a painted enamel study of flowers with small trails sweeping off on the subtle pink ground, shaped and tooled frame with white enamel, blue flower compass points.
Bird lid top with painted enamel view of a traditional Swiss chalet on plateau clearing beside mature fir trees, rocky crop behind and to foreground, with the setting sun peeking in the sky behind snow-capped mountain range, the sky with radial engine turning detail for sunburst hues when turned by the hand, Rococo C scroll compass points in blue and white enamel united by further white enamel petit line infil and finished with tooled border all to gold lid, in highly polished tortoiseshell case with the mottling streaks to lid top, capturing glimpses of the movement within through the lighter shades, start/stop to front-right and hidden key compartment to rear, plain polished underside.
Case - 3.7/8in. wide, 2.5/8in. deep, 1.3/8in. high - (10 x 6.5 x 3.5cm)
Point of Interest -
Not all tortoiseshell singing bird boxes are going-barrel drive and made by Bontems, although we have a selection of those examples and would be happy to show you most of the variations made at the end of the 19th century.
Here, the tortoiseshell case is immediately projecting something very fine and different with the use of gold, and the enamel study clearly in-line with the silver-gilt and gold pieces the Bruguiers completed and offered.
Tortoiseshell as a material has the ability to display much complexity and not one case made from this is similar to another. The streaks seen are the 'fingerprints' of the shell layers and depending upon the angle cut, the streaks are short and compressed or elongated and layered such as this, making the cut angle used very acute.
But the case is not the only complex display.
The bird song on this Bruguier is astonishing. The line up of sequence being the C. Bruguier standard of 1-1-2-2-3-3 and finishing with the final 4th phrase is usually melodic enough for the score-appreciating ear to understand and enjoy. However, the cams cut for some of the passages heard - especially those in the 3rd sequence, have been engineered to produce a very quick slide between two close notes. So quick that the ear can get confused enough to think that two different notes are being played at the same time, in quick pulse succession, again and again. It has taken many plays for us to understand the structure.
For the Bruguier singing bird box lover, your next prize is most certainly about to be this. Charles Bruguier's tortoiseshell masterpiece.