A very good antique Sand-Toy automaton of the 'Léotard Acrobat', by Brown, Blondin & Co.,
Driven by gravity, no need to wind - ever...
When the box is rotated slowly two revolutions in a clockwise direction and stood upright, the multi-articulated acrobat figure modelled as Jules Léotard, performs exciting and very realistic acrobatic stunts from the bar, with arm and leg joints free-moving for all tricks assisted by gravity, with white backdrop, framed with coloured paper border with gilt highlights, coat-of-arms crest above and maker's labels below in green, printed in black ink stating operating instructions, firm address and automaton title, behind the period glazed fronted box frame, sides and verso covered with the red rexine.
The drive achieved with captive sand-flow hopper, sealed within the box frame. By turning the box clockwise twice, the sand is moved from the collection pit up to a top hopper and then gravity takes over, with sand flowing at a controlled speed across a paddle wheel which in turn drives a varying-length rack and pinion for the acrobat's bar to turn half, then full, then half, then full, then three fulls, then back to half-turns for the multiple tricks. Lasting up to six minutes on a full hopper of sand.
9.3/4in high, 8in. wide, 4in. deep - (25 x 20.5 x 10cm)
Point of Interest -
Jules Léotard (1838-1870), was a professional French acrobat and strong-man and who is perhaps more famous for his invention of the one piece garment used then and today by gymnasts and dancers. His garment only really became commonplace long after his death in 1870.
This piece by Brown, Blondin & Co., of Kennington, London, documents a small piece of memorial ephemera by using both his name and a miniature figure of him with his invented garment.
Antique Sand-Toy automatons are rare, fun and unusual. One has to resist the temptation to open up the case and see how this gorgeous piece of engineering works. But that would ruin the automaton and get sand everywhere.
Cue the rotation and cue the magic - acrobat is about to perform...