A highly amusing antique musical picture automaton - 'The Feline Dancing Lesson'
When wound at the rear and the start/stop pull actuated from the right-hand side, the two musical airs play consecutively from the 'fat' cylinder two-per-turn movement, whilst adjoining pin-wheel drive makes the cat dance-teacher raise and lower his arm in time to the music, taps his foot and nods head towards his four kitten pupils, grouped in pairs, who rise and fall to his command and move their legs from side-to-side.
The pin-wheel with two lever fingers controlling the teacher and pupils respectively, gravity return cords, the composition comprising colour lithographed components on rod pinion mounts to arms behind, the setting in plainly decorated dance room with teal walls and cream floor, behind glass in the boxframe with the facing frame of ebonised gesso, raised highlights in gilt of narrow branch twines, back panel sliding to reveal movement.
16in. wide, 4in. deep, 12.3/4in. high - (40.7 x 10.2 x 32.4cm)
Point of interest -
Not to be confused by the influential work of Louis Wain, this antique is much earlier, indicating the idea of displaying species other than human into a human world. Other examples seen show, although not as large as this piece, dogs sitting down to a dinner and a farmyard scene.
Cats are in real life very characterful - something the French makers of the period found purrfect to elaborate on and use in a fashion they could only do in style.