An extremely fine and rare antique girl Gymnast-on-ladder musical automaton, by Léopold Lambert
Outstanding acrobatic feat achieved with almost levitating perfection,
Lambert's clever stunt...
When wound and the start/stop rod actuated, the amazing performance begins with the girl perched upon the fourth rung of the ladder, grasping the top with both hands and swinging both legs off the ladder backwards once, then returning, twice, then returning, then on the third time bringing both legs out to the horizontal and continuing upwards until the whole torso and legs are at a steep 65-degrees in tilt - holding the stance. Then, as the pure magic becomes clear, her left hand raises from the top of the ladder completely with the body weight on just one hand whilst twisting her body up and down twice, before returning her raised hand back to the ladder and swinging her legs slowly down again onto the fourth rung of the ladder, all accompanied by the music from the cylinder movement. On the raise of the single hand, the other hand does not make contact with the ladder top.
The girl with fine bisque head bearing the French stamp to the back, soft light brown hair cap styled to curled bun, blue glass eyes with very fine lip and eyebrow painted detail, carved and painted wood hands. Dressed in the original and fabulously cut pleated and waved silk outfit comprising dark green velvet choker, layered peach and cream top with matching loose swag breaches, pale red stockings and pink ballet shoes, accessorised by patterned banding and lace detail.
The ladder of traditional green painted metal and the base containing the movement of stained pine, covered with the original green velvet rug covering with threaded hem.
Lambert screw key and start/stop to rear.
Original retailer's paper label in blue and white.
Point of Interest
Of all of the acrobatic feats specific antique models of automatons have to offer, this is one of the most prized - namely for its magical surprise which have made audiences viewing this piece at our gallery stop and stare in disbelief.
The mechanism in this is one of the most simple, making it as impressive technically as it is visually. There are just two cams. One of the raising and lowering of the girl and the other for the single hand lift at the end. The rods which run through the ladder and body are very small but strong steel, which is highly tensioned for the maximum movement at the top from the smallest of instruction from the running cams below. The typical ratio for the distance from cam to output is about 2 to 1. Namely, one inch movement on a cam is two inches of movement above. Here, it is nearer 3 to 1. Having the body raised at the magic angle way past the horizontal is almost frightening in its visual feat. The slight twist of the body during the phase where the second hand makes contact before lowering back onto the ladder is the point where the audience is proved true magic has taken place. All just from two cams. Some times the best tricks are made possible by the most simple designs.
Dressed and presented in the period clothes, the lady is still performing after 120 years of acrobatic moves. She never tires nor will she disappoint your private audience. See her play out the magic which Lambert put into creating life from metal, paper, wood and silk.
See the male version by Lambert on pp. 184-5, Automata - The Golden Age 1848-1914, C. Bailly.