A superb antique fishing monkey musical automaton under glass dome, by J. Phalibois
Probably retailed by Silber & Fleming in Paris or London,
S&F catalogue number 593,
There's something very fishy going on...
When wound and the start/stop pull actuated, the seated monkey raises his left hand to puff away for a while on his pipe, moving his lips as he does so, before quickly dropping his hand and turning his head to the right and looking down to see if his line held in the right hand has caught the elusive fish swimming in the water below. Further line pulling up and down and across shows the bait is still live, so he raises his pipe to his mouth once more, as the fish in the water swims back and forth quickly to avoid the hook.
The monkey is perched upon a rocky bank in painted papier-mâché, he has inset glass eyes, good detail to teeth and nose, dressed with tulip-layered pie hat in tricolour velvet, white wig, white collar with red tie, pleated silk shirt with lace union, green jacket and cream breeches with white stockings, black shoes finished with red and gold beading.
The rocky bank with textured naturalistic ground, water of glass with a void for the fish before looking glass base, moving goldfish with eyes, head, fin and gill detail. All under a fine fruit-bearing apple tree, with lovely curved branch canopy, the trunk twisted under the weight of many branches of leaves and fruit, each coloured red.
Under an oval moulded glass dome, on a shaped ebonised plinth base containing the movements - pull string tabataire wind for music with start/stop for both and separate key wind for automaton.
size - 28.5" (73cm) High to top of dome, 18.5" ( 47cm ) Wide
Point of Interest
What a very amusing subject matter to choose. Amusing, as the last one expects to see is a fish swimming through the water. Having a fisherman, or in this case a 'fishermonkey', raising and lowering his rod in the hope of a catch would have been sufficient. But then Phalibois were one of the best body movement automaton manufacturers.
The fish are a very nice touch to the scene - dashing in and out of a little hidden cove in the water and movement quick and erratic, as it would be in nature when aquatic life is frightened.
With these scenes, Phalibois used the shapes found in nature to frame their automatons. The canopy creeping over the whole study does this perfectly, even bearing fruit in the process.
What a great piece of automata, what a great catch.
For S&F catalogue entry showing illustration of this automaton, see p. 162 Automata - The Golden Age, C. Bailly.