A mesmerising antique black banjo player musical automaton, by Gustave Vichy,
Shown at the Automates Musiciens Exhibition at Palais Lascaris, Nice Carnaval, 1978, object number VII, by Jacques Damiot.
When wound and the start/stop knob pulled to actuate, the automaton springs into life, with the perched player strumming the strings of the banjo with his right hand as he constantly blinks his eye lids, moving head down then up, before turning head to the left and moving down and up once more, repeating this cycle as his right leg lifts and turns slightly then descending again, all accompanied by the very melodic phases of two separate musical airs played consecutively.
The four-pillar movement with direct-drive three-cam spindle for actions, strumming movement rod from faster-travelling fourth cam from the pillar plate and linkage to the single-section comb cylinder movement.
The figure perched upon the back rail of an upright chair, with finely painted Plaster-of-Paris head, arms, hands and lower legs with feet, perfect miniature glass eyes, excellent painted detail to finger and toenails, dressed as a country-dweller with big brimmed woven straw hat over black hair wig, soft checked shirt in cream and blue, rope-tie cravat, pastel blue jacket with shirt cuffs protruding and red silk band to waist above striped red trousers with turn-up hems, holding the banjo right-handed with hard skin soundboard, polished wood fret and three corded strings, upon the trademark Vichy upright chair, with off-white and jet black painted finish, slightly curved back panel for movement access, captive winding key and start/stop pull rod to left-hand side.
size - 23in. high, 10in. wide max, 11in. deep max - (58.5 x 25.5 x 28cm)
Illustrated on page 4 of the exhibition catalogue titled Automates Musiciens, Palais Lascaris, 1978.
Automata - The Golden Age, C. Bailly, p.104 for this model; pp.248-9, 254-5, 258, 260, 262 and 267 for chair type and chair variants used for other rare Vichy models.
Douglas-Fisher, see sold item stock No. 1467, for perched-on-stool version of this model.
Point of Interest -
The Vichy 'chair' models are considered by many as the main Vichy trademark used when they were at their height of their work and prized by all collectors as one of the must-haves within the collection to chart and visually describe the popular work completed within the workshops of the Vichy empire.
There were variations of the chair, with this upright design being the most used. The other notable design was the tapered chair, which was half-obelisk in form and then of course the stool, which had the familiar top section, but with rounded legs and stretchers.
The great catch with using the chair is the movement within controlling the figure above, below or to the side, has the linkages running up through the back of the figure, or sometimes through one of the legs; not immediately seen by the audience, the cleanness of the design and the lack of obvious joining makes for a convincing piece of magic.
The leg movement on this is very clever - a slight twist of the leg as well as up and down, but controlled by a single rod.
A magnificent piece of ascetic as well and technical engineering, Vichy's famous model is presented here in untouched order and with the period dressage, made famous further by its appearance in the 1978 Nice Exhibition.