A fabulous antique clown acrobat-on-ladder musical automaton, by Roullet & Decamps
Real gravity defying feat...
When wound with long-reach key and start/stop pull rod actuated, the acrobat begins his stunning performance, balanced with both hand palms up high on vertical free-standing ladder, he brings both legs up and body to upside-down position, before returning back down, pausing a moment before holding the upside-down stance, then lifting left hand off top of ladder completely and twisting body to side by a few inches three times, returning hand to ladder top, then swinging down to start position, all accompanied by the beautiful musical melody from small cylinder movement with single section comb driven directly from main four-pillar spring barrel.
The small clown with wonderful painted gesso papier-mâché head, fine glass eyes, painted gesso hands with good detail to fingers, donning faded stripe colour wig and conical hat, dressed in the original pleated silk baggy-cut performance clothes of red shirt, mustard yellow over-jacket with bushy lace cravat, cuffs and hems, white stockings and shoes, perched upon gold finished tubular seven-rung ladder positioned vertically from rectangular canted-corner base containing the movement, covered with red velvet and then top-clothed in patterned velvet with shaped pom-pom fringe, key escutcheon and start/stop pull at back end.
size - Base - 12.1/4in. deep, 8in. wide, 3.1/2in. high (31 x 20.5 x 9cm)
Clown length at horizontal - 14.1/2in. (37cm)
Height at clown at lowest ladder position - 24in. (61cm)
Height at highest ladder position - 28in. (71cm)
Automata - The Golden Age, C. Bailly, p.132.
Point of Interest -
One of the most captivating automatons ever made, this is one piece whose movement and total surprise action will hold you in amazement from the moment you see this in operation.
Vichy also made a version, slightly larger and with a very chunky ladder. This R & D model of almost the same height has the edge, as it is not immediately obvious exactly how it works - which makes this far more magical.
There are two elements to the movement and these are kept separate from one another, joined only by two cam rods. The first lives in the base and is the spring-powered movement with two cams (one for clown body up, the other body twist/hand off). The musical aspect also resides here.
The second part of the movement, and the secret, lies in the body of the clown. A powerful spring fitted within the body pushes against the hinged pillar which goes through his right hand - firmly affixed to the ladder top. When the rod running through the ladder upright loosens off, the body wants to move in the upright position. A rod pushing all that weight within this top-heavy design would simply not do the job, so this spring completely counterbalances the action and assists it.
This dainty proportioned antique automaton, with this particular movement, creates the perfect magical feat performance for any viewer. Presented in full original clothes and working superbly, this clown awaits a performance booking with another loving family for another 100 years...