A superb antique Peasant and the Pig musical automaton, by Vichy-Triboulet
French, circa 1910,
One of the best original surviving examples of Golden Age automata...
The Enigma has arrived...
When wound with the crank and start/stop pull actuated, this large Golden Age masterpiece springs to life, with the seated peasant character perched upon the top rail of a side chair, moving head to the side whilst opening and closing mouth and eye lids, waves a slice of meat towards a small pig who sits on his left knee. The pig turns his head to look at the food, then proceeds to stick his tongue out and in repeatedly, turns head back, then down and up. The peasant does the same, by moving head down and across to the other side whilst still talking and blinking, then proceeds to shrug his shoulders and upper body smartly whilst tapping his right leg up and down on the chair. All these complex movement patterns accompanied by the two musical airs played back-to-back.
Paillard cylinder musical movement with single section comb, automatic repeat snail set to 1-2-1-2 sequence. Direct-drive from great wheel of the massive single-spring key-wind movement.
Peasant in papier-maché with plaster-form head. Glass eyes spring-balanced, likewise with lower lip and jaw, finely moulded plaster hands and lower arms, main torso and legs. In light grey hat, brown mohair wig, patterned silk shirt, lined embroidered waistcoat and piped jacket which is shredded with traces of peach silk weave to wide lapels.
Stripy trousers in dark blue and cream, red stockings and black shoes, upon the classic Vichy-pattern side chair with white panel infills, weaved rush seat, dark wood supports. Crank and start/stop to right-hand side, access to movement at the back.
Size - 33in. high, 9in. wide, 9.1/2in. deep - (84 x 23 x 24cm)
Offered together with a fine specially commissioned museum-grade display cabinet with gilt brass frame and specialist glazed panels including ceiling. Blue velvet lined baseboard, metal clasp fastening. This will aid the conservation of this piece going forward.
This model illustrated twice side-by-side (two separate examples from separate collections), p. 98, Automata, The Golden Age, C. Bailly. Each titled 'Peasant with Baby[pig]'
'Sister' model titled Pig Trainer, also by Vichy-Triboulet, p.110 as above.
Very similar movement to Roullet & Decamps' Black man and Baby, illustrated on p. 321 (plate 49, Cat. No. 364) as above.
Point of Interest -
When Vichy died at the end of the 1890s, the company was then directed by Triboulet, the workshops' foreman, trusted by the family to make the right business decisions. Keen to keep the firm's sights straight through the continued use of the name Vichy, they were renamed Vichy-Triboulet, before just being Triboulet from the 1920s when they used all-electric motors for their work as standard.
This automaton has all the virtues one can possibly wish for in a historical piece of magic. The look, the colour, the action and smoothly delivered expressions provided by both characters before you.
Having time and tide affecting the fragile material of the dressage, makes for two different results - depending on how it's been stored, used and treated. The first, being a right jolly mess, with an ugly pile of torn silk clothes, heavily warped papier-mâché torso and an even more disappointing action when set going.
Not here. This extraordinary survivor is thankfully the second scenario.
A halo of worn beauty surrounds this Peasant, along with his pet pig. The colours faded to reveal a gentle pastel hue all over, the silk and cotton worn and unravelling, still secure yet tattooed with the passing century.
The movement was complete and running, but neglected. A spell of cleaning and bush realignment was all it took to spring this beating heart into service once again.
Enjoy the show.