A stunning antique inlaid mottled tortoiseshell and pictorial enamel singing bird box
Inlaid daisy chains of brilliance...
When wound and the bird-form start/stop button actuated, the bird lid opens and the fully feathered bird moves its polished metal beak, wings, tailfeather and whole body from side-to-side, perfectly synchronised to the continuous bird song, before suddenly disappearing from view and the lid shutting to end the performance.
The bird with streaked feathered plumage in black, green, yellow and red with subtle mauve and dark green iridescent highlights, rises through the pierced and tooled gilt grille with bird-form centrum. The lid interior is polished while the bird lid top has finely painted enamel study of two resting ladies in woodland, joined by a standing man, with great detail to light and tone as the sun streams down to the clearing. There is a stylised flowerhead tooled border, against radial arc tooled frame.
The tortoiseshell case with mottled tone throughout and the main lid superbly inlaid with non-connecting swags of flowers and trails executed with many tooled and highly polished sub-miniature forms of yellow metal, white metal and gilt brass, matching gilt metal bird-form start/stop button front-right, highly polished case sides and rear hidden key compartment.
Size - 4in. wide, 2.3/4in. deep, 1.1/2in. high - (10 x 7 x 4cm)
Point of Interest
Inlay work to this level is a skill many current day craftspeople would find very daunting. Each element of the metals used are all differing sizes, within thousands of an inch, so large-scale cutting of the tortoiseshell was not an option to the maker.
Instead, a smaller shape was cut then the metal heated up before being placed across the cut and pressure used to insert it flush into the lid. Too much heat, and the tortoiseshell would have burned and the piece would have ended up too deeply set into the tortoiseshell, too little and it would have stuck most firmly and proud without any chance of retrieving without causing damage.
What a skill to possess and what a joy to see in the flesh the quality so admired and rarely matched.
Inlaid tortoiseshell cased singing bird boxes are much prized and do not usually remain on the market for long, so be sure not to miss out on this fabulous piece.