Antique Tortoiseshell and pictorial enamel singing bird box, by Bontems


A antique tortoiseshell and pictorial enamel singing bird box, by Bontems


Circa 1885,


Going-barrel movement,


Serial number 623,


A special birdsong notation...


When wound and start/stop slide moved to the right, the bird emerges through richly gilded pierced and chased gilt grille, moving bone beak, wings and body from side-to-side to highly unusual staccato continuous birdsong.

The bird with fan-layered feathered plumage in black, dark blue, turquoise and red, iridescent highlights in gold and red, lid interior with rose floral spray on cream enamel ground, plain gilt border, the bird lid with fine pastel painted study of two children seated beside wide riverbank beneath trees and lavender bushes, tree crowns and birds-in-flight beyond, in plain polished tortoiseshell case with good occasional iridescent anomalies, hidden key compartment to rear, on gilt bun feet.


3.7/8in. wide, 2.3/4in. deep, 1.5/8in. high - (9.8 x 7 x 4.2cm)


Point of interest -


We know when antique bird boxes need adjustment if the sound is poor or cyphering, but this one sounded very different from the start.  The notation cam has been milled at 45-degrees with the toe of the reading rod also cut to the same angle.  This creates a larger surface area and so all peaks and dips which are milled for the notation are picked up much quicker.  The peaks on this cam are very tapered and so each note is transcribed quicker than a box with the usual cam angle cuts.

What you hear is a very melodic and precise birdsong which deserves careful listening.

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