An antique coin-operated large double singing birds-in-cage, by Bontems,
Spend a penny in style
When wound and a 1d. coin inserted into the gilt metal chute to the front, the two full taxidermy birds spring to life, taking turns to open and close beaks, bob tailfeathers and turn heads from side to side perfectly synchronised to the mellow birdsong then coming to a stop once the penny drops.
The twin birds of full taxidermy, each with delicate mustard yellow, dark green, black and grey feathered plumage, natural beaks, black glass eyes and full natural legs, with the first on high polished T bar perch, the other on lower base perch beside, pale yellow velvet covered base with plain circular perch boss and angular gilt metal coin chute entries to centre and corner, under the impressive domed square cage with hoop and box top, lily leaf detail cast intermediate band, and the canted corner profile accented by the double twist bars, opening door to front with matching frame and further matching deep frame to cage bottom, on outstanding gilt gesso base with moulded lip above floral panels in relief, leaf bosses to corners, petit acanthus leaf frieze below and raised plinth with incised detail, coin drawer to right-hand side below winding hole for key, with a small stack of pre-1967 1d. coins.
size - 22in. high, the base 9.1/2in. sq. - (56 x 24 x 24cm)
Point of Interest -
Used in public quarters and taverns, it is unclear exactly if these coin-operated singing birds in cages were produced to be kept the property of the manufacture on a rent basis, or sold outright to the owners of premises who, after a good number of paying viewers, would get to make a small profit.
Phalibois also made these cages and invariably had polished beech-wood bases with gilt metal appliqués mounted for the finished decoration.
Bontems were still very much in the realms of gesso bases, and why not; Gesso bases, to this standard, pick out and display the very best detail with a colour which is very pleasing to the eye. The tiny leaf drops on the acanthus frieze near the bottom of the base for instance are crisp, consistent and wonderfully preserved from day one.
This has been looked after and will we are sure make for an entertaining interlude within the right interior.
Wind, Penny, Action...