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Automaton

Automaton

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1890-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lambert, Leopold, born 1854 (maker)
    Jumeau (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bisque, papier maché, clockwork

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Pamela Farr on behalf of the family of Muriel Farr

  • Museum number:

    B.96-2009

  • Gallery location:

    Museum of Childhood, Moving Toys Gallery, case 10 []

Automata (mechanically moving figures) had been known from ancient times, but were most recently a popular craze in the late 19th century. The best known and most highly regarded makers at this time were French or based in France, notably Roullet et Descamps, and Vichy and Lambert (the maker of this piece).

Probably the most frequently made examples represented pretty or amusing young humans or animals, but there was also a taste for grotesques, such as demons, wizards, cigarette-smoking monkeys and racial stereotypes. Most automata were at the higher-priced end of the market in amusements, and were not necessarily playthings for children - although many children would have had memories of seeing them. An automaton like this is making a contextual point in the history of childhood, and reflects the fact that such items were often either a family amusement or a public one, since automata were sometimes used in shop displays. Their overall popularity partly reflects the human liking for moving amusements which has since probably been more deeply satisfied by films, computers and television; the other constant appeal lies in the fantasy of dolls and other inanimate figures coming to life, as in the ballet 'Coppelia'.

Physical description

Mechanical and musical toy consisting of a doll representing a young Caucasian girl standing with her arms bent and raised. The figure has a bisque head with inset blue glass eyes and a cork pate; her ears are pierced for earrings. She also has bisque forearms and hands, and probably lower legs and feet; her torso and other limbs are of papier maché. The head and forearms are on flexible wire fittings to enable their movement. Her legs and feet are encased in stockings of beige knitted cotton, with red satin shoes, through which two screws fasten her to the rectangular base covered with maroon velvet. It has not so far been possible to identify exactly what the doll's actions represent, as her props and identifying costume do not survive, but she may have been smelling a perfume or a flower, or looking closely at something.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

ca. 1890-1900 (made)

Artist/maker

Lambert, Leopold, born 1854 (maker)
Jumeau (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Bisque, papier maché, clockwork

Object history note

Owned by Muriel Farr as a child, but nothing is known of how the automaton came into the family. [notes on name: Muriel's birth was evidently registered in the name of Muriel Lottie Clark in 1918, but she was baptised Muriel Jean; her grandmother always called Peggy, and her husband called her Jean].

Descriptive line

Mechanical and musical toy representing a caucasian girl with blue eyes; bisque Jumeau head and outer limbs; made in France by Leopold Lambert ca. 1890-1900

Materials

Bisque; Papier-mâché

Techniques

Moulding

Subjects depicted

Girl

Categories

Dolls & Toys

Collection

Museum of Childhood

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