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Automaton box

  • Place of origin:

    Switzerland (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1820 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Chased and enamelled gold; clockwork musical movement

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.1043-2008

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

From the decorated outside, showing scrolling foliage and a musical trophy, this box gives no suggestion of the erotic automaton hidden within. The box had no purpose other than to contain this scene and the Swiss mechanisms that worked it.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

Rectangular gold box, the cover chased with a musical trophy bordered by scrolling foliage and a band of opaque blue enamel with foliage, the walls and base similarly decorated. The interior is set with an automated erotic scene before an enamelled landscape.

Place of Origin

Switzerland (made)

Date

ca.1820 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Chased and enamelled gold; clockwork musical movement

Dimensions

Width: 5.5 cm, Depth: 4.0 cm, Height: 2.0 cm

Object history note

Provenance: S. J. Phillips, London.

Descriptive line

Rectangular gold box, the cover chased with a musical trophy bordered by scrolling foliage and a band of opaque blue enamel with taille d'épargne foliage, the walls and base similarly decorated. The interior is set with an automated scene of a standing couple taking al fresco pleasure in each other, before an altar, with an amorino playing a lyre, and a tree in coloured golds, before an enamelled landscape.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Truman, Charles. The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, volume II, London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 1999, cat. no. 48, p. 78. ISBN.0856675210

Materials

Gold; Enamel

Techniques

Chasing; Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Temples; Columns (architectural elements); Rabbits; Eroticism; Monoptera

Categories

Containers; Metalwork; Personal accessories

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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