Bossu á Paris magician automaton timepiece
Lot 38Y
An important and fine ormolu, Japanned-black and silver embellished timepiece-actuated Persian Magician automaton, by Bossu, French, circa 1860,
Sold for £36,000 (US$ 60,473) inc. premium
Lot Details
Fine Oiseaux Chantants and Musical Vertu
An important and fine ormolu, Japanned-black and silver embellished timepiece-actuated Persian Magician automaton,
by Bossu, French, circa 1860,
singed to the pendulum regulator bracket Bossu A Paris,, on four-pillar circular two-train timepiece movement, striking on a bell hourly and half-hourly,

The full-length standing Raj magician, moustache, traditional wound-cloth turban headdress in silvered finish, his double-buttoned shirt and robe, tied with drape waist tie in ormolu, out-reached arms with pataned hands clasping twin conical silver cups, flanking stationary cup with perched ivory ball on top, with the trick performed on the hour and when actuated, cups rise and fall independently or together, and ivory and painted wood objects appear and disappear from view as listed below, the table top in Japanned-black finish, scored circle decoration across four rows, with the second used for object reveal, raised table with full access below, on turned legs, on top of rectangular pediment, five stylised English rose bosses, and main pediment with indent egg-and-dart moulding, the timepiece dial of silvered finish, very finely engraved with wave-line pattern decreasing from the centre, on highly polished brass ground, joined double spadrel to top and Thorique mask corners with fan-cloud spray, demi-plinth with wide acanthus-leaf frieze, plain band and shell-fan frieze, upon leaf-scroll feet finished with drape curl and bar apron, automaton wound from the right-hand side top - 21in. (53.5cm) high, the Magician 5.1/4in. (13.2cm) high, the maximum width 10.1/4in. (26cm), the depth 5.7/8in. (15cm)


  • Reference:
    Mechanical Music and Scientific Instruments, Bonhams, 28 April 2009, lot 107 for the Chinese Magician timepiece automaton version by Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871).

    Unlike the Houdin Magician noted above, which ran on a single carousel within the table, clearly concealed behind the cast tablecloth, this finer example has two miniature carousels under each cup. The arms of this Magician are counter-weighted by fusee-grade chains with small lead drums at the end. With the selector cams hidden in the small pediment under the table, it is either the left cup, the right, or both, but with the select being and odd number, the items which appear are not repeated for many strikes later. The mathematical notation is noted as being [4(l) x 4(r)] divided by 2(left or right arms cam-stack select) x 3(arms together cam-stack select) =24 combinations per actuation split between both hands - a truly stunning mechanical computer.

    Just one program example on an hourly run is:

    1. - (L) ball (R) ball
    2. - (L) bird (R) blank
    3. - (L) 5-spot dice (R) blank
    4. - (B) balls
    5. - (B) birds
    6. - (B) blank
    7. - (B) 5-spot dice
    8. - (L) ball (R) blank
    9. - (L) blank (R) ball
    10. - (L) blank (R) bird
    11. - (L) 5-spot dice (R) blank
    12. - (L) blank (R) 5-spot dice

    The next sequence would be different, as to would be the next 11 until full-circle occured.
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