An important and fine gold, enamel and split seed-pearl oiseau chantant with timepiece,  Frerés Rochat, in the manner of Jaquet-Droz, the case by Jaques-Dauphin Moulinie, circa 1795,
Lot 19
An important and fine gold, enamel and split seed-pearl oiseau chantant with timepiece, Frerés Rochat, in the manner of Jaquet-Droz, the case by Jaques-Dauphin Moulinie, circa 1795,
Sold for £90,000 (US$ 117,240) inc. premium

Lot Details
An important and fine gold, enamel and split seed-pearl oiseau chantant with timepiece,
Frerés Rochat, in the manner of Jaquet-Droz, the case by Jaques-Dauphin Moulinie, circa 1795,
No. 69, the top-wind four-pillar movement stamped FR in oval plait, the top plate beside timepiece escapement stamped PM within diamond plait and 765, the fusee movement with richly blued hinge pivots, return pins and pillar screws, the bird with banded arrow-formation feathered plumage in dark brown, purple, red, yellow and turquoise, iridescent highlights in green and orange to neck, repeated subtlely to body, moving bone beak, head, wings and tailfeather to 1-2-3-4 paused sequential birdsong, rising through the solid Rochat grille with blued screws, the detailed bird-form underplate surrounded by radial tooled mitres, plain highly-polished lid interior for full bird reflection, the bird lid with busy enamel floral spray on clipper blue ground, intermediate lid with intricate geometrically tooled matrix of leaf swags, inset petit-level enamels in white and powder blue, peacock on T perch and the intertwined laurel branches terminating to show wind direction for Oiseau, Montre and hands, the timepiece lid-left with Roman numerals, fully blued hands with sweep-second hand, Arrat/Plie regulator adjustment with inset change pin, the main lid with repeating polished interior, closing to frame the bird lid with single row of finely set split seed-pearls, each with petit-baule mounts, the edge with smaller pearls with similar mounts and the intermediate ground with diamond and quatrefoil medallion engine turning, beneath deep cobalt blue and black enamel, repeated to all sides and underside, lid rim apron with tooled continuous band of crests, lotus-head centre, set between oval boss joined by laurel-leaf swags, enamel panel border with petit broken chevrons, dot-and-dash edge, the corners with stylised duet Rococo C scroll clusters above quintet lotus leaf claws, all in very fine tooled detail, highlights in white and dark blue, on powder blue enamel ground, similar underside framing, polished indent rim to lid and base edge, hidden key compartment to rear, start/stop to front-right, with three later keys for timepiece, oiseau chantant and hands - 3in. (7.7cm) wide, the depth 2in. (5.1cm), the height 1.2/16in. (2.7cm)


  • Literature:
    Mechanical Singing-bird Tabatiéres, G. T. Mayson, pp.77-79, 119, 121-22;

    A Loan Exhibition of Antique Automatons, for the benefit of the Pastalozzi Foundation of America, November 3-December 5 1950, catalogue pp.40-41 item No.81 (for similar example in oval form);

    Fine Mechanical Music, Automata, Dolls, Teddy Bears, Toys, Trains, Toy Soldiers and Figures, Tuesday 20 November 2007, Bonhams, Knightsbridge, lot No. 42 (for very similar example using same movement layout by Jaquet Droz).

    There was no-known co-operation between Jaquet Droz and Frerés Rochat, however it is widely accepted that once J. Droz's golden age drew to a close in the early 1800s, Frerés Rochat took over the reputation as being the finest maker for instruments of this elk in a seamless takeover of standard. Few singing bird boxes come close to the technical quality, enamelwork or tooling than examples leaving the workshops of Rochat Frerés. And because of their rarity, finding pieces with which comparisons are easily made, makes the thought of undertaking the challenge a miserable one.

    Attention should be brought to the tooling on the grille, gold of course, and the decoration throughout the body of the case - especially that of the rim and corners, where the detail is of the very finest seen.

    Bruguier singing bird boxes tend to play for longer, with repeated songs on a 6 or 8-cam sequence common-place. With Rochat, the songs on 1-2-3-4 boxes are naturally shorter, but with the tunes more akin to real-life birdsong, it is clear that these first examples of true singing bird tabatiéres used song notations taken directly from ink placed on paper, by someone listening to the wildlife in a forest. What better birdsong could be composed at the time than that coming from the birds themselves?

    Further decoration to the enamel includes large, imposing and very deep-toned panels of engine-turned cobalt blue. Almost exactly identical to the feature on lot 42 from the Bonhams sale listed above, the alternating diamond and quatrefoil stripes, makes for a complex visual effect. The split seed-pearl edge was a common sight on top-end boxes of the late 18th Century and these too are also captured on the only known oval-form singing bird box with similar enamel panels, as seen in the 1950 Exhibition Antique Automaton catalogue.
Auction information

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20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

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