A Mortier eighty-four key 'Astrid' Café Orchestrion, Circa 1920, a close model 39 resemblance,
Lot 27W
A Mortier eighty-four key 'Astrid' Café Orchestrion,
Circa 1920, a close model 39 resemblance,
Sold for US$ 182,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
A Mortier eighty-four key 'Astrid' Café Orchestrion, Circa 1920, a close model 39 resemblance,
A Mortier eighty-four key 'Astrid' Café Orchestrion,
Circa 1920, a close model 39 resemblance,
Identification numbers:
84 stamped under the key-frame
129 stamped quite faintly but recognisably on the main chest cover-board

With a total of 199 pipes with registers for violin, jazz-flute, carillon, cello, flute and voix-celeste and the bass drum with accompaniments for cymbal, snare drum, woodblock and triangle, in outstanding Art Nouveau oak cabinet, with the illuminated 'Astrid' banner title within Rococo scroll arch frame, partially shaped cornice with dental detail and each of the four stepped bosses with turned squat bun crowns, enlarged egg-and-dart insets to the centres of the squared pillars, above the main blind window featuring indent arched stained glass with geometric matrix of flowering blooms below circular frame, maker's title plaque on fruit and corn inset carving, supported by double turned columns, the very well patinated bronze figure of a robed maiden standing on small rocky outcrop with tree trunk, emanating therein a flowering stem partly supported by her, electrically lit with five globes bearing multi-bead shades, on square tapering base, the top flanked by repeated matrix stained glass panels featuring musical instrument ensembles, each with opalescent ivory-toned glass segmented hoods with glass bead tassels, the lower half of the cabinet with central maiden support of proud curved profile, enhanced with quadruple turned columns, flanked by vertical fielded panels, adverse-stepped dental-points and plain game and wreath roundels, on plinth base.

With six folding books of music, each of various lengths. Approximately 1 hour of music in total.
10' high, 9' wide 6' deep


  • References:
    Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, Q. David Bowers, 1972, p.850 (for a Remond Duwyn, once a Mortier employee but showing one of his organs with a very similar fascia. The opalescent dome light shades and maiden are almost identical), and pp.894-895 (for most styles between 30-41)
    The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments, Arthur A. Reblitz, 2001, p.244 (for close scrutiny study of the style 41 bearing similar case features).

    Ron Cappel and Company

    The name Astrid, stems from the name of the former Queen of Belgium, Mortier's homeland.

    Its original use was in a restaurant in Belgium. It was acquired by Mr. Gustav Mathot, who sold it to Retonio Galleries in Switzerland, after which it was featured in a Sotheby's auction in London, then, via Ron Cappel & Co., to the collection of Mark Yaffe.

    The fascia of the case is presently arranged to accommodate a rather handy feature which assists tuning and servicing. Originally, this whole fascia section unhooked and slid across the floor revealing a two-part orchestrion – the chassis and the illuminated frontage. To make sure the condition and reliability of this action is maintained for future generations, a subtle but matching slim plinth base was constructed at the time of the comprehensive restoration so when unhooked, the fascia now gently rolls away on wheels from the main chassis of the orchestrion without detracting at all from the visual delight of Mortier's proportions.

    Further but essential work also included finding the maiden's arm after it became detached and subsequently mislaid. The stained glass panels seen flanking the centre were formed by direct measurements and color-matching from another Mortier, after the replacement of cloth-covered inset panels. A full mechanism service and case buff finally completed the piece, which retains most of the original wood.

    It is easy to look upon this beautiful Mortier Astrid as being an instrument within an Art Nouveau style case. However, what we see here is an instrument within a true Art Nouveau case, built at a time when this was indeed the usual taste expected of fashion. Being in use in cafés, or dance halls, proprietors could assure themselves that when purchased from Mortier and installed in their premises, this 'band' would not tire of playing, would not require lengthy practice sessions would and always be ready to play in tune and on time, providing there were no power-cuts.

    A rather attractive way of replacing manpower with machine, in a beautiful way.
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