A very important silver standing singing bird automaton of a crow, by Bontems, circa 1890,
Lot 48*
A very important silver standing singing bird automaton of a thrush, by Bontems, circa 1890,
Sold for £39,650 (US$ 66,644) inc. premium
Lot Details
A very important silver standing singing bird automaton of a thrush, by Bontems,
circa 1890,
with stationary pose, very fine tooled and chased feathered detail to entire body, the head with low-cut neck, smaller layered detail and sunken eye sockets for the garnet gem set eyes, large beak with tinplate tongue, tailfeather with wide trim profile, close-detailed legs and feet with claws, centre-seem case construction with discreet counter-sunk screw heads along feather line, when actuated, head moves from side-to-side, tongue reciprocates, and both wings open and close rapidly accompanied by continuous birdsong from the going-barrel movement, start/stop actuation slide to chest and winding stem positioned under the left-hand wing, with the key based upon period pattern, in fitted purpose-built double hinge-over travelling case with claret-red velvet interior, black rexine covered exterior with twin turned and hexagonal rod swing handles -
9in. (23cm) from beak to tailfeather, the maximum wing span 8.1/2in. (22cm), the height 6in. (15cm)


  • Reference:
    Fine Mechanical Music and Scientific Instruments, Bonhams, lot 20, 3 November 2010, for the Skylark model from circa 1880.

    Bontems made these bird automatons in models including Magpie, Skylark and Crow, although the series was likely to cover more.
    Comprising a relatively simple version of their going-barrel movement, the main obstacle was the design of the long linkages needed to span the width and length of the case to reach the wings, head and tongue. Coupled with the weight of each of the movement elements, made for quite a design challenge.

    Here, this fine example stylistically modelled as a thrush, is offered with movement cleaned and restored, the silver tooling retaining its very crisp and textured detail, without the over-cleaning sometimes seen on these. Without bearing damage through misuse or poor storage, one of the rarest Bontems singing birds found in America awaits it's flight to a new nest.
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