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Watch a demonstration of Queen Marie Antoinette's Automaton playing one of eight melodies it can perform.
David Roentgen (1743–1807) took his royal patron by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton to King Louis XVI for his queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1784. The cabinetry for this piece is very much a neoclassical masterwork, and the mechanism behind it is truly extraordinary: the figure strikes the strings in perfect rhythm with two small metal hammers held in her hands, which move with great precision.
This object, from the Musée des arts et métiers de Paris, is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013).
View a full documentary featuring this object: http://www.cerimes.fr/le-catalogue/la-joueuse-de-tympanon.html
Footage courtesy of CERIMES.
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Cup (Tasse Jasmin)
Teapot (Théière Pestum) (part of a service)
Teapot (Théière Asselin)
Plaque depicting Bernard Palissy
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This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 554
This teapot is one of the more striking and original creations of the Sèvres manufactory from the first half of the nineteenth century, when the factory’s production was marked by constant innovation and a striving for novelty. The decoration reflects the ongoing popularity of chinoiserie, a term used to describe the European fascination with an imagined and exotic Asia. In the eighteenth century objects in the chinoiserie taste were usually decorated with fanciful depictions of life in Asia as Europeans envisioned it. In contrast, this teapot employs and reinterprets motifs perceived to be Asian in origin. The lotus leaves of the handle, the carved ivory grip at the top, the prominent butterfly, and even the yellow ground color are references to Chinese decorative arts, but the manner in which these elements are rendered and combined is entirely European.The Sèvres archives record that the teapot was made as an individual object rather than as part of a service and that is was sold to the queen of France, Marie-Amélie, who took possession of it in August 1837.
Inscription: Marked on underside: Sèvres 32 [in blue], M30av [in gold]
Incised on underside: 9.31.12
Queen Marie Amélie (delivered August 21, 1837) ; [ sale, Perrin, Royère, Lajeunesse , November 10, 1991, lot 60 ] ; [ sale, Étude Tajan , June 22, 1999 ] ; [ sale, Sotheby's, Paris , March 29, 2007, lot 123 ] ; [ Dragesco-Cramoisan , to MMA ]
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