A Louis XV automaton case now fitted as a jardiniere

A Louis XV gilt bronze-mounted kingwood and tulipwood
musical automaton case now adapted as a jardiniere – circa 1755

Attributed to Bernard Van Risamburgh II or Joseph Baumhauer

Height: 34.5 cm. (13 ½ in.)    Width: 29 cm. (11 ½ in.)
Depth: 29 cm. (11 ½ in.)

Provenance :

Dr. Peter Sommer, London


Comparative Literature :

P.Verlet, Les bronzes dorés francais du XVIIIeme Siecle, Paris, Editions Picard, 1987, p. 29, pl. 17

This unusual jardiniere was originally the case to a musical automaton in the form of a planter enclosing an orange tree in painted tole filled with birds. The birds play a different tune depending on which of the oranges surrounding the base of the tree is pressed. Only one of these extraordinary objects survives intact. It is signed Richard rue des Prouvaires à Paris 1757 and was sold from the Collection of Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, 18 May 1977, lot 49 and now in a Parisian private collection (illustrated in colour in Verlet, op. cit.) Verlet describes it as an objet exquis, séduisant, pittoresque et savant…

Richard was known in contemporary accounts as a Méchanicien and achieved fame for his complicated musical automatons. He was described as aussi modeste que scavant, et dont les productions font tant d’honneur au génie inventif de la Nation (Ibid, p. 449).

Given the extremely complicated nature of the musical movement, the present one must have ceased to function fairly quickly and was transformed into a jardinière in the 19th Century with the accompanying minor modifications to the veneers and gilt bronze mounts. These are set forth in the accompanying restoration report.

The ébénisterie and gilt bronzes of the case are identical to the Mentmore example. They would have been sub-contracted to a cabinet-maker; given their sophisticated nature, it seems likely to have come from the workshops of either BVRB II or Joseph.

Musical automaton by Richard from the Mentmore sale