Magicians and musicians, cyclists, contortionists and conjurers, soldiers and beautiful ladies will be amongst the attendees at a very special toy sale at Auction Team Breker in Cologne, Germany, on 20 November 2010. The auction showcases several remarkable collections of tin toys and automata, the result of many years of careful collecting and thoughtful appreciation.
Classic models by all five makers of the French ‘golden age’ of automata are represented. One of the most unusual portrays a dashing soldier poised, trumpet in hand, on a papier-mâché fort which conceals a Lioret cylinder phonograph (estimate €10.000 – 15.000). The same motor controls the animation and the sound, producing the illusion of an actual bugle call when the soldier brings the instrument to his lips. Recorded sound was an innovative feature in a small number of automata produced by Henry Vichy. Though he advertised that any of the firm’s models could be customised with a Lioret phonograph, the design proved too expensive and unreliable to make these Vichy-Lioret automata a commercial success, and only a few surviving examples are known.
Also by Vichy is a charming pair of black musicians, a boy playing a banjo while his female companion plays an accordion (estimate €10.000 – 15.000). There is a smoking soldier by Roullet et Decamps with a rare Jumeau portrait head, whose leather bellow ‘lungs’
enable him to inhale and exhale when a lighted cigarette is placed in his hand (estimate €8.000 – 12.000), and a charming circus équilibriste by Jean Phalibois who juggles a hoop in one hand while keeping a barrel spinning on the tip of his toe (estimate €5.000 – 8.000).
The work of Leopold Lambert is especially well represented by a selection of mechanical bébés with bisque heads by Jumeau and the luxurious original costumes for which the firm became famous; one, a Polichinelle with cymbals, is still preserved in near-mint condition in its original box (estimate €5.000 – 8.000).