Auctions, Mechanical Toys, Tin Toys — May 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Toys Fit for a King (or Queen) at Auction Team Breker

THE LEGENDARY ENGLISH antiques dealer, Jack Donovan, used to refer to his collection of musical boxes and automata as “princely toys,” perhaps because mechanical toys have held a well-documented fascination for the royal families of Europe and Asia for at least three centuries.

When Tsar Nicholas wanted to present Princesses Olga and Elizabeth of Greece with a gift, he chose an automaton by the Parisian firm Roullet et Decamps, and in turn Gaston Decamps was inspired by sculptor Rodin’s drawings of the royal dancers of Cambodia on a state visit to France in 1906.

Auction Team Breker’s Spring sale on May 28, 2011 includes an example of a royal automaton in the form of a musical sewing necessaire with complement of gilt-metal tools
and a mechanical seascape fitted into the lid. According to a period inscription on the underside, this luxurious toy was presented to the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) by her friends.

Equally aristocratic is a Roullet et Decamps “Smoking Marquis” automaton still wearing his superb original cream satin costume. Whereas the smoker has a bisque head with standard bébé features, Decamps’ competitor, Leopold Lambert, commissioned a series of unique bisque character faces from dollmaker Jumeau for use on special automata.

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