Published: November 20, 2015
COLOGNE, GERMANY — Combining science and music, Auction Team Breker’s November 7 auction ranged from the first personal computer to a smoking moon automaton and a miniature steam-powered fountain.
A standout among Nineteenth Century automata or mechanical parlor toys was a rare example of “Lune Fin de Siècle” by Gustave Vichy, circa 1891, that went several times over its estimate at $147,000.
Modeled as a young man with large full moon face leaning against a column, a cigarette between his lips and a walking cane in his right hand, the automaton was built to inhale and exhale smoke through a set of bellows operated by the spring motor.
Described by Vichy’s contemporary Léo Claretie in the Les Jouets, Histoire-Fabrication as “a young man whose head is a full moon, bright and shining, balancing in clouds of smoke,” the face of this automaton was also Vichy’s trademark.
Another Vichy automaton that took the fancy of collectors was an equilibrist balancing on a ball designed by Gustave’s son, Henry, circa 1894. In unrestored working condition, the automaton, which carried provenance from the American artist Corita Kent (1918–1986), fetched $34,900.
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