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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Automaton:

Tipu’s Tiger

'Tipu's Tiger' is an awesome, life-size beast of carved and painted wood, seen in the act of devouring a prostrate European in the costume of the 1790s. It has cast a spell over generations of admirers since 1808, when it was first displayed in the East India Company's museum. Concealed in the bodywork is a mechanical pipe-organ with several parts, all operated simultaneously by a crank-handle emerging from the tiger’s shoulder. Turning the handle pumps … bellows and controls the air-flow to simulate the growls of the tiger and cries of the victim.

Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India for whom the automaton was built, identified himself with tigers; his personal epithet was ‘The Tiger of Mysore,’ his soldiers were dressed in ‘tyger’ jackets, his personal symbol invoked a tiger’s face through clever use of calligraphy and the tiger motif is visible on his throne, and other objects in his personal possession [Source]. The death of a young Englishman named Munro carried off by a man-eating tiger in 1792 was the inspiration … Munro was the son of Sir Hector Munro, one of the East India Company’s generals. His death was seen by [Tipu] … as divine retribution against the British invaders [Source - see also documentary].

(Source: vam.ac.uk)

The Ethiopian Caterpillar
Thought to date back as far as 1820, this incredible pre-electronic mechanical robot was made by Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet for sale to aristocratic Chinese buyers. The rare gold, enamel, jewel and pearl-set automaton mimics the gracious undulating caterpillar’s crawl with a clockwork powered mechanism which drives a pair of gilt-metal knurled wheels.
The body is realistically designed to represent a caterpillar comprising eleven jointed ring segments, framed by seed pearls, and decorated with translucent red enamel over an engine-turned ground, studded overall with gold-set rubies, turquoise, emeralds,and diamonds. The underside is decorated with champlevé black enamel. When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam and two leavers all working together to create the crawling motion.
Born 1745, Maillardet was a Swiss mechanician who worked in London producing clocks and other mechanisms, including various automata, including a famous set depicting magicians and others which could write in French and English. When one was presented to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in 1928 it was of unknown origin; but once restored to working order, the robot itself provided the answer by penning the words ‘written by the automaton of Maillardet’.
You can watch a video of the caterpillar in action here.

The Ethiopian Caterpillar

Thought to date back as far as 1820, this incredible pre-electronic mechanical robot was made by Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet for sale to aristocratic Chinese buyers. The rare gold, enamel, jewel and pearl-set automaton mimics the gracious undulating caterpillar’s crawl with a clockwork powered mechanism which drives a pair of gilt-metal knurled wheels.

The body is realistically designed to represent a caterpillar comprising eleven jointed ring segments, framed by seed pearls, and decorated with translucent red enamel over an engine-turned ground, studded overall with gold-set rubies, turquoise, emeralds,and diamonds. The underside is decorated with champlevé black enamel. When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam and two leavers all working together to create the crawling motion.

Born 1745, Maillardet was a Swiss mechanician who worked in London producing clocks and other mechanisms, including various automata, including a famous set depicting magicians and others which could write in French and English. When one was presented to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in 1928 it was of unknown origin; but once restored to working order, the robot itself provided the answer by penning the words ‘written by the automaton of Maillardet’.

You can watch a video of the caterpillar in action here.

Why hide your porno underneath your mattress when you can waltz around with it in your pocket? Indeed, this impulse has informed watchmakers/perversion peddlers for centuries — for the past 300 or so years, tiny mechanical scenes of automata in flagrante delicto have been ferreted away in timepieces, allowing the owner to enjoy this robo-rutting at their leisure. Reuters elaborates on this practice:

The manufacture of watches with explicit motifs — often concealed from immediate view — began in the 17th century for the Chinese market, with the most luxurious timepieces created for the Emperor and his retinue. In the 18th century watchmakers introduced rhythmic interest by incorporating tiny automata to the erotic scenes and watches containing libertine scenes were made for the Far East, followed by India and more recently by the Middle-East.

Here’s an exquisitely salacious collection of watches dated from the 1820s to the 1900s. They depict everything from an enormously endowed voyeuristic Satan, a threesome with some monks, and an inquisitive dog who is not killing the mood. 

Image Sources: Image 1 : Image 2 : Image 3 : Image 4.

(Source: io9.com)

The Monkey Aristocracy

These monkeys were once a scathing critique on French aristocracy. There is a monkey on a early sort of bicycle called a velocipede, a monkey harpist, a monkey violinist, two small monkey musicians, and an incredible monkey dandy under a large glass dome. All are dressed in fine silks with hair done up in the style of French Royalty. These automata were a post-French-revolution joke on the former rulers and current dandies of France. So popular was the theme of foolish aristocratic monkeys that it was common in French homes, and whole rooms were decorated around the theme.

One such room is the Chateau de Chantilly’s Monkey Room in Paris, France. In the mid-1730s the artist Christophe Huet was commissioned by Louis-Henri, the duke of Bourbon, to paint scenes with monkey vignettes on the walls of an elegant white Rococo salon with gilded stucco ornaments. By 1737, Huet had decorated nearly every surface  with a complex allegorical design in which monkeys, fashionably dressed, are depicted in aristocratic pursuits: boar hunting, drinking chocolate, doing their hair, dancing and singing. While the monkeys are charming, they also gently mocked the nobles they represented.

The use of monkeys to poke fun at the rich wasn’t always restricted to art, and often the rich joined in on the fun. “In the early 1700s it was fashionable for aristocrats to keep monkeys as pets. They dressed the monkeys in fancy outfits for comic effect and taught them human tricks, like pickpocketing, that they would display on leisurely walks around Versailles.” Little dressed up versions of humans, stealing treats from the lavish banquet spreads.

(Source: curiousexpeditions.org)

MARIE ANTOINETTE’S ANDROID, 1784

‘La Joueuse de tympanon is a dulcimer playing android. It was presented at Versailles in 1784 and bought by Marie Antoinette. It is believed that the android’s hair is that of the Queen.’

VIDEO.

(Source: retronaut.co)

"without…the duck of Vaucanson, you will have nothing to remind you of the glory of France.” - Voltaire.

The Canard DigérateurDigesting Duck, or Vaucanson Duck was an automaton in the form of a duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The mechanical duck appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain, and to metabolize and defecate them. While the duck did not actually have the ability to do this—the food was collected in one inner container, and the pre-stored feces was ‘produced’ from a second, so that no actual digestion took place—Vaucanson hoped that a truly digesting automaton could one day be designed.

The first image above shows the original Digesting Duck whilst the second is an illustration of how it was mistakenly thought to have worked.

(Source: Wikipedia)