The magician answers to riddles or performs transformations or escapes. In the former type, the user inserts a tablet in a slot. This action starts the animation and the music which will end after the answer appears on the other side of the picture. These magician boxes are a specialty and maybe even an exclusivity of the brand of Piguet et Meylan.
On June 8 in New York, Sotheby's sells a gold and enamel snuff box concealing an automaton with a magician and a musician. This piece that had belonged to the collection of King Farouk is estimated $ 1.5M, lot 81.
As always, its make had required some specialized craftsmen. The study of punches allows to date it around 1820. The gold work is signed by Chénevard et Jouvet.
This box in perfect condition keeps for its questions five double-sided tablets that are differentiated by the position of an off-centered hole. A tablet is asking "Qui t'a créé ?" When the wand of the magician ceases to oscillate, the automaton responds in a window previously hidden in a tree : "CH Oudin".
The magician box does not however offer the same mystery as the writer of Maillardet : its gild brass movement is inscribed "Chas. Oudin, 52 Palais Royal, Paris" on a backplate.
Charles Oudin was one of the best assistants to Breguet for whom he worked on the mechanism of the equation of time and on the tactile watch before establishing his own business. Its participation in the mechanics of an automaton demonstrates an unexpected encounter between the followers of the two most brilliant mechanical engineers of all time, Jaquet-Droz and Breguet. The magician does not provide the answer to this riddle.
SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium
The animation of the magician is demonstrated in the video shared by Sotheby's to announce the sale :