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A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON
A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON
A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON
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A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON
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PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON

THE BOX BY GUIDON, GIDE & BLONDET FILS (FL. 1801-1804), MARKED, GENEVA, CIRCA 1804, THE MOVEMENT WITH SCRATCHED SIGNATURE 'ANT. ROJARD À GENÈVE, INVINIT ET FECIT, NO 2170', FOR ANTOINE ROJARD, GENEVA

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A SWISS JEWELLED ENAMELLED MUSICAL GOLD SNUFF-BOX WITH AUTOMATON, THE MUSIC LESSON
THE BOX BY GUIDON, GIDE & BLONDET FILS (FL. 1801-1804), MARKED, GENEVA, CIRCA 1804, THE MOVEMENT WITH SCRATCHED SIGNATURE 'ANT. ROJARD À GENÈVE, INVINIT ET FECIT, NO 2170', FOR ANTOINE ROJARD, GENEVA
rectangular box with canted corners, the cover, sides and base set with panels of dark-blue translucent enamel on an engine-turned ground, the cover centred with a square enamel plaque depicting the Muse of Music with two cherubs in attendance, within a chased foliate gold and opaque sky-blue enamel frame, with seed-pearl outer border, the sides, base and pilasters with black and white taille d’épargne enamel foliate and pellet sprays and borders, the cover opening to reveal a painted polychrome enamel interior with applied vari-coloured gold automaton scene depicting a lady playing the tympanon, accompanied by a standing gentleman beating time and a monkey playing the triangle, two figures to the left clapping their hands when the lady and the music stop, the scene activated by a lever in the band, the base opening to reveal a small compartment that contains the original winding key, with gilt-finished movement with fusée and chain, musical pin drum with stacked tuned teeth
3 3/8 in. (88 mm.)
A musical automaton snuff-box marked for Guidon, Rémond, Gide & Cie. with an identical case but with a differing interior animation and signed 'Ante Rojard Genêve No 2174' can be seen in the Patek Philippe Museum Collection (Inv. S-770). The present box is scratched with the inventory No. 2170 which suggests that it was made earlier than the box in the Patek Philippe Museum and that the two boxes may originally have been made as a pair. The trade with the Far East flourished in Geneva at this time and it had long been traditional to send objects to China in pairs. According to Alfred Chapuis, 'the Chinese love symmetry; all gifts to a superior, and above all to the Emperor, were given in pairs.' By the 18th and 19th centuries, this passion extended beyond the Imperial court to include aristocratic and wealthy families in China. Thus began a lucrative commerce dominated by the English and Swiss watchmakers - 'Sing Song' merchants as they were called - whose sole aim was to invent increasingly luxurious and whimsical timepieces, specifically to the taste of this new market of choice.


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David McLachlan
David McLachlan

Lot Essay

This wonderful musical automaton box is an exceptional example of the high quality of objects produced by the most eminent craftsmen in Geneva. It is extraordinary for the complexity of the musical and mechanisms which drive the five automatons. The first automatons appeared in Geneva in the late 18th century. They were small technical marvels imitating the movements of living creatures or beings, ranging from simpler "Bras en l'Air" figures whose arms would indicate the time, to incredibly complex works of pastoral, theatrical or other scenes such as those of the present box. Some of these automata were fitted with repeating or musical mechanisms and were highly appreciated works of art, not only in Europe, but also by Chinese and Ottoman dignitaries. Jean-Georges Rémond (or Reymond), was active in Geneva from 1783 until approximately 1820. He became Master Goldsmith on 22 December 1783 and founded Georges Rémond & Cie. in 1790. The company specialised in the production of snuff-boxes, snuff-boxes with watches, singing bird-boxes, form watches and musical boxes. Their work was of excellent quality and often with sumptuous decoration. Rémond established an impressive international enterprise, with offices and production facilities in Geneva and Hanau. He assembled around him a group of very talented artisans, all working to create items of the very highest quality. During the course of his career he registered at least five companies; when the term of one expired, he simply created another, often with the same partners. The snuff box bears the stamp of the firm Guidon, Gide & Blondet fils of Geneva. They conducted business from 1801 until 1804; the company was founded when the company Guidon, Rémond, Gide & Co. closed down on 1 January 1801 and the two partners henceforth traded as Rémond, Lamy & Co. and Guidon Gide & Blondet, respectively. A great number of the finest gold and enamel snuff boxes that were produced in Geneva at the time are signed with marks from either of the three companies. The companies each produced a variety of magnificent objects of vertu, from small étuis to elaborate gold and enamel snuff-boxes, boxes in fanciful shapes such as butterflies or roses, and boxes for the most spectacular singing bird mechanisms and automatons.
Antoine Rojard was probably the son of the horologist Jean-Daniel Rojard, and worked in Geneva at the end of the 18th and early 19th century. He is known to have produced complex automatons and watches, including some set with thermometers. The Rojard firm continued until the end of the 19th century and was known for producing repeating watches in the English style.

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