Lot No. 187 (93rd Auction)
Charles Bontems, Paris, 98 x 69 x 33 mm, 403 g, circa 1880

An extremely rare double-singing bird box with original case
Case: tortoiseshell/silver/gilt brass. Automaton mechanism: rectangular, full-plate, bellows, going barrel.

When the movement is wound and the slider starting the automaton has been pushed to the right, the fine florally engraved gilded silver lid opens and a pair of chirping birds rise with fluttering wings and opening beaks. They repeatedly turn towards and away from each other.
The two birds have multi-coloured feathers that are bright red, sea-blue and emerald green and have been perfectly accented with iridescent highlights. The birds rise from a gilded lattice floor.
The remarkably well preserved tortoiseshell case imparts a marvellous resonant sound. The back has a little comparment with a folding lid for the key – this is an extremely rare singing bird box of outstanding quality.

Blaise Bontems (1814-1893) founded his famous manufactory for automaton singing birds in 1849 in Paris. His son Charles Bontems succeeded him and was in turn succeeded by his own son Lucien – the era ended when Lucien Bontems died in 1956.
In 1862 the company had many international customers and 90% of their products would be sold outside France. Bontems won 52 medals and many patents – among the medals was one awarded by Napoleon III and one presented by Leopold II of Belgium.
The story goes that Bontems, who was keen to imitate birdsong as closely as possible, went to walk in the forest to listen to the birds. He took one of the instruments with pipe and a piston with him and then adjusted the piston to produce the desired notes. Upon returning to his workshop he modified the whole mechanism in such a way that it enabled him to create the most realistic and authentic sounds.
Source:, as of 04/02/2016
Estimate  16,000 - 22,000 €

Price Realised  27,300 €
A lot from a recent auction!

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