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A Rare 'Smoking Gentleman' Automaton

30th August 2023.

A very rare ‘Smoking Gentleman’ automaton will lead Tennants Auctioneers’ Scientific and Musical Instruments, Cameras and Tools Sale on 27th September, when it will be offered with an estimate of £5,000-7,000 (all figures exclude buyer’s premium). The automaton was made in France circa 1880 by Gustave Vichy, who is renowned for his fine mechanical figures. Gustave Vichy (1839-1904) was born into a family business that made mechanical toys; however, when he was 23 his father went bankrupt, and Gustave set up his own factory to make fine musical automatons. Beautifully crafted, the factory made every part of the automatons in a wide variety of materials, which were all clothed in fashionable garments made by his wife Maria.  

A Private Collection of Music Boxes is also on offer, and the collection covers the full range of mechanical music with disc and cylinder music boxes, phonographs, pneumatic organs and a gramophone. Highlights include a very good Two-Per-Turn Full Oratorio Musial Box by Nicole Frerés, leading Swiss musical box makers during the 19th century. The box plays twelve airs including passages from Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, and Mendelsohn’s Elijah amongst others, and is offered with an estimate of £1,000-1,500. Also of note are a very good 14 ¾ inch Symphonion Disc Musical Box with Bells Accompaniment (estimate: £800-1,200), and a large and fine Early 19th Century Chamber Barrel Organ-On-Stand, probably made by Flight and Robson (estimate: £1,200-1,800). Another interesting piece is the good 'Tradesman's' Key-Wind Full-Operatic Musical Box, by Nicole Frerés (estimate: £600-900); tradesman’s musical boxes were samples used by salesmen and were usually of better quality than those that were made for retail.

Amongst a good selection of cameras in the sale is a very good Private Collection of modern Leica film cameras, which includes a Leica M6 Anton Bruckner Camera that was produced as a limited edition to celebrate the centenary of the composer’s death in 1896 and comes with certificate and complete set of Bruckner’s symphonies on CD (estimate: £2,000-3,000), and a limited edition Leica M6 Ein Stuck Camera with certificate, accessories and original box (estimate: £1,500-2,000). Notable cameras from other vendors include a Hasselblad XPan II Camera (estimate: £1,500-2,000), and a Hasselblad 501CM Camera (estimate: £800-1,200).

A further Private Collection of Banjos is on offer in the musical instruments section of the sale. An interesting collection of good quality useable banjos include the likes of a banjo by Clifford Essex & Son, inlaid with mother of pearl (estimate: £800-1,200). Highlights amongst the guitars include a Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar (estimate: £2,000-3,000), and a Rickenbacker 360 12-String Semi Acoustic Guitar (estimate: £800-1,200).

Finally, and exceptionally large pair of binoculars measuring nearly one meter in length. The high powered Fujinon EM-SX 25x150 Binoculars will be offered with an estimate of £2,000-3,000 and comes in a fitted metal trunk and stand.


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