c.1950 Griesbaum Singing Bird Automaton In Original Box

c.1950 Griesbaum Singing Bird Automaton In Original Box

Magnificent museum quality clockwork automaton "Singing Bird in Gilded Cage" built by Karl Griesbaum, Germany. Complete with original box!

I was told that it's always been kept in the box. Every part is original to the machine. Best of all every one of its complex actions work beautifully. I hesitate grading anything as "mint", but I can't find a condition point that would downgrade it.

Essentially it's a complex clockwork automaton music box which achieves a level of realism (as trite as it sounds) that must be seen to be believed. Twittering of tail feathers, turning of the head right or left, beak opening, and beak closing are all perfectly synchronized. There is no hesitation or jerking of movement. All motions are consistently smooth and their integration is flawless.

In addition to its realistic movement the automaton simultaneously produces a sound which is so melodic and clear you'd swear it was a real bird. It performs this action using an internal bellows. The tones produced are timed precisely to coincide with the movement. In other words sound is emitted at exactly the same time as the beak opens. It's silent when it's closed. The sound, or birdsong is strong without any wavering or change in pitch. It remains synchronized with its physical movement until the motor runs down.

I don't pretend to be an expert regarding automata. But I do know toys, and I do know quality, and grading. I could've spent several weeks researching this antique music box toy, but I just wanted to make sure I was at least identifying it by its correct name and era produced. Given the time constraints I used only the Internet for my research, but I recognize that the best information is in printed books.

While doing the reseach I first noticed a wide disparity of data. I found dates of manufacture ranging anywhere from the mid-19th century through the 1980's for this specific machine. Quite frequently it was identified incorrectly, or not at all. Thankfully there were many sites which were so helpful that I couldn't have written this description without them. Much thanks to the following web sites; Brady's Clock Repair, WriteAntiques.com, Christies.com, The Automaton Blog, and Skinner's Inc..

I found no other example of a vintage machine which still had its original box!

Summary The Singing Bird in Cage Music Box consists of a multicolored figural bird perched on the center of a brass finished tubular cross-bar, and the feathers are real! Every one is perfectly in place. I see nothing to indicate that any are missing or damaged. Wires covered with twisted colored material (cloth or possibly canvas) was used to create branches and leaves. A nest with four eggs is wired to the base of the perch. Two red berries were wired to either end of the cross-member. The base inside the cage is covered with blue flocked material. I assume this was used to simulate the sky.

The cage is brass, or brass finished. The "bars" are 25 parallel wire rods plus 5 pairs of twisted rods equally spaced and held in place. None are bent, crooked, kinked, scratched, or scuffed. A 1½" diameter plate with tiered final and its original hanging loop are at the top.

Around the very solid and heavy base are 50, football-shaped scrollwork designs with approximately 100 heart-shaped scrolls between them. There are several hallmarks on the underside which include a perched bird flanked by the letters K and G, a diamond with letters K and G in the center, and the word Germany. Sounds are emitted through a brass finished screen. It has its original start stop label pasted to the underside adjacent to the lever. The key is attached. It rests on three extended legs; each still with its original pink-tinted rubber pad in place.

The box (12¼" x X 7" x 7") is 2pc. and has its original cover. It's made from sturdy pressed cardboard or paper. The exterior is an applied black print with gold diamonds. Fixed to the bottom interior is the original pressed cotton insert. It was die cut to precisely fit the bottom of the cage. The original manufacturer's stamped name is almost completely obliterated. Partial letters can be seen.

Size: Approx. 11" tall, 5" diameter. Weight 2lbs+

Sold: May 2011 $511

Price Sold: $ 511


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