An extremely rare antique performing polar bear musical automaton, by Roullet & Decamps,
The rare Grande size model
Our latest Artic expedition has returned with this superb find...
When wound and the start/stop actuation rod pulled out, the movement immediately springs into action with the standing polar bear's hips swaying around in a loop whilst the upper body also moves in a smaller circular motion, simultaneously the balancing ball precariously positioned on the tip of his nose rotates round and round, arms quake up and down randomly as the pure brilliance of performing balance is displayed, all accompanied by the single musical air from the cylinder movement directly driven from the single-spring four-pillar motor.
The perfect posed polar bear, standing upright, completely and beautifully finished in white fur, glass eyes, painted and carefully moulded part composition and papier-mâché hands and feet, wearing leather collar with chain mount swaging down towards hook to base, the white and patterned red stripe ball rotating on the naturalistically textured black leather nose, all mounted to the purple and green velvet covered base of canted-corner profile, key hole and start/stop rod to rear, plain finished underside.
size - 60cm high, the base 24cm square.
Point of interest -
This piece carries with it unimaginable rarity in the world of Golden Age automata.
The performance is staged to exceptional balancing detail. The arms are sprung so that the movement of the hips circulating is carried through the body to make the arms shake and quake up and down. The effect is wonderful.
It is well known that Roullet & Decamps marketed and manufactured a vast array of animals, to include the simple yet cute domestic cat to the more exotic crocodile, peacock and elephant - Douglas Fisher have a good range from this catalogue to show you.
Once in a while, an example comes to light which furthers their catalogue tremendously and delightfully. There is an unofficial 'zoo' series, comprising a selection of different animals and creatures, the likes of which in real life were clearly the sort brought back from their natural habitat to be shown to crowds in zoos. Usually no larger than the average 30-40cm height or length, the movement was either concealed within the body to walk or mounted on a base for a static sited performance.
This R&D piece is substantially larger than the usual exotic appearance from this 'zoo' series. So much so, it is clear this was either made on commission, or perhaps for a special site to be exhibited to an audience of many. The famous Crystal Palace had regular stands which catered for this type of performance for instance.
Make no mistake, this superb rare polar bear is one of the most desirable automatons from the Golden Age period. A fantastic piece of visual craftsmanship and execution.