Automation mechanism, for ornamental turning 'rose-engine' lathe, unsigned, German, c. 1740
The lathe which this automaton clockwork mechanism drove automatically produced a complex geometrical pattern, cut into a small round piece of wood. In so doing it replicated the work of a human turner, who could decorate things such as watchcases or medallions.
The lathe’s astonishing design reflects that it was made for someone wealthy – it is traditionally associated with King Frederick the Great of Prussia, who was also a turner. Possessing this wondrous machine, performing its lifelike task, would have emphasised Frederick’s position as a great statesman.