Polyphon Musical box and 13 discs

1870 in Leipzig

Polyphon Musical Box, Polyphon Musikwerke, Leipzig, 1870.

The polyphon is a mechanical disc-playing music box manufactured by the Polyphon Musikwerke company based in Leipzig, Germany. Originally invented in 1870, it was only by the end of the century that its production was fully scaled, and the device started to be exported to other countries. Though most polyphons like this one corresponded to table-top models, Polyphon Musikwerke also produced free-standing versions. This polyphon dates back to 1905. Its body is made of a walnut case with floral marquetry on the top of its lid. Once opened, the music box depicts a scene of cherubs playing instruments. The tune is produced by punched metal steel discs with pitch determined by the position of the punching and played by a series of rachets. The playing time for one of the discs varied depending on its diameter, with some of the bigger discs having a playback time of up to almost two minutes. The music box was powered by a hand-wound clockwork motor.


Object Number:
wood (unidentified) and metal (unknown)
overall (musical box, lid closed): 210 mm x 540 mm x 470 mm,
weight (musical box, estimated): 5 kg
music box
Christie's South Kensington Limited