Rabbit in cabbage musical automaton
Rabbit in cabbage musical automaton, by Roullet & Decamps, Paris, c1890.
This was perhaps the bestseller of all the French automatons made during the nineteenth century. The rabbit rises slowly up out of the Cabbage, looks around, chewing on a leaf and twitching its ears, before disappearing (rather precipitately) back inside. Such automaton animals found a ready market in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This rabbit was made by Roullet & Decamps, one of the main 19th century automata-makers. It retains its original key and is unusual in being largely original; these objects would find their way into rowdy family situations, with resulting damage from children etc.
It is being collected as it forms part of the nineteenth century continuum of automata, which were for the first time being built in bulk, and which presaged the arrival of the ‘Robot’ in the 1920s, courtesy of Karel Capek, Fritz Lang, etc. It was the bestseller of all the French automatons made: The rabbit rises slowly up out of the Cabbage, looks around, chewing on a leaf and twitching its ears, before disappearing (rather precipitately) back inside. This endearing performance was conducive to a broad social acceptance of mechanical animals of all sorts, which retained a huge imaginative potential rather belying the rabbit’s humorous intent.