Automaton

1890s

Roullet-Decamps

[tiger] Length: 35 cm head and body, Length: 42.5 cm, Height: 18 cm [key] Length: 9 cm

B.4:1, 2-2013 MoC

Tiger automaton with key made in France by Roullet- Decamps in the 1890s

[tiger] Standing tiger figure covered in light beige animal skin marked with brown stripes. The underside of the body is plain light beige. The head has tufts of longer hair descending from both cheeks. There are two sets of whiskers. The eyes are of glass, pale yellow with black pupils. The nose and mouth are painted brown. The ears are folded forwards. The front paw pads are soft brown material and back two are brown painted wood each with a protruding short metal nail. The head moves slightly and is jointed from the body with a moving flap of skin. The tail is rigid near the body but bent and loose near its end. The interior bodywork is wooden with some metal parts. The winding mechanism protrudes from the left flank. [key] Key of a dull gold colour with an open top/handle and a square slot to fit around a winding mechanism. The number 16 (bottom of the 6 is worn) is stamped below the handle on one side

Automata are self-operating machines that generally use winding mechanisms such as clockwork to produce realistic actions. They were particularly popular in the late nineteenth century and the finest examples from this period were made in France. The Roullet-Decamps company was one of the pre-eminent makers of automata and the pouncing tiger is one of its archetypal automata from the late nineteenth century. The company made different versions of the tiger. The simplest example just crawled and the most elaborate had an open mouth and both pounced and growled. This tiger moves its head, slowly crouches and suddenly pounces. It was purchased by the donor’s great grandfather and remembered by succeeding generations as a toy that was brought out on special occasions and played with sparingly.

Almost certainly purchased by the donor's great grandfather, Philip Fletcher (1846-1928) in the late nineteenth century and subsequently enjoyed by four generations of the Fletcher family. It is housed in a black wooden box that was specially made to house the automaton, one of two that is remembered by the donor's uncle. The other housed a projector, possibly a magic lantern optical toy.

Given by Geoffrey M Fletcher

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website