In 1874 David Roentgen took Queen Marie Antoinette by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton, La Joueuse de Tympanon (The Dulcimer Player), to his royal patron. She immediate purchased the object and donated it to the French Academy of Sciences. Badly damaged during the French revolution, it was later restored and now resides in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris.
HOW IT WORKS
An automaton is a self-operating machine or robot. The automaton is controlled by a complex clock-like mechanism. The figure plays eight different tunes by striking strings with two small mallets held in her hands.
The mechanism, which is located under the figurine, is truly extraordinary. It consists of a hand-wound mainspring and brass cylinder with rows of cams and pins. The spring supplies the energy, while the gestural memory of the automaton is contained in the brass cylinder. Through a system of levers, the cams actuate the lateral movement of the figurine's forearms (melody), while the pins control their vertical movement (rhythm).
MEDIA PRODUCTION AND EXHIBITION PRESENTATION
Produced for The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens in 2012.
FORMAT AND PRESENTATION
Custom interactive video player app running on iPad; also published online.
Director: Paco Link
Producer: Rachel Rothbaum
Cinematographer: Ben Wolf
Production Coordinator: Staci Hou