A prime example of the Golden Age of automata, this orchestra of three monkeys is a fine example of Jean-Marie Phalibois’ mastery in times of ubiquitous shop window advertising and home entertainment.
When the first department stores emerged in the center of Paris, the competition in shop window advertising was fierce. Colorful, intricately mechanized spectacles were in high demand. Jean-Marie Phalibois started out in the cardboard industry creating cardboard scenes encased in glass for shop window advertising.
As time passed these became more advanced and detailed, featuring automata with complex movements. Soon Phalibois would advance to ebonized cabinets presenting free-standing automata, musical ensembles and innovations of the day such as sewing machines. When Phalibois retired in 1893, his son Edouard Henri took over the family business.sources
This scene of a monkey harpist, violinist and cellist is a typical early work of Phalibois.
The automaton's action is started by winding up the clockwork mechanism with a key on the right and pulling the start/stop pull placed next to it. Promptly the three musicians begin to strike their instruments in an amazingly realistic manner. They blink their eyes continuously meanwhile opening their mouths and turning their heads.
Seated on an ebonized base cabinet that disguises the mechanism. The monkeys, made of painted papier mâché and carved wood, are dressed in traditional 18th century performers' outfits.
The movement mechanism contains a going-barrel motor with universal linkage to six cam-stacks and a main train linkage to the cylinder.sources