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Roullet & Decamps

MONKEY
SMOKER

1880

Monkey Smoker
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6 Revolvers Music Box

Just as the automaton emerged as a popular form of entertainment, so did the figure of the personified monkey. Light a cigarette and let the spectacle begin …

SINGLE-SPRING
CLOCKWORK
TWIN-VALVE
BELLOWS
28”3 x 9” x 11”

Roullet & Decamps
Paris, France
Europe

Manufacturer

Jean Roullet, a trained mechanic, opened up his first workshop for tools and stamped parts in 1866. He started making automatons after a special request to produce an automaton of a gardener pushing a cart. In 1879 his daughter married Ernest Decamps, one of the foremen in his atelier. The report of the 1893 Chicago Exhibitions mentions beautifully made automata with luxurious costumes.

Exotic figures, monkeys performing human activities, illusionists and clowns were sought after machinery by Parisian society. After Roullet's death Decamps took ownership of the company and started focusing on advertising. Much later his son Gaston took over the business and went on to make enchanting pieces that were especially acclaimed for their lifelike quality and wit, which was undoubtedly the result of his training as an artist.

sources
Boulevard de la Madeleine with the Church de la Madeleine on the left. Paris, between 1890 and 1905.
The Automaton Exhibition at Gothic Hall in London, 1826.
Boulevard de la Madeleine with the Church de la Madeleine on the left. Paris, between 1890 and 1905. The Automaton Exhibition at Gothic Hall in London, 1826.

technique

Mostly modeled from papier mâché, wood and metal and elegantly dressed in aristocratic garments made of lace and silk, the monkey automaton was a popular motive ridiculing the French ruling class bearing witness to revolutionary times of social change. A single-spring mechanism operates the composition of five movements so that the monkey raises his monocle and smokes his cigarette seamlessly.

sources
Nicole Frères ‘6 revolvers’ Music Box
Nicole Frères
‘6 revolvers’ Music Box
1870
G. Baker-Troll & Co. Tsar Nicolas
G. Baker-Troll & Co.
Tsar Nicolas
1878
Roullet & Decamps Monkey Smoker
Roullet & Decamps
Monkey Smoker
1880
Jean-Marie Phalibois Monkey Orchestra
Jean-Marie Phalibois
Monkey Orchestra
1888
Polyphon Hermann Just
Polyphon
Hermann Just
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1905
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1910
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Edison
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1912
Victor Talking Machine Company Victor V Gramophone
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1920
Chickering & Sons Ampico Grand Player Piano
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