L'Homme-Serpent (The Snake Man)

Roullet Descamps1930

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers

Automatons. In the late 19th century, toy, clock and musical box makers combined their skills to produce strange and unusual automatons made of card, wood, porcelain and metal that enchanted bourgeois drawing rooms and audiences outside department store windows. Gustave Vichy was one of the longest-established makers of this generation. Beginning in 1866 his moon-faced clowns, magicians, musicians and acrobats had been hypnotising crowds with their gracefully mischievous gestures. The moon winks at us on the shirtfront of the Magicien, superbly unruffled in his mechanical perfection. L’Homme Serpent (The Snake Man) has the same profound, fascinating gaze as his body rises with perfect, timeless grace. The swaying of his tunic’s beaded fringe prolongs the illusion of life long after the mechanism stops. Not until the 1930s would automatons, powered by electric motors, come alive for longer periods of time.

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  • Title: L'Homme-Serpent (The Snake Man)
  • Creator: Roullet Descamps
  • Date: 1930
  • Date Created: 1930
  • Location: France
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Karine Alexandrian. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 16845
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Jean Claude Wetzel