This android depicts a young woman in a "little Dauphine" gown playing a tympanum. Pierre Kintzing made the outstanding mechanism, which moves the arms, head and bust of the figure, who suddenly comes to life playing an invisible score. The automaton, which really strikes the strings with tiny hammers, plays eight melodies, including the aria of the shepherdess from Armide by Gluck, one of Marie-Antoinette's favourite composers. It was probably built in 1784 and delivered to the Court of France the following year. In a letter dated 4 March 1785, Joseph Marie François de Lassone, the queen's physician, wrote that she "desired that this automaton figure be examined by some personages from the Academy of Sciences; and that if they judged it worthy of being placed in this Company's cabinet of machines, Her Majesty would be disposed to make a present of it to the Academy." She did, and the institution kept the Tympanum Player until giving it to the Conservatory, where it was restored by illusionist Robert Houdini, in 1864.


  • Title: La Joueuse de tympanon
  • Creator: Pierre Kintzing, David Roentgen
  • Date: 1784
  • Date Created: 1784
  • Location: France
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Subject Keywords: Androïde / Mécanisme à musique
  • Type: Acier, bois, ivoire, laiton, porcelaine, soie
  • Contributor: Author : Marie-Sophie Corcy, Author : Lionel Dufaux
  • Inventory number: Inv. 07501-0001
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Pascal Faligot

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