Serinette with singing bird

Charles Bruguier1830

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

In the 16th century canaries were very popular in castles, often being given singing lessons to perfect their song. Their masters patiently taught them the art of the trill and the roulade using a woodwind instrument called a flageolet, similar to a recorder. They were dispensed of this task the following century when clockmakers began making mechanical serinettes. By merely winding a key, deceptively joyous birdsong emanated from the box concealing bellows, whistle, cam and piston. These increasingly small musical mechanisms were soon adorned with minute birds, whose skeletons and steel hearts were extraordinarily lifelike. They flapped their wings, snapped their beaks and danced until, with a final burst of song, their ephemeral illusion disappeared into its mysterious case. Soon tobacco boxes, watches and cane pommels concealed these singing birds that could so gracefully fill embarrassing silences in society conversations.


  • Title: Serinette with singing bird
  • Creator: Charles Bruguier
  • Date: 1830
  • Date Created: 1830
  • Location: France
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Karine Alexandrian. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 43539
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Michèle Favareille

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