Watch a demonstration of Queen Marie Antoinette's Automaton playing one of eight melodies it can perform.
David Roentgen (1743–1807) took his royal patron by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton to King Louis XVI for his queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1784. The cabinetry for this piece is very much a neoclassical masterwork, and the mechanism behind it is truly extraordinary: the figure strikes the strings in perfect rhythm with two small metal hammers held in her hands, which move with great precision.
This object, from the Musée des arts et métiers de Paris, is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013).
View a full documentary featuring this object: http://www.cerimes.fr/le-catalogue/la-joueuse-de-tympanon.html
Footage courtesy of CERIMES.