The Hidden Birdsong

The Hidden Birdsong

The Sworders Homes & Interiors department is delighted to welcome two fine examples of musical bird boxes or tabatière, in their upcoming 7 March sale.

3 March 2023

The singing bird box originated in 18th-century Switzerland, where the development of watchmaking and automation flourished. Echoing contemporary clock movements, the earlier examples (mid-18th to 19th century) tended to employ a fusée movement, whereas later French and German models used a less complex barrel movement. The charm of the box comes from the hidden bird automaton; a small slider on the outside reveals a feather-plumed bird, which emerges from a gilt grille and flaps its wings in time with the birdsong. 

An enamelled musical bird box by Karl Griesbaum of Triberg

An enamelled musical bird box by Karl Griesbaum of Triberg, £2,000-3,000

The two examples in our Homes & Interiors sale are attributed to Karl Griesbaum of Triberg. Founded in 1905, Griesbaum remained the dominant firm to produce singing bird boxes throughout the 20th century. Only playing one song, Griesbaum boxes have a simpler movement than their Swiss counterparts but are renowned for their elaborate tabatière cases. This can be seen in Lot 189, which depicts a miniature version of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’, whilst the gilt metal Lot 190 is engraved with detailed all-over foliate motifs.

A gilt metal and enamel musical bird box

A gilt metal and enamel musical bird box, £1,500-2,000

Whether you are a seasoned collector or a humble admirer - the two boxes catch the eye as beautifully crafted objects d’arte that perfectly display the advancement of automation engineering. 

 To find out more about these musical bird boxes contact our Homes and Interiors department - | 01279 817778

Or browse the full catalogue for the 7 March sale here




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