148th Specialty Auction

148th Specialty Auction

200 Years of Sound

Auction Team Breker

9 + 10 November 2018

On 9 + 10 November 2018, Auction Team Breker will be hosting an important auction that celebrates audio technology over the past two hundred years. At the heart of the auction is the remarkable collection of the Dutch author and historian Luuk Goldhoorn, whose eye and ear for the rare and the early established him as an authority in the field of mechanical music.

Gold and Enamel Musical Harp Pendant, c. 1805

Estimate: 10.000 – 15.000 € / $11.400 – 17.000

Though often reserved, Luuk was generous with his knowledge, contributing his expertise to publications, museums and collecting societies across Europe and America. Luuk was particularly known as a connoisseur of musical snuff boxes and objets de vertu, and some of the finest examples of their kind are to be found in his collection.

Rare Prototype Musical Silver Snuff Box, c. 1809-19

Estimate 2.000 – 3.000 € / $2.300 – 3.400

One of the earliest instrument in the auction is a prototype snuff box movement based on Antoine Favre-Salomon’s “musical work without bells” presented to the Geneva Society of Arts in March 1796. Favre’s invention is widely regarded as the first musical work with tuned teeth and, thus, the first musical box.

Musical Sur-Plateau Pocket Watch, c. 1815

Estimate: 1.000 – 1.500 € / $1.100 – 1.700

Arguably the first disc musical box was the so-called “sur-plateau” movement, a pinned disc plucking tuned steel teeth. Its wafer-thin form made this style of mechanism perfectly suited to pocket watches as well as snuff boxes.

Exceptional Gold Musical Presentation Snuffbox, c. 1810

Estimate 10.000 – 20.000 € / $11.400 – 22.800

The finest musical snuff boxes of the late 18th century were superbly crafted in precious metals, jewels and enamel, however from a practical point of view they were less effective in keeping the snuff in and the damp out.

‘Laurencekirk’ Musical Snuff Box, c. 1820

Estimate 1.200 – 1.800 € / $1.400 – 2.000

It was James Sandy of Alyth in Pertshire, Scotland, who finally solved the problem of damp tobacco by designing the “hidden hinge” that allowed snuff boxes to be sealed without letting moisture get in. Hix boxes, produced in nearby Laurencekirk, are occasionally found with musical movements and fine reverse paintings on glass.

On the Continent, commercial snuff boxes with lithographed views of local attractions were produced for the tourist trade. These painted tin boxes must have been produced in large numbers, though few survive in the superior state of preservation seen here.

Musical boxes are found listed in 19th century French directories in the same category as ‘bibelots’(decorative toys), ‘fantasies à musique’ and ‘horlogerie’. Though not intended as playthings, many musical boxes have an undeniably toy-like appeal. The Goldhoorn collection boasts several superb examples, including a musical necessaire in the form of a miniature writing desk and another as a gilt-brass and mother-of-pearl piano with a full brace of gold needlework tools.

Musical Sewing Necessaire by F. Nicole, c. 1840

Estimate: 2.000 – 3.000 € / $2.300 – 3.400

Palais Royal Piano-Form Sewing Necessaire, c. 1830

Estimate: 2.000 – 3.500 € / $2.300 – 4.000

Both pieces are representative of the luxury goods sold at the Palais Royale, arguably the earliest of European covered shopping arcades and the centre of Parisian social and economic life in the 18thcentury.

In addition to producing exquisite miniature versions of everyday items, Paris was also famous for its mechanical toys. Automata like the Monkey Fisherman by Jean-Marie Phalibois called for the talents of several skilled industries: the gear-cutter and horologist for the clockwork motor, the cartonnier for the moulded papier-mâché and the couturier for the costume. A toy for the drawing room, too delicate for unsupervised play, this automaton was advertised in the 1884 Silber & Fleming catalogue for the princely sum of £ 5,10s, at a time when a senior bank clerk in London earned around £100 a year.

Monkey Fisherman Automaton by Jean Phalbois, c. 1884

Estimate: 6.000 – 8.000 € / $6.800 – 9.100

As the century progressed, musical machines grew bigger and left the drawing room. The magnificent Eroica hall clock by Symphonion Musikwerke of Leipzig, named after Beethoven’s “Eroica No. 3 Symphony”, is a mechanical musical tour-de-force of three discs playing simultaneously in different octaves.

Symphonion Eroica Triple-Disc Musical Hall Clock, c. 1895

Estimate: 28.000 – 35.000 € / $32.000 – 40.000

Musical boxes provided the first pre-programmed entertainment in public locations such as bars and railway stations. Whilst it is debatable how many of these machines were originally destined for the waiting room, the terms ‘boîte de gare’ and ‘Bahnhofsautomat’ have gained currency with collectors describing the elaborate coin-activated musical boxes with audio-visual entertainment.

Impressive Station-type Musical Box, c. 1890 –

Estimate: 15.000 – 20.000 € / $17.100 – 22.800

Meanwhile, in scientific circles, experiments were underway not only to record, but also to transmit live sound. Industry leaders Siemens AG and Ericsson both began with telecommunications technology in the 19th century, while Alexander Graham Bell is less well known for building a selenium-powered microphone than he is for his race to invent the telephone.

Early ‘Butterstamp’ Telephone Receiver by Siemens, c. 1880          

Estimate 3.500 – 4.500 € / $4.000 –  5.100 

Rare ‘Butter Stamp’ Telephone Receiver by L.M. Ericsson, Stockholm, c. 1878

            Estimate 7.000 – 9.000 € / $8.000 – 10.300 

Photophone Transmitter by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, c. 1882 

            Estimate 8.000   – 15.000 € / $9.100 – 17.100


For more auction highlights, see pages 1,2+3 and visit www.breker.com orwww.youtube.com/auctionteambreker for videos of the instruments featured here in action.

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