Artist/photographer Henry Hargreaves has combined two of my favorite things: silent films and cake (well, technically cake frosting, but still). He recreated the iconic image from George Melies’s 1902 film Le Voyage Dans La Lune.
This is one of the most skilled antique automata I’ve seen. Most have limbs that move, but this one actually carries out the task of drawing a bow and shooting an arrow! This particular masterpiece was made 200 years ago. Watch:
Karakuri puppets are traditional Japanese mechanized puppets or automata, originally made from the 17th century to 19th century. The word karakuri means “mechanisms” or “trick.” The dolls’ gestures provided a form of entertainment. Three main types of karakuri exist. Butai karakuri were used in theatre. Zashiki karakuri were small and used in homes. Dashi karakui were used in religious festivals, where the puppets were used to perform reenactments of traditional myths and legends.
My The Morbid Anatomy Anthology just arrived, and I absolutely must sing its praises. I can’t wait to dive in and devour every word and image!
Since 2008, the Morbid Anatomy Library of Brooklyn, New York, has hosted some of the best scholars, artists and writers working along the intersections of the history of anatomy and medicine, death and the macabre, religion and spectacle. The Morbid Anatomy Anthology collects some of the best of this work in 28 lavishly illustrated essays. Included are essays by Evan Michelson (star of Science Channel’s hit show Oddities) on the catacombs of Palermo; Simon Chaplin (head of the Wellcome Library in London) on public displays of corpses in Georgian England; mortician Caitlin Doughty on demonic children; and Paul Koudounaris (author of Empire of Death) on a truck stop populated with human skulls. In addition are pieces on books bound in human skin, death-themed cafes in fin-de-siècle Paris, post-mortem photography, eroticized anatomical wax models, taxidermied humans and other animals, Santa Muerte, “artist of death” Frederik Ruysch, and much more.
There are some brilliant minds and expert curators behind this book (namely, Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey). If you are a fan of this blog, you should definitely pick it up! It’s an amazing treasure trove (and really fairly priced…even for a penny pincher like me!). Support these great folks. They deserve it.
Though I’ve come across many over time, I have never made a concerted effort to seek out automata by Henry Phalibois. After seeing this fishing monkey, I’m inspired to check out his entire viewable collection (they seem to be spread all over the internet without one definitive source).
When in motion, the monkey lifts his fishing rod up and down, puts his pipe to his moving lips (which are quite eerie!), turns his head to look at you, and the fish in the pond swim around.
Here’s a truly unique modification: the Victorian Hearse Aquarium. It was up for auction (and has since ended), but is worth showing for the craftsmanship.
Large Victorian Ebonized Aquarium Cabinet, 19th century and later. Fashioned from the rear glazed doors of a New Orleans style horse drawn hearse, adapted on modern stand to accommodate tank, filter and lighting, all included, 80.5″ x 57″ x 41″ – 204.5 x 144.8 x 104.1 cm.
What do you think of this item? Too goth? Completely awesome?
The Deck of the Bastard is a hybrid tarot deck that draws from a number of antique/vintage decks.
The creator says:
I always wanted a vintage deck. But they were so expensive. I saw them on eBay (over $500) and even then, the old decks did not have the same cards we use today (no Hanged Man, & with odd cards like “Birds & Animals” & such). As an artist, over the years I tried to design a vintage – looking deck…but, I could never make anything I was happy with.
In frustration, I finally bastardized several vintage decks, including the Egyptiens Fortune Telling Cards by Delarue France in the 1890’s, the Dames deck and the Rider Waite deck for most of the pips. I added vintage edges in the borders and photo-shopped antiquing onto each individual card (NOT dropped into a single TEMPLATE! ), and unified them with similar colorings. For the back, I used an antique book cover that I edited.
The cards look beautiful and are “aged” quite well for an authentic appearance. While $70 is too steep for me at the moment, I do think these cards would be a great collector’s item.
In 1871 came one of the first automata to appear in the toy scene, patented by Robert J. Clay. You can find more about it here.
My favorite paragraph about the piece is the following:
Despite Clay’s belief that his toy would be very amusing, it had limited appeal for its target audience of little girls. It looks scary, weighs a lot and isn’t particularly interactive. It’s more of an exhibition piece than a cuddly toy, and once the mechanism broke (which happened often with the earlier models), its heaviness and hardness made it a dead weight rather than a doll that could be integrated into regular play.
I wonder how many of these clumsily creeping wonders were mass produced. Two decades later, the world was graced with Edison’s Talking Doll.
I’m thrilled that little curio cabinets of merchandise have been springing up all over the country in the past decade. Shows like Oddities have helped spur an increasing widespread interest in the strange and unusual (my longstanding loves!).
Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities looks like a great place to browse.
Have any of you Chicago natives/travelers been there?
Scientific Illustration posted a gorgeous collection of antique color wheels.
I love the variety of geometric shapes in this collection; beautiful way to show color relationships.
I will definitely be using some of these in jewelry design (avert your eyes, my artist/designer friends! You may see these images turn up in gifts on your next birthday!)