Archive for the automata Category

The Roentgens’ Berlin Secretary Cabinet

Posted in antiques, automata, furniture, museums, video on January 17, 2013 by bettiemuldoon

Posted by proxy from Dana’s “stuff to blog” queue while she is on medical hiatus. She reads and appreciates all comments…and apologizes for not being able to respond at the moment.

(words below taken from the site)

Discover the hidden features and intricate interior of this cabinet.

One of the finest achievements of European furniture making, this cabinet is the most important product from Abraham (1711–1793) and David Roentgen’s (1743–1807) workshop. A writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, it features finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. Owned by King Frederick William II, the Berlin cabinet is uniquely remarkable for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size.

This cabinet is from Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens:

Footage courtesy of VideoART GmbH and Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Vintage Lab Week: Metropolis

Posted in automata, film, robots, sci-fi, science on August 31, 2012 by 13hearseman13

Little introduction is needed for Metropolis, a 1927 film by Fritz Lang; written by his wife Thea von Harbou. Complete with a futuristic city set only 100 years in the future, this science fiction morality tale features amazing alchemical laboratory sets. The neon lighting is a great touch.

Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is a scientist ordered by the master of the city, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), to make a robot doppelganger of Maria (Brigitte Helm). Maria’s spirit transcends the class system–by sending a robot imposter back to the oppressed working class, the master of the city hopes to suppress an uprising. Rotwang has some really great neon light accented minimal lab sets.

Joh Fredersen, Rotwang and robot.



Sparse laboratory where the real Maria is encased–her form will be transferred onto the robot through Alchemy and Science!



Totally tubular!


A flick of the switch…








Rotwang with the fleshed-out Robot Maria.



Mad Science at work!

Hye Yeon Nam: Please Smile

Posted in automata, installations, robots, sculpture, technology with tags , , , , on June 23, 2012 by shewalkssoftly

What an interesting interactive installation…

From the website:
Please Smile is an exhibit involving five robotic skeleton arms that change their gestures depending on a viewer’s facial expressions. It consists of a microcontroller, a camera, a computer, five external power supplies, and five plastic skeleton arms, each with four motors. It incorporated elements from mechanical engineering, computer vision perception to serve artistic expression with a robot.

Audiences interact with “Please smile” in three different ways. When no human falls within the view of the camera, the five robotic skeleton arms choose the default position, which is bending their elbows and wrists near the wall. When a human steps within the view of the camera, the arms point at the human and follow his/her movements. Then when someone smiles in front of it, the five arms wave their hands. Through artwork such as “Please smile,” I would like to foster positive audience behaviors.


Haunted House Automaton

Posted in automata, craft, undead with tags , , on June 9, 2012 by shewalkssoftly

When I posted about the Mortuary Automaton, a kind reader linked me to this awesome Haunted House Automaton, supposedly from the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood.

Too bad the picture is so small because there’s some cool stuff going on here. I tried to find other videos on youtube to no avail, and googled a bit. In my humble opinion, “Haunted House Automaton” should yield many more results.

St. Dennistoun Mortuary Coin-Operated Automaton

Posted in antiques, automata with tags , on May 27, 2012 by shewalkssoftly

Oh my goodness…this incredible automaton is up for auction.

When a coin is inserted: doors open and the room is lighted revealing four morticians and four poor souls on embalming tables, the morticians move as if busily at work on their grisly task and mourners standing outside bob their heads as if sobbing in grief.

Absolutely incredible…

From the item description:
Lot 207
“St. Dennistoun Mortuary” Coin-Operated Automaton, attributed to Leonard Lee, c. 1900, the mahogany cabinet and glazed viewing area displays a Greek Revival mortuary building with double doors and grieving mourners out front, when a coin is inserted, doors open and the room is lighted revealing four morticians and four poor souls on embalming tables, the morticians move as if busily at work on their grisly task and mourners standing outside bob their heads as if sobbing in grief, ht. 30 1/2, wd. 24, dp. 17 1/4 in.

Estimate $4,000-6,000

[EDIT] The fine folks at Skinner Inc. were kind enough to post this video in the comments. Check it out in action!


Christmas With Colonel Sanders

Posted in absurd, automata, christmas, music with tags , , , on December 19, 2011 by shewalkssoftly

I’ve had the artwork from Christmas With Colonel Sanders saved for a few years now. I was quite surprised that I hadn’t posted it before.

Yes…this exists.

And now a message from the Colonel himself, straight from his heart to yours (click to enlarge photo):

I may have to make a separate post just for creepy Colonel sculptures and automatons, but here’s one to get you in the holiday spirit:

As a special treat I uploaded Christmas Day With Colonel Sanders here! Enjoy these extra crispy tunes.

…I never did get my hands on one of those awesomely absurd KFC Buckets for Breast Cancer.

Mechanical Advertising Novelties, 1911

Posted in advertising, antiques, automata, oddities, vintage with tags , , , , on November 12, 2011 by shewalkssoftly

Scientific American has a nice little slide show of early 20th century novelty designs.

Strange automatons, mind tricks and whimsical inventions…

See the rest here.

Halloween Countdown: Grandinroad

Posted in automata, decoration, halloween, home, products, undead with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by shewalkssoftly

Here are a few of my favorite picks from Grandinroad’s Halloween Haven this season.

Skeleton hand wall mounts:

Or witch hands, if you prefer:

This tree is incredible:

I think it’s actually the flowers that are for sale, but I can’t take my eyes off the mummies:

Ah yes, here they are…

Skulls and tapers sold separately, but it’s a nice combo:

They also have life size animatronics and animatronic accessories. I’m actually partial to the crawling hands and dancing broomsticks:

See more here.

Clockwork Prayer: Mechanical Monk, Cira 1560

Posted in antiques, automata, oddities with tags , , on July 14, 2011 by shewalkssoftly

Since I saw this on Boing Boing, I’m sure it’s already gotten quite a bit of buzz. But I can’t deny you guys a 16th Century mechanical monk if you haven’t seen him yet.

In the Smithsonian Institution is a sixteenth-century automaton of a monk, made of wood and iron, 15 inches in height. Driven by a key-wound spring, the monk walks in a square, striking his chest with his right arm, raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes, and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he brings the cross to his lips and kisses it. After over 400 years, he remains in good working order.

Watch it in action:

And read a bit more about this lovely oddity on The Blackbird Archive.

Nick Rayburn: Ruby Slippers

Posted in automata, sculpture with tags , on May 26, 2011 by shewalkssoftly

I’ve posted about Nick Rayburn’s amazing Waiting Hand Automaton.

I wish I could have given his new project, The Ruby Slippers, to my mother as a gift.

One of my first and greatest memories of creativity was my mother making me a pair of my very own “ruby slippers” when I was a toddler. I felt like the most special little thing in the universe when I slipped those babies on.

Wonderful work, Nick!