Fake Monkey Automatons
by Jere Ryder (020327 MMDigest)


ryderMarvo3.jpg (28 kb)Dear Collectors & Enthusiasts,  Please be aware that there is currently a 'wave' of brand new, made-to-deceive old-looking automatons reaching the international marketplace.  The few different variants of this monkey 'hookah-like' smoker which we've seen are purposely constructed so as to allow no internal inspection; rather, they are sealed-in behind either a glass fronted picture box (as per our attached photos) or within a fully enclosed glass case of 27" to 30" height.

We were lucky enough to receive the example show herein from a collector here in the States who also was curious as to maker, dating, etc., and whom is allowing us to use photos of their piece accompanying this article and who desires to both forewarn or educate others out there of what is taking place.  We've now received inquiries from collectors here in the States, France and Switzerland regarding these pieces.

ryderMarvo6.jpg (28 kb) Don't be fooled, these are of completely modern fabrication, and virtually all of them seen to date did at one time have a fairly large, old-looking makers label glued to the rear panel.  We've only found one example so far, from a collector in Europe, which still has the ingenious yet fake label still attached (see photo), stating the maker as "L. Lambert", the model "Marvo the Magic Monkey", and actually incorporating a date "1879".

The reason most all the fake labels are being removed is that the 'faker' messed up a printed detail: Lambert's shop address is stated as "13, Rue Portefoin" which is correct, but alas, Lambert did not open his shop here until 1886 (as stated in "The Golden Age of Automata" by C. Bailly), not 1879.  Secondary marketers are likely spying this major oversight and removing any labeling.

In the shadow boxed, picture-like models, a variety of older framing materials are used, but invariably the shadow box behind is constructed of new pine sides and modern chip-board back, all completely covered and all joinery sealed by glued craft paper then color faded or aged.  The fake Lambert labeling was also attached just above the rear-side winding hole.

ryderMarvo5.jpg (23 kb) The winding hole shows a steel square arbor which would be wound by a clock key, but in reality it is a steel transition piece which is threaded on the interior side and outwardly square shafted.  It needs to be threaded on the interior, because it mounts or mates to the small, 1-tune, 18-note Sankyo musical movement in the monkeys chest which drives the minor animation of the head turning (see close-up pix).  Any other animation which takes place is in the eye of the beholder and there is no other additional clockwork motor.

The head looks like a real shrunken monkey head but is really cast plaster of Paris, as are the hands, then painted and aged.  As for costuming, some slightly older materials are used including metallic trimming, but the monkeys trousers are a modern synthetic.  There's also a creative use for a large caliber ammo shell as the brass smoke stack topping the 'bong'.  It has quartered markings: "S, 6, 17 and S67".  Maybe somebody out there can identify the ammo origin or date?

It's one thing to make replica automata or new creations which are obvious and/or clearly marked as to maker or date of origin, but totally another when premeditated mis-labeling meant to deceive takes place.  (This not being the first, but only one of the latest!)

A piece such as this plays upon the collector's psyche and one should have pause for reflection, or even just a phone call to another knowledgeable person for consultation or advice, before diving into something that seems too good to be true, because we all know what the answer to that usually is!

We are purely guessing at this point that these are sourcing from France or England, but what we would like to see is one of our French or English readers do a little searching to find out who exactly is producing and "salting" these pieces around, and maybe with some additional information about what other models have and are being made today.  With best regards and Happy Collecting!

ryderMarvo4.jpg (31 kb)Jere and Steve Ryder - AutaMusique, Ltd.
(Mechanical Music Specialists)
2 Kent Pl. Blvd., Summit, NJ. 07901  USA
tel.: 908-273-1513 / fax: 908-273-9504
27 Mar 2002 21:08:53 -0500

28 March 2002