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Sotheby’s Mechanical Marvels sale presents the King Farouk Magician Box

A remarkable gold mechanical snuff box once owned by King Farouk of Egypt will lead a sale of 19th century mechanical marvels at Sotheby’s next month.
The Important Watches sale in New York will include the second offering of pieces from a private collection of early 19th century automata, with the first offering achieving a total of $61 million back in June 2015.

The first sale soared past its top estimate of $3.6 million, and was led by The Singing Bird Scent Flask, which sold for $2.5 million and set a new auction record for any timepiece by Swiss watchmaker Jaquet-Droz.

The second sale will include 20 more treasures from the collection, led by the equally impressive and important Magician Box – a musical automaton snuff box made circa 1820 by Piguet & Meylan.

Inside the intricately decorated gold box is a mechanical scene featuring a wizard and a young musician, which springs to life when a question-inscribed tablet is inserted into a drawer on the right hand side. As the boy plays his enchanting tune, the wizard waves his hand over his spell-book, before another tablet with an answer to your question pops out of the left-hand side.

Having passed through some of history’s greatest collections, including those of Edouard Gélis and King Farouk of Egypt, the box will be offered at public auction for the first time since 1954, with an estimated value of $1.5-$2.5 million.

The Singing Bird Coffret, circa 1800, est. $400,000-$600,000

Further highlights from the collection will include The Cherry Pickers, a gold enamel and pearl musical snuff box featuring a boy and girl picking cherries, made circa 1800 and estimated at $400,000?$600,000; the Singing Bird Coffret, a mechanical singing bird box made circa 1800 by Jacob Frisard, also estimated at $400,000?$600,000; and A Country Ramble, an automaton timepiece also formerly owned by King Farouk, estimated at $100,000?$250,000.

"In the midst of constant warfare in Europe in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, Swiss engineering reached new heights in the form of mechanical automatons," said Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s Watches & Clocks Department.

"These horological treasures, studiously collected over the course of five decades, combine the nuts and bolts of technology with the finest enameling and design in the arts – to witness them spring to life at the touch of a button or a lift of the lever is truly a delight, and one we look forward to sharing this spring."

The Sotheby’s Important Watches sale takes place on June 8.

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