This is the only pair of singing bird pistols known to date. It is a spectacular example of the exquisite taste and refinement of Genevan artists. There are six single pistols known to exist: 1. Sandoz Collection, 2. Formerly Salomon Collection, now stolen, 3. Two in the Patek Philippe Museum, 4. Peking Palace Museum, 5. International Watch & Clock Museum, Le Chaux-de-Fonds. The mechanism operates much in the same way as a real flintlock pistol. Fully cocking the right-hand hammer lowers the trigger. Upon firing, the hammer flies forwards and strikes the "flint" which flips forward in the usual manner. The barrel cover opens and the bird appears, uprighting itself, and the song begins. The bird turns from side to side and flaps its wings and tail whilst the beak moves in synchronization with the song. At the end of the song the bird disappears. The cover shuts and leaves no trace of the pistols real function. The left-hand hammer is a dummy, although the pan cover is operational. These pistols are extremely rare examples of the second generation of singing bird pistols, in which all the functions are run from a single barrel. The first generation had three barrels that had to be wound: the song and bird movement mechanism, the mechanism bringing the bird up and third separate mechanism bringing the bird back to the barrels. The winding was done by a complicated mechanism set in motion by cocking the right hammer. It was a very complicated mechanism, not leaving much room even for a fusee. The second generation brought the very ingenious concept of joining the three functions together. The bird mechanism is set on its own frame, having its own track. The release is done instantaneously, via a spiral spring housed in the fixed barrel and a fusee-like chain which shoots the frame up thus releasing the bird. The retrieving function has its own pulley set on the third wheel. The pulley is activated at the end of the song, and the force of the mainspring starts pulling the frame slowly inwards. This solution is far from obvious and must have required great experience and engineering talent to invent. While there are six examples of the first generation of pistols known, the present pair is the only known pair of second generation pistols. The new construction allowed for making them a little smaller than the others, which were usually 170 cm. long. It is worth noting the round bellows in this pistols; all others known have rectangular bellows. These pistols represent the ultimate achievement in Genevan miniaturization of animated objects of vertu. As Chapuis and Gelis say, in "Le Monde des Automates: "Amongst the objects incorporating singing birds, these very fine pistols present the greatest difficulties, both in their conception and execution".
3 very good
3* very good (overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense)
Experts' Overall Opinion