David Roentgen was the 18th century's most celebrated cabinetmaker, famous for adding mechanical fittings and secret drawers to his ornate furniture. In 1784, he surprised his patron, France's King Louis XVI with this marvelous automaton of his queen, Marie Antoinette, playing the dulcimer. The mechanical proficiency of this device is quite remarkable; even today, we can see the hammers in the automatic queen's hands strike the strings precisely and in perfect rhythm. And, unlike the real Marie Antoinette, this creation has managed to keep her head.

This automaton is part of the exhibit Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 27th, 2013.


David Roentgen's Automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette, The Dulcimer Player (La Joueuse de Tympanon) [Metropolitan Museum of Art via The Presurfer]

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