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German Early Twentieth Century Enamelled Silver Singing Bird Box
German Early Twentieth Century Enamelled Silver Singing Bird Box - Objects of Vertu Style
Ref : 112355
12 500 €
Period :
20th century
Provenance :
Dimensions :
l. 3.94 inch X H. 1.57 inch X P. 2.36 inch
Objects of Vertu  - German Early Twentieth Century Enamelled Silver Singing Bird Box
Richard Redding Antiques

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German Early Twentieth Century Enamelled Silver Singing Bird Box

A very beautiful German early twentieth century guilloche enamelled solid silver singing bird box attributed to Kark Griesbaum, the case of rectangular form, decorated overall with white guilloche enamel with gilt painted decorations, the top centred by an oval lid painted with a scene of two winged cherubs seated upon drapery amid clouds, one playing the flute and the other holding a book. The front of the box with a silver catch shaped as a bird, which when pressed, opens the lid and causes a feathered bird to hinge into an upright position, rising through a chased and pierced gilt grille and move from side-to-side and flaps its wings while singing a song
The Black Forest, Germany, date circa 1925-35
Height 4 cm, width 10 cm, depth 6 cm.
In terms of style and quality of craftsmanship, this intricate silver and enamel singing bird box bears all the characteristics of works of art created by the firm of Karl Griesbaum, who were famed for their musical automata and became the main producers of singing bird boxes during the twentieth century until the firm was sold in 1988. The Griesbaum firm was founded in 1905 in the city of Triberg, Schwarz Wald (The Black Forest), Germany. Its founder Karl Griesbaum (1872-1941) was the son of Mathias Griesbaum, a clockmaker, who specialized in making the micro-mechanical parts for hand carved wooden cuckoo clocks. These traditional Black Forest clocks were very popular among the locals, as well as among tourists. By the time he was thirty-three, Karl Griesbaum was running the family workshop and like his father continued to make micro-mechanical parts for cuckoo clocks. One day Mr. Rosenau, the owner of a trading firm in Frankfurt that specialized in jewellery and clocks, brought a Swiss singing bird snuffbox for Griesbaum to copy and adapt. For Karl this seemingly insignificant event, became a turning point in his life. This inspired him to start manufacturing music boxes and snuffboxes with singing birds, and to establish the firm of Karl Griesbaum.
Initially, Griesbaum produced three different singing bird boxes The most expensive boxes were made of polished metal, then came unpolished metal boxes, and finally plain brass boxes. At first the cases were bought from a maker in Pforzheim, to the west of Stuttgart; the firm then made the simplest boxes themselves while continuing to buy more elaborate cases in Pforzheim. Eventually all parts of the singing bird boxes were made in-house. The most typical Griesbaum pieces were probably their snuffboxes, particularly those made in a style reminiscent of traditional German silverwork.
In time Karl Griesbaum’s firm was joined by his five children. Mathias, the eldest son, who was born in 1902, was named after his grandfather. Then came three daughters – Amalia, Helena, and Caroline, while the last child, Karl junior was born in 1916. The elder son Mathias studied clock-making in Furtwangen. He then furthered his commercial studies in the nearby town of Karlsruhe, where his grandparents lived and subsequently studied in Switzerland. When he returned to the Black Forest, he brought back with him several specialised machines from Switzerland that would aid the manufacture of singing bird automata. A few years before WWI Mathias Griesbaum left for Berlin, where he started manufacturing mechanical and music souvenir cigar and cigarette-boxes. Mathias had a creative and inventive mind. He was particularly fascinated by the work of former watch and clockmakers such as Jacob Frisard, Frères Rochat, and Charles Bruguier. By careful examination of their singing bird automata, Mathias made a number of detailed and technical drawings of their construction. For instance, for Christmas 1922, Mathias drew up plans of the works of a Frisard snuffbox and a small cage with a bird, which he dedicated to his father.
Having previously purchased cages and other cases for their singing birds from Paris, from about 1923 the firm began making their own cages. The first Griesbaum bird cage was square, with a gilt wooden base, with one bird. Later, larger cages were made, as well those with two singing birds. In about 1925 the firm introduced a new type of mechanism using whistles, resulting in their innovative whistling figurines. In time, figurines whistling different melodies were produced in many varieties and became one of Griesbaum’s biggest successes. The Griesbaum firm continued working during the WWII since brass was not requisitioned for arms manufacturing. During this period, the firm was still under the direction of Karl Griesbaum senior, with Emil Trischauer as his assistant.
Following the death of the firm’s founder in 1941, Karl Griesbaum’s five children formed an association ‘Karl Griesbaum KG’. After the war, Karl Griesbaum junior headed the firm. Although his brother Mathias returned from Berlin after 1949 to resume working in the family firm, this arrangement was short lived. The two brothers did not get along, and thus Mathias eventually left again to manufacture mechanical and music souvenir cigar and cigarette boxes that he sold in the best tourist gift shops.
The period following WWII was one of prosperity for the business. Karl Griesbaum headed the firm and was assisted by Karl Kiefer. The latter, who had joined the company in 1927 and took care of the accounts, married Amalia, daughter of the firm’s founder. During these busy years, there were twenty-five full employees and several part-time workers. Every month four hundred cages, fifty boxes and sixty whistles were produced. However, toward the end of the 1960s, production slowed considerably. In 1987 Karl Griesbaum left the firm, leaving Karl Kiefer, assisted by his daughter Ursula Mockesch, to continue its management. Nevertheless, it became difficult to find young people willing to learn this demanding skill and so in 1988, after the death of Karl Kiefer, Ursula decided to sell the firm to Siegfried Wendel, proprietor of Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett, in the picturesque town of Rudesheim am Rein, which still operates today under the name of Mechanische Musikwerke Manufaktur GmbH.

Richard Redding Antiques


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