The dulcimer player by Kintzing - The website of automatons, automata and androids.

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(Introduction of the secret of the chess player automaton by Baron von Kempelen)

This extract is coming from the film "The Jaquet-Droz androids".
This film and many others about automatons and androids
are available in english version on our online shop.

The dulcimer player is a delightful android made by the watchmaker Pierre Kintzing and the cabinet maker of the Queen David Roentgen. It can still be admired at the Museum of Technology in Paris (Musée des Arts et Métiers).

The dulcimer player by Kintzing - The website of automatons
(c) Musée des arts et métiers-CNAM Photo P.Faligot-Seventh Square.

Bought in 1785 by Marie-Antoinette, the automaton shows a young girl elegantly dressed in a low-cut blouse and a loose-fitting dress with panniers made of embroidered silk. Sat on a stool, the musician hits the 46 delicate strings of a dulcimer (musical instrument of gypsy origin) with sticks, whose ends are endowed with little, flat hammers.

Dominating the one meter length instrument, Kintzing's musician can play eight different tunes, among which the tune from the "Armide", by Gluck.

The legend says the android's embroidered silk costume comes from a piece of dress worn by Marie-Antoinette, and its wig was made with her own hair.

The main mechanism, which is placed under the stool, is composed of a brass cylinder supplied through a spring-motor. By means of levers, the cams make the arms' movement possible and the splinters enable the hammers to move.

Marie-Antoinette's personal doctor gives us several details about this automaton. She wanted to give the android to the Academy of Sciences, so that it should appear among the institution's collection :

"The Queen has recently purchased a little automaton representing a woman, about eighteen or twenty inches high, which plays very well different music tunes on a sort of dulcimer (shaped like a small harpsichord). The features, proportions and fits of the figure are extremely elegant. She hits the different strings of the instrument in time, with the aid of two little hammers made of metal which she holds in her hands and which move very accurately and precisely. Moreover, while the automaton is playing the tunes, the movements of her head

The dulcimer player by Kintzing - The website of automatons
(c) Musée des arts et métiers-CNAM Photo P.Faligot-Seventh Square.
The dulcimer player by Kintzing - The website of automatons
(c) Musée des arts et métiers
CNAM Photo P.Faligot-Seventh Square.

and her eyes' varied expressions are very pleasant and make a surprising illusion. She is sitting on a seat which is put on a superb wooden table which also supports the dulcimer. The whole mechanism is locked and hidden in the thick table."

"This machine was built by skilful artisans in Germany, especially for the Queen; these artisans had already made a very big secretaire of secrets which was surprisingly perfect, and other works for the King of France."

"The Queen wanted the figure of automaton to be examined by several people from the Academy of Sciences.

If it was considered worthy of being put into the cabinet of machines of this Company, her Majesty would be willing to give it to the Academy."

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