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Automaton of a Friar

Automaton of a Friar

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Description
This is an automaton made in the 16th century in the figure of a friar. The figure has a key-wound iron clockwork encased in an unpainted wooden body. The clockwork has a spring in the drum and fusee with cord. It has a wooden head with moveable eyes and lower jaw. The limbs and head are connected to the clockwork with chains and the lower joint of the left arm is connected with a cord. A band of fabric, 2" wide, is fastened with adhesive to the bottom of the body. Traces of flesh-colored enamel can be found on its bald head, hands and feet; red on the lips, brown on the eyes, eyebrows and sandals. The enamel is badly cracked and chipped away in many places. Fully operational, the figure walks in a trapezoidal pattern; moves both arms (right arm strikes chest in "mea culpa" and left arm raises rosary to lips); moves eyes side to side; opens and closes mouth; and turns head.
The attribution is unsubstantiated, but it is possibly made by Juanelo Turriano at the court of Charles V in likeness of the Spanish Saint Diego d'Alcala. The habit was made in the museum, and the rosary date is unknown.
Object Name
automaton
date made
mid 16th century
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
iron (overall material)
Measurements
overall - figure: 16 in x 5 in x 6 in; 40.64 cm x 12.7 cm x 15.24 cm
overall - robes: 14 1/2 in x 8 in x 5 in; 36.83 cm x 20.32 cm x 12.7 cm
overall - key: 3 5/8 in x 2 1/4 in x 3/8 in; 9.2075 cm x 5.715 cm x.9525 cm
overall - key (new): 4 1/8 in x 1 1/2 in x 1/2 in; 10.4775 cm x 3.81 cm x 1.27 cm
overall - tool: 7 3/8 in x 1/2 in x 1/2 in; 18.7325 cm x 1.27 cm x 1.27 cm
overall - rosary: 14 1/4 in x 1 3/8 in x 3/8 in; 36.195 cm x 3.4925 cm x.9525 cm
ID Number
ME.336451
catalog number
336451
accession number
1977.1191
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Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Religion
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Comments

Hello, I am curious about how this piece came into the American History Smithsonian’s procession. Is there any information regarding the ‘Automaton of a Friar’’s provenance? Since this is a Spanish work, what was the reasoning for including this piece in the Smithsonian’s collection? Many thanks.

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