The Schoolboy Dunce or "Jean Qui Pleure", papier-mâché and plaster of Paris composition head, original costume, intended to perform four animations, likely made by Gustave Vichy, France, ca. 1860 18" x 11 1/4" x 10" Provenance: The Gary & Helen Kalpakjian Collection
In his native country, this figure would be immediately familiar by sight as “Jean qui pleure,” and so this model was titled by Vichy. It is a reference to the popular tale of “Jean qui pleure et Jean qui rit” (John who cries and John who laughs) that found its way into songs, into Offenbach’s operetta of that name, and into French toys and cartoons. Automaton maker Gustav Vichy’s twist was to offer two automata that could be bought separately or together the ‘happy’ of the two characters is styled as a female, “Jeanne qui rit.” Because this tale is unfamiliar to many Americans, this model has been titled in the past as “The Schoolboy Dunce” or a variation of that name. Upon activation of the automaton, a song plays as the figure lowers its head and slowly pans its gaze back and forth across the (now absent) schoolbook. Its left leg, extended away from the bench upon which the boy sits, swings back and forth as if to signify the child’s restlessness. The original model held a schoolbook and most often included a picnic basket sitting on the bench next to Jean, marked with his name and holding detailed accoutrements such as bread, fruit, and the like. It seems that these are either missing or were never a part of this example.
Original costume exhibits extensive losses. Head should turn and nod but needs repair (return spring loose), leg kicks with assistance, arm should raise and head should raise higher. Would benefit from mechanical adjustments for Condition reports (given as opinion and not as guaranteed statements of fact) are added online throughout the auction process. The absence of a condition report does not imply that there are no condition issues with the lot. Please call (609) 397-9374 or e-mail email@example.com with any questions about this lot at least 24 hours prior to auction.