CC-94636-MN, "Machine Ballerina"

From: "davide.mana@…" <davide.mana@…>
Date: Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:52 pm
Subject: The Castaigne collection - Two Other Items

Trust the MiB to find a way to get me writing again…

Two entries from the collection (sorry - I only got the crates today, and this is the little I was able to unpack, analyze and describe on short notice)…


A glass cabinet (0,6x0, 6x1,7 m) enclosing a mechanical doll. The doll body (standing 1,40 m) is carved in black wood, and is anatomically quite accurate; the hands, arms and legs are fully articulated, the feet sculpted to resemble dancing shoes. Compared to the high detail of the general design, the doll's head is thus quite surprising, as it appears to be completely featureless, except for a single square-headed iron nail set squarely in the middle of the doll's forehead. While it is quite possible that the doll originally wore a wig of some kind, none was found, nor is any kind of headwear documented in the original Castaigne collection catalog. The silk dress worn by the doll costume resembles that of an 18th century ballet dancer, in fact a slightly risque Columbine costume from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte - sequined, 'plissé' bell skirt reaching the mid-calf over various layers of petticoats, a tight, front-laced multicolored corset, a white shirt with square décolletage. The costume is complemented by a belt from which a number of heart- shaped 'biscuit' porcelain masks hang, resting in the folds of the skirt. Only four masks are preserved with the doll, of the seven originally included, representing seven different expressions, identified as the seven deadly sins of the Christian Faith. While highly stereotyped, the masks are of exquisite craftsmanship.

The surviving masks are: Anger - the features are twisted in a grimace of displeasure, the mouth set as if to shout Gluttony - the mouth is set to bite, and small steel teeth are visible behind the rouged lips Sloth - the features are set as if in a drugged stupor Luxury - the lips are set in a kiss, with just a hint of velvet tongue through the red suede lips

The doll mechanism seems to be designed so that, upon activation, the ballerina will pick one of the masks from her belt, hang it from the nail in her forehead thus acquiring a distinct set of features, and then will dance a short routine somehow connected with the mask selected, played out by a complex system of carillons.

Mask and dance selection are achieved through two keys in the basement of the cabinet, each of which can be set to one of four different positions.

The Ballerina is damaged - apart from the missing accessories, one of the two setting keys and two of the three carillon cylinders are also missing.

The front pane of the glass cabinet is cracked by the radial hole of a nine millimeters Parabellum bullet, which was found set in the doll's chest, close to where the heart would be in a human being. It did not damage the underlying mechanism.

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