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H6858 Musical automaton, 'L'Avocat' (The Lawyer), barrister standing behind podium, papier mache / textile / wood / metal / glass, maker unknown, Paris, France, 1895-1905. Click to enlarge.

French musical automaton, 'L'Avocat' (The Lawyer), 1895-1905

This is an automaton, a mechanical figure in the form of a barrister, which was made to move as if spontaneously through a concealed clockwork mechanism. Made around 1900, the barrister stands pompously behind a podium, opening and closing his mouth, blinking, tilting his head and moving his arms up and down, brandishing a written document. The device reveals its main purpose, to entertain, by producing music rather than spoken words.

While its maker is unknown, this musical barrister is very …


Object No.


Object Statement

Musical automaton, 'L'Avocat' (The Lawyer), barrister standing behind podium, papier mache / textile / wood / metal / glass, maker unknown, Paris, France, 1895-1905

Physical Description

Musical automaton featuring a male lawyer in black robe and wig standing behind a podium. The right hand is stretched out, while the left hand holds a rolled document. The lawyer is automated, and the front part of his jaw is jointed so he could appear to speak. The mechanism, made up of wooden cogs and wires, is underneath the podium. A metal key for winding the mechanism protrudes from the side of the podium to the lawyer's left. The quill pen has broken off the inkwell on top of the podium and is tucked into the pocket of the lawyer's robe.

The automaton plays a tune while the arms move up and down, the eyes blink and the mouth opens and closes. Under the lawyer's robe, a clockwork motor drives a music box by rotating a brass cylinder; pins placed around the cylinder at selected positions (creating a program for the music to be played) interact with a steel comb with teeth of differing lengths; the longer teeth are weighted with lead so they produce bass notes. Movements are controlled by pull rods operating from a drum fitted with a series of cams. The whole unit is mounted on a wooden board covered with brown plush fabric.


Number stamped on bedplate "36"
Number scratched onto the cylinder "665"



710 mm


360 mm


280 mm



Credit Line

Gift of Trevitt, L E , 1961

Acquisition Date

6 July 1961

Cite this Object


French musical automaton, 'L'Avocat' (The Lawyer), 1895-1905 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 November 2022, <>


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