Formed in 1865 by Jean Roullet, the business became Roullet & Decamps when his daughter married Ernst Decamps, a worker in his company.
Automata specialist dealer Michael Start says it is “one of the finest makers from the French ‘golden age’, known for well-observed automata with strong entertainment value and excellent sculpting, famous for the rabbit in a cabbage automaton”.
Museum and book on way
Husband and wife team Michael and Maria – a horologist and painter and sculptor respectively – began dealing in London’s Portobello Road, restoring and selling antique automata.
A change of scenery 20 years ago brought them to Forres in Scotland where they run The House of Automata, carrying out the same work. In something of a busman’s holiday, the couple have a large private collection.
They are aiming to set up the UK’s only museum of antique automata. Michael is also writing a book, The Secrets of Automata, giving notes of mechanism and construction, set to be released about November. Continuing a family tradition, son Hector is learning the restoration craft as an apprentice.
Shown here are some of the Roullet & Decamps items The House of Automata has for sale.
The Jack Tempest collection offered at Macclesfield auction house Adam Partridge in November 2022 (see ATG No 2571) included toys by Roullet & Decamps.
A ‘walking peacock’ took a hammer price of £1850 despite some condition issues.