This Roullet & Decamps clockwork automaton, c.1870, priced in the region of £5000-6000 by The House of Automata, is musical and as the rose opens a doll rises up and blows kisses before disappearing back into the rose.

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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”.


Priced £2000 from The House of Automata, this automaton tortoise mechanism, c.1880, walks along with a realistic gait, head lolling from side to side. The shell is removed here to show the mechanism.

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.