[Paganini, Nicolò. (1782–1840)] [Automaton]
1833 Broadside Playbill advertising A FULL-LENGTH AUTOMATON FIGURE OF SIGNOR PAGANINI
Broadside playbill for the Royal Victoria Theatre, London,Sept. 1833, advertising a remarkable evening of variety in the theater. First Mr. Warde starring in Richard the Third; then “the band” played an overture; then came a pantomime Harlequin Yorkshireman, or The Fairy’s Gift, then: “A FULL-LENGTH AUTOMATON FIGURE OF SIGNOR PAGANINI which will perform several favorite airs on the flageolet, violin etc. and afterwards fall to pieces showing the audience the wonderful mechanism of this great instrumental performer.” As if that weren’t enough, then came the celebrated dying and skeleton scenes from Harlequin and Oberon, ending with a BRILLIANT DISPLAY OF FIREWORKS. 8 x 13 inches professionally restored and mounted to acid free backing. Some paper loss at the top right, else fine.
This is a rare and extraordinary memento related to the great violin virtuoso and the early craze for automatic musical instruments in London. Paganini himself had been rapturously received there the previous years. Indeed, by the time Paganini had arrived in London in 1831, the English public was desperate to hear the great virtuoso, and to pay exorbitant sums for private lessons. At his first concert, he played his Concerto no. 1 in E flat and the Military Sonata for the Fourth String, impressing the audience greatly. More than ten further concerts followed, as well as private appearances and a performance at court for George IV.
"His first appearance at the King's Theatre took place on 3 June 1831 and was an immediate success. The Times critic wrote: ‘He is not only the finest player that ever has existed on that instrument, but he forms a class by himself’. William Ayrton, editor of The Harmonicon, remarked that 'his powers of execution are little less than marvellous, and such as we could only have believed on the evidence of our own senses; they imply a strong natural propensity for music, with an industry, a perseverance, a devotedness and also a skill in inventing means, without any parallel in the history of his instrument.' " (Edward Neill, Grove Music Online.)