Swan song

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

ASILVER swan mu­si­cal au­tom­a­ton, cre­ated in the 1770s by Bel­gian horo­log­i­cal wizard John Joseph Mer­lin—who also in­vented the roller skate—will glide over to the Sci­ence Mu­seum, Lon­don SW7, next year for block­buster ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Ro­bots’ (Fe­bru­ary 8 to Septem­ber 3, 2017, 0333 241 4000; www.sci­ence­mu­seum.org.uk).

It will be the first time the life-size swan has left the Bowes Mu­seum, Co Durham, since 1872. Ear­lier trav­els in­cluded the Paris Ex­hi­bi­tion of 1867, where it en­tranced Mark Twain, who de­scribed its ‘liv­ing grace’ and ‘in­tel­li­gence’ in his novel The In­no­cents Abroad.

The swan rests on a stream made of twisted glass rods in­ter­spersed with sil­ver fish and, when the mech­a­nism is wound up, mu­sic plays, the rods ro­tate, cre­at­ing the il­lu­sion of run­ning water, and the swan twists its head to preen its back, then bends to catch a fish. Visit www.the­bowes­mu­seum. org.uk for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

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