Red and yellow birds

Karl Griesbaum Singing Bird Cage

This bird cage was actually sitting in my grandma’s display cabinet for decades. When I was little, sometimes she would take this out and show us. However, this was a rare treat because this bird cage meant a lot to her and she would rather leave it untouched. Buuut, during those couple decades, it would literally be collecting dust! Before I went to take photographs, I had to dust off their feathers with a very tiny and very soft watercolour brush. It felt like delicate surgical work. I was so anxious about poking the head off or scraping off a feather. But the good thing is none of that happened and I managed to clean most of it off!

Last time, when I wrote about the Karl Griesbaum bird music box, I couldn’t demonstrate how it worked because it didn’t have a wind up key. Fortunately, this cage came with the key attached! I’m a little hesitant on winding it up. You’ll see restorers and collectors wind up their cages many times. The most I’m comfortable with is two. But anyway, I recorded a video of how it sounds!

Karl Griesbaum Singing Bird Cage uploaded by Samantha Yeung

The history of the Karl Griesbaum musical bird cages actually is more obscure compared to the music box. Possibly because logically, if you have a pet bird, you would put it in a cage. Even if it was free roaming in your house, it probably has a cage to sleep in. On the other hand, the idea of a tiny bird popping out of a silver box to sing to you is charming. Maybe that’s why the boxes were more popular. The other factor is that Bontems bird cages from France appear to be more common. The birds look more realistic and models can come in life-like sizes. They also behave and sound chirpier and twitchy (you know how small birds move in a twitchy manner?), basically more realistic overall compared to the Griesbaum models.

Antique Bontems giant singing bird cage uploaded by Singing bird boxes

The birds can appear very lifelike! Here is another model from Bontems. Very cute and fluffy.

Bontems Singing Bird Cage uploaded by Skevoukloges

The mechanisms for this bird cage is very similar to the bird music box that I covered last week. The sound is produced by whistles and bellows. All mechanical and no electricity required! In the video below, restorer, appraiser, and collector Troy Duncan explains how the mechanism works.

Antique singing bird cage (Bontems) mechanism explained uploaded by Singing bird boxes

I believe my grandpa acquired both the bird box and the bird cage at the same time. They were stored together in my grandma’s display cabinet for decades. The way the birds are put together and how they sound also seem to be pretty much the same.

Unfortunately there will be no history blurb because historical information is flooded by auction listings. But I hope the videos were interesting enough.

See you next week!


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