Mandoline Zither Music Box
This lovely piece is a 19th-century Swiss Mandoline Zither music box. Mechanical music instruments date back several centuries; however, they were popularized by Swiss artisans in the 19th century by building upon the country’s strong watchmaking tradition. Swiss music boxes were produced in numerous shapes and sizes, and were capable of playing a variety of popular tunes. Most commonly, they would play six, eight, or ten airs. The current music box plays ten tunes offering a range of melodies for music enthusiasts. The selection of airs is listed on a handwritten plaque located on the under side of the lid. The panel is hand numbered 66002 and contains an assortment of vignettes. The illustrations depict young children playing and dancing to music, two allegorical figures, as well as scenes highlighting different Swiss landmarks. With its original movement intact, this mandolin zither music box generates a rich, beautiful sound. The cylinder rests under a protective glass cover. The movement is housed in a mahogany case with satinwood banding. The lid of the box features detailed marquetry designed in a vine pattern. When open, the case displays an ebonized interior. A few scuffs are noticeable along the outer edge of the case; nevertheless, this Swiss music box plays and works properly.
At this time in Switzerland, businessman Henry Dunant (1828–1910) founded what became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. Dunant had been travelling through Italy in 1859 when he saw the aftermath of the catastrophic battle of Solferino, where 40,000 men had died or been left on the battlefield with grave wounds. After witnessing this horror firsthand, Dunant began advocating for the establishment of a national relief organisation to offer assistance to wounded soldiers, regardless of their association. For his humanitarian work, Dunant received the first ever Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. His citation for the award stated: “Without you, the Red Cross, the supreme humanitarian achievement of the nineteenth century would probably have never been undertaken.”