The word “unique” can sometimes be overused, but not in the case of the Henri Krijnen mechanical music collection, which will be auctioned at Morphy’s on September 9-10, 2022. Amassed over a lifetime, the peerless collection of early music and entertainment machines includes grand European fair, dance and theater organs; orchestrions, automata, Frank Polk figurals and other slot machines; and even a spectacular, fully functional Karl Muller antique carousel. As described by Tom Tolworthy, CEO of Morphy Auctions and curator/director of the sale, the collection features “the finest examples of mechanical music machines to come to market in a decade.”
The late Henri Krijnen, who made his fortune in the gambling and entertainment industry, had the heart of an antiquarian. Throughout his 50-year collecting odyssey, he sought out the finest, rarest and most beautiful examples. As his stellar collection grew, it was relocated several times to larger premises, finally settling in a custom-built warehouse in Oosterhout, Netherlands. Henri’s private museum was never open to the public, but on many occasions, it served as a wondrous centerpiece for private events Henri hosted for his fellow collectors.
“Even at the end of his life, Henri was still acquiring unique and special mechanical novelties. His philosophy was, ‘There’s always room for one more,'” Tolworthy said. “Henri’s passion can be seen in all corners of his collection. The depth of selection within the categories he collected reflects the innate desire he had to bring the forgotten back to life for generations to enjoy.”
The dizzying array of dance organs will leave collectors spoiled for choice, but there can be little doubt that one of the most awe-inspiring examples is the elegant 1937 Theofiel Mortier model with 102 keys, 200 pipes and an accordion which, together, deliver a rich, thrilling sound. With an ornately carved façade that resembles a temple or palace, it is an artistic spectacle to behold and was, in fact, previously in the collection of a British museum. Perhaps the Rolls-Royce of classic dance organs, it is estimated at $250,000-$400,000.
A Gebroeders Decap dance organ with robot musician figures was known to be a great favorite of Henri’s. It was made in Belgium in 1963, a time when the public’s imagination was captivated by the idea of space travel and robots. It is one of only three made in a 105-key configuration and was originally installed at the Hotel Eemland in Soest (Netherlands). It was professionally restored and plays beautifully, with great sound and animation. Estimate: $100,000-$200,000
Of the antique music boxes to be auctioned, a German Polyphone Style #5 made in 1900 is housed in an attractive walnut cabinet on its original stand. It is unusual in that it has a selector bar where the patron can choose the song to be played from the tune cards, drop in a coin, and watch the disc load and play. Accompanied by 14 discs, it comes to auction with a $20,000-$40,000 estimate.
A complete, painstakingly restored Karl Muller (Germany) illuminating carousel in fully operating condition has 18 breathtaking hand-carved features, including jaunty outside-row horses, ornate sleighs with hand-painted repousse details, a suspended gondola, a boat, and dozens of decorative panels with hand-painted images of cherubs, floral motifs and picturesque landscapes. Estimate: $160,000-$260,000.
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