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Bizarre 19th Century Antique Creates Mechanical Reenactment of the Last Supper


"a tiny mechanical Judas plotting away."

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

Lot 206 at Skinner's auction house, based in Massachusetts, is something you don't see everyday: an automaton depicting Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper."

If you saw Martin Scorsesse's Academy Award-winning film "Hugo," you've learned what an automaton is. If not, most simply, an automaton is a machine, like a robot, that follows an "automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions."

In essence, this $10,000 to $15,000 piece is a robotic version of the the biblical Last Supper. Here's a description from Skinner's:

The Lord's Supper Automaton, attributed to Henry Phalibois, c. 1890, the automaton based on Da Vinci's, The Lord's Supper features Jesus and the twelve Apostles in period clothing moving as if in serious conversation at a long table set with pewter dishes and goblets, complex gearing and drives all powered by two 110 and 220 volt 60-cycle motors, lg. 69, ht. 30, dp. 22 in.

Note: This automaton was part of the traveling London Mechanical and Electrical Exhibition touring England, Europe, Australia, and reaching New Zealand in the 1920's.

There is also a YouTube video showing the automaton in action from May 2011. As io9 puts it, the nine minutes of "weirdness" even includes "a tiny mechanical Judas plotting away." Check it out:

According to Paul Fraiser Collectibles, the auction for the piece will take place on June 2.

This story has been updated since its original posting to correct the director of the film "Hugo."

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