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August 31 2019
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One of several whimsical characters to make up Rowland Emett’s A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley, which goes to auction on September 3.

What began as a modest career in cartoons blossomed into a lifetime of beloved automata when, in 1951, Rowland Emett was invited to create a real-life version of his cartoon locomotives—The Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway—for that year’s Festival of Britain. Emett went on to produce countless fantastical kinetic sculptures, including the intricate inventions that starred in the 1968 film classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 1984, Emett created the last and largest of his mechanical thingamabobs, A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley, in painted metal and wood. Though stolen and sold for scrap metal in 1999, it was later recovered and completely restored. Next month, Emett’s masterpiece of imagination will go to auction at Bonhams, in London, where it is estimated to sell for between $300,000 and $350,000. (bonhams.com) —Julia Vitale

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