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Auction Team Breker is holding a sale on September 29 devoted to Cameras, Photographica and Optical Toys.

Among the earliest and most unusual is this painting of a skeleton, shown above.

It would have been used as one of the elements projected to create illusory special effects through a Fantascope, a complex apparatus patented in 1799 by the Belgian showman Etienne-Gaspard Robert to create lantern shows which were highly popular in pre-cinema days.

The projection shows a sarcophagus whose lid lifts as a skeleton clambers out.

It is one of four such illustrations depicted in Molteni’s Instructions sur l’ Emploi des Appareils de Projection alongside a classical head, a grim reaper figure and a death’s head. The skeleton has an estimate of €30,000-50,000.

Another early apparatus is an oakcased peep show of c.1780 probably of Dutch manufacture, estimated at €3500-5000.

For children there is the game of Anamorphoses from c.1820, featuring a set of cards with anamorphic images whose ‘true’, undistorted view is revealed when they are viewed via a cylindrical prism through a magic mirror.

The sale is also rich in various later 19th century viewing devices such as a French Praxinoscope theatre produced by Emile Reynaud, Paris, c.1878, guided at €2500-3000 and a Megalethoscope photograph viewer of c.1870, by Carlo Ponti, estimated at €3500-4500.

breker.com