Sunday, October 14, 2012

From Leonardo da Vinci to Joseph-Honoré Dalloz

Relying on the fundamental principles of Euclidean geometry, craftsmen through the ages have successfully found solutions to many challenges of their trade.


Leonardo da Vinci is the first person on record to have designed and used a pantograph to enlarge his sketches and possibly to duplicate them onto canvas,

Pantograph in da Vinci, Leonardo (Author). Codex Madrid I (1590-1600) (p.22R)

In 1603, Christoph Scheiner, built a pantograph to copy and scale diagrams. One arm of the pantograph contained a small pointer, while the other held a drawing implement, and by moving the pointer over a diagram, a copy of the diagram was drawn on another piece of paper. By changing the positions of the arms in the linkage between the pointer arm and drawing arm, the scale of the image produced can be changed.

Christoph Scheiner wrote about the invention over 27 years later, in "Pantographice" (Rome 1631)

Over the years, the two dimensional (2-D) pantograph became an integral part of many artistic creative processes.

It is not until the early XIXth century that a three dimensional (3-D) pantograph was invented by Achille Collasa French engineer, toolmaker and inventor,

who designed in 1836 a pantograph-like machine to reproduce sculptures in different scales and materials.

In 1838, he started a company with Ferdinand Barbedienne, the "Société Collas et Barbedienne", for the production and marketing of reduced copies of sculptures in materials ranging from plaster and wood to bronze and ivory. 

Benjamin Cheverton developed a similar sculpting machine which he patented in England in 1844. This English inventor's machine also enabled copies on a reduced scale to be made of larger sized busts. Motion was applied to the rotary files, which did the rough carving" the sculpture was then finished by hand. Cheverton displayed the machine's capabilities at the Great Exhibition of 1851 by making a reduced copy in alabaster of Theseus from the Elgin collection in the British Museum, for which he was awarded an exhibition gold medal. Science Museum, London.

Barbedienne sent a few pieces to The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, where the company received a special medal for its half-size reproduction of Ghiberti's principal door to the Baptistery in Florence. In 1855, Collas was awarded the Grande Médaille d'Honneur of the Exposition Universelle in Paris.

In 1863, an inspired pipe sculptor and inventor from Saint-Claude by the name of Joseph-Honoré Dalloz (aka Dalloz-Dessertine), would take the 3-D pantograph to its highest level...

Born in Saint-Claude in 1832, son of Jean-Baptiste Dalloz, an ivory turner ("tabletier") and of Marie Elisa Dunod, Joseph-Honoré designed and built a machine that duplicated fourteen pipe carvings from one single larger size model, a feat neither Collas, Barbedienne or Cheverton ever accomplished.

Dalloz-Dessertine machine, Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

Gustave Fraipont, a painter who illustrated Spire Blondel, Le tabac - Le livre des fumeurs et des priseurs (H. Laurens, Éditeurs, Paris, 1891), recounts a tour of the Tomachon factory facilities in Saint-Claude:

Built in 1666, the Tomachon mill became in 1780 the first cotton mill in the Jura region, housing spinning and weaving machinery at the instigation of the Bishop of Saint-Claude. Acquired by Claude Dumoulin after the revolution it remained dedicated to textile weaving until 1858 when its new owner Druard of Oyonnax converted it into a turner factory where artisans could rent a workshop.

"At the end of this corridor there is a workshop that should be of interest to you, said the factory manager who accompanies us everywhere and gives many explanations, can not enter without authorization from the only occupant, an inventor, a great man but rather original and defiant; he works for us but we are very accommodating with him, something he deserves in many respects...I am going to try however to let you enter his "lair" as he calls it."

"After some negotiations the door is opened and we enter a long room criss crossed by ropes and wood planks in all directions, starting from the floor and rising to the ceiling, hanging off the right wall,spanning the room and leaning on the left wall. Vertical lines,angled, oblique, criss crossing, X's, squares, losanges, between which one can hardly find one's way. Imagine the back stage of a theater."

"A tall old man, the above mentioned inventor, sits in the far back, like a weaver sitting in front of his loom, this mix of wood planks and ropes is nothing more, nothing less than a weave  pipes...and he weaves fourteen at once, not, mind you, bland, average pipes but sculpted pipes, historical portraits, political portraits, and portraits from the Arts world!...Believe me!"

 "It is very simple, said the inventor, extremely simple, but...I am the only one who knows how to operate my machine; others have tried, their results have been pretty poor."

'Basically, I started from the principle that whatever applied to drawing could be applied to sculpture and that if the pantograph could help graphics artists it could equally help sculptors, by securing a gouge or a blade instead of a pencil..."

"Well, it should be seen and tested, that is what went through my mind when the idea came to me. I saw and I tried. On the basis of the parallelogram I succeeded through multiple combinations to build  the machine you see me maneouvering, a machine that has the benefit ,over the pantograph I mentioned before, of duplicating fourteen times and reducing to a much smaller scale, all the impulses I apply."

"I take the head of Venus or Voltaire or the head of anyone you want (life size) and I place it here, nose up as you can see this faun on my workbench. I move the palpeur, currently resting in the middle of the cheek, over all of the curved surfaces and in the crevices without missing one; I go back and forth, I tickle the nose, I stroke the eyes and I comb the beard and all the movements are repeated on this set of wood blocks, but on that side it is a sharpened tool, that cuts while following all of the indentations traced by the guide I move over the model...And that's it!"

Model originally carved out of wood...

Later cast out of Zamak. The name Zamak is an acronym of the German names for the
metals of which the alloys are composed: zink (zinc), aluminium, magnesium and kupfer (copper).

"This so called "mechanical sculptor" is quite a curiosity to see operate and the "sculpting tool" (quite a complicated design despite what its inventor says) demonstrates a rare ingeniosity and works with a remarkable precision."

The Dalloz machine reproduced 14 briar root blocks ("ébauchon"), from a life size model of the head. The set of pantographs allowed for a scale of 1 to 5 from the original.

Final steps to obtain the finished product: scraping, polishing, using gouges for finishing details, "combing" of the beards, mustache and hair.

"All the details of the model, however minute, are reproduced with utmost accuracy and show an incredible finesse thanks to the reduction of the pantograph."


"The "artist" gives us a few samples of his work, the head of a satyr, the head of a baccante, truely miniature works of art...It is true that he chooses his models and estimates that  only pieces with an artistic value are worthy of his time."

"When we told this man of our intention to write about him, he smiled and said:

" Just say that old man Dalloz-Dessertine (that is his name which deserves to be mentioned since he will remain famous) is basically a good guy, part mad scientist, part inventor, half artist half worker, a philosopher, not that dumb but enough not to have struck it rich...something he does not regret since he is pretty satisfied with his life and  as long as one leaves him alone to sculpt his pipes, he is fine".

The question naturally arises as to whether Dalloz-Dessertine and Collas or Barbedienne knew about one another. One interesting fact: one of Dalloz-Dessertine models represents the bust of the central character in the Departure of the Volunteers in 1792 ("La Marseillaise"), a sculpture by François Rude (1784-1855) commisssioned for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Collas-Barbedienne first casting contract was signed with Rude on March 22, 1843 for exclusivity of the reproduction of the sculptor's work...

The possibility that Dalloz-Dessertine knew of the work by Collas on 3-D pantographs or even acquired some (or all) of his models from the Collas-Barbedienne company, does not detract from the creative genius he demonstrated in taking 3-D carving to another level of sophistication.

Dalloz-Dessertine would use the pantograph machine until his death in 1905. His nephew Charles Dessertine would operate the machine in the same workshop until 1945. 


The machine was acquired at that time by Aschenbrenner et Cie, a Saint-Claude company headed by Paul Aschenbrenner and Marcel David

Usine de tabletterie dite usine de pipes Aschenbrenner et Cie

After the company closed in 1961, the machine was acquired in 1984 by the Confrérie des Maîtres Pipiers and became the cornerstone of the collection of the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant de Saint-Claude.

Over time, models would be replaced and new models added.

Dalloz-Dessertine built a second pantograph machine which he sold in 1875 to Notton et Cie, headed by Sébastien Notton. Notton obtained that same year a patent from the British Patent Office.

Ashenbrenner acquired this second machine and sold it in 1987 to the city of Bergerac where it now resides in the Musée du Tabac. ("La machine à sculpter", B. Clergeot, Musée du Tabac de Bergerac)

The second Dalloz-Dessertine machine, Musée du Tabac, Bergerac, France

The first pantograph machine by Dalloz-Dessertine and the entire collection of models from which the pipes were carved can be seen at the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant in Saint-Claude.


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