Penny Operated Mechanical Peep Show

This beautifully constructed, late XIXth century, viewing cabinet is made of oak wood panels and cast-iron for the feet and fittings. It features stereoscopic pictures of various women in a bedroom-like setting. The design of this cabinet is made to instill the fact that one is a peeping tom. The hunched position one must adopt in order to gaze through the machine’s eyepiece, reinforces the transgressive act of viewing nudes. The poster framed on top of this clever viewing device features a painted picture of a blond woman in her underwear in the midst of removing a red dress. The figure is drawn inside the negative space of a keyhole. At the top and bottom of the poster, one can read : « What The Butler Saw ». This title was commonly associated with erotica  in the United Kingdom during the late XIXth and early XXth centuries. The expression comes from a highly publicized divorce which took place in 1886 between Lord Campbell and his soon-to-be-ex-wife. The weight of the case rested on the testimony of a single witness, Lord Campbell’s butler. The butler had apparently caught Mrs. Campbell with another man in the act. The expression became somewhat of a term of art to describe voyeuristic fantasies or fetiches.
La note de l’expert

Ahrens, London


XIXth-XXth century


United Kingdom


171 x 46 x 43 cm


Arcade machine


Sous différents angles


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