Wasting My Morning Watching Van Cleef & Arpels Automatons

Is it enough for an object to simply exist to be beautiful? The Van Cleef & Arpel Automatons seem to say, sure thing!

Wasting My Morning Watching Van Cleef & Arpels Automatons
Van Cleef & Arpels Fontaine aux Oiseaux Automaton - source: Behance

Saturday morning, 3 June 2023. I’m sitting here at the Dutch Seating Company showroom in Rotterdam, waiting for my first customers to come in. I really should be doing 10,000 other things right now. Instead, I’m wasting my time watching YouTube videos of the Van Cleef & Arpels Automatons.

Who was it again that said ‘form follows function’? Had to look that one up to be honest, but it was Louis Sullivan. This American architect once said that a rationally designed structure may not necessarily be beautiful, but no building can be beautiful that does not have a rationally designed structure. It all sounds terribly logical. Even so, but I’m pretty certain that if Sullivan were sitting next to me right now, he’d be wondering too if it is enough if an object simply exists to be beautiful and not serve any particular function. And I bet he’d have a bit of a lump in his throat as well, just like I am having right now.

In the months leading up to the relaunch of my blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty. Why does beauty matter to me? Why would I write about it and share online what I find beautiful? And what the hell is beauty anyway? I even spent my last Audible credit last week on an audiobook called Beauty by philosopher Roger Scruton, who apparently was an expert on the matter. I’ll let you know how it was, as soon as I finish listening to Debbie Reynolds’ hilarious and touching autobiography, Unsinkable.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit, so let’s get back to the Van Cleef & Arpels automatons. I guarantee that all six of them will have you sit down, your chin resting on the palms of your hands, contemplating what it must be like to be part of the zero point zero, zero, zero one percent of people who can actually afford such objects of beauty without blinking an eye. How nice that must be.