This incredible mini guillotine was carved out of bone by a French prisoner of war, living in the UK during the Napoleonic wars. These men had a lot of spare time, and would fashion objects out of whatever materials they could find, in this case bone. This is a particularly fine example, and was probably made by a man named Cruchet, who after the war went on to design enormous automata for the Paris Opera House.
The morbid subject matter was a favourite with British buyers, who were still fascinated by the bloodiness of the French Revolution. The tiny soldiers, with their menacing swords, surround a decapitated figure on the chopping block – originally his head would have sat in a tiny basket. There’s something particularly macabre about seeing such a gruesome scene acted out by these toy-like figures.