A woman who recently took a class with me told me about a group of artists who make contemporary automata. They call themselves the Cabaret Mechanical Theater, and if you've never seen what they do, you're in for a treat.
Seeing all these mechanical devices reminded me of a couple of bottle stoppers I'd gotten from my grandmother's home when she passed away. A little research shows these came from Italy, made by a company founded by Anton Riffeser. In 1926, he started a company called the House of ANRI, which were the first two initials of his first and last name.
Here's the first stopper, which features a couple puckered up and ready to kiss. (Is it just me, or does this look like two men?)
There's a small lever on the back, which controls their heads.
Push the lever down and their heads swivel around, where they meet in a kiss.
The other stopper I have is the drinking man. When he's resting, he's got a bottle of booze in one hand, and a glass in the other.
Rotate the knob and he leans over to pour himself another round.
Rotate it in the other direction, and he drains the glass.
Both of the corks have long since broken off of these stoppers. Still, they're a highly sought after collectible. Here is a little more info on them.
There is even a cool book about the ANRI woodcarvings.