A 19TH CENTURY curio is heading to the US after it sold for more than 40 times its auction estimate.

Made in about 1880, the bird automaton was sold at at Thomas Watson’s recent fine art, antiques and jewellery sale in Darlington.

The piece is 49cm high and features a porcelain jardinière designed with artificial flowers topped by a feather bird automaton that moves and sings thanks to a complex hidden mechanism.

It had been estimated at £150 to £250 but online bidding from the US and the Netherlands drove the final selling price to £6,500.

The high price could be due to a possible link to Blaise Bontems, a renowned Parisian maker of automatons whose bird creations were particularly highly prized for the quality and realism of their song.

Director and auctioneer Peter Robinson said: “The automaton was a fascinating and really unusual object – the bird sang beautifully and it seems that bidders really appreciated the craftsmanship that had created it."

Thomas Watson holds quarterly fine art, antiques and jewellery sales at its Northumberland Street saleroom in Darlington as well as fortnightly antiques and collectables sales.

The next will be on August 19.