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Steampunk Jetpack
Steampunk Jetpack

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While recent history has been kinder in death to Nikola Tesla than it was in his life, it has afforded no such courtesy to his long-forgotten but no less brilliant older brother. It was rumored that Grigor Tesla was born on February 28, 1825 precisely at midnight in the middle of the century’s worst electrical storm and perhaps it was the crackling air that night that imbued Grigor with his considerable genius. The boy was struck by lightning no less than 17 times before he (miraculously) reached adulthood, which is less unlikely than one might think given that his chief hobby appeared to be standing in the middle of fields holding a metal rod during thunderstorms.

Within his second year at the formidable Scientific Institute of Zagreb, he had already acquired his own lab – and his Ph.D. His work was arcane and all but incomprehensible to most, and he went through lab assistants like Bunsen burners. Perhaps they failed to see how testing jetpacks in the university quad during lightning strikes was apt to further their academic careers much past the morgue. Still the good professor soldiered on, investigating effects of electromagnetism and polyphase power distribution theretofore unimagined and scribbling the notes in towering stacks of bulging notebooks. If there was anything Grigor loved more than his work, though, it was his little brother Nikola. The boy would show up regularly for visits and was endlessly amused by his older brother’s habit of inserting a lightbulb in each ear and miraculously illuminating them by blowing his nose. Nikola named Grigor’s foul-tempered pet lab rat “Edison”, claiming the name came to him out of nowhere…

But alas, even his little brother could tell that Grigor was becoming increasingly odd, his starting point being where others ended. When the professor pointed his exalted “death ray” at the university chancellor, threatening to “reduce him to his constituent molecules” for failing to issue yet another lab assistant, the administration was understandably alarmed. Bribing a laudanum addicted medical student into implanting a flux capacitor in his frontal lobe was probably the last straw, however. The university terminated his tenure and there was gentle talk of sanitariums. The elder Tesla would have none of it, of course, and continued his work independently until he was found having shuffled off this mortal Tesla Coil, lightbulbs inexplicably protruding from every orifice. Heartbroken, Nikola packed up brother’s notebooks, photographed his equipment, and set sail for New York City to go to work for a man named Edison. And the rest, as they say, is history.

This original collage assemblage shadowbox pictures the elder Tesla in his Zagreb laboratory among his various inventions. A vintage bulb and small experimental vials are featured in the foreground with labels reading “Subatomic particulate”, “Embaric Vapor” and “Aether”. A vintage optician’s testing lens protrudes from the Aether bottle and magnifies the device behind it. This 10” x 10” x 1 ¾” piece has been painstakingly handcrafted with vintage images, beautiful art paper, German Dresden trim and is accented throughout with watch parts and coils. The dashing Dr. Tesla, his pet rat, Edison, a gyroscope and the bulb overhead are all raised from the background for dimensional effect. The outside of the box is accented with hand-painted carved wooden trim, satin ribbon and a vintage bulb. A watch casing bears Tesla’s moniker strewn with small silver gears. Shadowbox portion is encased in glass that has been removed for photograph. Signed on finished back. Hardware for hanging added upon request (stands up on its own). Insurance included in shipping price.
Truly original and one of a kind, this assemblage is the perfect focal point for your own mad scientist laboratory…or tasteful living room décor. Come get lost inside Tesla’s world – it’s a fascinating place to be.

This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2009. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!

Steampunk Tesla Shadowbox


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  • Handmade item
  • Materials: shadowbox, glass, vintage images, artpaper, wood, lightbulbs, gears, glue, wire, dresden trim, satin ribbon, watch casing
  • Only ships within United States.
  • Feedback: 166 reviews
  • Favorited by: 63 people