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 311: Les Pompiers de Nanterre, c. 1900


Les Pompiers de Nanterre Antique Musical Automaton, French, c. 1900

A rare and visually striking antique musical automaton depciting Les Pompiers (Firemen) de Nanterre pumping water before a crowd at a Grand Circus as part of the city's festivities.

The automaton is in the form of a box (complete with original lid) whose interior features a highly detailed and colourful lithograph of two articulated fireman before a Grand Circus in the city of Nanterre. When the front lever is pushed up, the tune begins to play as the fireman pump back and forth, sweating and huffing and puffing as they do so. The crowd laugh and cheer in the background, while other firemen on the scaffold direct the water.

The tradition of the Firemen's Company in Nanterre hds a long history and was a source of great local pride for the city. Founded in 1824, volunteers from modest background signed up for 5 years service at a time in protecting their city. They also featured in official ceremonies and in city festivities, as depicted in this automaton. Such was the fame and renown of Les Pompiers de Nanterres (Pompiers being Fireman in French) that a song was dedicated to them – the same song that appears in this automaton.

This unusual automaton was made in Paris in c. 1900, probably in Le Marais in the golden age of automata manufacture. The condition is superb, with bright colours to the lithograph and only minor damage around the key where the musical mechanism is wound.


22" / 56cm
27" / 69cm
3 1/2" / 9cm

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