Festivais Culturais da Madeira

















Built by Limonaire Frères, series no. 3151
France, 1900
A. 320 x L. 280 x P. 50 cm
Acquired by the Regional Government, 1978
MQC 1977


Presentations in Quinta das Cruzes Museum
11 am. and 4 pm. from October 19th to 29th


The orchestrophone is an mechanical musical instrument, demonstrating the close relationship between the history of science, of art and of entertainment.  The construction of these instruments was very common in Europe from the end of the 19th century – beginning of the 20th century.


This instrument was always intended to be displayed publicly in large spaces (cinemas, fairs, ballrooms).  Its mechanical complexity, as well as its sonic power, covered by an enormous wooden structure, with a sumptuously sculpted and coloured façade, justified its use as a commercial musical instrument, providing entertainment at dances and parties to the rhythms of the polka, the waltz, folk and classical music, itself being the main attraction.


Built by, amongst others, the firm LimonFrères, founded in Paris in 1840, orchestrophones allowed unchanging performances, thus being able advantageously to replace musicians, according to the publicity of the time.


The popularity of the orchestrophone reached its end in the first decade of the 20th century, with a change in social habits and the appearance of the phonograph, which profoundly altered the way in which people heard music.


The orchestrophone in the collection of the Quinta das Cruzes Museum is made up of a main structure of wood, richly decorated, and has at the back a mechanical system, with a mechanism for reading the perforated cards which allowed the reproduction of music, operated by a lever adapted to an electric motor.


Today this instrument is of great interest, not only on account of its rarity in the world of mechanical musical instruments, but also because it documents an extravagant time, represented in its neo-baroque decorations, its moving figures (automata imitating people and animals), and its music, taken from salons and theatres.


This complex instrument, bought by the First Viscount of Cacongo at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1900, belonged to the Quinta de Nossa Senhora Mãe dos Homens, and was acquired in 1978 by the Regional Government from the family heir, Ricardo Nascimento Jardim.  With the instrument came various music cards including waltzes, polkas, rhpasodies, military marches and hymns, as well as other folk and classical music, some of them notable for their rarity, such as the version of “A Portuguesa” of 1904 by Alfredo Keil, various Hymnos dedicated to King Charles and Queen Amelia, as well as versions of the Hymnos Português (1900), Nacional (1904)and da Ilha da Madeira (1905).


The first restoration to which this instrument was subjected was undertaken by the specialist Marc Fournier in France during 1982.  Later, in the museum itself, further restoration was undertaken between 2003 and 2006, including the wooden structures (Maria José Guedes, Isopo) and the instrumental components (Dinarte Machado), with a view to the instrument’s definitive exhibition to the public.


The presentation of the orchestrophone in the gardens of the Quinta das Cruzes Museum is part of the dissemination and activation not only of the museum, but also of the cultural heritage of the Region, continuing its original mission as an instrument of musical entertainment, study and dissemination.