The cartoon by Faria for the comic song Devant la Samaritaine shows a half-naked woman and a lecherous fisherman, the popular singer Paulus. The only Samaritaine in Paris we knew till now was the department store near the Pont Neuf (which closed definitely in 2005). This ignorance explains why we couldn’t make sense of Faria’s picture. So, it’s google time again.
Les Bains de la Samaritaine depicted on the cover was a floating construction on the Seine containing public baths. The stylish and stunning vessel contained 100 bathtubs, placed in small cubicles distributed over two floors. One could go there for a simple bath, or for medicinal baths, steam baths, showers and hydrotherapy.
The hydraulic pump and the immense filters used to purify the water of the Seine were installed in the roof space of the building. The chimneys of the heating boilers
with their decoration of metal palms were famous throughout Paris.
Les Bains de la Samaritaine, as well as the famous department store, took their name from a large hydraulic water pump.
It was installed in 1608 to power the water of the Seine into the Louvre and the Tuileries. The pump was rebuilt in 1715. The facade of the building that housed the pump contained a sculpture representing Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, hence the name.
It is not known when the baths were first installed next to the Pont Neuf. The first authorisation to build hot baths on a boat dates back to 1761. On a preserved plan for such a bathing establishment we see small cubicles. Some contain a bath, others also accommodate a bed or two baths. There is clearly a physical separation for men and women,
with different staircases.
The Bains de la Samaritaine disappeared in 1919. They were sunk by a flood of the Seine.
We wonder if the angler on the following picture is hoping, like Paulus, for a flash of female nudity.
But of course to understand all this we could have read the text of the song. Life can be simple.
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