Inaugurated in 1912, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is the will of Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, a great traveler, passionate about the arts, who inherited her father's fortune.
In addition to exceptional architecture, an unprecedented collection that she gathered inside the palace, she built unique gardens that are memories of her travels around the world.
Participation in the program is for the director of the premises, a way to make this villa better known to the French.
The villa and the Ephrussi de Rothschild gardens, located on the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, in the Alpes-Maritimes, are among the three monuments of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region pre-selected to participate at
the Favorite Monument of the French
Internet users have until May 27 to vote on the show's website to compete against 13 other monuments in France.
On this occasion, Bruno Henri Rousseau, director of the place for nine years, recounts the history of this "patchwork" villa, ultimately better known by foreigners than by the French.
In what context was this villa built?
It was Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild who wanted this villa in the early 1900s. The Rothschilds were people who lived in opulence and never very far from the world of the arts.
When her father died, she inherited a colossal fortune and used it to collect works of art.
She is also a great traveler and likes to immerse herself in the cultures and atmospheres of the places she visits.
After a trip to Italy, she then decided to build a palace with Italian influences.
Why in this particular place?
If she chooses Cap-Ferrat, it is because it is conducive to a mild winter and it is the only territory on the Côte d'Azur where there is no wind.
And then, there was only the King of the Belgians who had a dwelling there at that time, the rest was just a rock with Mediterranean vegetation.
She then sees in this isthmus, the ideal location to build her villa.
She blew up the rock, imported tons of earth and built on this artificial ground, a huge garden with, in the center, a gigantic palace of Italian inspiration which sums up her very eclectic taste.
In this architecture, we find Romanesque and Gothic influences.
It is the very definition of an architectural madness [this term designates these very luxurious houses built from the 19th century on the French coasts and which were not necessarily connected to the local history], both by the means employed and by these atypical tastes.
It is a patchwork villa.
What are the specificities of this place that has become emblematic?
The architects use innovative, avant-garde construction methods, in particular by using iron.
Béatrice de Rothschild wants to go fast.
The villa will also be finished in 1912, barely seven years after the start of the work.
Thanks to these materials, she will juxtapose stucco and plaster elements and the sculptures that are usually made by hand are then casts.
Inside, the owner exhibits an abundant collection of works, which illustrates the Rothschild taste, that is to say, which takes from each period what is considered most beautiful.
In addition to her passion for works, she was also very attached to anything that could link her to a kind of French royal genealogy.
It then has furniture that comes from Versailles and even from Louis XV and Louis XVI.
The gardens are also quite exceptional…
Indeed, they have been ranked by
among the ten most beautiful gardens in the whole world.
They were imagined in the same way as the villa, inspired by his travels.
Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild discovered a passion for botany at the age of 22, during a trip aboard a yacht called "Ile-de-France", hence the nickname also given to this place.
She will then plant in this garden, as souvenirs, what she has taken from the different countries visited.
There are atmospheres of Spain, Italy, Asia and even Provence, in addition to the grandeur and structure of French gardens.
This is the heart of the place, with a festive and elegant character, where all the private receptions take place.
What is the vocation of this place today?
Before being a museum, it is first of all a house with the soul of a person who had a passion for the arts.
Childless, she wanted to transmit all this love for beauty in general by bequeathing her villa to the Academy of Fine Arts at her death.
It then gave access to a heritage to discover to the general public [200,000 visitors per year before Covid-19].
We propose today, through a journey, to trace its history to try to understand it.
And we still keep an elitist side via private receptions [30 to 40 each year] because it is the very essence of this villa, which received the biggest names at the time.
We also went through an unprecedented reflection on its restoration and conservation.
The iron erodes with the sea air and has lost 30 to 40% of its material, which is very serious for the solidity of the building.
From this atypical construction, we did not know how to go about it.
We then surrounded ourselves with architects, specialists, managers of historical monuments to preserve the sustainability of the place and ensure that the dream continues.
How do you feel about participating in the France 3 broadcast?
For its spectacular appearance, its construction which is the symbol of exceptional know-how, the villa and the gardens are monuments which are better known abroad than in France.
For foreigners, it is a piece of French genius.
The program is then a great opportunity to make this work better known to the French.
And she has every chance of winning because she brings together in a single unit of time and place, the madness of gardens, the love of art history and a particular architecture, while remaining in continuity great European palaces.
This villa is a trip in itself.
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