Musée de la Castre, Cannes

With no plans I hopped off the ‘bus from Antibes and knocked around the Cannes flea market for a while, seeing the ouch prices more suited to upmarket antique boutiques.   Then I looked up to the hill of Le Suquet, the cluster of 11th– to 12th-century buildings overlooking the sweep of Cannes, dominated by a tall square watchtower.   I followed an impulse and meandered up between the stone buildings to the terraces where umbrella pines grace this historical place.  Signs to the museum were a further prompt.

Le Suquet

Curiosity took me past the six euro entry fee into the Museum which is billed as one of the most remarkable ethnographic museums in France.  Two 19th-century travellers, Lycklama à Nijholdt, a Hollander, and de Ginaux de la Coche, a Frenchman, were the first to provide objets for the museum – objects of all description from central Asia, Oceania, Indonesia, the Middle East, Greece, Cyprus, Africa and South America.

The objects take one from our standardised world into a realm of the strange, the grotesque, often brilliantly fashioned, by hands unknown and for reasons obscured, beautiful and striking.

Ritual canoo,Trobriand Islands

A ritual canoo from the Trobriand Islands reminded me of Malinowski whose ground-breaking studies described these canoos as evidence of an entirely integrated culture.   A Venus from classical Greece reminiscent of the De Milo;  4th-century Christian sarcophagi;  figures from Mesopotamia 5000  years old; and from Cyprus a stone head of the first visitor of importance in Provence, Hercules.

Fifth-century Venus

In a spacious Romanesque chapel that could have served as a model for later gothic designs, they house an extensive collection of African musical instruments, mainly from the Sahara and West and Central Africa, taking the imagination into uncharted territory.

Romanesque chapel, African instruments

Catching my breath, I climbed the 109 steps of the watchtower to a panoramic view of Cannes, the Festival Hall in the foreground, where the Film festival is held, and La Croisette, the boulevard of renowned hotels.

Etruscan sarcophagus 6th-century BC

Etruscan sarcophagus 6th-century BC

There are many memorable objects in the Museum and the one that I will especially remember is the Etruscan sarcophagus.  On it, semi-reclined, is the figure of a woman, her body at “the eternal banquet”.  It was carved six centuries before Christ.  And it is the finely-effected poignancy on the face that remains with me.

© Will v.d. Walt

Samedi 5 Janvier 2013

Image Sources: Images by Will 


3 Responses to Musée de la Castre, Cannes

  1. What a gem of a museum, I particularly liked the Etruscan lady.

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