Château Grimaldi, house of art

The Grimaldi dynasty held a kind of sceptre over the Côte d’Azur for centuries.  The château was built in 1300 as a castle above what is today Cagne-sur-Mer and has become iconic for this coastal town, about seven kms. west of Nice.  It withstood sieges from time to time, as did Provence itself throughout its long history.

19th-c. painting of Chateau Grimaldi

19th-c. painting of Chateau Grimaldi

From the 17th-century the castle took on the character of a château with decorated salons.  The baroque trompe l’oeil designs on the ceilings of the arched first and second floor landings have been restored in recent times  –  the sharp clarity of it all is vaguely surreal for me.

Detail of roof fresco

Detail of roof fresco

This is the drumroll before you enter the Grande Salle.  From the immense flamboyant hearth to the extensive ceiling frescoes, I have seldom, if ever, been so impressed by a baroque interior.  The central fresco is that of Panteon being struck by lightning, adorned on all sides by figures vaguely reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel.  The surround of high arched windows flood the space with light.

Grande Salle roof fresco

Grande Salle roof fresco

More down to earth, on the first floor of the Château, they house the Museum of the Olive Tree, ranging from chest-high grinding stones to delicate 17th-century olive oil bottles, all associated with Cagne’s long farming history.

Olive Museum

Olive Museum

There are four further salles with art collections – a room of contemporary abstracts; the Suzy Solidor portrait collection;  many landscapes of Cagne done by foreign artists over the past 150 years and the August Renoir collection.  Below the broad staircase, there is a dimly-lit nook – a sarcophagus from the vicinity of the Château with what appears to be human bones.  “Roman,” the attendant whispered.

Roman remains

Roman remains

The Renoir collection is temporarily housed at Grimaldi while La Collette, the home where Renoir spent his last years, is being renovated.  You don’t see the well-known Renoirs.  You see paintings, sketches and a few sculptures, mainly of family members.  In one room there is his easel, chair and a number of empty canvases.

Renoir easel and chair

Renoir easel and chair

And, at one window, looking out over Cagne, there is a photograph of what you are seeing with an arrow indicating the location of La Collette.  There are portraits of Renoir himself, several by Albert André, his biographer and archivist.  In one such portrait, we see Renoir in profile, the bird-like energy, myopically close to his own canvas, intent and fragile under a broad-rimmed hat.

Portrait of Renoir by Albert André

Portrait of Renoir by Albert André

Nearby, a photograph of his easel and chair in the garden at La Collette.  Below the photograph, the chair itself.  I touched it.

© Will v.d. Walt

Janvier, 2013

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Image Sources: Images by Will 

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Reflecting on Buildings at L’Arenas, Nice

Returning to L’Arenas, the showcase of post-modern architecture, I was struck again by the achievements of the place.  And the reflections in the acres of glass cladding.   I share some of what I saw.

( I didn’t note what the buildings are, so there are no captions.)

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L'Arenas 112.jpg

L'Arenas 115.jpg

L'Arenas 114.jpg

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L'Arenas 118.jpg

© Will v.d. Walt

Vendredi  1 Fevrier 2013

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Images: Will

 

  

Musée d’Arts Asiatique, Nice

This museum, small, compact and minimalist, is situated in PhoenixPark on the outskirts of Nice. It is inspired by the two simplest elements of architectural design – the line and the circle.  The water of the small lake laps underneath its shimmering purity.  Ducks float through the striking reflections.  Completed in 1998 and designed by Kenzo Tange, it houses works from China, Japan and Cambodia, both traditional and contemporary.  It is the most uncluttered museum I have yet seen.

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Musée d’Arts Asiatique

On entering, even before I was aware of the exhibits, I was riveted by the spiral stairway – a white swirl that scoops your gaze to the first floor.

The spiral staircase

The spiral staircase

 The exhibits themselves rest on glass sheets  –  a charming ceramic horse;  a traditional kimono; two styled cows communing;  a tapestry in dancing primary colours.

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Ceramic Horse from Japan

Upstairs there is a current exhibition called “The Routes of Buddha”, tracing the growth of Buddhism across Asia on large maps.  On the circular wall there are striking photographs of landscapes pinpointed on the maps.  On the inner circle there are several Buddha figures from India, Cambodia and Japan, chosen, I imagine, to illustrate how great the variation on this theme can be.

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Jade disc 5000 years old

In a side room there was a glass case with a perfect jade disk larger than a plate with a perfect hole in its centre.  It had a delicate yellow-green hue and it is 5000 years old.   What does this tell us about the aesthetic sensibilities of the East?  This object has become the icon of the museum on its poster.

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Two cows communing

 The tall, ceiling-to-floor windows filled the spaces with light.  Because the museum is built over the lake, I was constantly aware of water.   The silence of the place – there were almost no other visitors – made an experience somewhere between Taoism and Zen. The memory burgeons.

 © Will v.d.Walt

Vendredi  1 Fevrier 2013

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Images: Will

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