The statue of a poet

Second in a series of three

The Austrian Empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi, corresponded with Heine.  Bear in mind that Heine as a radical thinker wanting to dislodge the aristocracy of Europe, now received adulation from an aristrocrat.  She herself was eccentric, unpredictable and filled her noble role with difficulty.  Her letters to him border on eroticism.

To my master /  my soul weeps, she takes joy, she cries / this night she was one with your soul /  she was held intimately, passionately /  you held her against yours with fire / you fertilized her, filled her with felicity. /  She shudders, she shivers again, though she is calm.

Heine died in 1856 and was buried in Paris.  He was 59 years old.  In 1873, Sisi commissioned the Danish poet and sculptor, Hasselrüs, to make a statue of Heine.  Soon she discovered that the aldermen of Düsseldorf wanted nothing to do with the statue.  In fact, it was in danger of destruction.

Heine in 1851, old and sick

The statue was then transported in 1892 to the family chateau in Corfu, Greece, where it stood for many years.  At night Sisi would sit at the feet of the statue and believed that she was communing with Heine’s spirit.  She recited verses which made her think of her childhood in Germany:  “I used to have a fatherland.  The oaks, so high, the violets nodding.  It was a dream.  Kissed by German, said in German, the words ‘I love you’.  It was a dream.”

Tragically, she lost her life in 1898 in an assassination at the hands of an anarchist.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2019

 

Sources

La Statue du poète Heine « Réfugiée » à Toulon, by André Peyrègne. Nous, Nice-Matin. 16 February, 2019

Wikipedia Elizabeth Austrian empress

My translation of poem

 

Images

Wikipedia Elizabeth, Heinrich Heine

 

 

 

 

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The statue of a poet

First in a series of three

Where you live, there are stories.  And, if you look hard enough, the facts of those stories could blow you away.  The history of the statue of the German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) in the botanical gardens at Toulon, about 110 kms from me, is one of those stories.  The poet himself never set foot in this coastal city.  And as Kaiser Wilhelm II said about the statue, in very different circumstances, What is this bloke doing here?

It is an epic account.  It is a story that throws light on later streams of history in the 20th-century.  It is a story of an epoch, of a worldview that has vanished, leaving us the poorer.  It is a story about poetry, about the spirit of poetry, about love and hate, about rebels, about ecstasy and tragedy.  And, ultimately, about the irony of this statue in a coastal city in the south of France.

I must confess.  I have never seen this statue, nor have I been in the botanical gardens — Jardin d’Acclimatation — in the suburb of Mourillon in Toulon.  It is the story that knocks me sideways.

I became aware of Heine’s poems in the lieder of Schumann and Schubert.  The list of composers that have used his lyrical poetry is long.  Love, the beauty of nature, Nordic folk tales  –  these were the subjects that made him one of the foremost Romantic poets in German.

The Rhineland that Heine eulogized

 

There lies the heat of summer

On your cheek’s lovely art:

There lies the cold of winter

Within your little heart.

 

That will change, beloved,

The end not as the start!

Winter on your cheek then,

Summer in your heart.

But (why is there always a “but”?) the social and political climate would not support him.  He was distantly related to Karl Marx, exchanged letters with the old man and celebrated the ideology.  In the conservative climate of Düsseldorf, in the then-Prussia, where Heine was born, especially after the Napoleonic wars, Heine’s political tracts were considered as unpatriotic.  It is uncanny that, in 1834, Heine prophesied that the “Germanic love for war” would rise like a modern-day Thor and smash the Gothic cathedrals.  Ninety-nine years later, this nightmare, taking different forms, would begin.  It is significant too, that Heine was of Jewish descent.  The anti-semitism that brought on the embrace of the devil in the 20th-century, was already lurking in Germany.  Heine fled to Paris.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2019

Sources

La Statue du poète Heine « Réfugiée » à Toulon, by André Peyrègne. Nous, Nice-Matin. 16 February, 2019

Wikipedia Heinrich Heine

Translation of poem by A. Kline

 

Images

Wikipedia Heinrich Heine

Wikipedia painting  

 

 

 

 

 

Two street names, Antibes

In a town like Antibes, with three thousand years of history that we know of, there would be street names that catch the attention.  The two mentioned have a relatively recent origin.

This name, at a busstop near an intersection, seized my interest.    These Diables Bleus (Blue Devils) have been an association since the 19th-century made up of Alpine hunters.  In the First World War, the name was extended to companies of French fighters who, in an old-worldly fashion, won the admiration of their German enemies, for their fierce spirit.  In Grenoble there is a monument to the Diables Bleus.  The name for this intersection and busstop in Antibes was declared by the Town Council in 1963.

Diables Bleus in the front line of trench warfare – a painting

 

A fanciful poster of the Diables Bleus terrifying their German enemies – World War One.

The second name, also associated with World War One, struck me as it would any South African in a French town.  Perhaps not so much a street name, but a plaque paying hommage.  This hommage was to General Charles Alexis Vandenberg.

“Ici est né le 20 janvier 1858 le General VANDENBERG Commandant de corps d’armée pendant la Guerre 1914-1918 Gouverneur du Grand Liban Grand-Croix de la Légion d’Honneur.”  

Born in 1858 in the medieval quarter of Antibes in a street called James Close (another name that makes one wonder) he rose to prominence as a young man in the military world, especially in Brittany, far from Antibes.  In 1915 he was made a general and went through the horrors of Verdun.  After the war in 1926 he was named Governor of Greater Libanon, having received the Legion d’Honneur, the highest recognition in France.

The name Vandenberg is obviously either Dutch or Flemish and I am struck once again how integrated the world has become over centuries.  The surname of a recent French president … François Hollande.  The surname of another recent French president … Sarkozy.  Wikipedia tells us that Nicolas Sarkozy, born in Paris, is half Hungarian Protestant, a quarter Greek Jewish, and a quarter French Catholic.  Perhaps Charles Alexis Vandenberg’s history was simpler.  And let me not forget my own exotic history  –  a Dutch-Flemish name amongst the Khoi-San of southern Africa.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2019

 

Source

Pierre Tosan : Dictionnaire Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. Hepta-Antibes, 1998.

Images

My photograph

Diables Bleus – YouTube, WW1 poster

Vandenberg – fr.wikipedia

 

 

 

Côte d’Azur

Belle Époque architecture, Nice

 

The fourth in a series of four

It was memorable for me to discover the Marie Reine, a Belle Époque hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, perhaps two blocks from the Negresco.

Hotel Marie Reine, Promenade des Anglais

Looking through the glass of the front doors, I had the impression that the place was not really in use, until a woman emerged and filled me in.  Marie Reine, a more extravagant example of the idiom was designed by Niemann who had also done the Negresco.  She asked me whether I was interested in buying the place, which explained the rather delapidated-looking entrance – the place was for sale.  I said no;  I was thinking of buying the Negresco, which, she told me, since the recent death of its sole owner, had been estimated at €400 million.  Fair price, I said nonchalantly.  I then asked her about Marie Reine.

 

 

She pointed out the decorative elements above the door — lemons — which, in fact, spanned the entire building. They represented Menton, the City of Lemons, the coastal city close to the Italian border.  This must have been something personal for the designer.  The balconies of the rounded frontage are the epitomé of the idiom.

An unusual feature at the Marie Reine was this four-storey baywindow.

 I come from Cape Town where some of the buildings have elements of Belle Époque.  It may be that people in my position find Rococo and Belle Époque excessive in its exuberance.  It helps to see the idioms in their historical context and to celebrate, as I do, the ability of Western culture to renew itself in architecture with contrasting styles and to do this passionately.

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2019

 

Sources

Michel Steve : L’Architecture Belle Époque à Nice.  Demaistre, Nice. 1995.

Wikipedia Belle Époque

 

Images

My photographs.

A painting by Raoul Dufy in 1927 of the Casino de la jette, a Belle Epoque gem that was destroyed for its steel by the occupying German army during World War Two.

Roger Bricoux

He was twenty.  He was a handsome man.  He was a distinguished cellist.  He made his name in Italy and England, as well as in France, the country of his birth.  He played in the orchestra at Monaco, where his father was the conductor.

Then came a wonderful opportunity  — to play on the maiden voyage of the biggest ship ever built.  He, and seven other musicians.

On the night of the 14th April, the shocking announcement was made — the ship was sinking.  The paralyzing disbelief became certainty.  The small ensemble picked up their instruments, “to calm the passengers,” it is said, and played with a growing sense that this would be the last they would do.  The music, survivors reported, was “Nearer, my God, to thee” and “Abide with me”.  Their bodies were never found.

There is, amid the sadness of this history, a brutal irony regarding Roger Bricoux.  After the sinking of the Titanic, death certificates were issued for those who had lost their lives.  For some reason, his parents in the Côte d’Azur never received a certificate.  In 1913 when France was mobilizing, Bricoux was sought, not found and declared a deserter.  This state of affairs persisted until the year 2000 when the Association Française du Titanic had the allegation cancelled.

The monument at Southampton, originally placed in 1913, bombed during WW2 and re-established in 1945.  Bricoux’s name is top right.

Apart from this affecting history, I have felt that, strangely, the sinking of the Titanic was a harbinger of what was to come in the next three decades.  By 1933 historians estimated that more lives had been lost in the 20th-century than in the rest of history.  The Second World War was yet to come.

There are urban legends about the Titanic.  One is that someone said beforehand that not even God could sink this ship.  It seems as though we have to keep replaying Faust in this Promethian age.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

15th April, 2019

 

Source

Aritcle by André Petrégne.  Nous, Nice-Matin, March, 2019. 

 

Images

Nice-Matin

Wikipedia

My drawing

 

Faust and the Titanic

 

 

Belle Époque architecture, Nice

 

The third in a series of four

As well as the structural differences to what went before, the Belle Époque is known for its exuberant detail.  One of these details is the pilaster.

Pilasters, Le Royal

Pilasters, Negresco

The pilaster, extensively used in Baroque, evolves in the Belle Époque.  Look at the differences between the pilasters of Le Royal and the pilasters of the Negresco.   These pilasters carried much that was decorative.

There was more emphasis on balconies, with elaborate wrought iron work which was sometimes arts nouveaux in design.

And then the transformation of the balcony, an example from Marie Reine, a hotel on the Promenade des Anglais.

Most of the above buildings are on the Promenade des Anglais, the beach road leading to the city centre.  I would imagine that a lecturer in architecture would be able to show students examples of many historical periods, perhaps the most striking is the contrast between two relatively small buildings, the one a stark deco design and the other, a fanciful expression of the Belle Epoque.

And if we look more closely, see the elaborate design of the bay window (left) and the caryatid at the base of the tower (slightly right of centre).

These expressive figures in amongst the decorative elements add their charm.

 

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2019

 

Sources

Michel Steve : L’Architecture Belle Époque à Nice.  Demaistre, Nice. 1995.

Wikipedia Belle Époque

 

Images

My photographs 

A Belle Epoque letterbox from the 19th-century.  Interesting that the word LETTER is not, of course,, French.

 

Belle Époque architecture, Nice

 

Second in a series of four

Western culture renews itself from time to time and the Belle Époque is an example of this.  Mme. Pompadour, the lover of Louis XV, found late-Baroque or Rococo excessive and ordered her architects to go to Italy to seek a clean line.  They returned with Neo-classicism which became prominent from the mid-18th-century.  It has had echoes deep into the 20th-century.  It was the starkness of this idiom that brought back the decorative element in buildings after 100 years.

This church, St Jouan Baptiste, built in the 19th-century is what the Belle Époque reacted against.  The name Jouan is the Nice patois for Jean.

Musée Massena, designed by Tersling, was completed in 1899 and is included in discussions about the Belle Époque, but, as Michel Steve says, it is not the best example.  The rounded colonnade inches toward the style and the quirky use of the double column above the colonnade is a distant homage to Palladio, the Renaissance architect.  Architects have fun.

Hotel West-End Promenade des Anglais

Hotel Westminster Promenade des Anglais

Le Royal, Promenade des Anglais

These three hotels on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice were built in the Belle Époque and exhibit what Michel Steve calls the “hotel aesthetic”:  pay tribute to the idiom, but pack as many rooms as you can into the framework.  If you look at their names, it is not difficult to guess who their target market was at the time.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2019

 

Sources

Michel Steve : L’Architecture Belle Époque à Nice.  Demaistre, Nice. 1995.

Wikipedia Belle Époque

 

Images

My photographs

 

 

 

 

 

 

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