A large villa of about fifty rooms, built in 1910-12 by Mrs Maurice Ephrussi born Béatrice de Rothschild ( 1864-1934 ). The plans were drawn by the Parisian architect Auburtin then remodelled and adapted by Aaron Messiah, architect in Nice. However, the main part of the conception and especially the ornamental part were decided by Mrs Ephrussi herself. The villa where she lived very little, was bequeathed to the Academy of Fine art (Institute of France) in her will. The Ile de France museum opened in 1937. According to Mrs Ephrussi's will, objects of art, in great majority of Louis XV and even more of Louis XVI time, decorating formerly her other houses (Monte Carlo and Paris) were collected there. Most of these objects were of the best quality, sometimes of royal origin. The interest of the museum lies as much in the value of some works as in the variety of objects, which makes of it an exemplary museum of the Decorative arts of the French XVIII-th century (woodwork, furniture, seats, chinas, bronzes, terra-cottas, carpets and tapestries, biscuits, clothes, works of mastery, painted ceilings, paintings, carvings, watercolours etc.)

Facades were inspired by the late Venetian Gothic style (Ca d’oro) and moreover by the first Venetian Renaissance. Numerous precise references to models known by Mrs Ephrussi and photographed by her are detectable. Rarer, some examples of Florentine or Milanese works, also of the Renaissance period. The whole is more conceived as a suite of pictures than as a homogeneous building. However, contrary to the opinion of the already old critics, the quality of this eclectic architecture strengthened by the use of different marble identical to those of the models is to be underlined,. The facade looking on the park (Southward) is also skillful and more classic than it seems.

This domain is also famous for its gardens of varied styles. For tourist reasons, It was advisable to reduce the too much spread range of styles to some examples: the Japanese garden, the stone garden, the exotic garden, effectively corresponding to the spirit of the models. For the others, the Italian reference dominates and is declined in different manners: a large classic garden, a nymphaeum, a belvedere, etc. The skill of the adaptation to the site, the correctness of character and the quality of execution add themselves to a very studied articulation with the building. Here still, in spite of the appeal to famous landscape designers (Harold Peto and Achille Duchêne), many features and decisive choices seem to belong to Mrs Ephrussi. This logically explainsthe identity of atmosphere and style between the gardens and the house.


De Moly, Renner, Steve, Vian des Rives : La villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Paris, Ed. de l'Amateur, 2002.

Michel STEVE

 

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