Friday, 4 October 2013

Bea's House - Part I

I said earlier that I didn't like gawking at rich people's houses, dwelling on things that were well out of my reach. I still mean that, but we did spend most of a day doing exactly that. We visited the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a museum. This was Bill's idea; I was rather lukewarm about it but I'm so glad we went. 

This house belonged to Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild (1864 - 1934), a member of the famous Rothschild family. Her life was no doubt glamorous but her marriage was not a success, she was still constrained by the moral attitudes of her day and I'm sure she had plenty of other large and small difficulties, the kinds that money can't fix. Visiting this place didn't make me envy her house so much as her certainty. I didn't so much envy her things as I did her taste. It's one thing to have money; it's another thing to spend it really well. The website says that Beatrice lived somewhere 'between good taste and fantasy.' Sounds like fun to me.

The story of this family is pretty interesting. Certainly it's a testament to the saying, "Don't put all your Fabergé eggs in one basket."  Mayer Rothschild of Frankfurt kept his eldest son with him, but sent the other sons to Vienna, London, Naples and Paris and, voilà, created an international banking family. Beatrice, of the Paris branch, married into the Ephrussi Russian banking family, but I notice she kept her surname; she seems to have largely kept her independence as well. She divorced him because of his gambling debts, but somehow managed to stay on good terms. Enough so that she still inherited a good sum when he died.  

After seeing the house one of her cousins was building at nearby Beaulier sur Mer, she snapped up 17 acres at the narrowest part of the Cap Ferrat. The benefit of this is that standing at the back of her house overlooking the gardens you can see Mediterranean sea on both sides.

Prepare to be overwhelmed. I've included some of both Bill's and my photos and I really struggled to choose which ones. This is why I envy Beatrice her certainty and her taste, that ability to choose. She must have had nearly unlimited options.

We both noted this table was made by René Dubois.
This is a character in a Phryne Fisher novel...must
be a common French name.

The furniture seemed to all be Louis the XVth this or Louis the XVIth that... 

This desk belonged to Marie Antoinette. It had at least one
secret compartment.

Beatrice's boudoir was on the ground floor...guest rooms were upstairs.  

Of course her pets had their own furniture, too.

Travel memorabilia

Have you guessed yet that her favourite colour was pink?

Note bed covering of Chinese silk shawl with fringe.

Embroidery detail on a dress.

A funny little round room with of which was
a water closet. All the doors have shelves. 

A small dining area.

Sevres china. A musical set:  each piece has the score of a different
piece of classical music.

I lost track of how many extraordinary bits of china were on display. I do recall - not pictured here - there was a set of urinals for the ladies; first I've ever heard of such a thing, but then the stiff corsets and the voluminous gowns must have posed some real challenges.

Of course along with all these beautiful things, one would be distracted by the beautiful views out the windows. Apparently she snapped up this land out from under the nose of her neighbour who was planning to extend his property, the King of Belgium.

The strange thing about seeing all this splendour was that I came away feeling lighthearted and refreshed. I felt really enriched and hoped I'd learned something - it will have to have been by osmosis - that would improve my taste.  Granted, I won't need to choose which piece of Sevres china to purchase or which of Marie Antoinette's possessions, but you get the idea.

And this is just the ground floor...

1 comment:

Sandra said...

This looks exquisite and worth a "see". What views. Love your reflections!