Villa Ephrussi-Rothschild, Côte d’Azur.  Sous-titres: FRA – ESP – ENG.

Villa Ephrussi-Rothschild, Côte d’Azur. Sous-titres: FRA – ESP – ENG.

A Hindu wedding
in a Spanish garden.
Under the pergola,
the groom is in full preparation.
A little farther,
here is Nalini, his future wife.
The place is magical,
a decor worthy of a princess.
Red marble columns, exotic plants,
flowers of rare essences.
The Hindu religion
strives to be close to nature.
This ambience
is really hard to beat in that respect.
Nalini and Marc live in London.
They traveled 1400 kilometers
in order to get married here.
We were looking for a setting…
…well adapted to the ceremony, with flowers,
with water, to be close to nature.
So, here,
it was really perfect for us.
And when you saw it for the first time,
then you said to yourself, this is the place?
We said to ourselves, here it is;
we did not look elsewhere.
We had to get a date, but it was…
it had to be here!
“Here”, is the villa Ephrussi de Rothschild,
at the heart of Cap-Ferrat.
A jewel,
in Italian Renaissance style,…
…nestled in lush greenery
extending over more than 4 hectares.
And here is its creator,
Béatrice de Rothschild,…
…who became Ephrussi after her marriage
to a rich French banker.
Here, Nature meets Art.
The Baroness wanted it that way.
[Technical talk]
It’s a ritual, every morning:
the on-site work meeting.
At its head, Pacôme de Galliffet,
the villa Director.
[Technical talk]
With him, 2 gardeners.
[Technical talk]
For them,
work is not lacking today.
Borders, pruning, plantations,…
…the property numbers
more than 2500 different plant species.
A legacy of the Baroness…
…and her head gardener,
Louis Marchand.
Here we are always
on dominants of red, pink,…
Well, everything is determined, of course, by these…
by the rose bushes you have around you.
And in there, the large garden,…
the second level of the French garden,…
…we’re on a mix
of very pale pink,…
…of pink enhanced
by breaks in blue.
Looking at these gardens, it is hard
to imagine that less than a century ago…
…this place was
totally wild, even hostile.
It took the Baroness
a certain gall to settle here.
There we have a large hollow, right?
Just imagine that hollow
filled with thousands of cubic meters of rubble.
A totally hostile, wind-swept land.
It took the Baroness
about a year or two to level the ground,…
…to shape, in fact, this…
this overhang that she will extend down to the temple,…
…so as to give it — let’s say —
this impression of the bow of a ship.
By flying a little above,
we can imagine indeed a ship’s bow.
The Baroness loved ships.
A legend even says
that she sometimes made her gardeners…
…dress up as sailors.
A woman of strong character,
she often went too far.
For her gardens,
as for her villa,…
…the Baroness has “spent”
dozens of architects.
Many life-size models
were… were made.
Models that were made, destroyed,
remade, so it was a…
It was a technique on her part.
A working technique, perhaps,
and maybe, also… an abundance of whim!
Speaking of whim…
Originally, the villa was yellow,
like Florentine residences.
On the façade, there are many references
to Venetian architecture.
Florence, Venice,…
obviously, the Baroness loves Italy.
On the way to the villa,
we meet Michel Steve, architect.
He invites us to follow him to the patio,
done in the purest Rothschild tradition.
The idea was to make a… a centerpiece for the villa,
a kind of inner courtyard,…
…uh,… in the style
of the Italian Renaissance.
When I say Italian Renaissance,
I deliberately employ a vague term.
In fact, there are Venetian references,
Lombard references,…
…Florentine references;
so, which are mixed up,…
…as in the entire house.
For example, here,
the ground floor vaults,…
…which have been decorated with a pattern
that Madame Ephrussi had chosen…
…at St. Mary of the Graces in Milan, which was
a 15th century motif, designed by Bramante.
So the pattern suited her,…
… and then it was repeated
on all the vaults.
On the first floor
you also have…
…railings in…
…openwork masonry,
which are very faithful copies…
…of the choir gate of
the church of Miracles, in Venice.
Italian atmosphere in the patio.
Then, a sudden style change
behind this door.
to the Baroness’s second universe.
The 18th century,
in the Louis XVI period.
High style
in the French manner.
The great collectors of the 1910s
loved the 18th century, especially the Louis XVI period.
So we’ve really, uh…
very representative items…
She too
did not escape.
No, here, she was…
she followed fashion,…
…and at the same time she had
a very personal approach, a…
…a particular affinity with the 18th,…
…which is also felt in her… in her way of living,
her… her taste for refinement,…
…so she enjoyed identifying herself,
obviously, with this lifestyle of the late 18th.
As an example, take this gaming table
in gray “camaïeu”.
harmony of forms,…
…this table
has another great asset for the Baroness.
It belonged
to Marie-Antoinette.
It’s a little bit
a family sport with the Rothschilds,…
…to acquire as many pieces as possible
of… furniture of royal provenance,…
…whether it be carpets,
tapestries, or tables.
So, Madame Ephrussi
was very happy to have acquired this object.
The Baroness’ appetite
is insatiable.
Extremely rich, she acquires everything,…
…including these woodwork panels, bought
at their weight in gold at the Crillon Hotel in Paris.
One of these panels
belongs to that lot, most likely.
There are doors, too,
which probably come from the same Hotel Crillon.
From these original panels,…
…the Baroness recreates
an ideal decor for her living room.
Madame Ephrussi’s approach
wasn’t an archaeological one at all.
She did not at all intend
to build an 18th century house.
What she wanted was to surround herself
with very high quality objects of the 18th,…
…such as the furniture
we have here, which is by Parmentier,…
…Italian consoles
from the end of the 18th,…
…a table by Hache,…
…in order to create
a setting to her liking.
It took the Baroness 7 years
to build her villa.
Ironically, she did not live here very long,
a few weeks at most.
And here is her room.
For Michel Steve, this room
best represents the Baroness,…
…far from clichés,
which sometimes die hard.
Today we still have
a sort of legend, of a kind of…
…of a Belle Epoque doll,…
…a little… a little annoying,
a little superficial…
You don’t seem to believe that.
It’s not…
it’s not that at all, indeed!
Madame Ephrussi’s character is that of…
…a very sincere art lover,
very thoughtful.
A person who is obviously more difficult
to imagine, to accept, to know,…
…that the beautiful, rosy Baroness
that has been described for several decades.
Before her death, in 1934,…
…Baroness Ephrussi bequeaths her villa,
and all her collections, to the “Institut de France”.
Here is her will.
Her last wishes are clear.
She requests a museum, which,
above all, shall look like a contemporary “salon”.
Michel Steve
inventoried the legacy for the Institute.
He also took care of the museography of the estate,
and had some nice surprises at the end.
This beautiful Gobelin tapestry, for example,
had never been exhibited before.
The Baroness
had kept it in the furniture storage.
She has never had…
…a steady residence,
with a harmonious and balanced decor,…
…as she wished,
as she indeed wished to create it here,…
…and it’s a dream she chased all her life,
in fact, and never attained!
Very rich,
but without a fixed address,…
…Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild
spends her time traveling.
Her father, Alphonse de Rothschild, is
majority shareholder of the French railways.
She travels then as she wishes
between Paris, Nice, and Monaco,…
…her other favorite playground.
The Principality of Monaco,…
…a rock on which the Grimaldi family
reigns supreme since the year 1297.
At the Belle Epoque, the aristocracy of the whole world
converges here for the winter season.
Baroness Ephrussi meets
Russian princes, English lords,…
…who come
to enjoy Monte Carlo.
They were fleeing the northern mists,
they were fleeing the harsh Russian winters,…
…and then they came here,…
…in a way,
to live a life more… a lighter one,…
…less rigid.
They forgot the protocol,…
…the court protocol.
Landy Blanc-Chabot is a writer,
who specializes in the history of Monaco.
With her, we go towards
this very private establishment.
The Baroness went there
as soon as she could.
Gentlemen, place your bets!
All bets are off!
Twenty-two, black, even, and pass.
The Casino of Monte Carlo was
like a second home for Baroness Ephrussi.
At the Belle Epoque,
games of chance are forbidden in France.
Monte Carlo appears as
a paradise on earth for gamblers,…
…and is a jackpot for the Principality.
And here is its creator,
François Blanc.
A very shrewd businessman, he does not skimp
on ways to attract customers,…
…that’s his philosophy.
— Good morning, Landy!
— Good morning, Guillaume!
Today, Landy has
an appointment with Guillaume Rose.
His great-grandfather
worked with François Blanc.
So, here we are,
in front of the Europe Salon.
The initial game room
was in the atrium.
But, very quickly, it was realized
that there was not enough room.
So this room was built,
which at the time was called the Moorish Salon.
François Blanc
wanted to astound “his” gamblers.
He called upon artists, decorators,…
…he did something, really, that looks more
like a palace than as a casino – from the outset.
That was his first concern.
It was his first concern,
he often repeated it to his Board of Directors.
He always told them: …
“Gamblers need a dream,…”
“…beauty, and pleasure.”
“So, spend without limit!”
We enter here the last room,
built in 1904.
This room is the Empire Salon,…
…or Médecin Salon,
built by an architect called Médecin.
It is, according to many,
the most beautiful gambling room in the world.
It’s indeed the…
the heart of the Casino,…
…because these are the most private salons,
where the stakes are highest.
On this table, for example,
just 3 months ago,…
…someone was betting
several million euros.
He lost them!
But he lost them…
He had won some others,
it is true, not long before.
At the Belle Epoque,
people also gambled furiously,…
…and the Baroness was not remiss.
It was her passion.
But then, gambling
is a passion.
Did she gamble a lot?
I think so.
The bets were very high! Remember that once
Sarah Bernhardt lost everything here.
Yes, because she was
a furious gambler too!
Wasn’t she?
There was really a…
…a philosophy of plunging oneself in the game.
At the same time, it was…
it was a lifestyle.
An ostentatious lifestyle.
Monte Carlo, at the Belle Epoque,…
…is a society
of being and appearing.
Like a permanent fashion show,…
…visitors rival in elegance.
On the Casino Square,…
…there is the French Café,
prized for its terrace, very prominent.
There is also
this very luxurious hotel,…
…a must
for all the great personages of the time,…
…and for the Baroness, of course!
Here we are, at the heart
of the Hotel de Paris.
We are at the heart of the Hotel de Paris,
this hotel that François Blanc wanted sumptuous,…
… even more beautiful than the Grand Hotel in Paris,
near the Opera, which was the reference at the time.
Who lived here?
All the princes,
all the counts, all the dukes,…
…the Prince of Wales,
the Baroness de Rothschild,…
…who had 2 properties in Monaco,
but who lodged at the Hotel de Paris.
I think everyone came here,
because you HAD to be seen at the Hotel de Paris.
They posed, the observed, they were seen.
It was… it was a show!
It was a theater,
it was a theater stage!
True witness of that time,
the Empire Salon.
The Baroness had her habits here.
The place was prized for its luxury,…
…and above all the quality of its cuisine.
This salon is well-known to Patrice Frank.
He is the Chef Sommelier
at the Hotel de Paris.
This is the main original room
in the Hotel de Paris.
It’s here
that our history began in 1864.
It is in fact the oldest room, a heritage site,
which was completely renovated 2 years ago.
It is indeed the foremost Belle Epoque salon
in the Principality.
At the Hotel de Paris, there is gold on the ceiling,
but wealth is in the basement.
Through this long red corridor,…
…Patrice Frank leads us
to an ultra-protected place.
Where are we here?
So, here,
we go down to the cellars.
We are under the Hotel de Paris.
We go under the road…
…that runs between the Hotel de Paris
and the Hermitage,…
…and we’re
about 7 or 8 meters underground.
Are we announced?
We have an appointment at the cellar.
The cellars of the Hotel de Paris.
They are gigantic: …
…more than 1500 square meters
of ground surface.
In the spans, 600 thousand bottles,
carefully stored.
Not less than
3000 wine references.
Originally, the cellars did not exist.
It was François Blanc’s wife
who first had the idea of ​​this crazy place.
A customer had complained
about the poor quality of the wines being served,…
…a real humiliation
for the establishment.
The reaction was quick.
The works lasted two years,
and more than 100 different trades were employed.
We must see it in the context of the time:
everything was dug by hand.
So, as you see,
we are 13 meters underground now,…
…temperature is constant throughout the year,
between 12 and 14 degrees,…
…and humidity is also constant,
between 85 and 90%.
These are really
ideal storage conditions for… for wine.
These conditions have remained constant
since the creation of the cellars in 1874.
This here is the museum.
Now we enter the museum
of the… of the Company. We store here…
…the oldest vintages,
wines that are no longer for sale,…
…and that we keep for…
as a reference.
The dean of… of the cellar…
…is a Margaux.
1835 vintage; it is the first vintage that was produced by the… the estate.
We have other wonders.
We also have a great wine of… Sauternes.
1890 vintage.
— So, here we are at the height of the Belle Epoque.
— We’re in the midst of the Belle Epoque.
Another star in the museum,
this cognac, bottled in 1811.
But, at the Belle Epoque,
champagne is still most popular.
It was really the…
the discovery of pleasure,…
…the “champagne effect”,…
these bubbles, all this festive side,…
…related to champagne.
We are really at the height of the Belle Epoque.
At the Belle Epoque, Monaco shines,
but people are attracted by all of the Côte d’Azur.
Return to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Baroness Ephrussi adored the place;
but she was not the only one.
Here is Leopold II,
King of the Belgians.
A true rival for the Baroness.
Around 1900,
he buys everything on Cap-Ferrat.
First this property,
renamed La Leopolda.
A little farther away,
he acquires another madness.
This is the Villa of Cedars.
A neighbor to
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
Leopold II
also built, full steam ahead.
His greatest success is this: …
…the discreet Radiana,
hidden among trees,…
…which today
are more than a 100 years old.
At the entrance to the property,…
…we meet Michel Steve,
accompanied by Philippe Mialon…
…also an architect.
He has fully renovated the estate.
The property belongs today
to a rich German industrialist.
Like him,
Leopold II loved his location.
Leopold II often came here,…
…so much so that his subjects
had to remind him regularly…
…that he was,
first of all, King of the Belgians.
His absences were not appreciated.
But he didn’t care,…
…Cap-Ferrat was his priority.
It must not be forgotten
that he is… he is a King, an administrator.
And so he did
in Cap-Ferrat, in miniature,…
…what he did a little also in Belgium;
and then in Congo, by the way.
So, it’s a very rational
landscaping concept,…
…to which he added —
in this very rational setting —…
…on top of it, this sort of…
…of poetic hallucination,
much more cultural.
After the gardens,
we approach the villa.
Leopold II loved beautiful things.
Was it like this
at the time of Leopold II?
We are strictly…
the house is strictly as it was first built.
It hasn’t changed at all.
We restored it in its…
…original texture,
the decor is strictly as it was then.
So, we actually arrive now
in a… a magnificent salon,…
…which is…
the centerpiece of this house.
Leopold II had this marvel built
for his mistress, Baroness Vaughan.
A gilded cage:
she was forbidden to leave.
They carved in… in bronze,
and then gilded, a whole series of…
…of lilies, the sconces are all gilded with gold leaf,
and everything is… everything is extraordinary.
They were in a… a sort of
architectural delirium, at a very high level.
But Leopold did not live here.
He lived a little bit above.
So he came down at night, discreetly,
he came to meet his… his mistress,…
…to spend one, two, or three hours here.
Then he went back to the villa of the Cedars,…
…which is
a few dozen meters away.
It was quite practical!
Ah, it was
discreet, ideal, perfect!
We leave La Radiana
for another madness,…
…on the other side of the bay.
There it is.
The intact legacy of an era
when everything seemed permitted.
On the program tonight,
a concert of the Arion trio,…
…in a setting that is simply unique.
The peristyle
is in the purest Greek tradition.
On the walls,
episodes of mythology.
At the entrance of the house,
a mosaic of the 2nd century BC,…
…and this inscription, always in Greek: …
At the front of the audience,
here is Fabrice Reinach.
His grandfather built the villa.
Theodore Reinach, a cousin by marriage
of Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild,…
…a lover of ancient Greece.
He named his villa “Kerylos”,
i.e., “Sea Swallows” in Greek.
It was built on the model of 2 houses
found at excavations in Delos.
Today, the villa belongs
to the “Institut de France”.
And where are we now?
So, here we are
in what the Greeks called the “andron”.
This is the main room in the house,
in a way.
The andron…
…a living room,
reserved exclusively for men.
Theodore Reinach
received his distinguished guests here.
The walls are “peach flower” marble.
The floors are mosaic, lots of them.
This is the legend of the Minotaur,
overcome by Theseus.
A little farther on, an altar,…
…the exact replica
of the one found by Saint Paul in Athens.
Everything is Greek.
The whole project was based on Greece.
Theseus and the Minotaur,
it is a Greek legend.
The altar you see there is…
an altar such as there were in Greek houses.
It’s not just any Athenian
who lived in this kind of house, right?
I think it could be Pericles,
it could be Alcibiades, it could be…
…well, someone else, after all.
A prince, as they say.
A prince who dived
into these luxurious baths.
They are made
of Carrara tiger-like marble.
A prince who thereafter
dined in the “triclinos”.
It is the dining room, with 3 couches,…
…as in antiquity.
To finish the visit,…
…Fabrice Reinach
takes us to the library.
This is where his grandfather worked.
He worked at that table,
at this kind of desk, you see.
He worked standing up.
He was more than a lover of Greece,
he was passionate about Greece and its civilization,…
…the Hellenic civilization.
At the level of art, first,…
…of architecture,
of the Greek way of life.
This house,
it was your grandfather’s madness!
— It was…
— A rational madness!
The Greeks were very rational people,
that has to be taken into account!
Night falls on Cap-Ferrat.
Back to the Ephrussi villa.
Good evening, Madam.
Tonight, tuxedos are “de rigueur”,
as well as the red carpet.
Monsieur will leave too, I think?
Everything OK?
We meet again
Pacôme de Galliffet, the Director.
This is a prestigious evening,
and for him the appointment is important.
All the guests
are Friends of the Baroness.
Good evening, Madam!
All are Friends, absolutely!
Friends coming from Italy, Monaco,…
…Cannes, England, from Germany, too.
And the purpose of this evening?
The purpose of this evening is to help us
restore the villa and its works of art.
Last year,
a huge Gobelin tapestry was restored,…
…and this year we are hopeful,
with the Friends,…
…that the Louis XV salon
will also be restored.
In the French garden,
there are nearly 300 people.
They are all here to pay homage,
in their own way, to the Baroness’s legacy.
The music was fantastic!
And what a beautiful estate!
The Association of Friends of Ephrussi
was created in 1960.
Its first President
was Jean Cocteau.
More than 70 years after his death,…
…Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild
continues to intrigue.
She seduces,…
…and still generates passion.

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