A lady’s paradise

“The property of Madame Douine, Cap Martin, France,” January 1923, by Roger Dumas, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine (both photos).

If you watched The Paradise (2013) on either BBC America or Masterpiece and wondered what happened to Denise after the series ended . . . well, perhaps it was this.

The series was based on Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise) by Émile Zola. It is novel about a saleswoman in one of the grand Paris department stores — Denise — who eventually marries the store’s owner. Her story mirrored the real life of Cyprienne Dubernet, a saleswoman at Grand Magazins du Louvre who married the owner, Olympe Hériot, in 1887.*

Cyprienne in her garden.

In 1909, Cyprienne — now widowed and re-married to Roger Douine — decided to build a villa in Cap Martin on the French Riviera. Her architect designed a Neo-Byzantine house inspired by her travels to Naples, Smyrna, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. She named it “Villa Cypris” in tribute to the Greek goddess of love and her own name. Italian painter Raffael Mainella designed the interiors and the garden, which included a stone bridge along the seafront, a cloister, a “Venetian Sanctuary,” a Mauritanian pergola, and sunken Dutch-style parterres with a canal/swimming pool.

You can see more pictures of the estate here, on its website (it seems to be for sale). There’s a video here

The autochromes above are two of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”† The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here (search “Madame Douine” to see more of Villa Cypris).

*It seems doubtful that Cyprienne (born just plain Anne Marie) was the direct inspiration for Denise, as the novel was published in 1883. She and Olympe had at least one (maybe two) of their four children before their marriage. Their oldest son, Auguste, was an inspiration for the main character of Colette’s novel Cheri. Cyprienne died in 1945.

words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photos (A 71 795 and A 38 390 X) are © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

The Sunday porch: French Riviera

1 full view, Poincare Residence, Eze, France, ca. 1914, University Caen Basse…The property of M. [Raymond] Poincaré in Èze.  The gardens and the main entrance of the house,” ca. 1914 – ca. 1918, photographer unknown, via the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie Commons on flickr.

Èze is located on the southeastern coast of France, not far from Nice. The Mediterranean was just beyond the railings above.

Detail, Poincare Residence, Eze, France, ca. 1914, University of Caen Basse-Normandie

(To scroll through a number of larger versions of the photo, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.)

Raymond Poincaré was President of France from 1913 to 1920.  He had been both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (simultaneously) during all of 1912.

. . . I  decided this time not to go to Sampigny but to stay somewhere on the Mediterranean. After brief research, I rented, in the Alpes-Maritimes, at the foot of the small town of Saracen Eze-sur-Mer, a quiet villa, hidden in the pine trees. . . . [I]t has an incomparable view of the sea. By winning this early retirement, I am not unhappy to escape a little to the embrace of my job, but at least I have the impression that the state of Europe, while still unstable, allows me to breathe more freely. Peace seems restored in the Balkans. Our relations with all Powers are normal. Whatever the new influences acting on William II, France was determined not provide any pretext for war. It’s almost a feeling of rest and security I feel, when I’ll salute the French Riviera the spring of 1914.

— Raymond Poincaré, from his memoirs.

You can see an image of the long terrace of the house in April 1914 here.

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