on the tip of Cap Ferrat, between Nice and Monaco, sits villa Santo Sospir – almost unchanged since it was built shortly after WWII. Alec and Francine Weisweiller used it as a holiday home, and the walls were empty until Jean Cocteau visited there in the summer of 1950…
“When I stayed at Santo Sospir in the summer of 1950, I hastily decorated a wall. Matisse told me that if you decorate one wall you should do the others as well. He was right. Picasso opened and closed all the doors. All that was left to do was to paint the doors. But the doors lead into rooms. The rooms have walls. And if the doors are painted, the walls have an empty look. I spent the entire summer of 1950 working on ladders. An old Italian worker prepared my pigments, immersed in fresh milk. A young woman lives at Santo Sospir. I didn’t need to dress the walls. I had to draw on their surface. That’s why I made line frescoes, with a few colours that echoed tattoo art. Santo Sospir is the tattooed villa.” – Jean Cocteau in his film La villa Santo Sospir
Cocteau ended up staying at the Villa on and off for more than 10 years, until his death in 1963. Francine was a socialite who knew everyone worth knowing (here’s a photo of her with Coco Chanel) she entertained Picasso, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo amongst others. she was an early patron and muse of Yves Saint Laurent, who dressed her for free out of gratitude. her daughter inherited the house, but was forced to sell it when she could no longer afford the taxes – Cap Ferrat had transformed from a poor fishing village to some of the most sought after real estate in the world. it is now owned by a Russian real estate developer, but fortunately is protected as a French historical monument. it is possible to take private tours of the villa by appointment, if you have the cash.
“Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, and my very self, on this coast where Renoir lived. We have tried to overcome the spirit of destruction that dominates the time; we decorated the surfaces that men dreamed to demolish. Perhaps, the love of our work will protect them against bombs.” – Jean Cocteau