Discover with me the Chateau de La Napoule, a wonderful castle set in a idyllic beachfront location overlooking the bay of Cannes. The Chateau and its history are closely linked to an American couple Henry and Marie Clews, artist and visionaries, who, after buying the ruined medieval fortress in 1919, worked tires sly to bring it back to Life.
Today I had the opportunity to visit the magic castle that hide many mysteries. The chateau is surrounded by a park revealing an eclectic mix of influences, and populated by strange creatures craved in the local red stone of the Estérel by Henry Clews himself. The atmosphere of the Belle Epoqu, as well as the inspiration and genius of this extraordinary couple can be felt in every corner of the Chateau.
THE COURTYARD: In the XIV Century, the Counts of Villeneuve constructed the Chateau of La Napoule, based on the remains of the antique fortifications that exist to this day at each end of courtyard, the roman tower and the Saracen tower. However, during the French Revolution, the chateau was destroyed. The chateau ruins were then purchased by traditional glass workers. They reconstructed the central part of the Chateau in order to install ovens and workshops. THe current chateau structure was rebuilt in the 1920’s by the American artist Henry and Marie Clews.
THE CLOISER: Henry Clews was both a painter and sculptor and many of his works decorate the architecture of the Chateau. The closer for example is decorated with big-bellied and grimacing spirits that were inspirited by pre-columbian art. on many parts of the structure, one will notice a monogram, which evolved form the fusion of the signature of each spouse.
THE GOD OF HUMORMYSTICS: In front of the door stands the God of Humormystics. This statue was a wedding gift from Henry Clews to his wife Marie; is a moral self portrait of Henry who identified a great deal with Don Quixote and his traits of romantic knight, dreamer and vindictive. At the base, an angel, with broken wing looks down at his navel: he represent the God of Human Love whose narcissism and egocentrism stigmatize the faults of human nature. On the opposed side of the base, Adam and Eve are portrayed as young children; the adults, guilty of the Original Sin, are strangely seen into two innocent beings. The wealth of faces at the foot of the statue caricaturize the bourgeoisie of the early XX century. They are all kay faces (Jesus surrounded by Maria and Maria Madelaine) and two nurslings who are beautiful: it is a depiction of the struggle between evil (meanness, greediness, arrogance) and good (innocence, sacrifice). On his epitaph, Henry Clews uses the very terms of “Master of the Humor Mystic” to designate himself.
The main door of the Castle where above is written “Once Upon a Time”
THE ENTRANCE HALL: The door of the entrance hall and some of the furniture, was imported by the couple in order to assure the medieval feel in the reconstructed areas of the Chateau. On these doors the motto “Mirth, Myth and Mystery” is craved. We find the same carving on the tomb of Henry Clews.
THE SPENCER GALLERY: The door and columns decorating this space come from a baroque Spanish Church form the 17th century.
Henry Clews Studio
THE STUDIO: this was the area where Henry Clews work at his statues and works of arts.
The idyllic beachfront location of the Chateau overlooking the bay of Cannes.
THE TOMBS: Near the Chateau, under this tower, Henry (1876-1937) and Marie (1880-1959) are buried in a was which evoked the love and the complicity of the couple: in the crypt, the two tombs are half-hopen as if their spirits moved the stones to find each others… in the room above the tower. Access to the secret room is forbidden and only a small window exist so that their spirits can escape above the sea and be rejoined for eternity.
THE TERRACE: The terrace at the time of Henry and Marie did not yet exist and the front of the chateau dropped into the water below.
THE GARDEN at the time of Henry and Marie was full of exotic animals and strange creature from Inda. The used to do many events at their chateau to impress theirs guest.
So this was “ONCE UPON A TIME…”
Today the Clews mansion belongs to the La Napoule Art Foundation, which was created by Marie in 1951. The Foundation was created as a Tribute to Marie’s husband Henry. The association mission is to appreciate the works of Henry Clews and to host and fund resident artist from around the world.
For more info about the Chateau de La Napoule visit their website www.chateaulanapoule.com and their Fountation website: www.lnaf.org
Hope you find this article interesting and if you pass by the French Riviera don’t forget to stop by the Chateau de La Napoule in Mandelieu, only 10 minutes from Cannes.