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Jean Cocteau found creative retreat in the private residence Villa Santo-Sospir, and left a legacy of art on its walls.

The lively and inspired frescoes on the walls of Carole Weisweiller’s home depict ancient Greek mythology in a deeply modern way, and are a rich remnant of a story of a group of friends and a salon of kindred creative spirits that centered around Francine Weisweiller, Carole’s mother, and her friendship with Jean Cocteau. In a note to Francine Weisweiller,
Cocteau wrote “I have known nothing more elegant than the little cage where your heart speaks to me”.

While most people are accustomed to standing before the reserved walls of a museum to view important artwork, or have it inside frames on the walls of their home, Carole Weisweiller lives drenched in the midst of a piece of art and history. Legendary French poet, artist and film director Jean Cocteau abandoned the museum and the frame at the Villa Santo-Sospir, and created a living artist’s studio.

Jean Cocteau was first welcomed into Francine Weisweiller’s home at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in April of 1950, just months after Cocteau finished working on the films “Orphée” and
“Les Enfants Terrible” along with Nicole Stéphane, the main actress in the latter film, her co-star Edouard “Doudou” Dermit as well as actor Jean “Jeannot” Marais, who retreated to the villa for nearly six months.

Cocteau got creatively restless. He applied his poetic spirit and hand to the white walls, tracing his first lines, the wild hair of Apollo above the chimney mantle piece. This would mark a creative relationship enduring 13 years including successive return visits to expand this floor-to-ceiling work, also to create ceramic mosaics, within the private interior of Santo-Sospir. Jean Marais spoke years later, “Jean Cocteau puts his heart even on the walls”.

Apollo, the Sun god, is a regal, enticing and powerful centrepiece. His eyes in the shape of fish, and his eyebrows like fish bones; Apollo is flanked by two fishermen of the Villefranche.

Women bathe, boys sleep, constellations turn, all whispering poetry and myth to those who pass from room to room. A stunning blue and orange figure, holding a wilted hibiscus flower, lead toward another figure elegantly pointing to the word “Dormir”, both soliciting guests to the bedchambers.
In the private room of Francine the bathing huntress Diana retreats, Actaeon is in the process of metamorphosis while nymphs and a herdsman reservedly watch. Jean Cocteau lived with satyrs and unicorns of intricate detail. Edouard “ Doudou” Dermit lived with Narcissus, along with two young beautiful women mockingly echoing the name of the vain one.

Naturally, Bacchus and Dionysus had a presence at Villa Santo-Sospir. Cocteau would mix cocktails, a mix of peach juice, gin and a dash of aromatic bitters for visitors throughout the years who would join, such as Pierre Bergé, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Marlene Dietrich among many others. Discussion, artistic creation and retreat characterized the time spent at the villa. Cocteau wrote poems, theater pieces, essays and personal letters...

Jean Cocteau once wrote, “Style is a simple way of saying complicated things”. There is a way in which the artistic outburst on the walls of the Villa Santo-Sospir is the essence of style and luxury – beautifully complex, higher inspired, wildly unique.

In addition to collecting memories in two coffee table books, “Jean Cocteau, Les Années Francine 1950-1963” and “The Walls of Jean Cocteau”, Carole Weisweiller will soon make Villa Santo-Sospir a foundation open to the public. It will join the guard of reserves on the Côte d’Azur that tell the tale of artistic inspiration as well as the society and the sea breeze that nourished it.

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