Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cote d'Azur, 1950

The spring of 1950 brought together a married socialite, a film maker/painter and the painter's companion to the elegant seaside town of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera. Over the next twelve years, they formed a threesome that drew celebrities from all walks of life.

Meet Francine Weisweiller, Jean Cocteau and Edouard Dermit. 

Francine Weisweiller, born in Brazil in 1916, eventually moved to Paris. After a first failed marriage, she met Eric Weisweiller, a wealthy banker with oil and racing interests, who was twenty years her senior. After World War II, they purchased Santo-Sospir as their summer villa near the lighthouse of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Gradually they grew apart, with Eric Weisweiller living elsewhere with his actress love interest. In the meantime, Francine met the famed film maker and painter, Jean Cocteau, who wrote the novel 
Les Enfants Terribles and produced films such as Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Orpheus (1949).

The wall mosaic by Jean Cocteau at the villa entrance

Cocteau and his companion moved into Francine's villa in May of 1950. They stayed over a decade, painting the villa's rooms one by one. Villa Santo-Sospir's interior decor was designed by the famed antique dealer and interior designer, Madeleine Castaing.

The floor mosaic in the villa entrance, seen above and below

In 2007, the villa was named an historic building and is open for public viewing.

Jean Cocteau and Francine Weisweiller

The threesome: from the right- Jean Cocteau, Edouard Dermit and Francine Weisweiller

Francine's bedroom with the shepherd watching over her

Mythology line drawings by Cocteau in the room he inhabited at Villa Santo Sospir

Apollo surrounded by fishermen of Villefranche in the living room

The powder room, designed by Madeleine Castaing

 Bamboo furniture from Sumatra, chosen by Weisweiller and Castaing for the dining room. The walls and ceiling are covered with giant reeds.

Armoire painted by Cocteau, similar to the one in the opening credits of Cocteau's film, Orpheus

Following are three scenes taken from Cocteau's La Villa Santo Sospir, a 16mm film Cocteau made about Francine Weisweiller's villa. In it, he casually tours the villa, showing his frescoes and paintings on the walls of the villa (Picasso, another guest there, also painted some of it). The paintings below differ quite a bit from Cocteau's distinctive line drawings throughout the villa. I find them rather hauntingly beautiful.

Jean Cocteau died in 1963 of a heart attack. Francine Weisweiller died at the old age of 87 in 2003, living out her life in the villa.
For more information, read the book, Jean Cocteau, by Carole Weisweiller, Francine's daughter. 
 And we think life is fascinating now! What we have missed...


  1. Wow. Fantastic post. I had no idea about the villa. What an incredible home made all the more marvelous by the original art on the walls. Thank you for sharing this with your readers!

  2. Dear Annie, How fascinating! I love this post! Thank you for bringing this to us.

  3. This is wonderful! All I can say!

    Have not seen for years any of Cocteau's work, must be last century when I read about his long-last and close relationship with Jean Marais (Orpheus).

    Thank you, Ann for this post!

  4. Just tried to leave a comment to this wonderful post but having problems.
    So, if my comment appear twice again, sorry....k

  5. I wish more of us had the inclination, and the time, to personalize our homes with interesting art.

  6. lucky me.... have visited the santo sospir during a recent press trip- wow wow wow what an experience to learn about the life of Cocteau and the strong relationship with Francine and Carole Weisweiler... it is an intriguing piece of living legends and history



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