“Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, myself, on this coast where Renoir lived, we tried to overcome the spirit of destruction that dominated the time, we decorated surfaces that men dream of demolishing. Perhaps, the love of our work will protect them from the bombs”.
For years, Jean Cocteau will spend long stays in the villa of Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat. About this place, he wrote “When I worked at Santo Sospir, I became a wall myself and these walls spoke for me”.
In 1949, the poet Jean Cocteau met Francine Weisweiller during the filming of Les Enfants Terribles, a film based on his famous novel by a very young filmmaker of the time, Jean Pierre Melville. Nicole Stéphane (real name Nicole de Rothschild), the main actress of the film, cousin of Alec Weisweiller, introduced the poet to Francine and they fell in love at first sight. The Villa Santo Sospir, built shortly after the war, was bought by Alec and Francine in 1946.
In the spring of 1950, after the editing of Les Enfants Terribles, Francine invited Jean Cocteau to spend a week in the house in St Jean Cap Ferrat overlooking the bay of Villefranche.
He asked Francine if he could draw in charcoal the head of Apollo above the fireplace in the living room. One thing leading to another, he tattooed frescoes on all the walls of the house.
Throughout the summer of 1950, Jean Cocteau worked on scales, without any previous models. After drawing in charcoal, the poet enhanced his drawings with colors: an Italian worker prepared color powders for him, diluted in raw milk. These are called tempera frescoes. Cocteau wrote: “it was not necessary to dress the walls, it was necessary to draw on their skin, that’s why I treated the frescoes linearly with the few colors that enhance the tattoos. Santo Sospir is a tattooed villa”.
Frescoes, mosaics and tapestry still dress Santo Sospir today. The furniture has also remained the same, so that today’s visitors are immersed in the timelessness of the poet.
Villa Santo Sospir has been listed as a Historic Monument since 5 May 1995.