Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild's turn-of-the-century folly is today a glorious gift to visitors to the Cote d'Azur where her villa and 10 acres of formal gardens stand as one of the loveliest diversions in the area. The ornate palace and holdings encompass 17 acres atop a promontory overlooking Cap Ferrat.
From 1907 to 1912, the divorced heiress devoted her time to overseeing construction of her magnificent winter home — an architectural wedding cake that reveals inspiration from the Italian renaissance with elements of Gothic and strong emphasis on Venetian palace design, all as dictated by the somewhat eccentric heiress. The pink and white villa is laden with swaths of red Verona marble, white Carrara marble, light grey marble and bass reliefs from Catalan cloisters, just to name a few of the whimsical motifs employed.
The landscaping, which required seven years to complete, features nine different garden styles.
The landscaping, which required seven years to complete, features nine different garden styles ranging from Spanish to Florentine to Japanese and includes a formal French garden. Reflection pools, dancing fountains, lily ponds and waterfalls punctuate the vast landscape that can command a half-day for proper exploration.
On our recent visit we began in the small screening room where a presentation on Madame de Rothschild's life, including her unfortunate marriage to and ultimate divorce from a wealthy Parisian banker, Maurice Ephrussi, provided an entertaining and informative introduction to the villa and gardens.
Then off we went to explore the various salons and private living quarters that remain elaborately furnished and decorated, just as Madame de Rothschild had left them when she bequeathed the property and its contents to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1933.
Among the riches that visitors will find while exploring the vast mansion are Aubusson carpets, Goeblin tapestries, Meissen chandeliers, Sevres porcelain dinner services and porcelain vases dating from the late 1700s. Her eclectic collections include medieval and renaissance works of art and objects from the Far East and furnishings from around the world. On her death, she left more than 5,000 works of art to the Académie.