Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

1 Avenue Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Côte d'Azur

Built between 1905 and 1912, for the Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild (1864-1934), then freshly separated from her former husband, the lothario Maurice Ephrussi (1849-1916), a member of a well-known Russian banking family who not only gave her a sexually transmitted disease that deprived her of having children, but also managed to run-up gambling debts to the tune of some $2.5 million. Beatrice's mother was a first cousin of Ferdinand de Rothschild who built Waddesdon Manor in England which directly inspired Biltmore, the largest house in the United States. Beatrice and her husband kept several houses in France, including a villa in Monte Carlo, but she fell in love with this stretch of the Riviera after staying at Villa Kerylos at Beaulieu-sur-Mer....

This house is best associated with...

Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild

Baroness (Charlotte) Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, died without children

1864-1934

Maurice Ephrussi

Maurice Ephrussi, Racehorse Owner & Banker, of Ephrussi & Co., Paris

1849-1916

In 1904, Beatrice purchased 17-acres at the next village along the coast from Beaulieu and employed Aaron Messiah to build her rose-colored home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It was surrounded by nine individually themed gardens laid out under the supervision of Achille Duchêne: French, Spanish, Japanese, Florentine, Provençal, and Exotic; with, a stone garden, a rose garden, and a garden de Sèvres. The garden immediately in front of the villa is shaped like a ship, best seen from the logia as though it were the ship's bridge. The idea was inspired by a voyage Beatrice had taken on the ocean liner Île de France, which was the name she gave to the villa. To round out the scene, the 30-gardeners who maintained it were dressed as French sailors with berets topped with red pom-poms!

The villa itself was built in the Venetian style and was loosely inspired by its storied neighbor, the Villa Sylvia, which Messiah had built for an American couple who were prominent in Venice. On her death in 1934, Beatrice donated the entire estate (including her remarkable collection of Old Masters paintings, sculptures, and exquisite porcelains) to the Académie des Beaux Arts and it is now open to the public. Today, the immaculately maintained villa and gardens remain precisely as they were while Beatrice lived here. 

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 11/08/2020 and last updated on 18/10/2021.

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