Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Trianon Curse

Graveyards of the world
beds of brush and bone
Live in the sound of darkness
while a ghostly king rules their throne 


Beyond the rising smoke
mother death is buried deep
Faces dissolve in nameless headstones
in a prison of eternal sleep 


Forever condemned by an imaginary master
poisoned by a forgotten scorn
Submitting to the laws of empty hours
feeding from the fruit of blackened thorns 


The ghostly king decides to rescue his eternal guests
he dissolves the tombs of stone
Thieves of centuries lost take to flight
leaving him to eternally dine alone.


© 1993 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Savonnerie carpet
King's coat of arms destroyed during the Revolution 
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.



The Trianon Curse


Like the tragedy that befell the Royal family, so too did one man's passion for the 18th century again deal destiny's cruel hand of fate. 

Inspired by Marie-Antoinette's Petit Trianon, the Count de Camodo's greatest wish was to recreate 18th century refinement for he and his family. 

Genealogy of Camodo Family
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.



Immigrating from Istanbul in 1869, the Camondo family were a notable family of Ottoman bankers and philanthropists - 'the Rothschilds of the East' - whose presence in Paris soon had all of society talking. 

Moïse de Camodo's magnificent Bell Époque mansion built to contain his collection of 18th century French art became a memorial to his son, his shattered dreams, and oddly enough to the solitude and heartache that marked the French Revolution. 

Intended for a son that did not live to inherit it, Count Camodo's mansion was bequeathed to the French state after the deaths of his remaining family members at Auschwitz in 1933-44. Astonishingly, the house survived the war and Nazi occupation in tact. 

Musée Nissim de Camodo
Nissim de Camodo's apartment
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.


One of Moïse de Camodo's earliest purchases, the commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer, inspired his love of collecting. Remarkably, it was close to his death before he finally acquired the matching piece. 


Commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.


Much like the Royal family spent part of their imprisonment during the French Revolution in the lavish gardens of the Tuilerries, so too would Camodo spend his final days gazing out onto the placid Parc Monceau from a sharp mind held hostage by the grandeur of opulence.

The Gentlemen of the Duke of Orléans in the livery of the Chäteau de Saint-Cloud
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 B.E. Gustav Hollsten



'The Gentlemen of the Duke of Orléans in the livery of the Château de Saint-Cloud' turning away from the Count's gaze is allegorical of the loss of his family. Count Camodo's mansion of mixed genre stirs in the heart of its visitors mixed feelings of passion for life and respect for cultural heritage stained by a woeful sadness that only the death of a child can mark upon the soul of a human being. 

Just as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette buried their eldest son and infant daughter, so too did Camodo bury his only son. 

Bad News, (La Mauvaise Nouvelle) Jean-Baptise Marie Pierre, 1740
Musée Nissim de Camodo


As tribulation did for Marie-Antoinette, pain turned passion for life into a reflection on living.  The melancholy overtone of Camodo's dream home is struck by Bad News (Jean-Baptise Marie Pierre), while time ticks to the theme of the 'A la Douleur' clock sitting atop the mantlepiece in Moïse de Camodo's private apartment.

Count Moïse de Camodo's, The Blue Room
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 B.E. Gustav Hollsten


Amid the façade of 18th century aristocratic mastery dwells an authentic 18th century aristocratic crux, profoundly poignant loss and despair - captured and held hostage in the name of posterity.  

The rarity of the Count's collection and link to the Petit Trianon is embodied in 'Bacchante', a female nude by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun. Ariadne was deserted by her lover Theseus on the island of Naxos. Thanks to the god Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of epiphany, she is discovered. Like the painting that adorns the Count's home, the theme of this mansion, echoed in the memory of Marie-Antoinette, is one of epiphany from loss.

Geneviève-Sophie Le Couteulx du Molay, 1788
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun
Oil on canvas
Musée Nissim de Camodo


Most graciously, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun's portraits soften the presence of tragedy. Lebrun stayed at Malmaison many times and considered her mistress, Sophie Le Couteulx de la Noray, one of the most elegant ladies in Paris - just as she had previously held Marie-Antoinette before her in the highest esteem.  Appropriately, her "Geneviève-Sophie Le Couteulx du Molay' (1788) sits with unassuming aristocratic presence that perhaps best defines the life, rather than the tragedy, that defined the Camodo Family. 




Isaac de Camondo's comic programme cover for Le Clown (1908) disturbingly reminds one of the comics that slandered Marie-Antoinette's previously angelic image. 

While neither Marie-Antoinette nor Moïse de Camodo would die laughing, one cannot help feel that their legacy, through the preservation of cultural heritage, dissolves the tombs of stone and barriers of time and space to bestow upon their regal and dignified spirits - the last laugh. 











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