Sunday, July 15, 2012

Field Trip: Maison Picassiette

About an hour outside of Paris is the lovely city called Chartres (pronounced like "shark" but make a guttural sound when making your 'k'). Nestled in this town is one of the most famous cathedrals in all of France. Many tourists flock to see the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame de Chartres, and many leave without experiencing one of Chartres' most inspiring places: Maison Picassiette.

Image via Photocosmos
Image via Photocosmos


Maison Picassiette was the aspiration of Raymond Isidore. Born in 1900, Isidore began transforming his property at age 30. The project lasted 25 years.

The total time of the mosaics on the property have been estimated at 29,000 hours. There are over 4 million pieces of broken crockery, pottery, glass, and found objects that have been masoned into the walls. That's over 15 tons of mosaic!

The name comes from a meshing of the French words 'pique' and 'assiette', which means something along the lines of being taken or stolen from a plate. 'Maison' means house. So, Maison Picassiette is the house of broken plates.

Sadly, photos were not allowed. The place has seen better days, too- Many paintings are faded, children on school field trips run freely around the property, tearing pieces off or trampling the gardens. The property became a historic monument in 1982.

Since photos were not allowed, I borrowed and cited images from other websites. In this post, I'll give you a quick rundown of the property in images...

The house is located on a very plain very residential street. Literally, you walk through a narrow garden path to get to the property. The first building that you see is this:

Image via Les Grigris de Sophie
The concrete daisy fence to your right is faded but you can still admire the craftsmanship. It is obvious that a lot of love went into making this piece of art. Every pot and planter has a mosaic. They are filled with beautiful flowers.

Image via Isdael
Image via Photocosmos
The side wall of this courtyard features the Chartres cathedral, among other landmarks:

Image via Isdeal
Image via Perche-Gouet
The house itself is truly magnificent:

Image via Linternaute Voyage
Image via Jetsetta

Walking past this first little courtyard (note the little mosaic guitar leaning up against the house!) you can peek into the home. It is roped off but you can still look inside. The first room is the kitchen:

Image via Pnoirjean
Image via Conoce Francia
This is when you realize that Isidore is also a painter. There are swallows painted above Chartres on the wall. The ceiling is a bunch of flowers with a large flower housing the light fixture. Looking to the left, you notice the stove...
Image via Artmaniac

Image via Photocosmos
Moving on to the window to see the next room, you realize that it is a sitting room:

Image via Photocosmos
Image via Photocosmos
Image via Artmaniac
And, peeking into the last room on the left, you see the bedroom. It is complete with Isidore's wife's sewing machine, which is also covered in mosaic:

Image via Stopping Off Place
Image via France Voyage

Image via Artmaniac
Image via Artmaniac
Above is a photograph of Isidore sitting in a chair in front of the kitchen. Below is an image of the walkway that leads from the kitchen/sitting room/bedroom towards the chapel (which is under the arch on the left).

Image via Pnoirjean
Here is the chapel:
Image via Artmaniac
Image via Isdael
Leaving the chapel and continuing down the path past the arch, you see a mosaic that displays all of the famous churches in France. The ground recreates the famous Chartres stained glass window (it's the thing that looks like a doily on the ground). This motif is present in almost every section of the maison.

Image via Perche-Gouet
Image via Beach-Combing Magpie

Image via Beach-Combing Magpie
If you turn around, you can see a little pedestal where Isidore had his chair:
Image via Beach-Combing Magpie
Image via Fond-Ecran

Image via Actuacity
Image via Artmaniac
Leaving this pretty courtyard, you are led into Isidore's garden. There are sculptures here of people, landmarks (like the Eiffel Tower), and if you turn the corner and make your way to the other side of the house, you see an ornate wall and a fountain.
Image via Les Grigris de Sophie
The fountain:

Image via Relais Chateaux
The ornate wall, featuring more churches of France:


Image via Garden De Sprit

To the right of this wall, your journey continues. There is another chapel-like structure behind the wall. Most of the mosaics in this area are done with colored glass:

Image via Les Grigris de Sophie
Image via Les Grigris de Sophie
Image via Perche-Gouet
Image via Artmaniac
After those rooms, there is only a non-mosaiced part of a house, probably for maintenance/storage. Then you arrive back at where you began. The tour is over!

Here are some close-up images of the mosaics:

Image via Les Grigris de Sophie
Image via Photocosmos
Here are some of Isidore's paintings (all inside of the buildings):
Image via The Joy of Shards

Image via The Joy of Shards
A little more about Isidore:
He was born in 1900 and found work as a cemetery sweeper. He was from a very poor family and was uneducated. As a child, Isidore visited the Chartres cathedral and was inspired to see beauty all around him. One day, while walking to work, he saw pieces of broken pottery on the ground which gave him the idea to begin mosaicing his environment. His primary theme was life and creation. During his lifetime, he was often made a mockery for his creative aspirations. It wasn't until the end of his life that he began receiving recognition for his work. Today, it is a historic monument and receives thousands of visitors a year.

Maison Picassiette
22, Rue du Repos- 28000 Chartres, France
Phone: 02 37 34 10 78
Open every day but Mondays from April 1 to September 30

Find specifics about times the property is open at Chartres' Tourism Website.

To get to Maison Picassiette from the train station, you can take the #4 bus towards La Madeleine. The stop that you want on this bus line is called Picassiette. It is about a 15 minute ride and costs €1,10 per person each way.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, your guided tour around the Picassiette property is one of the best I have ever read. It gives a wonderful idea of the layout of the site and of the various creations Raymond Isidore has made. Thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete