VILLA KERYLOS

Talking about Villa Kerylos, located on the French Riviera in Beaulieu-sur-Mer requires a small detour through Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris.

Talking about Villa Kerylos requires indeed to talk about the Reinach dynasty. Bankers, patrons, lawyers, journalists, archaeologists, Egyptologists, politicians or even State representatives, the Reinach family will have given life to strong public and intellectual personalities for nearly a century, from 1850 to 1945.

Let’s talk more precisely about three brothers: Joseph, Salomon and Théodore (aptly baptized “J.S.T” for “Je Sais Tout” – I Kwo Everything) born between 1856 and 1860 and raised in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. Imagine for a second these three children growing up in a huge mansion built in 1859 by their father on the Saint-Germain-en Laye hill, dominating the landscape, vaguely gazing at the boiling capital in the distance. I have often admired this building when I was young, wondering endlessly which of the three brothers I preferred.

Joseph is known for his unwavering support for Alfred Dreyfus and for his participation in the creation of the League of Human and Citizen’s Rights. Salomon is known for his brilliant career as an archaeologist and his role as curator of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye museum and professor of art history at the Ecole du Louvre. Theodore, meanwhile, is the youngest but perhaps the brightest of the three brothers. He has a double PhD, is a member of the Paris Bar, becomes an archaeologist and specializes in ancient Greece. In Delphi, he deciphers a musical notation dedicated to Apollo, which his friend Gabriel Fauré transcribes into a melody.

(At this stage, I want to be Théodore Reinach, I just hold one PhD, I am just a lawyer and not at all friend with Gabriel Fauré, whom I love so much).

He became an MP and was mainly interested in cultural affairs. At the end of his political career, he moved to Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera where he built, between 1902 and 1908, a villa in homage to ancient Greece, in collaboration with the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli.

Thus was born the Villa Kerylos.

Make no mistake: Villa Kerylos is far from being a pastiche, it is the most faithful possible reconstruction of an ancient Delos villa adapted to the comfort of the early 20th century. The finest and most precious materials were used to enhance this Villa with its austere exterior appearance but richly decorated interiors – which provides a stark contrast.

I like to imagine these two men, the scholar and the architect, passionate about their project, doing their research, debating endlessly on this or that development of the Villa to come, anxious to respect this ancient Greece they admired so much.

As to the name of the Villa, it is inspired by ancient Greek and means “sea swallow”, the mythological bird that heralded the happy omen – it is also probably inspired by the terns or the flying fish that roamed the Mediterranean coast at the beginning of the last century.

Villa Kerylos is the culmination of an intellectual and artistic adventure and going there promises a dream immersion in ancient Greece.

August 26, 2022

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