Last week we spent the morning in Grasse, a town I hadn’t visited for years. Of course it’s perfume-central with lots of parfumeries offering free tours and shops with tempting arrays of bottles, sprays, soaps and creams. Plus there’s the Musée International de la Parfumerie which takes visitors through centuries of perfume-making. But I was on the trail of Fragonard, the 18th century-painter who was born in the town – I wanted to visit his house.
And it was a disappointment! Firstly Villa-Musée Fragonard was advertised as being open 10-19:00 but when I got there, there was a paper pinned up saying it wouldn’t open until 13:00. When I finally got in, only the top floor was open, not the downstairs salon, and it was just a couple of rooms, heavily shuttered. Peering through the gloom, I saw just a handful of small drawings and paintings, plus some by his son. The painter was born in Grasse but spent most of his life in Paris. It turned out that he just stayed in this house briefly during the Revolution, during which time he and his son decorated the staircase.
I was much happier with the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence and spent a fascinating hour exploring its contents. It is housed in the elegant mansion of the Marquis de Cabris, whose wife was Louise, sister of our own Comte de Mirabeau. They actually parted company and the house was virtually abandoned but a president’s son, Francois Carnot, bought it to recreate the life and times of an 18th century aristocratic home. On the ground floor, there are
Ingenious wooden contraption for keeping an 18th century baby out of harm
the salon and bedrooms of an imaginary marquis and marquise, with some typically Provencal furnishings.
Downstairs there is the original kitchen with a gleaming range and stores full of olive oil jars. Lots of displays of china and children’s toys.
Then on the first floor, there are rooms of Provencal art – one with paintings by Granet, and another with artists who worked in the region like Dufy, Seyssaud and Charles Camoin.
It’s open daily and costs just 2 euros. The staff were very friendly and happy to see visitors. Details: http://www.museesdegrasse.com/mahp/presentation