Santo Sospir: the art-filled villa of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Santo Sospir: the art-filled villa of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

What is villa Santo Sospir?

Villa Santo Sospir is a renowned and historically significant villa located in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera. This iconic, 5-bedroom villa is known as the ‘tattooed villa’ and gained fame in the mid-20th century when it served as a canvas for the artistic creations of French artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Today, it stands as an incredible property showcasing a unique intersection of art and architecture, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Who was the original owner of villa Santo Sospir in Cap Ferrat?

The Santo Sospir estate was built as a residence in 1931 and belonged to Marital Houzez.
In 1950, French socialite and art patron Francine Weisweiller purchased villa Santo Sospir and commissioned Jean Cocteau to transform it into an artistic oasis and ended up taking up residence at Santo Sospir for over a decade. Francine Weisweiller was also an early patron of Yves Saint Laurent. Following Francine’s death, her daughter Carole Weisweiller became the heir and owner of villa Santo Sospir.

Who is the current owner of Santo Sospir in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat?

Ilya Melia Santo Sospir Cap Ferratlya Melia in Santo Sospir, Cap Ferrat – Source (Hello Monaco)

In 2016, Carole Weisweiller sold the exquisite villa to Russian real estate mogul and Monaco-based Ilya Melia for a reported $14 million. Since then, he has taken it upon himself to preserve and maintain the beauty and integrity of this legendary, art-filled villa.

What does the name Santo Sospir mean?

The name of the iconic villa Santo Sospir was given by the previous owner, Francine Weisweiller, and comes from the old Niçard dialect. “Santo Sospir” translates to ‘a sacred sigh.’ In the times when the French Riviera was home to humble fishermen and their families, sailors would take refuge on the Peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. When they saw its towering lighthouse, they would give a heavy sigh of relief for arriving safely.

What is an interesting fact about Santo Sospir in the South of France?

Francine Weisweiller and her husband Alec Weisweiller came across and decided to purchase Villa Santo Sospir after a promise he made to her in the scariest moments of their fleeing from the Nazis during their occupation of France in 1943. During this period, Alec’s mother was tragically captured and sent to Auschwitz, and their daughter Carole was left with a peasant family for protection.

Why is villa Santo Sospir also known as the tattooed villa?

Villa Santo Sospir earned its nickname “the tattooed villa” in 1950 when the poet and painter Jean Cocteau began an artistic endeavor to “tattoo” the walls, ceilings, and doors of the villa. Covering the majority of the villa’s surfaces with murals and mosaics inspired by themes of the South of France and Greek mythology, Cocteau transformed the villa into one large canvas. The entire residence, a masterpiece in its own right, showcases an extensive selection of elaborate tapestries and mosaics, standing as a living testament to Cocteau’s expressive imprint left on this estate in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

In which period did Jean Cocteau work on villa Santo Sospir?


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The renowned French artist, poet, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau undertook the task of ‘tattooing’ the surfaces of villa Santo Sospir in Cap Ferrat during the 1950s. Collaborating closely with the owner and his patron, Francine Weisweiller, Cocteau lived at the property along with his adopted son Édouard Dermit for just over a decade. This unique artistic endeavor transformed the villa into a living masterpiece, adorned with Cocteau’s distinctive murals, drawings, and designs, marking it as a cultural and artistic landmark in the region.

Which works of prominent artists are showcased in villa Santo Sospir?

Villa Santo Sospir in Cap Ferrat is not only adorned with the remarkable creations of Jean Cocteau, but it also houses several original works by Picasso. Cocteau was known to visit his peer Pablo Picasso often during his stay at Santo Sospir. Other friends of Jean Cocteau included Coco Chanel, Edith Piaf, and several other influential figures of the era.

Are there any films paying tribute to Santo Sospir in Cap Ferrat?

Indeed, villa Santo Sospir in Cap Ferrat has been featured in two films paying tribute to its artistic legacy. The first, a medium-length film titled “La Villa Santo Sospir,” was released in 1951, capturing the unique ambiance and Jean Cocteau’s creations at the villa. Later, in 1959, the feature film “Le Testament d’Orphée” also celebrated the artistic marvels of Santo Sospir, showcasing Cocteau’s exploration of Greek myths and creativity.

Can visitors explore the interiors of villa Santo Sospir?

While Villa Santo Sospir in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat primarily serves as a private residence, there are occasional openings and opportunities for visitors to explore its one-of-a-kind interiors. Guided tours of Santo Sospir can be arranged by appointment, and the art-filled estate is also available for private parties, enabling individuals to create memorable experiences in this historic and artistically enriched setting.

What role does villa Santo Sospir play in the cultural history of Cap Ferrat?

Villa Santo Sospir is an important cultural landmark in the South of France and is an integral part of Cap Ferrat’s artistic and historical legacy. Its significance lies in the profound collaboration with the French artist Jean Cocteau in the 1950s and the incredible living canvases he created at the estate.

For more information about luxury villas for rent or sale in Cap Ferrat, contact Cap Villas.

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