The three Graces -The Naiads – The Hesperid Gardens © Edm
Blessed gourmet customers of the restaurant of the Hotel de Paris, in Monaco,
You are peacefully dining, while a pictorial masterpiece as majestic as it is discreet, looks at you from above, with all the benevolence of a Museum Painting…
Indeed, this painting of impressive dimensions sits on the wall of the Empire Room of the Restaurant, between the gilded frames, the sculptures, the columns and the Napoleonic symbols which seem frozen by the centuries.
This painting is the work of the painter Paul Gervais, in 1909, entitled “The Three Graces: The Garden of the Hesperid”.
Paul Gervais (1859-1944) studied in 1879 at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. Member of the Salon of the French Artists, he won numerous awards there.
In order to perfect his knowledge and skill, he visited Spain in 1891 where he frequented the museums in observing the work of painters Murillo, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Titian, Velázquez, among others.
Painter of history, allegorical subjects and genre scenes, having at the time a great fame, he received many commissions for public and private mural compositions: Ministry of the Colonies in Paris, casino of Monte-Carlo, municipal casino of Nice, Capitol of Toulouse.
Paul Gervais sent two large paintings to the Universal Exhibition of 1900: The Judgment of Paris, for which he was awarded a silver medal, as well as The Folly of Titania.
Thanks in particular to the support of Gaston Doumergue, who was President of the French Republic during the interwar period, he obtained several other public commissions, including for the Elysee Palace.
In 1904, he became a professor at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. He was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1908 and painted in his studio rue Victor-Massé in Paris.
“The Naïads”, or “The Three Graces in the Garden of the Hesperid”, is a painting presumably commissioned by “the Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers de Monaco”: this was founded by Prince Charles III in 1863, when the Gambling business was granted to the businessman François Blanc, who, between 1864 and 1866, within the new district of “Monte Carlo”, will build the Casino and the Hotel de Paris, inside which you find the painting by Paul Gervais. The goal being without any doubt, by this work, to create cultural links between the French capital and the Principality of Monaco.
The Garden of the Hesperid dominates the Empire Room of the Hotel de Paris, in Monaco: it depicts a scene from Greek mythology, the Hesperid, who are the nymphs of Sunset, daughters of Atlas.
Three in number: Églé, Érythie and Hespérie, they reside in a fabulous orchard, located at the western limit of the world, the same where Hercules will go to seek the Golden Apples, fruit of immortality.
The Painting depicts the 3 Graces, under the tree with golden apples, symbol of eternal life; lustful Naiads seem to be playing with two panthers and a peacock. The bodies are naked, the colors pastel, drapes shimmering. The atmosphere is joyful and carefree.
But let us leave Mythology to return to our time; a question arises: why has such a powerful work of art which has been seen by the most influential people of our time who have visited this Monegasque Restaurant, remained so unknown to the general public (even if a Collection Stamp «The Naiads» was printed from this painting)?
Everyone of us has a special and personal relationship to Art, and above all to the big figurative paintings which decorate some Museums, public buildings, theatres or private properties. We find them wonderfully executed, faithful to the reality of the sceneries or true to the myths they depict… and yet, we are totally unaware of who the creators are.
Indeed, if the media coverage of very famous artists (Picasso, Van Gogh, etc.) has enabled non-enlightened amateurs to have a fairly good knowledge of their main paintings, including their prices which often make headlines in the news, there are hundreds of talents like Paul Gervais who are unfairly unknown to the general public.
However, people take real pleasure in admiring these works, all the more so when it is accompanied by a starred meal; Terrestrial and pictorial nourishment then go perfectly together.
The staff of the Hotel de Paris enlightens us: “The dimensions of this painting impress our clients! It is more than 5 meters long and covers the entire wall of the great hall. People don’t dare to come and watch it closely. And this painting immediately creates an atmosphere: you are having lunch with the Naiads, in the Garden of the Hesperid!
The international clientele rightly remarks that the style of painting is indeed that of the end
of the 19th century in France, but on a subject of ancient Greek mythology: gastronomes are often excellent art connoisseurs.
Time passes, the dishes follow one another, and the delicate mixture has its effect: Art in the Restaurant transforms the experience into a trip out of the real world. It channels the gaze, attention, and even creates topics of conversation;
It makes people focus on it, they pay attention to it and they even start discussing it. The Golden Apple Tree situated beyond the Hercules Columns has played its part: the two hours spent here, next to the Naiads, are out of Time like a precious little piece of Eternity