MILLY-LA-FORET.- Purchased in 1947 with Jean Marais, Jean Cocteau’s house in Milly-la-Forêt was the theatre of creation for his most important works. Born within these walls were the unforgettable words of Testament d’Orphée and Requiem, along with numerous paintings, drawings, and pastels. He lived the last seventeen years of his life here with his companion, Edouard Dermit. From the death of the poet in 1963 until 1995, the latter watched over the objects that had made up Cocteau’s daily surroundings.
With its ideal position near the town centre, the harmony of the buildings and gardens, and the aesthetic qualities of the property, Jean Cocteau chose to make his “refuge” a work of art in its own right, in keeping with his image, his reveries. Less than an hour from Paris, he created connections in Milly-la-Forêt between the space and his work, integrating set elements from his films – sculptures especially – into the gardens.
The Maison Jean Cocteau is an important expression of the artist’s tastes and private life, now offering the public, after five years of preparation, a perfect reconstitution of the bedroom, office, and main sitting room, which notably contains a masterly canvas by Christian Bérard. The renovations, led by architect François Magendie and the team of Dominique Païni-Nathalie Crinière (who organised the Jean Cocteau exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in 2003), also allow for the display of a selection of drawings from the Cocteau estate, which includes, in addition to the best of Cocteau, works by Picasso, Warhol, Modigliani, Buffet, Blanche, Man Ray... Photographs, manuscripts, letters, newspapers, and posters recall important moments from the life and work of Cocteau (film, theatre, music, childhood, adolescence, wars, friendships...). On the ground floor, a screening room shows films by and about the poet. Light dining is available under the pergola in the garden, and a museum shop concludes the visit.
The garden, orchard, and woodland (two hectares in all), entrusted to landscape architect Loïc Pianfetti, are also ideal places for the visitor to stroll. The main elements of this exterior are the omnipresent water, crossed by numerous footbridges, the colours of the flowerbeds (roses, peonies, lilies...), the fruit trees planted by Cocteau, and the neighbouring chateau.
Pierre Bergé, who holds the moral rights to Jean Cocteau’s work and is the president and patron of this project, acquired the property in 2002, with the support of the Ile-de-France Regional Council and the General Council of the Essonne department (both of which were also partners in the refurbishing), in order to create a place to remember and rediscover Jean Cocteau’s work.
Just outside town, the Chapelle Saint-Blaise-des-Simples, with its frescoes by Jean Cocteau, houses his tomb. The opening of the Maison Jean Cocteau gives new resonance to his epitaph: “I remain with you.”
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