La chapelle romane
The Romanesque chapel
The choice of Vallauris Chapel for exhibiting War and Peace
Picasso’s two works of art War and Peace were installed in the chapel of Vallauris Castle in 1959.
Picasso’s decision to choose the chapel for building his temple of Peace reflects the sacred art rediscovery movement – which without a doubt attracted a great number of followers in the 1950s: Matisse finished decorating the Chapel du Rosaire in Vence, Chagall – along with Bonnard, Léger, Germaine Richier and others – helped to decorate Le Plateau d'Assy Church, Notre Dame de Toute Grâce, and began working on his monumental Biblical Message, which he initially intended to be erected in another Vence chapel before donating it to the French State. Aware of the profound symbolism of the site and won over by the rigorous proportions of the austere building, Picasso opted for the chapel of Vallauris Castle.
The old building played a part in rooting War and Peace, with its evident references to antique art – and even rupestrian art – in a sacred and universal foundation. "It isn’t very light in this chapel,” the artist told Claude Roy, “and I want it to stay that way, that visitors come holding candles, walking alongside the walls as if they were in a prehistoric cave, discovering the figures, that the light flickers on what I have painted – the small glow of candlelight.”
Luc Thévenon, curator of the Musée Masséna in Nice, presents the building that now houses Picasso’s War and Peace.
Aldebert, bishop of Antibes and co-lord of this site with his older brother Guillaume Ganceran, sold his fief of Vallauris to Lérins monastery by act dated 9 December 1038. This estate gained the possessions sold in 1046 by Pierre Signier and his son Guillaume when they took holy orders in Lérins.
The donations were contested at first by Aldebert’s beneficiaries – particularly Foulques de Grasse who laid such a claim to them that Pope Honorius II had to threaten him with excommunication in 1124 to obtain their handover in 1131. The counts of Provence confirmed the rights of Lérins Abbey several times in the 12th century. In 1227, the father abbot had authorised Dame Aiceline to found a small community of women using some of the buildings whose location continues to be hotly disputed.
Through the 12th century, the Abbey had a small castle and its chapel built for the residence of the prior, delegated lord of the fief, assisted at least by two monks, as required by the statutes of 1353.
Although the chapel has survived, the present-day castle was rebuilt in 1568 – and its Renaissance staircase is a listed monument.
The chapel has a single nave and its height gives it an unusual sense of monumentality. Two bays covered with a pointed barrel vault connect with a half-domed apse via a wide pointed arch.
The walls present medium-height ashlar course of careful stereometry – but with visible traces of mortar.
Outside, this ashlar course contains elements of varied geological source: grey, pink and ochre rubble stone that grace this chapel with considerable charm. A simple square section string course runs all the way to where the walls and vault meet, with no throwback on the pilasters. The windows, two opposite each other in each bay, are either surrounded by highly adjusted voussoirs (in the south) or topped with a monolithic lintel indented in an arch shape of much coarser finish.
The soaring apse presents more regular large-height ashlar course of perfect stereotomy. Largely visible from inside the castle (lower hall in the basement and first floor with axial window), it is shored up by a tall base set in a bed of roughly hewn blocks.
No date specifies when the chapel was consecrated, but we do know it was built in the latter half of the 12th century and reworked or restored at the turn of the 13th century when this fine apse and the south windows were added.
The south doorway, with its four careful but purely geometric consoles, should be attributed to this restoration.
Sainte-Anne Church in Vallauris is one of an impressive array of comparable buildings across eastern Provence.
It is very similar to Sainte Anne du Suquet and the Saint Honorat chapter house – two other buildings on Lérins Islands.
More broadly, it was part of a sweeping renovation movement – the last wave of Romaneque art in this region – as attested to by Saint-Cézaire Church and, in the surrounding mountains, Girs, Gréolières-Hautes or Coursegoules Church in particular, over a total time span of several decades.
Restauration de La Guerre et La Paix
Restoration of War and Peace
War and Peace was restored on-site in Vallauris, in the first quarter of 1998, under the supervision of the Musées de France Restoration Department. Analyses were performed by the Musées de France Laboratory in Paris and the French National Assessment Centre for Photoprotection in Clermont-Ferrand.
Restoring War and Peace, a study of the work and discovery.
Painted using water-based material and unvarnished, the work of art had not been restored since its creation in 1952. As a result, the colours had muddied and water runs had caused the paint to come off in places and faded areas. The work’s support structure – 46 hardboard panels on a wooden frame secured to the wall by metal lugs – had also suffered from damp, causing swelling and disintegration of the base panels. Dust and rubble had accumulated behind the panels, bending the curvature out of shape. When the work was dismantled, a charcoal drawing of a human figure was discovered on the old wall parging. For restoration to take place, counter-forms following the curvature of each of the panels had to be produced to enable removal. This enabled the panels to be moved without altering their curve, and they were then placed on cradles of the same shape. Depending on the area, cleaning involved washing or scrubbing and then resecuring of the disintegrated parts and filling in of a few small gaps. This process brought the colours back to life and set off the mat and shiny areas again.
The panels were then reassembled using the counter-forms on the original structure – in excellent condition. The charcoal drawing was reattached and then photographed and covered back up during reassembly.
Restoration, preventive preservation and respect of the setting
Restoration was undertaken after major drainage work in the chapel aimed at getting rid of the external causes of damp. This work continued during removal of the panels with stripping of the vault to restore the original ventilation capacity so as to guarantee good preservation of the wooden structures. The museum display arrangements were reviewed with the necessary discretion for complying with Picasso’s wishes concerning the work’s exhibition environment and the clean, unadorned nature of 12th century architecture. The work’s lighting was improved in particular. This work’s spectacular restoration was overseen by the Musées de France Restoration Department: Gilles Barabant, the department’s project officer, together with Daniel Jaunard, Patrick Mandon and Jean Perfettini, wood restoration specialists, Nathalie and Aloÿs de Becdelièvre, paint layer restoration specialists, and Florence Cremer, wall painting restoration specialist.