Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Nancy art nouveau 1

Villa Majorelle

Nancy is famous for its art nouveau heritage and the end point of today's walk was the wonderful Villa Majorelle, above. The source for the walk is a leaflet available from the tourist office or its website. I have - mercifully perhaps! - been selective about what is described here.

Like yesterday's walk around the historic centre, we started in Place Stanislas and turned south into rue des Dominicains, where our first sighting was immediately in the right: the Goudchaux shop (Eugène Vallin, 1901), now a branch of Credit Agricole. I cropped the photo carefully to exclude the cash machine which is next to the beautiful door.

On the next corner (rue de la Visitation) is the former Rosfelder Pharmacy of 1902, by Emile André, one of Nancy's most prolific art nouveau architects. It is notable more for its mosaic decoration than for any purely architectural features.

Turning right at the end into rue St Georges, we admired the upper storeys of what is now Zara. It doesn't seem to feature in the walking guide produced by the Nancy Office of Tourism, but the tall tulip-like columns seem art nouveau to me.

 Soon we came to the former shop of Vaxelaire et cie at number 13 rue Raugraff (1901, by Charles André, Emile André and Eugène Vallin). The upper storey windows are superb, although the peacock feathers have almost lost their colour. An excellent art nouveau Flickr site reveals that the facade was once painted blue.

We couldn't see the amazing Génin Seed Merchants (1902, by Henri and Henry Gutton) which is nearby because it was being restored, but you can see it here.

Further along the main road you come to the former Renauld Bank (now BNP), with its imposing corner tower, ironwork and floral stone carving. It was the work of Emile André and Paul Charbonnier in 1910). The chap on the floor in front of the entrance seems to have been overwhelmed by its impact!

Nearby in rue Henri Poicaré is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Emile Toussaint and Louis Marchal, 1908). The initial impression is quite conservative, apart from the canopy over the main door.

However, the section to the left (out of view in the picture above) has interesting stained glass windows and distinctive corbels.

A short distance away in rue Stanislas is the Margo building (Eugène Vallin and Paul Charbonnier, 1906). I thought was the most exciting building we had seen so far: the lovely curves, the apparent symmetry, the high relief carving at the top of the facade.

 It seemed only right to pause for lunch in the Brasserie Excelsior (Lucien Weissenberger and Alexander Mienville, 1910).

Outside, its art nouveau features are limited to some floral stone carving and a frieze under the eaves. Inside, however, it is a riot of sinuous colour.

Now we walked past the station noting some art deco details on the Printemps department store. In avenue Foch we passed the house of Dr Jacques to reach the Loppinet Building (Charles Bourgon, 1902), a very harmonious construction with another lovely door.

Further on, the Lombard and France-Lanord buildings (1902-4, both by Emile André) offered a bit more fantasy and drama and made a very impressive pair.

Opposite, we noticed a curious tower. This turned out to be La tour de la Commanderie de St Jean (an order of crusading Knights), founded in 1177. A plaque explains that in 1477, the tower was the headquarters of Duke Rene II of Lorraine when he defeated the Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold at the battle of Nancy.

From here, it was only a short walk to the Villa Majorelle (1901-2) at 1 rue Louis-Majorelle. It was built for the furniture designer Louis Majorelle.  The architect was Henri Sauvage.

This is a much more adventurous, indeed revolutionary, work than any we have so far seen and stands comparison with the best of Hector Guimard's buildings in Paris.

Here, to end, are a couple of details.

Conditions: warm and sunny again.

Distance: maybe 3 miles.

Source:  Nancy Tourist Office or its website.

Rating: four stars.

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