The Hotel de Caumont from yesterday to today
1646 The Birth of the Mazarin Quarter
In the seventeenth century, the city of Aix-en-Provence experienced a large increase in its population. Archbishop Michel Mazarin, brother of the famous cardinal, oversaw the expansion of the city with the creation of the Mazarin quarter, laid out in a chequerboard pattern with the Place des Quatre-Dauphins at its heart. A veritable ‘luxury district’ boasting some magnificent architecture, and home to members of parliament and the wealthy upper classes, the district would become the stage of various ambitions—religious, political and private.
1715 The laying of the first stone
François Rolland de Réauville, the Marquis de Cabannes, sought to build a mansion worthy of his position as second President of the Court of Auditors at Aix-en-Provence in the new Mazarin quarter. He therefore asked Robert de Cotte, head architect and administrator of the Bâtiments du Roi [Royal Residences], to design a mansion for him that would stand out from the other houses in the area.
1745 The end of construction work
The death of François Rolland de Réauville did not put an end to the project. Thanks to Robert de Cotte’s design, the former’s descendants pursued the construction of the residence which would be completed some thirty years after the death of the Marquis.
1758 The Hôtel de Bruny
Unfortunately, the family were not in possession of the private mansion for very long. For financial reasons they were forced to sell it to François Bruny de la Tour-d'Aigues, the richest ship-owner, merchant and banker of Marseilles. The residence changed name to the Hôtel de Bruny.
1772 The role of the Hôtel de Bruny in the social and cultural life of the city
Following the death of François de Bruny, his son Jean-Baptiste inherited the residence. A keen art collector, botanist and member of the painting academy of Marseille, the latter collected numerous artworks in his Aix residence, as well as minerals and fossils. The Hôtel de Bruny was the setting for countless parties, attended by the elite and the city’s wealthiest residents. However, this carefree ambiance would soon come to an abrupt end with the French Revolution.
1796 Pauline de Caumont inherits the Hôtel de Bruny
Following the death of Jean-Baptiste Jérôme de Bruny, the mansion was left to his son Marie-Jean-Joseph who died shortly afterwards in poverty in Rouen, where he had fled persecution from the revolutionaries. His sister, Pauline, inherited the house. Shortly before this, Pauline had married the Marquis de Caumont, Amable Seytres. The residence once again changed names: it was now the Hôtel de Caumont. Upon his marriage, the Marquis famously boasted of ‘having won Provence's most beautiful girl, its most beautiful mansion, and its largest fortune’. Although the marriage soon ended in disaster, a nostalgic Pauline kept the mansion, which for her was full of childhood memories.
1850 The death of Pauline de Caumont
Pauline de Caumont died without an heir. She designated her cousin Louis-Charles de Bruny as the sole heir of the residence. The latter sold the property shortly thereafter. The property then changed hands a number of times and its condition gradually deteriorated.
1939 Caumont during the Resistance
By the beginning of the Second World War, the mansion has completely lost its former glory. It had been divided into several apartments run by Hélène Ardevol (1892-1976), who was the building superintendent and a member of the Resistance. She bravely sheltered many Resistance fighters at the mansion before it was seized by the authorities.
1964 The conservatoire of music and dance for the town
General Isenbart was the last private owner of the Hôtel de Caumont. Having undertaken the restoration of the residence out of love for the property, he sold it to the city of Aix-en-Provence. The building then became the Darius Milhaud National Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
1990 Listed as a Historic Monument
The entire residence has been listed as a historic monument. 65 years earlier, in 1925, the private mansion had already been recognized by the French heritage body, Monuments Historiques. The staircase, classified as a first-rate decorative element, was one of the first items to be listed.
2010 Culturespaces, the new owner
Following the sale of the Hôtel de Caumont, the property was acquired by Culturespaces.
Under the guidance of the Museums and Heritage Department of the City of Aix-en-Provence, and with the help of historians, heritage architects and specialised restorers, a detailed assessment was carried out in order to determine the extent and nature of the renovation work needed to restore the residence to its former glory.
2013 The start of restoration work
In July, the restoration campaign, overseen by the DRAC [regional arts council], the Regional Conservation Department of Historical Monuments and one of the head architects with the conservation body, Bâtiments de France, began. The aim was to restore the Hôtel de Caumont to its former splendour. The first phase of work included the renovation of the facade allowing the typical Aix Baroque style to be seen to full effect. The interior was renovated according to the original design by Robert de Cotte, and the decorative plaster work was carefully restored. Finally, the gardens were landscaped according to their original design thanks to the availability of archival documents.
2015 Opening of the Caumont Centre d’Art
The Hôtel de Caumont, renamed the Caumont Centre d’Art finally opened its doors. Every year, it hosts two temporary exhibitions devoted to the great names in art. A film on painter Cézanne and his connection to the region, Cézanne au pays d’Aix, is shown every day. A wide variety of concerts, musical performances and lectures complete the programme.