Traditionally every year in mid September, Les Journées du Patrimoine offer you the possibility of visiting public and private buildings which are not otherwise open to the public. The most coveted is the Elysée Palace for which long lines form early in the morning. This year they take place on 16 and 17 September and I visited an interesting Hotel particulier built by Emile Pereire at 10 rue Alfred de Vigny. This famous XIX th century entrepreneur who financed Georges Eugène Haussmann‘s remodeling of the city of Paris, developed the Plaine Monceau where all the wealthy Jewish families settled (such as the Camondo) and which is well described in Edmund de Waal’s “The Hare with amber eyes“. It is since 1974, the headquarters of Fondation Cino Del Duca which distributes 2 million € in prizes every year.
Cino Del Duca was born in the Marches, in Italy, where he started selling popular novels. He opened his first publishing house for romances in 1928 and moved to Paris four years later, where he developed popular magazines with love stories and a daily, Paris Jour, in 1958. His group was called Les Editions Mondiales which now belongs to Mondadori. He married a French woman, Simone Nirouet in 1947 and they worked together both on their magazines and on their patronages. He died of a heart attack in 1967 and Simone created a foundation in their name in 1974. It awards large Prizes through the Institut de France to writers (Milan Kundera was one of them), a scientific prize, an archeology prize and an artistic one. They also give many yearly scholarships.
I met Simone Del Duca briefly when I was seventeen and was looking for a summer internship. She was quite a formidable woman, very warm and impressive. At the time “romans photo” was the craze. They were stories told with black and white photographs. The house has no collections nor furniture of any value, unlike Musée Jacquemart-André which also belongs to the Institut. But its architecture by William Bowers van der Boyen (who also built Musée Cernuschi) and position on Parc Monceau are lovely and if you climb to the second floor, you will see the next-door courtyard which has a funny brick and wood architecture. Reynaldo Hahn, the music composer and friend of Marcel Proust lived at n°9, across teh street. At n°4 was Hotel de la Béraudière.
Some of the ground floor salons still have Cordoue leather on the wall and paintings by Georges Jeannin in the wooden panelings. The atmosphere is very 1900 and interestingly you can rent the premises for board meetings or seminars. No weddings though because dancing is not allowed!
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