We usually spend our summer holidays at the same campsite in the Auvergne. And we love to explore the surrounding villages, always hoping to discover something spectacular. One of our previous discoveries was the beautiful but neglected Art Nouveau pâtisserie in La Bourboule, Maison Rozier. Once a delicious pastry shop with a Salon de Thé for le Beau Monde. Now (and it hurts looking at it – all musty, flaking and covered in dust) a dilapidated shadow of its original radiant presence…
Fortunately there are also people who do understand the importance of safeguarding our Art Nouveau heritage! Take for example this well-preserved building we discovered in Le Mont Dore: La Villa Poupon.
When I discovered Maison Rozier and Villa Poupon were designed by the same architect, I ordered a book from France about his complete works: Louis Jarrier – Architecte à Clermont-Ferrand, by Pascal Piera.
Louis Jarrier (1862-1932) descended from a large family of architects in Clermont-Ferrand. His grandfather was a contractor-architect; his father François-Louis Jarrier (1829-1881) was a city-architect and a professor of architecture at a school in Clermont-Ferrand. Louis first studied at the École Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Clermont-Ferrand, and then at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1891 he was appointed inspector of the diocesan buildings. A few years later he was promoted to architect of historic monuments. He was also an art teacher at a local highschool and at the École Régionale des Beaux-Arts where he had once been a student himself.
In his book about Jarrier, Pascal Piera describes Villa Poupon, or Villa des Gladets as it is currently called, as a typical Art Nouveau villa. The different volumes, materials and shapes of the openings reflect the architects wish to enliven the facade and show the function of the volumes on the outside. Take for example the tower with the tent-shaped roof, and the diagonally placed windows that reveal the location of the staircase. With this construction Jarrier left the conventional model. He used a metal frame, a symbol of modernity, leaving the steel girders visible as lintels above the windows.
Louis Jarrier diversified the openings to the extreme. One window in particular: a window enclosed in a red brick horseshoe arch, or as the French call it, a “Baie Thermale” (a semicircular window divided by two posts). As this type of window was ‘prescribed’ by Nancy, we can find similar windows there too. For instance in one of the 1905 buildings by Henry Gutton en Joseph Hornecker (Maison Geschwindammer at 6ter, quai de la Bataille) and in some of the 1902-1903 buildings by Emile André (Les Glycines and Les Roches at 5 and 6, rue des Brices or Maisons Huot at 92-93 bis, quai Claude-le-Lorrain). And also in Brussels we can find examples of the horseshoe window. Like the house Paul Hankar built in 1897 for the painter Albert Ciamberlani at 48, rue Defacqz.
Another typical Art Nouveau feature of Villa Poupon: the tile panels. The pastel coloured tiles are decorated with lush flowers and meandering stalks following the outlines of the window. This makes the window, through its form and decoration, a full-fledged ornament of the andesite stones facade.
According to the original documents, Jarrier built this beautiful Art Nouveau villa for a certain monsieur Poupon. And I have tried seriously to find out who this monsieur Poupon was, but so far that has turned out to be impossible. On eBay, I discovered a 1906 invoice from Poupon Frères (Poupon brothers), with jewelry stores in both Monte-Carlo and Mont-Dore. Yet there’s no proof that either one of these brothers was our monsieur Poupon…
Also, there’s a sign on the facade saying ‘Villa des Gladets’ and another one with ‘Notaire’. Questions, questions, questions – and no answers. I have contacted several official organisations in France but none of them have responded to my e-mails. So, if you happen to know more about the history of this Villa, and about monsieur Poupon in particular, please let me know. I would love to get the whole picture. Until then, I shall fantasize about a handsome young jeweller who built this enchanting Villa for his lovely wife and children.
19 Rue du Capitaine Chazotte, Le Mont Dore, France