An hour from Nice, the town of Dolceaqua relaxes on the banks of the Nervia, watched over by the imposing castle of the Doria family. During his stay in Bordighera, from January to April 1884, Claude Monet visited this attractive Ligurian city at least three times. In particular, he painted the famous fifteenth century bridge whose arch, with a span of thirty meters, is reflected in the clear waters.
As a follow-up to the exhibition dedicated to Claude Monet at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, I decided to go to Dolceaqua and follow in Claude Monet's footsteps in order to better understand what attracted him. I was not deceived !
Claude Monet arrived for the first time in Dolceaqua on February 17, 1884, in the company of English friends he had known in Bordighera. Seduced by the unique architectural ensemble of the bridge and the castle, he returned two days later, alone this time, to continue painting these motifs, which he described as “marvelous”.
Dolceaqua. On the left, contemporary view of the bridge and the castle. © Fabrice Roy. On the right, the same motifs painted by Claude Monet. 1884. Marmottan Monet Museum.
The streets of the old town of Dolceaqua are crossed by flying buttresses which maintain the space between two facades. Their narrowness allows the passerby to benefit from a certain freshness, at the cost of a certain obscurity... let's walk through these places steeped in history by clicking on the thumbnails below...
The first traces of the construction of Dolceaqua Castle date back to the twelfth century. Property of the Counts of Ventimiglia, it then passed into the patrimony of the Doria family. What we can visit is what remains of this imposing building, damaged by the Spanish and French armies before suffering the very serious earthquake of 1887.
Three years earlier, Claude Monet was able to paint the remains of the fortifications of the right wing as well as those of a tower, which have now disappeared.
A few days before leaving Italy and returning to France, Claude Monet will return once again to Dolceaqua. He will set up his easel one last time to capture the imposing landscape of mountains escaping towards the Ligurian Alps and the beginnings of Piedmont. In the valley it represents the village, as if emerging from its stone and green setting.
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the 19th century in France...