The private mansion on rue de Miromesnil looks like a ship anchored in the port. Patches of snow shine on the roofs whose chimneys belch out their plumes of smoke, like so many steamers on a dark sea.
Standing in front of a window, Gustave Caillebotte contemplates the passers-by hurrying along boulevard Malesherbes at the end of the afternoon of Wednesday December 31, 1873. Martial father is sitting in the living room, absorbed in reading Le Temps and more particularly its serial of the moment “Barnabé”, by Ferdinand Fabre.
Gustave finally sees his brother René walking quickly, his hands in the pockets of his coat, the collar of which he has turned up. Mother Céleste contemplates the table set for the meal. No social dinner that evening, we stay with family. Martial jr plays the piano in a neighboring room. Gustave thinks that his brother has a certain talent for composition. Was he not the student of Marmontel, who was also the teacher of a certain Claude Debussy?
A pleasant roast aroma spreads little by little. Martial senior puts down his newspaper, takes off his glasses and takes small steps towards the kitchen. The staff sprinkles a good, strong juice over a good-sized bird. Green beans sing in a pot on the stove. The doorbell rings. It's René who enters, immediately followed by Alfred, who, for the evening, has joined his half-brothers.
The whole family sits down in the living room. A servant offers small glasses of port wine on a silver platter. Alfred is bombarded with questions. he has just been entrusted with the Saint George parish by his bishop. Everything has to be done in this major project, starting with the construction of the church, planned to last a little less than three years.
A large fire crackles in the marble fireplace.
Midnight strikes. After the meal, greetings are exchanged in the joy of being together. 1874 will be the year of the first impressionist exhibition, but also that of the death of Martial senior, who passed on Christmas Eve, at the age of 75. Then, it would be the turn of René, at age 26, in 1876, and of Céleste, in 1878. In four years, only Gustave, Martial and Alfred would remain of the family. The latter will devote himself body and soul to his priesthood, Saint-Georges parish, then Notre-Dame de Lorette.
Gustave and Martial will move in together on Boulevard Haussmann. They will become passionate about philately, of which they will become experts, and the regattas at Petit-Gennevilliers. Martial continued to compose and later put together a superb collection of earthenware. Gustave continued to paint, developed a shipyard, and became a gardener. But this is another story...
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...