In 1929 the chateau was officially listed as a historic monument. In 1943 it was sold by the Isoard family to histoire Genealogique Et Heraldique Des Pairs de France… PDF industrialists from Marseille, who stripped it of its furnishings and mural decoration, some of which still survives in the Château of La Barben.
In 1947 it became a vacation centre for a maritime welfare institution. It was acquired in September 1958 by the exiled Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, seeking a more isolated working place than his previous home, « La Californie » in Cannes. He occupied and remodeled the chateau from 1959 until 1962, after which he moved to Mougins. Spanish pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937. The present chateau is situated on a rocky knoll rising 440 m above a narrow gorge of the river Cose. During the Roman occupation of Provence, when Vauvenargues was known as « Vallis Veranica », the site was occupied by a fort.
The castle was successively the property of the Lords of Cabanis, of Jarente and of Séguiran, until 1548, when ownership passed to François de Clapiers after his marriage to Margaret of Séguiran. It remained in the de Clapiers family for two and a half centuries. The de Clapiers family’s roots go back to Spain: Jean de Clapiers moved from Andalusia to Provence in the fourteenth century. For his exemplary conduct during the Great Plague of Marseille of 1720 which devastated Provence, Joseph de Clapiers was given the hereditary title of Marquis by Louis XV. After the French revolution, the chateau was sold in 1790 by the third marquis of Vauvenargues to the Isoard family.
The chateau stayed in the Isoard family for 150 years until its sale in 1943 by Simone Marguerite d’Isoard Vauvenargues to three industrialists from Marseille. After passing through a series of other owners, the vacant property was finally shown on a whim to the Spanish painter, born in Málaga, Pablo Picasso, in September 1958 by the collector and art critic Douglas Cooper. Kahnweiler asked Picasso on his first visit to Vauvenargues whether, even with the magnificent setting, it was not perhaps too vast or too severe. Picasso replied that it was not too vast, because he would fill it, and that it was not too severe, because as a Spaniard he liked sadness. Picasso had bought Vauvenargues not as a holiday retreat, but as a permanent home where he could work undisturbed.
Apart from the installation of central heating, the standards of comfort in the chateau remained rudimentary. Picasso brought all the bronze sculptures from his garden in La Californie, which he arranged on the terrace in front of the principal façade of the chateau and in the entrance hall. Either side of the balustraded stairs leading to the front doors are fountains spouting water from grotesque sculpted heads from Portugal. The Provençal dining room was the most lived-in part of the chateau. The traditional farmhouse table, with its simple wooden benches, stands on a floor tiled with Provençal octagonal brick red tomettes. On the mantelpiece over the marble fireplace stands a giant lifesize photograph of Picasso, placed there after his death by Jacqueline, who was not yet his wife when they first moved in. She was less taken with the chateau, complaining that it was too large and draughty.
In the nineteenth century room of Cardinal d’Isoard, Picasso installed a medallion cabinet, left to him by his friend Matisse, who used it for storing prints and drawings. The bedroom of Jacqueline has a simple bed in the defiant yellow and red colours of the Catalan flag. There is a swirling red and black carpet, designed by Picasso himself and taking up a theme familiar from his lino cuts. The walls of her bedroom were left in a partially painted state, as Picasso wished to live in the chateau as he found it. In fact Picasso only occupied the chateau for a relatively short period between January 1959 and 1962, with several interruptions. Nevertheless, all the works of art he produced there bear the indelible marks of Vauvenargues, one of the high points of his career.
During this period Picasso acquired the mas of Notre-Dame-de-Vie at Mougins, where he moved permanently in June 1961. He came back from time to time to Vauvenargues, but had to stop following a serious operation in 1965. Picasso died at his hilltop villa in Mougins on Sunday 8 April 1973, at the age of 91. The local authorities would not permit him to be buried there, so his wife Jacqueline chose the grounds of the Château of Vauvenargues as his last resting place. The funeral cortège arrived to find Vauvenargues under a blanket of fresh snow, unusual for that time of year. The event was marred by the complex family problems that had clouded Picasso’s final years.
Thirteen years later, with the family divided by arguments over the future of the Picasso estate, Jacqueline took her own life. Before her death she had regularly visited her husband’s grave on the 8th of every month. Her funeral service took place in the old guard room of the château and she was buried next to Picasso. The ownership of the château passed to Catherine Hutin, Jacqueline’s daughter by her first marriage.
Mérimée PA00081489, Ministère français de la Culture. Les noms de lieu de la France: leur origine, leur signification, leurs transformations, Ayer Publishing, p. Histoire généalogique et héraldique des pairs de France, pp. François de Clapiers himself produced a detailed but unreliable « Genealogy of the Counts of Provence, from 577 to the reign of Henri IV ». Vous oubliez que je suis espagnol et j’aime la tristesse.