Lawyer, archaeologist, numismatist, historian, member of Parliament, sociologist and mathematician, Théodore Reinach was fascinated by Ancient Greek civilization and was considered one of the leading Hellenists of his day. He commissioned his home, Villa Kérylos, to be based on the model of noble houses from Ancient Greek times. Designed as a tribute to the civilisation which invented democracy, Villa Kerylos was also a total work of art : each piece of fabric, furniture and decoration was designed for the house.

Reinach chose to locate the house on a rocky promontory at the edge of Beaulieu-sur-Mer’s Baie des Fourmis, behind which rise the mountains of Eze, a site which he felt, to be similar to that of Ancient Greek temples.

Villa Kerylos

He commissioned the young architect Emmanuel Pontremoli to undertake the design. For Pontremoli, it was a dream commission, with an unlimited budget – and his first ! Pontremoli was however a specialist in Ancient Greece – he had spent several years on archeological digs in Asia Minor and had won the Grand Prix de Rome.

Designed and built between 1902 and 1908, Villa Kérylos was never supposed to be a reproduction, but rather, a reinvention of ancient Greece. “I know” said Reinach “that any restoration, reproduction or reconstitution of a historical villa is meaningless”. Villa Kérylos was a reinvention: a house where the quintessence of Greek civilisation is incorporated into the modernity of the early 20th century.

Pontremoli selected the most precious materials for the Villa : ancient stucco, Carrara marble and exotic wood for the furniture. Each room features mosaics and frescoes illustrating the great legends of gods and classic heroes. The background decor featuring shells, octupuses and starfish is inspired by the patterns found on Minoan vases.

Villa Kerylos, fresco

The ground floor of the villa is organised around a large inner courtyard surrounded by 12 columns in Carrara marble and a statue of Sophocles.

Emmanuel Pontremoli designed all of the pieces which furnish the rooms. “Théodore Reinach” writes Pontremoli in his memoirs, “was too busy with his scientific work and with his work as a member of Parliament and left me complete freedom. I designed the furniture, the silver, the ceramics. I had the curtains and household linen embroidered. I designed each lamp.”

Villa Kerylos, state rooms

Villa Kerylos was designed as a practical home, in accordance with personality and needs of its owner, Théodore Reinach. Reinach required a space to work – his library and studio occupies the largest room in the house – a space to receive guests – in the best possible style, following the Ancient Greece model – and a space for family life.

Reinach would sometimes organise banquets, in the dining room, where the guests would recline to dine.

Dining Room, Villa Kerylos

Upstairs are the frescoed bedrooms, suites for Mr and Mrs Reinach and several guest bedrooms.

Pontremoli arranged for craftsmen from Venice to install almost 2000 square metres of mosaic floors in the villa.

The house disposed of all the trappings of modernity : electric light, under floor heating, bathrooms with hot and cold water.

On the top floor is the servants bedroom, simple marble bathroom and roof terrace with views stretching out towards Italy.

“Kérylos” means “sea swallow”, a poetic bird of mythology, which announced a good omen.

The view from Villa Kerylos
Other Stories