Maison Picassiette: A Mosaic Marvel in Chartres

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Maison Picassiette: A Mosaic Marvel in Chartres
Just three kilometers away from the iconic Chartres Cathedral, you’ll find a hidden gem called the Maison Picassiette. It’s both a museum and a piece of art at the same time.  The brainchild of Raymond Isidore, this house is a portal into a universe that could’ve only been built by an artist with a unique interpretation of the world, outside of the restraints of genres, mediums or institutionalized rules. Even crazier, the tapestry for the presentation of Isidore’s artistic oeuvre was his own home, where every inch and cranny bear his artistic imprint.  Stepping into the house, visitors are welcomed with a remarkable view: a tiny single-story structure that looks like it has been dipped into a smorgasbord of colors. The walls of the house and its porch, courtyard, windows, and even the garden in the back, are awash with mosaic creations displaying a variety of motifs, textures, and scenes. What’s more, paintings, sculptures, and ceramics dot the whole property. Maison Picassiette. Photo credit: Pronoti Baglary History of the House For a large part of his life, Isidore was employed as a sweeper at the Saint-Chéron Cemetery in Chartres, working there from 1949- 1958. In 1929, Isidore brought the piece of land where he eventually constructed a modest dwelling for himself and his wife, Adrienne Rolland, with just a living room, kitchen and bedroom.  The seeds were sown for this mosaic wonder when he began brainstorming the decor for this humble house. Isidore acquired a strange penchant for collecting pieces of glass and earthenware while out and about on his walks. He would use these to create stunning mosaics to decorate his house. He gradually became a recognizable character in the city, where people knew him for being a “Picassiette,” a portmanteau made with the words pique (meaning to take or to steal) and assiette (meaning plates in French). His side project grew into a house completely covered with his mosaics.  Maison Picassiette. Photo credit: Pronoti Baglary While the idea of up-cycling broken crockery or pieces of terracotta might not appear that novel to many of us today, you can imagine how strange it might have seemed to people back then. However, both Isidore’s vision and execution were so compelling that soon it earned him a steady trickle of visitors and admirers. Isidore’s mental health took a dark turn during the Second World War. By then, word had already spread about his house and its unique mosaic interiors, and he started to gain fame for his creativity. From 1956, he started a renewed phase of building which saw him construct a mosaic chapel, add a garden, as well as focus more on decorating the external walls of his house. His mental health deteriorated further, and in 1964 he had to seek psychiatric help. Later the same year, he passed away. Maison Picassiette. Photo credit: Pronoti Baglary
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Lead photo credit : Maison Picassiette. Photo credot: Pronoti Baglary

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Pronoti is a freelance writer and photographer based in Paris. When she is not writing or learning French, she spends her time exploring Parisian oddities and delights. A sociologist by training, she is interested in everything related to society and culture including food, language and architecture. She shares photographs and tid-bits about her life in France on her Instagram @paris_shuffle and on her blog The Shuffle.

Comments

  • J. T. Allen
    2023-11-14 09:26:54
    J. T. Allen
    Wonderful article. I've been to Chartres several times but never to the Maison Picassiette. Now I'll have to go back again! Thanks so much.

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