It was one of those magical evenings in Hyeres, where fashion meets fiction and become reality under the stars. The Kinsky was given the opportunty for a private visit at villa La Romaine, owned by one of the most mythical characters of France, the late Jean Joériman. A house filled with unrequited histories, legendary parties and historic acquantainces.
During the 29th edition of Hyeres Festival, Villa Noailles invited photographer Charlie Engman to spend some time creating images in the recently vacated villa Romaine, the fantastical villa in Hyeres complete with a hall of mirrors and labyrinthine garden. The resulting images are his response to the uncanniness of the villa, its elaborate interiors, its mysterious energy, and its history both real and imagined. To accompany the exhibition, Baptiste Rossi wrote this wonderful piece to embrace the legend of the house. We share with you a small excerpt.

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LA ROMAINE by Baptiste Rossi (version racourcie)

It is called La Romaine and the echoes of bacchanals may still be heard, of slightly crazy parties in palaces star-studded with mirrors, marble basins and intimate auditoriums; one may discern from behind a basin, a colonnade, or still mosaics, the long evenings spent dreaming up new academies, drafting dizzying heights, bathing in imaginary thermae, like eternal ablutions.


It seems almost like being in the Tuscany of Tiberiī, surrounded by tall, motionless yew trees, laughter from patricians, endless afternoons spent in reveries on Sileni; it seems almost like being in the households of Hadrian, Titus, or Maecenas, with sybaritic sceptres and emperors of the night, champagne imperators and nymphs in costume, elegant saturnalia where legions of friends all turn up, filling both lonely hearts and empty glasses at every instant. From behind a staircase, a puzzling hedge, a labyrinth, comes the clamour of joyous carnivals, of sleepless nights in the crest of a wave, before islands that doze like dolphins, before an ocean where goddesses slept, intermingled with sand and laurel, before the rising sun which put revellers to bed and illuminated regrets.

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Over here Aphrodites might have been seduced, and over there Antinoes made to cry; one might have laughed with vestal virgins,  drunk too much wine whilst erasing the future with a carefree gesture, embraced vast utopias,  before resuming a whole life of mourning with a single sigh; a throne was fashioned with a rattan seat, a low table, and it became a seminary; life was played with, as was death and the fleetingness of time, all the while contemplating the motionless sky and the tranquil stars; palm trees served as a giant chandelier, lovers chatted to the dulcet tones of mandolins, and laughter rang out under a pink and grey moon. Behold these palaces full of mirrors and great alcoves, behold these latticed domes where vines nimbly creep and, finally, behold in the faded mirrors the reflection of a Rome that is no more.


It is called La Romaine, and one may also imagine a soft dawn, the delicate silence of cicadas,  a deep shadow cast by lilacs and rowans, things and trees in a grey concord, receiving the  world’s benediction each living Sunday. Since, the master of the house must also have enjoyed hazy mornings, teas sipped upon the vast balcony, mellow springtimes, the melody of a piano rising up into the melancholy of the first hoar-frosts, and a record player as a sole dining companion beneath the arbour of a hawthorn tree. Within his lounge, laid out like an English garden, he must have savoured this Amazonia of old books and curios, thick carpets and rosewood furniture, and the precise sophistication of marouflaged chairs.

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The gardens consisted of paths beneath the branches, concentric strolls, roaming through the expanse of lavender and yucca trees, wandering rambles to retrieve, beneath a renaissance statue, a bottle shipwrecked during the previous day’s capsizing. It was tranquillity, it was the April sun, it
It is called La Romaine, and it is a decadence, a barbaric demise, a nameless pillage. Ghosts
and regrets criss-cross in the pale morning, silhouettes and daydreams, fragments of shells. It is time for the bailiffs, for removals, a horrific looting of this desecrated Palatine. Harlequins and Columbinas are expelled in batch loads; the notaries demand their rent from Marcus-Aurelius; for Celadon, it is the end of a wintry truce. No matter what one says, it is an absolute scandal. What? This artists’ villa? This youthfulness, consumed? This suspended paradise and its scintillating soirées? These peristyles, these marchionesses and the sweet melody of the concert of life? Going three times, sold! Hence surveyors have padlocked these gallant celebrations. The lovers and the queens of the ball, the cypresses and the violins, the grand finale and the sobs, have all been bundled up and wrapped, two for the price of one.

Any more bids on my left? And from my right? Sold, to the Mademoiselle. It is here that the auctioneers have set up home, where once ambrosia and wild grapes ruled, amongst masks and wildlife, shoulder pads and ivory taps, where Poseidons for an evening and sovereigns of a single night celebrated, here too where the nightingale’s song, after a turbulent evening, ruled over the slumber of its guests. Long ago, it was once like Gatsby’s parties, set amongst Long Island lawns and their green tinged hues, where the dusk devoured the fires: glitzy, ethereal, and without hope.


All photography by Charlie Engman ©

For more images featuring La Romaine, visit Un nouVeau iDeal.

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