Because the painted beams and dome had been covered for so long, maybe a century or more, they had somehow been protected from the ravages of time. It was unusual to find this architectural style, which certainly had an Italian influence, here in this little, very French town in Provence, but even more unusual to find these decorated ceilings, which were decidedly French, even Parisian. The painted beams were very much like those Renee had seen in many of the Chateaux around Paris. That is why she referred to this color blue as Salon Blue. Heavily decorated beamed ceilings were very popular in the late 18th century. A time when French women were becoming recognized for their intellectual and creative abilities. Educated, aristocratic women, conducted salons where artists, writers and even politicians would engage in intellectual conversations.
Blue has always been a popular color in France, as it is in many cultures, but the blues of Provence and the blues of Paris are different. The colors in Provence are more vibrant. Clear saturated hues, intensified by the celebrated sunlight of Provence. The city colors were more subdued, sometimes grayed, or pastel.
The painted ceilings and their salon colors would dictate the color scheme for Renee's studio. The blues ranging from the soft azure blue of the dome to the deep blue of the slate roof. The pale blue textured walls would provide a pleasing background for the range of colors represented in the artworks and fabrics to be displayed.
Suzanne and Paul proved to be very receptive listeners, so Renee happily described other developments in this remodeling process. Before they even had time to absorb the excitement of the revealed ceilings, the workmen came in to ask what they wanted to do with the "stuff" in the little building out back. The owner had said he would have it emptied but had yet to do so. What they found was mostly old boxes and trash, but underneath a pile of boxes was a large table. It had obviously been used (or misused) as a place to store supplies for a long time. It looked like a refectory table, but it had been rather colorfully painted in the same colors that appeared in the ceilings. Much of the paint had peeled away and the tabletop which had not been painted, was heavily scarred. Despite its surface deterioration, the table was still very sturdy and Renee decided it was worth saving for possible use as a work table in the center of her work room. When the layers of grime were removed, it was decided that the painted legs and unexpected shelf at the bottom, would be left as they were, but a new top would cover the bumpy surface of the scarred wood.
Renee liked the sense of mystery which she thought was represented by the colorfully painted table. She wondered why such a formal table had been so playfully painted. Who did the painting? Was it the same artist who had painted the ceilings? The colors were the same. If so who was he? The decorated ceilings and the painted table were delightful but certainly not the work of a master artisan.
Renee had so many questions about this unusual little building. Its architecture was quite different from that of the rest of the buildings in town. The realtor had very little information, all he seemed to care about was his commission. Even the owner had little to add. He knew that it had been a law office before his great grandfather bought it in 1850. But he didn't think it looked like a law office so he was sure it wasn't built for that purpose. The cornerstone showed a date of 1763, a time of gaiety for the aristocracy which was to end years later following the French Revolution.
Aunt Sophie was curious too, and decided she would start searching for answers. She would begin by looking through family documents which were stored in the library of the Chateau. Since the Chateau had been built by Claude's great grandfather at about the same time as the studio building, there might possibly be some reference to other buildings in town. Suzanne's abrupt question about the reception desk and other pieces of furniture made Renee realize she was more curious about the studio's origin than her guests were.
<back Home next>