In December 1883 Claude Monet has joined Renoir traveling to the Italian Riviera. He was enchanted by the lights, the colors and the rich vegetation of Bordighera, the “Queen of Palm Trees”. Because he preferred to explore its possibilities alone, early in January he went back to Liguria to work. The initial plan was to spend three weeks there but his stay in Bordighera was extended to months.
I was, initially, just looking for that postcard from the Monet’s Berm, the one thing Oliver has taken with him when he left B for New York at the end of that summer. The postcard that decades later was still hanging on the wall of his office when Elio visited him. It was not too difficult to find “The View of Bordighera”. The greatest surprise was to learn that the original painting was to be found in Westwood Village, one of my favorite places to go when in Los Angeles, as part of the Armand Hammer private collection. Dr Armand Hammer, the founder of the Hammer Museum, was the great-grandfather of Armie Hammer, the one we know as Oliver in Luca Guadagnino’s film and who is also the Honorary Director of the Hammer Collection together with Viktor Armand Hammer.
Digging deeper into this matter I was happy to find a different version of that same view, currently on view in Chicago. See them below:
The happiest moment at the end of my trip was when I climbed the hills on a hot sunny morning and looked around from the berm.
To be precise, the original location where Monet liked to go out to work was the amazing Torre dei Mostaccini mansion, and more precisely, its tower. The mansion is a private property and not accessible for visitors.
Thanks to the City of Bordighera and the Mariani Foundation (Fondazione Pompeo Mariani) and it’s president, Carlo Bagnasco I had the great opportunity to visit parts of the once larger Moreno Gardens. The world famous park that was mentioned by the architect Charles Garnier. The atelier for creation for artists like Pompeo Mariani, the place where King Umberto and his wife, Queen Margherita paid visits to the artist. The garden where the once called Bischoffsheim, now Etelinda Villa kept memories of the childhood of the little Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who later will be known as the Queen Mother. The villa, once a property of the great grandparents of Queen Elizabeth II. and the large gardens were sold to Regina Margherita di Savoy in 1914. The Queen Mother came back to Bordighera with her daughter, the future Queen of the United Kingdom to spend the winter months in the town even after the Etelinda was sold, but they stayed at another villa, in the outskirts of Bordighera, now a cultural center, Villa Poggio Ponente.
Monet painted quite a few versions of the “Villas at Bordighera” in the Moreno Garden. This one is a rarely seen one. Lately it’s been exposed in Potsdam and London, but it is part of a private collection.
Although I found one more version of that painting in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California I still had to travel for the most famous one to Paris and visit the Impressionists’ galleries at the Musée D’Orsay:
Visiting him on a warm Mediterranean afternoon, Carlo Bagnasco was very kind to show me around and point out some of the approximate locations where Monet created some of his famous artworks in 1884.
“The Garden in Bordighera – The Impression of the Morning” was also painted here and it is now on view in Saint Petersburg, as part of Hermitage’s impressive permanent collection.
I did not have to go very far for the “Palm Trees in Bordighera”, it is to be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York – currently not on view. I climbed Via dei Colli to the top of the gardens and checked the view from Belvedere del Carillo. I checked the public part of the former Moreno Gardens, now the Monet’s Park to find the location for the “Giardini Moreno a Bordighera”, this one is on view in West Palm Beach, Florida at Norton Gallery and School of Art: