The founding families

familles fondatricesA history linked to the monks

The unusual history of Le Cannet surfaces as you stroll around the old town. It first bore the charming name of Olivetum due to its many olive groves planted by the Romans. In those days a major road, via Julia (named after the daughter of Emperor Augustus), passed over the hills. Traces of it can still be found today.

Between 400 and 410 C.E., a monk named Saint-Honorat came to the island with Saint-Caprais and a few other companions, and settled there in search of solitude. Joined by a crowd of disciples, Saint-Honorat founded a community – In which the monks led "common life" – that became a huge monastery in 427 C.E. The Lérins monks later inherited the port of Cannes from Guillaume Gruetta, the youngest son of Rodoard, Count of Antibes.

It was in the year one thousand that Le Cannet began its existence. A single thought then haunted the soul of its inhabitants: "Earn today the right to God's mercy as the end of the world is near". The best way to succeed in this was to donate to the church and religious houses a part or the entirety of one's property, usually farmland. The Lérins monastery thus prospered materially in the Cannet area. The earliest mention of Le Cannet figures in a legal document dating back to the 19th of January 1281, by which the major-sacristan of Lérins gave Olivier Isnard de Mougins a piece of land situated on the location of Le Cannet.


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The Lime kiln

four-a-chauxThe birth of a hamlet around an intersection

At the end of the 19th century, around 1880, a new neighbourhood emerged: The Lime Kiln. It is considered a lieu-dit "formed by a cluster of workers' houses due to the quarries and other industries". The Lime Kiln at first represented the housing zone along the Grasse road, and this location would later become the site of the future place Foch. Several names remind us still of the quarries and their prosperous exploitation that sparked the Lime Kiln's growth: boulevard du Perrier, rue des Roches... The only establishments at the time were a food and drink kiosk and a local tax office, the management of which was entrusted to Cannes. The latter would collect the tax for transferring certain goods from one town to another.


A sharp increase

The hamlet population grew rapidly, partly due to the exploitation of its quarries and lime kilns. From the end of the 19th century, it also began to welcome many Italian day labourers and workers. On the Côte d'Azur, construction sites such as that of the Boulevard Carnot were abundant, demanding a large labour force. These Italian immigrants soon represented the majority of the population, and became perfectly integrated. At the turn of the 20th century, a real community was established thanks to the housing development and the installation of a telephone exchange. This growth did not go unnoticed by the local municipal officials, nor by the church, which was quick to show its interest in this young population.

Its inhabitants were then faced with the problem of funerals, having to convey their deceased loved ones by their own means to the Sainte-Catherine Church, one hour's walk away. The clergy therefore decided to build a new church in front of the stone quarry. The construction of the Saint-Charles des Carrières Church started in May 1911. It was inaugurated with great pomp the following November.

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Key dates


First mention of Le Cannet
The earliest mention of Le Cannet figures on a legal document dating back to the 19th of January, 1281. In it, the head of the Lérins abbey granted a plot of land located ad Cannetum in perpetual emphyteusis to Olivier Isnard, a Mougins bourgeois. This territory, with its rather vague boundaries, was said to belong to Mougins at the time. It was later absorbed into the territory of Cannes.



First families
Following a dramatic fall in population during the reign of Queen Jeanne due to the effects of the plague, wars and pillaging, there was an increase in actes d'habitation (real estate contracts) registered in eastern Provence. These emphyteutic lease holds were mainly made with people originating from the Genoa river area. The aim was to repopulate deserted villages and exploit the land that had been abandoned.

The first acte d'habitation of Le Cannet dates back to the 5th of February, 1441. In it, Dom André de Plaisance, head of the Lérins hospital, granted several pieces of land emphyteutically to Sylvestre Calvy, a tanner from Val d'Oneille in Liguria. This contract is considered to be the foundation stone that led to the construction of a permanent settlement. The Calvy family, the first to settle in Le Cannet, then brought in more settlers from Val d'Oneille, known as "Figons" by the inhabitants.

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His life, his work

bonnard par ostierPierre Bonnard (1867-1947) is without a doubt one of the most important French painters of the first half of the 20th century.

The personality of Bonnard was fashioned by the end of the impressionist period and the Nabi movement of which he was one of the leaders. He later freed himself from the influence of all artistic movements and conventions to develop a very personal style. His sensitive vision of the world then predominates: an enchanting, vibrant and luminous nature in opposition with reality. Although bearing an appearance of quiet simplicity, his work is complex, full of nuances and seemingly timeless.

Pierre Bonnard was born at Fontenay-aux-Roses on the 3rd of October 1867. From a very early age Bonnard showed a great interest in drawing and colour. While he was studying law, following his father's wishes, Bonnard dreamt more and more of dedicating his life exclusively to painting. He therefore entered the Académie Julian and met Maurice Denis, Paul Ranson, Henri-Gabriel Ibels and Edouard Vuillard whom he felt closest to. Bonnard found happiness amongst his fellow art students.

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Le Bosquet

Le BosquetIn 1904 Pierre Bonnard also discovered the Midi during a visit to Saint-Tropez, where his friends Edouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel were staying. He met with Valtat and Signac, who also received Matisse and Derain that same year, both on their way to fauvism. At the invitation of Manguin, he returned there for a longer stay in the summer of 1909, which enabled him to paint several canvases. Until 1914 he kept alternating between Paris, Normandy and the Midi.

In the Midi, Bonnard discovered a light and vegetation unknown to him. The colour of the eucalyptus, olive trees, almond trees and mimosas reveals itself in the Mediterranean light. The painter was immediately touched. He wrote to his mother the following phrase that was to become famous: "I had a thousand and one nights' shot. The sea, the yellow walls, the reflections as colourful as the lights..."

1922 was the year of his encounter with Le Cannet. Completely won over by this haven of peace that answered to both the health requirements of his wife Marthe, and his quest for tranquillity, nature and heights, Bonnard came there to spend every winter in various houses he had rented: "Maison Blanche" (White House), "L'Hirondelle" (The Swallow), "Le Rêve" (The Dream). In 1926 he bought a modest looking house on avenue Victoria, which he christened "Le Bosquet". Bonnard was by then very well known and had the means to buy a much larger and more comfortable house, with an easier access. But it was the quiet tranquillity of the site that captivated him, as well as the view over the Cannes bay and the Esterel massif. He transformed all the house's openings so that nature would be visible from any one point inside the house.

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Le Cannet, it can't be missed...

evidenceThe Cannet landscapes and the light of the Midi were to Bonnard endless sources of inspiration. During the 22 years he spent in Le Cannet, Bonnard painted what all the experts agree are his greatest masterpieces.

Bonnard created over three hundred works of art in Le Cannet, some of them intimate, inspired of his private world. Le Bosquet thus became the subject of many of his compositions. Bonnard painted and re-painted every corner of this pink house: the dining room, the small living room, the very famous bathroom. Some of these world famous paintings form part of his reference work. Nu dans le bain (Naked in the bath), 1936-1938, Nu devant la glace (Naked in front of the mirror), around 1934, La sortie de la baignoire (Getting out of the bath), around 1926-1930.

Another aspect of his work: landscapes. Paysage du Cannet aux toits rouges (Landscape of Cannet and its red rooftops), Ciel d'orage sur Cannes (Stormy skies over Cannes)..., the surrounding landscape moved Bonnard deeply, just as Sainte-Victoire touched Cézanne or Giverny did Monet. It was to him an inspirational land. This history of connections and identity between Bonnard and Le Cannet confers its true legitimacy to his museum.

Bonnard museum

Musee Bonnard

" I hope that my painting will keep, without cracking. I would like to appear before the young painters of the year 2000 with butterfly wings ". (Pierre Bonnard, 1946)

This wish is honored the 25th of June 2011, date of the opening of the museum. Supported by the State, who in 2006 granted it the title of "Musée de France", the museum was carried out on a site close to the Bosquet, the Saint-Vianney hotel, built in 1908.

The idea of the project was to preserve the spirit of the building, one of the last architectural remains of the Belle Epoque, while transforming its space into real exhibition space. The museum's forecourt, public reception area and museum "showcase", opens onto the boulevard Carnot. For the sake of harmony and esthetics, an exterior column (sheltering the lift) was built on one side of the villa, highlighting its architectural quality while giving the building a contemporary feel.

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Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)

Tour-des-DanysProsper Mérimée was born into a family of bourgeois artists settled near the Pantheon. He first studied law before showing an interest in literature and publishing texts in 1825, including short stories such as "Carmen" and "La Vénus d'Ille" that earned him fame and led to his being elected to the Académie Française in 1844.

In 1831 he started working in the Ministers' Offices and became Inspector General of Historic Monuments. He then travelled throughout France. A close ally of the Empress Eugenie, he was made Senator in 1853 and began to dedicate more time to his work as a historian and archaeologist. "I like history only for its anecdotes", used to say Mérimée.

And there is no anecdote more appropriate than the following. During one of his stays in Le Cannet, he asked an old woman the name of the Danys Tower. The woman, who only spoke Provençal, answered: « Ah Moussu ! Es habitado per aqueu brigand d'Agnelin s'enebrio chasque jou » (Ah Monsieur ! That's the house of that rogue Agnelin, who gets drunk every day). Prosper Mérimée dared not asked her to repeat her answer. But as he thought he had heard a word resembling brigand, he named the tower "Tour des brigands", as it is sometimes still known today.


Melle Rachel (1821-1858)

RachelBorn in Switzerland in 1821 of an Israelite family, Elisabeth Rachel Felix entered the conservatoire at a very young age. At only 17 years of age, she started to work with the Comédie Française. She was a great interpreter of Racine and her exceptional talent turned each performance into a triumph. But the comedian was hit by tuberculosis. Writer Mario Uchard then recommended that she spend some time in the south of France, in Le Cannet with his friend Jean-Jacques Sardou.

The latter, cousin to Victorien Sardou, came from a family of merchants. Extremely rich and considered eccentric, he had a house built just off boulevard Carnot. According to cadastral documentation, it was built in 1856-1857. At that time, Villa Sardou, also known as "lou castèu", was difficult to access, bordered by the Escarasses stream. It was reached by a narrow paved path starting off with a vaulted passage on the edge of the plot.

The house's baroque architecture made it an inevitable curiosity that was described in all the guide books of the time. It impressed all its visitors, with its bridge and two turrets, one of which contained an oratory. A. Czernicki, who saw the house at the time, said that it "then possessed an extraordinary charm that was both darkly poetic and mysterious", lost as it was amongst orange trees, with a courtyard decked with fountains and statues. The inside of the villa is just as surprising and strange. In the lounge, a marble chimney place is sculpted to represent a gigantic olive tree, with mirrors set in between the branches, one of which spreads up to the ceiling, itself decorated with planets and stars. The house's stained-glass windows were designed by Mr. Sardou himself.This barely finished "château" thus rapidly became famous with the arrival of tragedian Rachel. She left Paris on the 14th of September 1857. During her stay at Le Cannet, she received many visitors, including the Prince Napoleon. But her disease made rapid progress and she died in the arms of her sister in January 1858. A huge crowd assembled for her funeral which was held in Paris. The famous alabaster bed on which she died, with the statue of Polymnie, muse of lyrical poetry, at its foot, is a speaking example of the unusual, not to say eccentric taste of the owner of the house. Many postcards featuring the bed and the lounge were edited in 1909.

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Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)

VSardou« It was in 1839 that I first came to this country (...); this delicious Cannet, so well tucked away, so warm. Nestled in its bed of lemon and orange trees, with its terraced houses (...), it had everything of a Sardinian or Corsican village.»

Victorien Sardou was 8 years old when he first came to stay in the family house, the fifth in the road that bears his name. Captivated by the atmosphere, the colours and the light unique to Le Cannet that Bonnard found so inspiring, he was one of the many celebrities to leave their stamp on the Cannet way if life.

A member of one of the founding families of Le Cannet, he was born in Paris in 1831. First a medical student, then a tutor in philosophy, mathematics and history, he made his literary début by collaborating with magazines and encyclopaedias. After producing one play that turned out to be a failure, he abandoned the theatre until his marriage to Mademoiselle Brécourt in 1858. One year later he finally met with success with "Les premières armes du Figaro" (The first weapons of Figaro). He produced over 40 other plays – including the famous "Madame sans-gêne" (The shameless woman) and "Tosca" – for which he was elected to the Académie Française in 1877.

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