Lascaris Palace, Nice, France

The Palais Lascaris is a former aristocratic residence Nice dating from the first half of the XVII century, The Palais Lascaris is a Historic Monument, located in the heart of the old town, the architectural style is of the so- called Genoese baroque, it is the most remarkable monument of the Nice civil baroque by its monumental staircase decorated with frescoes and its luxuriously decorated lounges.

The Palace was built in the middle of the XVII th century, one of the first families of Nice nobility, the Lascaris-Ventimiglia. It perpetuates the fame of the Lascaris-Vintimille that Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, considered as the “principalissima” of the families of the Nice nobility, in the 17th century. It remained the property of this family until the Revolution. Put on sale in 1802, it suffered significant damage. Bought in 1942 by the city of Nice, it was classified as a historical monument in 1946.

Rehabilitation work began in 1963 and ended in 1970, when the palace was finally opened to the public as a municipal museum. It constitutes, with the dozen religious buildings located in its close vicinity, an exceptional group which covers all the successive phases of the evolution of Baroque architecture from the beginning of the 17th century to the end of the 18th century.

The Palais Lascaris now is a museum of musical instruments old, it houses a collection of around 500 instruments, which makes it the second most important collection in France.

The Lascaris-Vintimille family
The Lascaris-Vintimille family, all branches included, had many knights and dignitaries of the Order of Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, better known as the Order of Malta.

His ancestor, Guillaume-Pierre de Vintimille had married in 1261 Eudoxie Lascaris, princess of the Byzantine dynasty, who reigned over the empire of Nicaea after the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders. The counts of Tendes and other lines of Ventimiglia, resulting from this union, adopted the name and the arms of Lascaris.

The palace was built from 1648 for Jean-Baptiste Lascaris (1600-1650), Lord of Castellar, camp marshal of the Duke of Savoy, descendant of the Counts of Ventimiglia.

History of the buliding
Built in the first half of the XVII century and the XVIII century, it was until 1802 owned by the family Ventimiglia-Lascaris. Fell into disrepair in the early XX century, the palace was bought in 1942 by the city of Nice who decides to accommodate a museum of arts and popular traditions Regional. It is the object adorn of a classification under the historical monuments since the February 15, 1946. The rehabilitation work began in 1963 and ended in 1970, the year the palace was definitively opened to the public. In 2001, the instrumental collections of the city of Nice were transferred from the Masséna museum to the Lascaris palace with the aim of creating a museum of musical instruments. In 2011, the permanent exhibition of ancient musical instruments is finally open to the public. This aristocratic residence, a masterpiece of the baroque style in Nice, is home to a Museum dedicated to the art and music of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Palais Lascaris, located in the heart of the old town, is the most remarkable civilian baroque monument in Nice with its monumental staircase, its frescoes and its luxuriously decorated salons. Along with about a dozen religious buildings located nearby, it forms an exceptional group demonstrating the successive phases in the development of baroque architecture from the early 17th century to the end of the 18th century.

The Palais was built in the middle of the 17th century for the Lascaris Vintimille family, one of the leading families of the Nice nobility, considered by Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, as the “principalissima” of the County of Nice. The Palais stayed in the Lascaris-Vintimille family until the Revolutionary period. Put up for sale in 1802, it suffered serious damage. Purchased by the City of Nice in 1942, it was listed as a historic monument in 1946. Refurbishment work began in 1963 and was completed in 1970, the year the Palais was definitively opened to the public as a Municipal Museum.

On the piano nobile (main floor), the Appartements d’Éparat (reception apartments) invite you to discover their ceilings decorated with frescoes depicting mythological themes and stucco work dating from the late 17th century, along with the permanent collection focusing on the 17th and 18th centuries – paintings and graphic arts, sculptures, furniture and objets d’art, and tapestries from Aubusson and Flanders.

The Palais Lascaris is also home to a remarkable collection of antique musical instruments from the Antoine Gautier estate, the second largest public collection in France after the Musée de la Musique in Paris and one of the largest in Europe. In 2013, the Museum also received a prestigious deposit from the Institut de France – the collection of musical instruments that had belonged to Gisèle Tissier-Grandpierre, the famous harpist and friend of Gabriel Fauré.

Baroque in style, and nested in an ancient urban fabric, the palace displays an opulent main facade with the accentuation of windows and balconies with white marble balusters.

Inside, from the entrance, an imposing arched vestibule, adorned with patterns in vigorous tones, contributes to a beautiful visual effect. A monumental staircase closed by arcaded galleries and decorated with statues provides access to the rooms on the first floor used for temporary exhibitions.

At the second level, called noble floor with its state apartments retain its decorations plafonnants original, painted fresco in the middle of the XVII century. The statues and decor rock salons are added to the XVIII century.

Flemish and Aubusson tapestries adorn the walls of the museum and furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries decorate the various rooms of the museum. Many paintings with religious themes recall the influence of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem and its vocation. Devotional objects, in particular reliquaries, date from the heritage left by the Lascaris-Vintimille family.

All of this contributes to making this place one of the most beautiful palaces in Nice. The palace now devotes its exhibition area to the permanent presentation of its collection of old musical instruments, resulting from the bequest of the notable Nice Antoine Gautier (1825-1904).

The Lascaris Palace Museum was created in 1963 in the former Baroque residence of the Lascaris-Vintimille family, a major testimony to Baroque civil architecture in Nice. Decorative and fine arts from the 17th and 18th centuries: tapestries, paintings, sculptures, furniture and works of art; Instrumental collection; Regional ethnography fund… On the noble floor, the state apartments invite you to explore the ceilings decorated with frescoes on mythological themes or with stucco ornaments, from the end of the 17th century.

The Palace also houses a prestigious collection of European scholarly musical instruments, namely the Antoine Gautier bequest which represents the second collection in France (after that of the Musée de la Musique in Paris) and one of the most important ‘Europe. In 2013, the Palais Lascaris benefited from the prestigious deposit, by the Institut de France, of the famous collection of musical instruments brought together by Gisèle Tissier-Grandpierre, famous harpist and friend of Gabriel Fauré.

Legacy of Antoine Gautier
The instrumental collection comes mainly from the legacy of Antoine Gautier which took effect in 1904.

Antoine Gautier was born in Nice in 1825, son of Joseph Octave Gautier, a wealthy timber merchant and of Félicité Rossetti, daughter of Prefect Rossetti and granddaughter of Senator Rossetti. After classical studies at the Jesuit college (currently Lycée Masséna), he became a lawyer. Amateur musician, Antoine Gautier plays the violin and the viola, and at eighteen he founded a quartet with his brother Raymond, where Antoine holds the viola part. He sets up his music room as well as his large collection of instruments in his house in rue Papacino:
“Papacino Street, we were in the Temple. Everything invited there to meditation, the large library where the carefully bound and aligned collections of all the musical journals of Europe stood side by side with the rare editions, the showcases the gongs, Hawaiian guitars, marine trumpets, archlutes, quintons, oboes of love, works by Maggini or Guarniéri, the four large oak desks and the large-format Pleyel piano, making the admiration of visitors. ”

Many artists attended the show, including Jacques Thibaud and Eugène Ysaÿe; during an evening in January 1902, Gabriel Fauré came to play several of his piano compositions. In 1903, the Gautier Quartet celebrated its sixty years there. The following year, Antoine Gautier died in his home, in his seventy-ninth year, bequeathing to the city its instrumental collections made up of more than 225 pieces and its musical library.

The Gautier legacy was granted in favor of the City of Nice by will of May 26, 1901 and by a codicil of June 8 of the same year; it was accepted by the City of Nice as part of an extraordinary meeting of the municipal council on September 19, 1904. The article of the will which concerns the bequest is succinct:
“Wishing to encourage the creation in Nice, my hometown, of a well-organized musical education institution, I bequeath to the city of Nice sixty thousand (60,000) francs, and moreover my collections of musical instruments and accessories, musical works and books on music, on the sole condition of allocating six hundred (600) francs annually to a luthier responsible for the conservation of the instruments; I think that Mr. Francois Bovis luthier would be the most suitable for this job. ”

Since the legacy of Antoine Gautier, the City of Nice has continued to enrich this collection which has been exhibited or conserved successively at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Masséna Museum, the Nice Conservatory and today at the Lascaris Palace.

Important parts
Among the most important pieces are:

a tenor sacqueboute by Anton Schnitzer (Nuremberg, 1581)
a love violas Joannes Florenus Guidanti (Bologna, 1717), Gagliano (Naples, 1697), Johann Schorn (Salzburg, 1699) and Johann Ott (Fussen, 1727);
a viols including that of William Turner (London, 1652);
a violin bass by Paolo Antonio Testore (Milan, 1696);
several extremely rare baroque guitars, including one by Giovanni Tesler (Ancona, 1618), one by René Voboam (Paris, c. 1650) and one by Jean Christophle (Avignon, 1645), which is one of the oldest French guitars dated;
the recorders of the XVIII century, including a viola made by Johann Christoph Denner (Nuremberg, beginning of the XVIII century);
a harpsichord (formerly claviorganum) anonymous of XVIII century;
numerous harps: the first prototypes of Sébastien Érard, including his first single-movement harp and his first double-movement, as well as a harp by Naderman (Paris, 1780) which belonged to the Vicomtesse de Beaumont;
a rare ensemble of clarinets;
experimental string instruments;
several instruments made by Adolphe Sax, including a saxophone quartet and a saxotromba;
French keyboard instruments of the XVIII to XX centuries, the Pleyel (Paris, 1863) belonging to the Circle Massena Nice;
one of the most famous guitars in playing condition by Antonio de Torres (Almeria, 1884);
many instruments of southern manufacture;
fifty instruments outside Europe of Gautier collection of XIX century.
a set of jazz instruments, including a 1950s Grafton saxophone

In 2009, the AXA group deposited the Gaveau-Érard-Pleyel Fund at the Palais Lascaris, presented to the public in two exhibitions: Érard, the invention of the modern harp, 1811-2011 in 2011 and Le Clavier vivant in 2012. On January 31, 2013, the Institut de France deposited at the Palais Lascaris the Tissier-Grandpierre collection (66 instruments, including 18 old harps).

The Palais Lascaris instrumental collection is part of the MIMO project (Musical Instrument Museums Online), the instructions for which are available on the Europeana site.