The Casino de Monte-Carlo is widely-known for its history, its European games and the “resort” to which it belongs, still the most important in the world in terms of prestige and for its wide variety of establishments.
Casino de Monaco Timeline
The world’s most prestigious casino’s projecting façade was completed in 1890. Designed by French architect Jules Touzet (1850–1914), Officer of the Academy and a graduate of the School of Fine Arts of Paris, the building is enhanced by a wrought-iron awning and two pavilions crowned by domes covered in ceramics which frame the entrance.
From 1890 to 1892, the two turrets were adorned with clocks : one giving the time in Monaco, the other in Paris, whence “La Seine” and “La Méditerranée”, two statues by Italian sculptor Fabio Stecchi (born in Urbino in 1855 – died in Nice), a pupil of Pio Fedi (1816–1892) in Florence, then of Paul Dubois (1829–1905) in Paris. Stecchi first settled in Paris in 1879, then moved to Nice where he lived until his death. Two more statues by this sculptor adorned the façade in 1890, “Le Jour” (“Day”) and “La Nuit” (“Night”), but they were removed and destroyed by the artist himself.
The lateral façade (right) was uniformised in 1906 by architect Arthur Demerlé. A short, elegant balustrade runs along the top, interrupted by bronze sprites carrying torches and figures representing the four seasons.
François Blanc, then his wife Marie, and later his son Camille, called on the services of the best architects and artists of the late 19th century, including Charles Garnier, who had just completed the Paris Opera-House. They all had a remarkable feeling for the concept of spaciousness. The vast rooms, in which each panel, each frieze were entrusted to these painters or sculptors, convey a feeling of unity through their impressive volumes. The choice of the paintings in each room reinforces this impression, as they are almost all an ode to beauty and the elegance of women. This evocation of women is very different depending on the painters and eras concerned, ranging from the rigour of the Atrium to the fantasy of the Salle Blanche.
Casino comes from “casina”, a small house for courtesans: the first was built in the town of Spa in Belgium in 1762. The casino portrayed here was inaugurated in 1863, a full century later.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is like a jigsaw puzzle. The main building dates back to 1863. Over the years, new rooms were built and added on to the main building, to meet clients’ requirements and offer the architecture that we know today.
Though the tale didn’t begin here.
In 1856, Prince Florestan entrusted Léon Langlois and Albert Aubert with the task of “building and running” an establishment which was to be named “Bains de Monaco” : its gaming rooms opened out to the Condamine.
There were very few visitors, as the only way of reaching Monaco consisted of taking the mule-path down from La Turbie or arriving by boat. By November 22nd, 1857, there were no longer any visitors, nor any employees.
Charles III decided to build the “Elysées Alberti”, the future “Casino des Spélugues”, which was then a wild plateau covered with olive-trees.
A road was built. The construction of hotels was completed. The neighbourhood became known as the “Golden Square” as early as 1863.
The Casino’s inauguration that same year was followed by its loss, as it was incapable of paying a player who had won 50,000 F, unless it gave him the Casino itself.
The Hôtel de Paris was inaugurated in 1864.
After making the fortune of Bad Homburg (that he left because its legislation changed and gambling was forbidden), businessman François Blanc took over the Casino and obtained exclusive operating rights for 50 years from the “Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers”.
He arrived in Monaco with a number of croupiers (which explains why some families in Monaco still have Germanic-sounding names).
In 1878, Charles Garnier transformed the Salle Europe, the Casino’s first gambling room, opting for sombre decoration. The allegorical paintings which have been preserved date back to the Casino’s restoration in 1898. One also finds frescos inspired by the seasons and the idyllic nature in Monaco, not forgetting the eight chandeliers weighing 150 kg, made of Bohemian crystal.
1868: the steam train arrived in Monaco and the first of five “Cafés de Paris” was built, in the style of an Alpine chalet. It was called the “Café Divan” and offered billiards, a tobacconist’s and the “Parfumerie du Soleil”.
New buildings followed in its wake in 1882, 1890, 1897 (with its current name, in oriental style with a minaret and “Lézardière” terrace) and 1988 (10,000 m2, 500 slot-machines, 8 blackjack tables, 6 American roulette tables, 1 craps table) and a restaurant seating 250 guests, adorned with 16 stained-glass windows, 200 seats on the terrace, 100 seats in the “Parisienne”, 280 seats in the Salon Bellevue.
1869 saw a stream of some 170,000 visitors (Alexandre Dumas, Baron de Rothschild, Baron Haussmann, Jacques Offenbach, Prince Napoleon…)
1873: Monte-Carlo was the only Casino still operating in Europe.
In 1878, Charles Garnier and the architect Dutrou rebuilt the Casino in only six months (the Atrium and Salle Renaissance) and the Opera-House was finished (in the Gallery, one could admire two landscapes painted by Jundt in 1879, the first a view of Roquebrune Cap Martin as seen from the Casino, and the other a view of the Casino seen from Roquebrune Cap Martin). 2,000 people came to gamble every week, including all the crowned heads of Europe. Sarah Bernhardt inaugurated the Opera-House.
1881: construction of the Salle des Amériques, the former “Salle Garnier”
1883: the gardens were laid out.
1890: introduction of electricity.
1903: addition of the smoking room and Salle Blanche. Visitors can still admire “Les Grâces Florentines” painted by Gervais who took inspration from the features of Cléo de Mérode, Lyane de Pougy and La Belle Otéro (centre).
Through a friend in the clergy, an Italian countess succeeded in having a gold Louis coin blessed by the Pope. She used it to gamble and won, then lost all her winnings including the gold Louis, which she never recovered. She tried to obtain another blessing, but her attitude had caused a scandal and she finally entered a convent.
The Prince of Nepal could only gamble 5 days a year and had the private salons kept open for the duration of these periods.
A South African gambler played the number of the psalm he heard sung at the Anglican church and won at roulette. Seeing a new influx of worshippers, the Anglican pastor realised that they were playing the numbers of the psalms and avoided those lower than 36…
The bank went broke when the reserves of money at each table were all paid out. The table was covered with a mourning cloth and more funds were brought in.
Charles Wells broke the bank on several occasions in 1891. He played numbers lower than 10 and pocketed 1,000,000 gold francs. Songwriters in London wrote a song called “The Man who Broke the Bank in Monte-Carlo”. On his return, he bet on number 5 and left with 3,000,000 francs. The English still remember him well. Convicted for cheating, he was sent to prison but the mystery of his amazing success was never elucidated.
1906: uniformisation of the façade.
1910: construction of the Cabaret on the site of the former terrace, and the Salle François Médecin (named after the Monégasque architect), also known as the Salle Empire because of its mahogany panelling engraved in gold. It was a private circle to protect high-rollers from indiscreet eyes. The paintings are by Armand Segaud.
The four Super-Privés were created: the Club Anglais, Salon Cuir, Salon Rouge and Super Privé Cabaret, where one could play European and English roulette, Black Jack, Punto Banco, Chemin de Fer.
The chamber music room named after Louis Ganne (conductor, 1862-1923) was inaugurated on December 31st, 1910. In 1948, it was transformed into the Cabaret for performances of “Comedia dell’Arte”.
1911: Diaghilev, Nijinski, Chaliapine, Edward VII, Caruso and La Belle Otéro were all to be seen at the Casino… Louis II was also a regular patron of the Café de Paris.
1931: introduction of slot machines with the “Liberty Bell”, invented by an American engineer.
1948: inauguration of the restaurant Les Privés.
1988: inauguration of the Train Bleu restaurant, named after the train which brought travellers from the north to the shores of the Mediterranean.
Entering the Casino de Monte-Carlo is not just a matter of trying one’s luck at the tables, but also, and above all, entering the legend of a unique place…
The first Casino was built with a small room on the site of the Atrium (or lobby) with a wooden platform on which an orchestra of 15 musicians could perform.
The orchestra, composed of musicians hired as early as 1856 to enliven the days at the gambling establishment, had already acquired a certain reputation. Its recital at the Théâtre Royal in Nice in 1858 made a great impression. In 1859 it became the official orchestra of the “Cercle des Etrangers”. On stage, a few comedies and operettas by Offenbach also provided evening entertainment for the first foreigners who came to the Principality after a travelling experience that was often quite eventful.
The Salle des Pas-Perdus was built in 1878 by Jules-Laurent Dutrou, a French architect who drew up the plans for the Palais de l’Industrie in Paris. It then stood slightly further back than the present-day entrance. It has since provided a magnificent vestibule with 28 Ionic columns in marble, supporting a balustraded gallery which is lit by remarkable bronze candelabras.
The engraved glass in the ceiling provided by the Maison Bitterlin and chosen by Marie Blanc who supervised the decoration in person provides feeble lighting for the two large panels in the gallery. They were produced in 1878 by the Alsatian artist Gustave Adolphe Jundt (born June 21st, 1830, in Strasbourg – died May 14th, 1884, in Paris). Jundt was renowned for his works full of poetry but small in size, works painted on an easel (genre paintings and landscapes). His work was exhibited at the “Salon de Paris” from 1857 to 1882, and he won medals in 1868 and 1873. He was also awarded the Legion of Honour in 1880.
Charles Garnier nevertheless showed no hesitation in entrusting him with a large-format decorative piece, despite his being more used to painting landscapes of northern regions where cold, damp nights leave a cottony cloak in the mornings on the surface of the earth, than Mediterranean scenery. The artist who painted after Nature thus waited for the moment when the sun was about to disappear. The picturesque cut-out of Menton and the “red rocks” seen through the branches of tall olive-trees with their gnarled truncks serve as a backcloth for olive-picking on Cap-Martin, with charming girls in costumes that are hardly Mediterranean. They remind us much more of girls in Alsace with whom the painter was familiar. This canvas was lit by electricity as early as 1879. The second painting, “La Pêche à Monaco”, is a view of the Principality towards Cap d’Ail and Nice.
In 1889, a bar was installed in the round part of the Atrium, behind which the tinkling of slot-machine* tokens was heard for the first time in Monte-Carlo, in December 1931.
In 1979, the slot machines were moved and installed to the left as one enters the Casino. The new room for automatic games was opened on July 12th, 1990, replacing the old cloakrooms at the entrance to the Casino. It contained 89 slot machines. Closed for a while, it reopened in October 2006, with the ticket acceptor system, tokens at 1€ and tokenisation at 0.25 €. The terminology has become increasingly Americanized with Anglicisms such as slot machine, jackpots, American roulette… The style of the “new world” has crept in everywhere.
The casinos’ outstanding collection of slot machines now totals more than 1,000 which all benefit from meticulous maintenance and the constant introduction of new models.
The Salon Renaissance is a large vestibule at the entrance to the Salon de l’Europe. It is one of the Casino’s oldest rooms, transformed in 1968, then fully renovated in 1988 and carefully restored by Ange Pecoraro in “Belle Epoque” style and in its original proportions, which had been hidden by subsequent transformations. One crosses this vestibule to reach the gaming rooms.
In 1968, to provide a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere, it became the anti-chamber of the gaming rooms and an exhibition room. The decorative theme recalls the “collector’s den” so highly prized by rich Italian notables during the Renaissance. The showcases display various exhibits relating to the history and activities of “Société des Bains de Mer”.
To the right, a bar was introduced at the end of 1998. With its 1900’s atmosphere enhanced by elegant tables and comfortable chairs, the Bar Renaissance has become an essential spot for a relaxing pause. Offering the same opening hours as the Casino, it can be used after paying the admission fee.
To the left, the Mosaïk restaurant opened its doors in the spring of 2005. The design for its interior decor took the room’s proportions and its rich existing decor into account. Furniture of the simple design was chosen to provide a contrast with the spirals and arabesques of the mouldings.
The restaurant formula is innovative in that it offers three concepts in the form of a buffet : the “Espace Thaï” – a buffet of hot and cold Asian dishes (salads, sushi, shrimps…) ; the “Pasta Station” – fast preparation of fresh pasta cooked before the customer and served with sauces, plus a daily special (meat or fish) ; and the “Salad Bar” – salads to be composed individually for fans of dietetic meals.
A monumental screen displaying old slot machines serves to isolate the restaurant from the entrance to the gaming rooms. It is an illuminated display unit for the pioneers of Monaco, with a glass back engraved with fine horizontal grooves. The restaurant is opening to the gaming clientele but also to the local clients.
The Casino’s first gaming room was inaugurated on January 1st, 1865. Architect Jules-Laurent Dutrou renovated it entirely in 1869. The Salle Europe was built on the east side of the Casino after a few trees were cut down. Its decoration in Moorish style was designed in Paris. In 1878, it was transformed by Charles Garnier, then completely rebuilt in 1898 by Henri Schmit, a French architect of Dutch origin (born in Rheims in 1851 – died on December 15th, 1904, in Monaco at the Villa Prince Albert hospital, from the aftermath of a stroke – buried in Paris). Henri Schmit had worked for the “Société des Bains de Mer” for 18 years.
Following its most recent restoration in 1968, it was renamed the “Salon de l’Europe”.
Charles Garnier had opted for sober decoration, just the opposite of that used for the Opera-House. Yielding to the taste of the time, it was thus completely taken in hand when Schmit was entrusted with its restoration. As huge as the nave of a cathedral, with onyx columns circled in bronze, a vast ceiling with a glass dome, sculptures, a profusion of gilding…, nothing was forgotten. The room is lit by 8 monumental chandeliers of Bohemian crystal.
We owe “La Récolte des Oranges” and “Promenade en Mer” to French artist Paul Steck (born in Troyes), a painter of the past and landscapes, and a member of the “Société des Artistes Français” from 1896. He won an honourable commendation in 1895, the 3rd-class medal in 1896, a travel stipend in 1896 and a bronze medal in 1900 at the World Fair.
“L’Ascension des Alpes” and “Promenade Au Bord de Mer” are by Félix Hippolyte Lucas, aka Marie Félix Hippolyte-Lucas (born November 9th, 1854, at Rochefort-sur-Mer, Charente Maritime – died April 17th, 1925, at Bougival.). This French painter of figures, portraits and mural compositions regularly exhibited his work at the “Salon des Artistes Français” in Paris, from 1877 to 1924. He won an honourable commendation in 1879, a travel stipend in 1881, the 3rd-class medal in 1884, the 2nd-class medal in 1887, a silver medal in 1889, and another in 1900, at the World Fair. He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour. He also painted the work entitled “Femme entourée d’Anges”, which adorns the central section of the box ceiling in the Louis XV Salon at the Hôtel de Paris.
“Bataille des Fleurs” and “Sur Les Terrasses” are by Pierre (Pedro) Ribera, a Spanish artist who became a naturalised French citizen (born December 2nd, 1867, in Madrid – died in 1932, in Paris). He was known for his battle scenes, figures, nudes, portraits, landscapes, seascapes, and was the pupil of Léon Bonnat (1833 – 1922), a French academic painter and portraitist, the master of great artists such as Gustave Caillebotte, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, travelling companion of the young Degas. Ribera participated in the “Salon des Artistes Français” in Paris, winning the 3rd-class medal in 1907.
Georges Picard (born December 23rd, 1857, at Remiremont in the Vosges – died around 1942 during deportation to the concentration camp of Struthof, France). A French painter of compositions with figures, mural compositions and nudes, Picard benefitted from important and flattering commissions, including those for the Casino: “L’Automne” and “Le Printemps”. All these artworks helped make Monte-Carlo an exotic destination during the “Belle Epoque”. Picard was a regular exhibitor at the “Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts”, of which he was the treasurer.
All these works are dated 1898. They symbolise the four seasons (Steck & Picard) and the four natural elements (Ribera & Lucas).
One also finds two medallion canvases by Lucas, “La Musique” and “La Peinture”. In the first, an allegorical scene, the architect Schmit is featured in the bas-relief represented by Cupid.
Paul Larché, a French sculptor from the “Art Nouveau” school (born in 1860 at Saint-André-de-Cubzac – died in 1912 in Paris) was well-known for his female nudes. He was inspired by the dancer Loïe Fuller. For the Casino, he produced the allegorical bas-reliefs “L’Air” and “La Terre”, which adorn the ceiling tympana. We owe the other two bas-reliefs, “Le Feu” and “L’Eau”, to Lucien Pallez (born in Paris on May 22, 1853), winner of silver medals at the World Fairs of 1889 and 1900.
The bulls-eye windows all around the room served as observation points of the gaming room. Camille Blanc would hide there for hours to keep an eye on the players, and his employees. Nowadays, an electronic system handles surveillance of the salons.
In the Salon Europe, we also find the Casino de Monte-Carlo’s two oldest games, Trente et Quarante and European roulette, which have been played ever since the Casino’s inauguration in 1863.
* Trente et Quarante is a very old card game, known well before roulette. One can find traces of the game as far back as the 15th century; since then, it has continued to fascinate players. It won its letters of nobility under the aegis of Mazarin. Trente et Quarante is played with six full packs of 52 cards around a table in the shape of a shield. It became a casino game most especially played in France. Its name derives from the fact that the breakdown of the winning points must lie between 30 and 40.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is to gambling what a house of “Haute Couture” is to fashion: its elegance constantly evolves to follow what’s currently in the air, blending high technology machines with traditional games. Monte-Carlo has always been the undisputed flagship of roulette, especially when it was outlawed in France. French roulette has always kept the favours of great players. Roulette is a magician that sometimes turns you into a beggar, sometimes into a nabob.
* “Faites vos jeux”, “Rien ne va plus”… words that have stirred a lot of emotions and suspense for many decades. Roulette, a game involving the placing of bets on a grid, comes from the French word meaning a “small wheel”. Roulette spread throughout Europe between the 18th and 19th centuries, and especially to Monte-Carlo. The first roulette as we know it today is believed to have been used in a “house of pleasure” in Spa, Belgium, around 1780. It is to the Blanc brothers, then owners of the Casino of Bad Hombourg in Germany, that we owe roulette with a single zero, known as European roulette and brought to Monte-Carlo by François Blanc. In 1841, they had decided to eliminate one of the two zeros in order to encourage and entice the players, making unparalleled advertising out of this operation. The casino collects all the stakes when the silver ball falls on zero. It’s thus easy to understand the popularity of this step, which worked in favour of the players while lowering the casino’s takings. Since the 19th century, one thing hasn’t changed, and probably never will : the monotonous voice of the croupier announcing tirelessly, over and over again, fortune for some, ruin for others ; the strange decisions of Lady Luck for all those who vainly search the way to win fabulous sums of money, those whom certain Casino employees ironically call “graduates in roulette”.
Charles Graves wrote that “all the numbers on a roulette wheel add up to 666, the number of the beast (symbol of evil) in the Apocalypse (of Saint John)”.
Competition for European games in other French casinos has endowed Monaco with a predominant position, as its array of offerings is unique throughout the world. Only casinos in Las Vegas, London Clubs and a few Asian casinos can compete. On March 16th, 1968, on the occasion of the inaugural reopening of the Salon de l’Europe, a great ball in 1900’s style was organised in the presence of Sovereign Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace. On the occasion of its restoration, all the leafy scrolls, all the mouldings and ornamentation on the colonnades… were re-gilded with 22-carat gold-leaf.
Several side rooms open out from the Salon, like so many chapels. To the left, one finds the Italian restaurant “Le Train Bleu”, inaugurated on December 29th, 1988. It replaced the former gaming offices. Its decor, entrusted to Alain Deverini, recreates in the tiniest details a dining-room on the “wagons-lits” (sleeping cars) in the days of the “Belle Epoque”, with showcases displaying a collection of old toys of high esthetic value. It opens at the same time as the Casino but is closed from 5 to 7 p.m.
This room was designed and built by Henri Schmit in 1903, at the request of Camille Blanc and in keeping with his indications. It was intended for male and female gamblers who couldn’t refrain from smoking. At the time, smoking was forbidden in the Gaming Rooms, after a blackmail attempt involving the habits of a croupier who let his ash fall on the floor.
The Italian artist Massimiliano Gallelli (born December 17th, 1863, in Cremona, Italy) had his own notion of painting when he was requested to decorate the room’s ceiling at the beginning of the 20th century. He usually painted religious subjects or genre paintings. A meeting-point for smokers, the room inspired him to think of buxom nudes with impressive cigarillos: “Les “Fumeuses”. Effects using perspectives, the uniform tones of the composition make this ceiling a truly original work of art. We owe to the same artist the portrait of François Blanc which hung for several decades on a wall in the Casino’s Board of Directors’ room. It is now to be found in the office of the Gaming Management department.
Restored in 1968 by decorator André Levasseur, the Salon Rose became home to automatic machines in 1988.
In 1999, with the slot machines removed, it was transformed into the restaurant “Le Buffet”. Reserved for players, this gastronomic port-of-call lived in tune to the seasons. Gaming tables finally took possession of the premises in 2006.
The number of visitors never ceased climbing, new rooms were opened and one basked in an atmosphere of privilege that prominent personalities took it upon themselves to maintain. Women were of prime importance: girls of easy virtue or fashionable courtesans together with eccentrics who were to become pioneers of women’s emancipation. La Belle Otéro, a sumptuous gipsy, who had begun to place bets quite innocently from the tender age of 13, then chose to play with other people’s money. Her second marriage was to a Frenchman who passed on to her his passion for gambling. She was just 18 when she set foot in a casino for the first time. That day she won 700,000 frs. She left 30 million on the green baize of the Casino de Monte-Carlo were, in a single evening, she lost 1 million gold francs. Liane de Pougy, who indulged in a fierce rivalry with La Belle Otéro, Cléo de Mérode who promulgated the need for women to preserve a few sound principles. This central character also recalls Emilienne d’Alençon, who was just as famous. All these women flitted between judicious sources of inspiration and the men who kept them.
The Salle Blanche was originally designed in 1903 by the architect Schmit as a conversation parlour. He had imagined light fittings borne by immense caryatids, while a strange painting stood out by Paul Gervais, a “Belle Epoque” painter from Toulouse (born September 8th, 1859, in Toulouse – died in 1936). He was inspired by the beauty, as per the canons of the time, of the queens of Monte-Carlo, who could be glimpsed flirting in the lobby of the Hôtel de Paris, haughtily crossing the Place du Casino and seated around a roulette table, surrounded by their admirers. They included the ladies mentioned above: Cléo de Mérode, Liane de Pougy & Caroline Otéro, who quickly recognised their silhouettes in the naked bodies that Gervais enveloped in a few pieces of vaporous tulle: “Les Grâces Florentines”. The theme of the three goddesses of beauty, the Graces, was to be taken up again by Gervais in 1909 for the panel “Les Naïades” at the far end of the Salle Empire dining-room at the Hôtel de Paris. On the theme of the exaltation of the female body, it was a brand new kind of fresco, more romantic than the artist had imagined. Paul Gervais was a painter of history, allegorical subjects, battle scenes, still-lifes. He exhibited his work at the “Salon des Artistes Français” in Paris from 1881 to 1936 and won various prizes including the “Prix du Salon” in 1898, a silver medal at the World Fair of 1900, the Henner Prize in 1908, and the Bonnat Prize in 1929. He was a Knight of the Legion of Honour, promoted to Officer in 1908.
The wall clock is made of gilded wood, carved in the shape of a “violonée” and flanked by two busts of winged cherubs.
Since 1991, when the Salle Blanche was renovated, it has played host to automatic machines.
Following on from this room, Henri Schmit built the Bar Vert in 1903, which was transformed into the “Super-Privés” gaming room in 1973, then into offices in 1988, when the Salles Touzet were refurbished. The “Snack Touzet” was transferred to the Salle Blanche.
Salle des Amériques
Formerly known as the “Salle de Jeux Garnier”, this room was designed by the architect Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1881. It is richly decorated, with a herringbone-patterned floor.
Eight paintings adorned the walls of this room :
“La Pêche” and “L’Escrime” by Gustave Boulanger, a French neo-classic and Orientalist painter (born in Paris on April 25th, 1824 – died in the night of September 21st-22nd, 1888, in Paris). Boulanger was used to painting historic subjects, mythological compositions or traditional subjects. He entered the Fine Arts Academy Paris in 1846, won the “Prix de Rome” in 1849 and exhibited his work regularly at the “Salon de Paris” from 1848 to 1875. He became a Member of the Fine Arts Academy in 1882.
“L’Equitation and “Le Crocket” by Georges Clairin, a French orientalist painter (born in Paris on September 11th, 1843 – died at Belle – Ile en Mer, June 5th, 1919). Clairin made his début at the Salon of 1854. He then showed his work at the “Salon des Artistes Français” and the salon for French Orientalist painters, at the “Société Coloniale des Artistes Français” and the “Salon des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes d’Alger”.
He won a silver medal at the World Fair in Paris in 1889.
He was given a major exhibition in Paris in 1901.
He was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1897.
Georges Clairin often worked with Hippolyte Lucas.
“La Chasse” and “Les Voyages” by the French painter Jules Emile Saintin (born in L’Aisne in 1829 – died in Paris in 1894).
This was the second time Saintin worked in collaboration with Charles Garnier. In 1878, he painted one of the backcloths for the stage in the Salle Garnier Opera-House.
“Le Tir aux Pigeons” and “Canotage” by the French painter Jules Eugène Lenepveu (born on December 12th, 1819, in Angers – died in Paris in 1898). A painter of historical subjects, religious compositions, allegorical subjects and battle scenes. He won the “Prix de Rome” in 1847. Decorated with the Legion of Honour in 1861, he was promoted to the rank of Officer in 1876. From 1872 to 1878, Lenepveu was appointed Director of the Villa Medicis in Rome. His collaboration with Charles Garnier began in Paris when he participated in producing a screen for the decoration of the Opera-House.
These paintings, unfortunately, disappeared during refurbishment work carried out in 1969. Only a few photos remain attesting to their existence.
In 1898, during work carried out on the Salon de l’Europe, Henri Schmit modified the roof of the Salle de Jeux Garnier, adding a dome recalling that of the Theater.
Transformed in1969 by André Levasseur, the ceiling was lowered and the room lost its original decor. Since then it has been known as the “Salle des Amériques”, following the installation of American games (American roulette, Black–Jack and Craps).
When it was reopened on March 15th, 1969, the Casino’s second costume ball, the “Bal des Têtes”, was attended by Their Serene Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Monaco dressed as Chinese Emperors.
In 1988, reconstruction work was undertaken with classic decor and refurbishment of the original ceiling. Ange Pecoraro created a decor of mirrors in brass and different colours. On the ceiling, the allegorical figures in the centre of each panel represent the four seasons.
The refurbishment work begun in June and completed in November 2005, gave back to the Salle des Amériques its original decor as it had been designed by Charles Garnier. On this occasion, three large paintings were hung on the walls, copies of masters :
– Two works after Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema representing women on a Mediterranean terrace. Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema was a British artist of Dutch origin (born on January 8th, 1836, at Dronrijp, The Netherlands – died June 25th, 1912, at Wiesbaden, Germany). His great talent for reproducing antique architecture had won him the nickname “painter of marble”. In 1862, he married a French girl, Marie Pauline Gressin de Boisgirard. Fearing a Prussian invasion, he left France, like Monet and Pissarro, settling in London in 1870. In 1876, he became a Member of the Royal Academy and in 1899, he was knighted by Queen Victoria. – A large canvas after C. Bokelman (a German painter from the region around Bremen), representing gamblers around a gaming table, in the Salle Mauresque.
A fitted carpet with a large pattern was specially commissioned for the restoration of the Salle des Amériques, to unify certain elements with the Salon de l’Europe.
The room has a new Change counter in pale mahogany adorned with bronzes and topped by a sanded glass screen with gold grooving: it accommodates 3 cash desks, eight Black-Jack tables and two American roulette tables. The slot machines have disappeared.
A vestibule serves as a transition between the two parts of the Salles Touzet: here we are entering the private rooms. A magnificent mosaic from the firm Facchina is enthroned above the door to the Salles Touzet. Gian Domenico Facchina (1826–1903), a master in the art of mosaic, of Italian origin and international renown, had already collaborated with Charles Garnier on the Paris Opera-House. He had also produced mosaics for Charles Garnier that adorn the façades of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
These rooms were built by the architect of the same name, Jules Touzet, and inaugurated on November 8th, 1890. At the same time, as we have seen above, Mr Touzet was responsible for erecting a new, projecting façade around the main entrance to the Casino.
The Salles Touzet remind one of the halls of a sumptuous train station where one could only buy tickets for exotic lands.
The vast hall, 21 x 24 m with an elevation of 12 m, is divided in two by a separation which remains very airy thanks to the use of screens.
The decoration of these rooms makes for an extremely harmonious whole. The wood-panelling creating a solid base in different colours is comprised of a pleasing blend of oak, Tonkin mahogany and oriental jasper in warm tones.
The walls are embellished with particularly interesting paintings: We owe four of the canvases to the brush of the French artist Antoine Jean Etienne Faivre, known as Tony Faivre (born on May 24th, 1830, in Besançon – died in 1905 in Paris), a genre painter, portraitist and painter of decorative compositions. “Bowl, roses, birds…”, “Flowers, fruit, birds..…” “Château, birds…”, Statue, flamingo”.
Four more paintings representing the seasons are signed Charles Monginot (born on September 24th, 1825, at Brienne-le-Chateau – died September 16th, 1900, at Dienville) A genre painter, portraitist, engraver, painter of animals, still-lifes, decorative works, Monginot made his debut at the “Salon des Artistes Français” in 1850, winning medals in 1864 and 1899. His still-lifes demonstrate sincere, non-academic realism. “Palm-trees, monkey…”, “Columns, herons, flowers..…”, “Peacock”, “Flowers, state, fountain…”.
Finally, there are four works by a French painter who was a Member of the “Société des Artistes Français” from 1883, Léon Auguste César Hodebert (born circa 1852 at Saint-Michel-sur-Loire – died May 16th, 1914, at Neuilly-sur-Seine). With eyes blindfolded, her veils floating around her, here stands Lady Fortune, while by her side charming young women, Morning and Evening, daydream on the banks of the Seine. The blooming rose of the morning is confronted by the evening rose whose petals begin to fall. They represent Love and Folly.
In the stained-glass windows with their brilliant colours, made by the firm Prestat & Compagnie of Paris which also supplied the glass roof, innocent faces smile with François 1er-type berets on their heads. Some saw people from the fringe of high society in these portraits. The bright colours and the gilding in the rooms are in contrast with the softer hues of these rural scenes.
Above the windows, one notices a fine sculpted motif representing two allegorical figures leaning on a shield. It was made by Messieurs Chave & Paugoy of Paris.
The entablatures and mouldings were made by the Italian artist Tassano Pompeo, the magnificent bronzes by the Granoux-Barbier establishment of Marseille. Not forgetting the magnificent, double-faced, mural wall-clock in gilded bronze, decorated with a sun.
In 1891, after a brief closure, the rooms were re-opened to the public with two new canvases by Hodebert. These two paintings, each measuring 9.55 x 3.48 m, cover the partition wall, representing rural scenes in Antique style. “Jeunes Femmes jouant Avec des Cygnes”. The shades of green, the calm atmosphere with two swans on the banks of the Seine, form a marvellous backcloth for these delightful young women, draped in costumes so simple that they defy the caprices of fashion. “Jeunes Filles jouant de la Musique”. A young girl, half-dressed, her hair tied back, plays the pipes, the symbol of the orchestra, while her companion seated at her feet shakes a Basque tambourine.
In 1986, the fitted carpets in the Salles Touzet were replaced to match those in the Salons Privés, specially woven for the Casino in their original colours and patterns.
Galerie Empire and Salle Médecin
A vast gallery in Empire style follows on from the Salles Touzet. It is decorated with high wood-panelling in mahogany with wall-lights of gilded bronze. We owe the ceiling to the talent of a French decorator of Italian origin, Alphonse Visconti (born on December 31st, 1856, in Milan – died June 15th, 1941). Visconti began working for the S.B.M on July 1st, 1900. Three years later, he became head of the decoration workshop at the Monte-Carlo Opera-House. In the 24 years that he devoted to the S.B.M., he was to work alongside Georges Geerts and the master of lighting effects, Eugène Frey.
A richly decorated elevator takes clients directly to the Cabaret.
The gallery leads into the large Salle Médecin. Originally, three large picture-windows separated this room from the gallery.
Mahogany wall-panelling adorned with bronze palmettos, green Empire drapes, the Napoleonic ensemble in the last, immense room of the Casino (25.50 x 17.5 m, height 15 m), this room built in 1910 in Empire style by the Monégasque architect François Medecin could not allow an artist’s imagination go astray. The corner panels are delicate compositions of exquisite color and real finesse. Armand Segaud, a French painter (born on August 1st, 1985, in Moulins, Allier ) who regularly exhibited his work at the “Salon des Artistes Français” in Paris, of which he was a jury member, painted simple allegorical scenes symbolising the main times of the day: “Le Matin”, “Le Midi”, “Le Soir” and “La Nuit”. They are all 5.7 m high and 2 m wide. Segaud also contributed the four ceiling panels portraying women and cupids: “Apollon et les Muses”.
The French statuary sculptor, Emile Peynot (born on November 22nd, 1850, at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne – died December 13th, 1932, in Paris) made two large stucco quadrigas in bas-relief portraying “Le Char de l’Amour, tiré par Quatre Chevaux” and “Le Char de la Nuit, tiré par Quatre Bœufs”. The bas-reliefs stand on a beam supported by two triangular motifs decorated with Victories blowing their horns.
This room originally played host to the Private Circle. It was restored by decorator André Levasseur and inaugurated on June 1st, 1973, in the presence of Prince Rainier III, then completely refurbished in 1988.
At the far end of the room, the restaurant “Les Privés” welcomes gourmet players between two rounds of Chemin de Fer, without their needing to leave the gaming rooms. Built by the architects Henry Labourdette and Roger Boileau on the large covered balcony of the Salle Médecin giving onto the station, it was inaugurated on March 20th, 1948. It was decorated in gold and crystal by the contemporary French master glass artist, Max Ingrand (1908–1969) in person: he was also the author of the motifs and indirect lighting. Ingrand had worked with the architect Edouard Niermans on the decoration of the large room in the Palais du Trocadéro, from 1935 to 1937. In 1973, it was redecorated by André Levasseur and, instead of descending, one henceforth had to climb 3 steps. In 1988, the restaurant’s furnishings were modified with the bench seats being removed to allow for enlargement of the windows : they were brought down to floor level to provide clients with a view. The restaurant’s most recent renovation dates back to 1998. Its three large picture-windows look out at Cap-Martin.
As for the bar, it was transferred to the site of the Super Privés. It has the same opening hours as the Salons Privés and may be entered after paying an admission fee.
Super-privés and Salons privés
Built on an unused part of the terrace, this small but magnificent and luxurious room was designed by the architect Mr Ballerio in 1957.
Completely transformed by André Levasseur in 1973, the room is lined in natural leather with mahogany wall-panelling. It was the precursor of the “Super-Privé”. Since 1910, the Salons Privés have been reserved for important clients who do not wish to be seen in the gaming rooms or prefer to gamble in all privacy. Most of the Casino’s visitors probably never set eyes on them. Here, the most staggering sums of money are set on the table. Here, everything is possible: impromptu installation of THE table chosen by the client or preparation of a cheese soufflé in the restaurant at 8 a.m. after a long night of gambling.
Since December 15th, 1991, the Salons Privés have proposed Punto Banco, a spin-off of Chemin de Fer and Banque à Tout Va. The player’s interest in the game of Chemin de Fer lies in the possibility of playing all the calls, even if the player is the banker. Invented in America, initially imported into England, it gradually conquered the whole of Europe. In Monaco, it is played with 8 packs of 52 cards placed in the card shoe.
A brand new Super-Privé room opened its doors in the Casino in 2001, bearing the name “Salon Super Privé Cabaret”. It brings to four the number of private rooms, together with the Super-Privé, Club Anglais and Salon Rouge. It is situated on the intermediate level of the Cabaret. White walls and gold-leaf motifs contrast with the novelty of the fuchsia and burgundy colors of the table coverings. The tables are themselves innovative, fitted with double table-tops providing greater comfort for the players. This room is intended for fans of English and European Roulette, Black-Jack and Punto Banco.
This room was built in 1910 by the architect François Médecin as a chamber music room. It was named after the musician Louis Ganne, a composer and conductor (born April 5th, 1862, at Buxières-les-Mines, Allier – died July 12th, 1923, in Paris), author of “Les Saltimbanques” and the well-known “Marche Lorraine”.
Emile Peynot sculpted four stucco bas-reliefs, decorating the room’s four cornerstones. They represent Morning, Mid-day, Evening and Night.
In 1948, the room was transformed into a cabaret by the decorator Charles Roux, with “Commedia dell’Arte” decor and characters from Italian comedies: the original decor disappeared Then in 1959, decorator Georges Reinhard introduced a “Hispano-Moorish” style in red Formica. In 1963, the colours changed again: grey velvet, pleated moiré in grey and rose.
In December 1967, the Cabaret became the “Black Jack Club”, with green chairs and fabrics with a red background and palm-trees. Three years later, the decorator Georges Reinhard reintroduced an 1880’s decor in red and black, with an amphitheatre and comfortable loggias adorned with caryatids and “royal-style” red drapes. The room was significantly enlarged to accommodate groups. The huge bar is adorned with old stained-glass windows and the background lighting is diffused via luminous cornices.
In Decembre 1986, the decorator Ange Pecoraro was entrusted with the room’s transformation. It was completely renovated to allow for top-quality stage equipment in terms of sound and lighting, as a more visual form of entertainment had been designed by the Artistic Director. The dark colours made way for decor in rose, ivory and emerald green, to add more gaiety. The Artistic Director of the time had received instructions to create a decor introducing more whimsicality and even audacity, to make the Cabaret a place where clients would meet up to “party”.
In 1998, the Cabaret played host to the Crazy Horse. For the first time since it opened its doors in 1951, the Crazy Horse left its premises in Paris. On September 23rd, 2000, a breeze of exoticism blew over the Cabaret. Thanks to the magic of the new decor, spectators found themselves right in the midst of a Cuban café.
In 2004, the Cabaret was again given a new look, sober and streamlined in its entirety, including the stage and seating area.
“Dropping in for a drink, dining and watching one of the finest shows of the year on the Riviera, the most wonderful evening is experienced in the plush and cosy ambience of the Cabaret du Casino de Monte-Carlo. Once a month, one of the world’s most talented performers of jazz or blues comes to play in this intimate room where all the seats are the best.”
The Opera-House was designed and built in 1878 by the famous architect Charles Garnier (1825–1898). Construction work began in June 1878, and advanced at a record rate as only 8 months and 16 days separated the laying of the first foundation stones and the application of the stucco and paintings on the vaulted ceiling. This record time was made possible thanks to night lighting and workers rotating on the day and night shifts. The inauguration was held on January 25th, 1879.
The stage formed a small music room decorated with five canvases, only one of which has survived: “L’Allégorie de la Danse” (artist unknown), paint with paste on canvas, 178 x 675 cm. It now hangs on the wall of one of the private salons of the Salle des Palmiers at the Sporting Monte-Carlo. The other canvases that adorned the stage were “La Musique” by Monginot, “La Poésie” by M. Dusautoy, “Le Chant” by M. Barrias and “La Comédie” by M. Motte.
In 1897, it was decided to carry out a lot of alterations. The modifications were entrusted to the architect Henri Schmit. Charles Garnier, suffering from illness, wrote to the Management to indicate his displeasure.
The room’s dimensions make it an almost perfect square: 20 m long by 21 m wide.
The frame of the stage measured 10.75 x 6.50 m, the stage itself 12 x 12 m with 2 m of wings all around it. The Opera seated 525 spectators. The two boxes on either side of the stage were essentially ornamental, just like the 12 bulls-eye windows supposed to light the vaulted ceiling, which is crowned by allegorical heads contributed by the sculptor Félix Chabaud. In the four corners of the ceiling, statues of well-known figures by Jules Thomas eternally wave their golden palms to the glory of the Sovereign Prince. The arch of the stage is crowned by two more figures produced by Jean Gautherin.
The vaulted ceiling is adorned with four panels painted on canvas that was then stuck on to the ceiling: “La Musique Instrumentale” by Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888), winner of the “Prix de Rome” in1849, hangs above the stage. The conductor is a tall woman with red hair and unfurled wings, leaning backwards in a vertiginous arc. Next to her, two young girls with languid faces, dressed in white, play their violins. Three superb harpists, a young shepherd of Ancient Greece, an African with a tambourine, horn and trumpet players form the orchestra. Nothing has been left to chance; the tiniest detail in this painting was studied and carefully executed in the artist’s studio.
In the middle of the panel by Frédéric Lix, winner of a bronze medal at the World Fair of 1889, (born on December 18th, 1830, in Strasbourg – died in Paris in 1897), “La Comédie”, on the seaside, sits next to young poet about to write on his tablets words of inspiration culled from his half-naked muse, who waves a mask above her head. At his feet, a woman with blond hair, as sparsely clad as good taste allows. Is she perhaps Venus? Or is she a nymph? Further to the side, “La Renommée” uses a double trumpet to transmit the poet’s praises to all four corners of the world. Two groups of lovers: the first waltzing on the flowery grass, the second resting in the shade of the orange-trees. All these mythological characters stand out against a blue sea and sky where tritons and naiads play. Georges Clairin (1843–1919) had already worked with Garnier on the decoration of the ceiling in the auditorium at the Paris Opera. Here, on the left side of the room, he stages “La Danse” in all its forms, in all ages, in its most primitive and varied costumes. He shows her unclad, solely adorned by the shimmer of an orange scarf against her black hair, an admirable feminine form recalling Phryné on the sand of Greek beaches. Then comes an oriental dancer with golden sequins under veils of silk, and a mysterious apparition emerging from clumps of flowers. They dance to the strains of an invisible orchestra conducted by a genie with unfurled wings. The dancers of the Opera run around, surrounded by gauze, tulle, sequins, spangles of gold. Let’s not forget the Spanish dancer and her Figaro, and the various Harlequins from the “Commedia dell’Arte”. The entire troupe is present, dominated by a black Domino wearing silk clothes and a bewitching smile.
In “Le Chant et L’Eloquence”, above the Prince’s box, the poetic and melancholy nature of painter François Fayen–Perrin (1826–1888) produced a work which does not have the glossy brilliance of its neighbours. It doesn’t sing about the great combats of Antiquity, nor the gaiety of the gods of Olympus, but instead about Homer, the Greek poet, grown old and blind, wandering from town to town and reciting his verses. Old men with long white hair, young shepherds and dark-skinned young women listen to his poems in fascination. The painting by the artist Feyen-Perrin, “La Ronde Antique” was kept at the Château de Cormatin (?), doubtless thanks to Raoul Gunsbourg, an avid collector. It inspired Henri Matisse when he created his various versions of “La Danse” in 1910, a monumental composition commissioned by the Barnes Foundation of the USA.
Each of these four paintings measures 15 x 6 m.
On May 27th, 1966, on the occasion of Monte-Carlo’s centenary celebrations, a great ball entitled “Les Fastes du Second Empire” was held at the Opera and on its terraces, reached by a staircase specially built for the evening.
The Salle Garnier has been totally restored while preserving its classical spirit. This undertaking made it possible to rediscover the original decor and its huge chandelier. Entrusted to Mr Alain-Charles Perrot, head architect of France’s Historic Monuments, the restoration work began on September Ist, 2003, and was completed on September 9th, 2005. The official inauguration took place on November 19th, on the occasion of Monaco’s National Fête, with an exceptional evening on the program: “Le Voyage à Reims” by Rossini. The restoration work consisted of : renovation of the roof, restructuring of the building itself and modifications to the basement and stage, plus renovation of the auditorium and the huge chandelier.
While it had taken Charles Garnier only 8 months to build the concert hall, 2 whole years proved necessary to restore its former sumptuousness – still with the same passion for excellence.
On the cornice of the Prince’s entrance to the Opera, one can admire a bronze bas-relief in the tympanum by sculptor Henri-Louis Cordier (1853–1926). It is composed of two allegorical figures, half-seated, smiling at each other across a coat-of-arms. They are “La Musique” and “La Danse”. “La Musique” naturally holds the famous, traditional lyre, which has not been played for centuries, and which she is getting ready to pluck with a plectrum that the uninitiated might take for a meat-bone. * Plectrum : A Greek term which, in its primitive sense, means something that is used to strike (from “plhssw”, to strike), and which later, in both Greek and Latin, was used to designate a short baton or feather pipe, used to make the strings of an instrument vibrate, either by inserting it between them or, if necessary, by letting it run from one string to the next. Dictionary of Ancient Greek and Latin – Anthony Rich, 1883.
“La Danse”, with a crown of vines in her hair, waves in one hand the famous thyrsus topped by the obligatory pine cone, while shaking in her other hand the resonant shells of castanets. * Thyrsus: In Greek, then Roman, mythology, a thyrsus is a large baton rather like a sceptre. Probably made of dogwood, it is adorned with ivy leaves and topped by a pine cone. In some variants, the ivy is replaced by vines and the pine cone by a pomegranate. The thyrsus was the major attribute of Dionysos, occasionally borrowed for Bacchus.