At the Chateau La Coste

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Au Chateau La Coste-Toyen 1946
In the early 1930’s Jindrich Styrsky, the co-founder of the Czech Surrealist group made a pilgrimage to Provence, to visit the ruins of the Chateau La Coste, the ancestral home of the Sade family. Here he took a number of mysterious photographs of the crumbling walls and overgrown doors which inspired his artistic partner, Toyen, to paint in oils the illusionistic Au Chateau La Coste.  The drawing of the predatory fox seemingly coming to life gives the painting a singular sense of menace which is particularly apt for the place which so inspired the Marquis De Sade.

The Marquis was very attached to La Coste. During  the long years of his confinement in various prisons and asylums he routinely mourned its destruction during the Revolution. It was at La Coste, after all, that the Marquis had first developed his lifelong passion for the theatre, staging lavish productions which he naturally starred in. More ominously it was also at La Coste that the Marquis orchestrated and choreographed, with the aid of his wife, Renee-Pelagie, elaborate orgies that was to serve as the model for the unbridled license afforded his characters in the sinister and oppressive castles in his searingly radical, and horrifying, libertine fictions of the prison years.

Toyen was profoundly influenced by her exposure to Sade. A large majority of Toyen’s work is explicitly sexual in content. She surrounded herself with erotic objects and imagery. Her artistic collaborator, the Surrealist poet, Sadean scholar and cultural theorist Annie Le Brun, whose blistering critique of contemporary society The Reality Overload  I cannot recommend highly enough, commented that Toyen, who was at the time well into her seventies, would visit the movie theatre several times a week to watch X-rated films.

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50 thoughts on “At the Chateau La Coste

      1. Did you check out Voluspa yet… I love the figure of Odin who is one of the most mysterious in all mythology. I also sigh about the lack of shock value, we are way too blase. I will probably post more about Toyen she is very mysterious and I like mystery.

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      2. No, I didn’t check that out yet. When I say I’m going to do something, it generally takes me about a year. Kind of like a TBR list. ha ha. Anyway, I’d love to see you post more about Toyen! Always enjoy whatever you post. Your articles are good places to learn, kind of like Jeopardy. 🙂

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    1. Really, I had heard that this was performed though I never saw how as the action and dialogue is pretty much non-stop. It is certainly one of his better works and surprisingly funny. I am very ambivalent about De Sade, I like his shorter work, Crimes of Love, Misfortunes of Virtue and Philosophy in the Bedroom but I find the longer works horrifying as I do his ultimate vision. His biography is a great read though, a life ridiculously full of adventures. Also Sade impact upon society cannot be underestimated, he foresaw Darwin, Freud and Nietzsche.

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      1. In Nashville really, how did it get past the censor. I do admire him in a way because he just went the whole hog. Eugenie is a great creation, he has been called the great misogynist but his female characters are far more fleshed out than his cardboard cut out male villains. By the way a fact that I forgot to mention is that the Chateau was brought in 2001 by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin and has been fully restored.

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      2. We’ve avoided big museums in our last two trips, favoring small lesser-known places. But we should do the Tate modern. I grew up in Chicago so I had the Art Institute nearby – it spoiled me.

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  1. Sigh… I see from my previous comments that I must’ve been drinking at the time or something… mercy, that’s awful…

    The painting is still rather puzzling. The predator plastered to the crumbling, mushroom overgrown walls. Just an homage to the former occupant? At least now I have a better grip on the Divine Marquis…

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    1. It is a puzzle. I think the predatory beast could be a reference to Sade view of nature, the crumbling walls and mushrooms is probably a nod to his Last Will and Testament (which I will post about one day) and his view of growth through death and decay. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

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    1. Thank you Roger, this is one of my favourite posts. A visit to Provence in the thirties, backtrack too before the revolution and the good old days of the ancient regime, a quick tour of revolutionary prisons and asylums, a nod to the book then fast forward to an old lady in a Parisian adult movie theatre in the Seventies with a quick plug for a book written maybe five years ago. And an eerie, utterly mystifying painting to boot.

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      1. I most certainly enjoyed it. I saw many art galleries etc when I was younger, but it took me a long, long time to appreciate what I had already seen. I guess culture doesn’t come that easily. Reading Chateau La Coste, all I could think of was Chemise Lacoste and the alligator logo. I am still chuckling …

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      2. I have always loved La Coste, it is my favourite brand strangely enough. Pierrre Cardin brought and restored the place in 2011, also the De Sade family fortunes have improved as well, the original manuscript as recently sold for 7million euro. It was owned for a while by the backers of Luis Bunuel early movies, the De Noiles, Marie-Laurie was a descendant.

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      3. Manuscripts … such a ess at the best of times. I have dabbled with many and love them all … such an intimate contact with the authors and some of them 400 or more years dead. To think that Quevedo actually sat where I sat and put pen to this piece of paper in 1613 … wow! Absolute magic.

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      4. It is magic … it makes your fingers and the soles of your feet tingle … I have just finished the ms. of Avila: cantos y santos y ciudad de la Santa. It will be available very soon … I am thrilled with it …

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  2. Mr. Cake, another interesting Toyen post. “Au Chateau La Coste” is beautiful. I love the two dimensional fox morphing into the a three dimensional fox, holding down the prey with his paw, and the mushrooms are rather brilliant, especially if making a connection to the Marquis de Sade. Stunning painting, a lovely presentation. ~ Miss Cranes

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      1. Wouldn’t I just. The mushrooms I believe are a reference to Sade view of nature, death and decay are a vital material for nature to renew herself, therefore any think that hastens that process is acting in accordance with nature’s dictates. This being Sade he does not mean this in any woolly holistic new age sense.

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      2. I have long meant to do a post on his last will and testament, which illuminates his theory of nature, also a piece of prophecy regarding himself that is spectacularly wrong. I will get round to it one day.

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