Rousseau’s Rooms

Years ago, I was browsing through the stacks of the Oak Park, Illinois, library, when I came across a book that transfixed me. It was called Homes of the Great by Claude Arthaud. Its pages showed the beautiful homes lived in by great writers, artists, and composers of the past, and for me, they were a revelation, a European vision of life that was news to someone born on the northwest side of Chicago. My favorite home of the book, with my favorite rooms of all, is Les Charmettes, where the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau lived as a young man. I would like to share some of these images with you, hoping you will enjoy them as much as I have.

The entrance to Les Charmettes. The stairway leads to Rousseau’s room.

Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland, but as a young man came to Les Charmettes, which is outside the town of Chambery, France. The owner of the home, Madame de Warens, became his patron, and later his mistress.

Part of the music room. The harpsichord and clock belonged to Rousseau.

From the windows of Les Charmettes could be seen the surrounding woods and meadows, as well as an Alpine range and its foothills.

The other part of the music room. It led out into a garden.

Of his time at Les Charmettes, Rousseau wrote: “Here began the short happiness of my life; here occurred the quiet but rapid moments which give me the right to say I have lived.”

The dining room
Madam de Waren’s room. Some of the doors in the home have large, round holes in them to let cats go through.

His stay in this home was to form some of the basis for the novels he was to write later.

At one point, a wisteria vine covered the entire building.

Rousseau was later to tell a friend: “Ever since I was thrown into the world against my will, I have never ceased to love Les Charmettes and the pleasant life I had there. It was impossible for me to live happily elsewhere.”

These rooms have hovered in the back of my mind for years, and I am not surprised when I look up to see the pale green walls and bare wooden floors of our living and dining room–even the asparagus fern hanging in a window–that are echoes of visions of Les Charmettes.

A wallpaper called “Eleonora,” with the same airy feeling as the panels in the music room.

Hope you have enjoyed this little tour.  Take care. Fran

2 thoughts on “Rousseau’s Rooms

  1. Well, there is a sense of looking into the past, and feeling echoes of people having lived in these rooms, but who are now gone. And the first photo of the staircase is definitely mysterious looking. The other thing is that these rooms, while beautiful, don’t really look comfortable to live in! I think they cared more for the elegancies of life, and appearances, and were not so focused on comfort, as we are now. So we feel a gulf between our world and theirs. Also, in the scanning of these pictures, some mysterious stripes appeared–so that doesn’t help! Thanks for stopping by. Fran

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