HelloMonaco continues its series on the hidden treasures dotted around the Principality of Monaco, artistic gems that embellish the streets and gardens. Many that you might not take a notice of but which we bring to light in this unique series. We’ve strolled with you already in Fontvieille, along the Larvotto and in the Condamine district to discover different wonderful sculptures. Now let’s have a walk at the Place du Casino and its neighbouring roads which hide some of Monaco’s most renowned sculptures; some masterpieces permanent adorn the Principality, while others are short-term additions that give even more splendour to the area – we will explore these sublime sculptures and the history that they hold.
The first sculpture is nestled amongst the luscious vegetation found in the Casino Park, it is covered in so much greenery that you might not even notice it! The sculpture is called ‘Le Dimitrodon’, and depicts a dinosaur perched at the edge of the parks pond, created by both Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne in 1998. The creation is a mix of stainless steel and copper and has also been modified to act as an original water feature. It looks like a unique breed of dinosaur, with its leafy green body instead of scaly skin; it fits in harmoniously with its surroundings.
The creators, known as Les Lalannes, are a French artist married couple that worked together on their numerous pieces. They both studied art while they were growing up and met at Francois-Xavier’s first gallery show in 1952, a show that signified an end of painting for him, as he and his wife Claude began their sculpture career together. This Monaco based sculpture, was a perfect collaboration of both of their styles, as Francois-Xavier favoured sculpting animal themes whilst Claude preferred vegetation – they aim to enrich life by injecting art into the everyday.
Located right in the centre of the Carré d’Or is the ‘Sky Mirror’ sculpture found in the Place du Casino roundabout display – it consists of a concave mirror in polished stainless steel measuring 2.5 metre in diameter. It truly is a simple and unique piece that adds a subtle touch of modern art to the area; its mirror-like surface ‘makes the world turn upside down, giving the illusion of bringing the sky down to street level’, reflecting the ever-changing environment. The artist is British (Mumbai-born) Anish Kapoor, who started working with the highly reflective surface of polished steel in 1995, creating works that reflect or distort the viewer and surroundings, like the Sky Mirror reflects the glorious Belle Epoque buildings of the Place du Casino. This sculpture in particular was given to Monaco by Mrs Lily Safra and Prince Albert II decided to exhibit the piece in one of the most symbolic settings in the entire Principality.
There are a number of profiles of famous individuals located around the Casino area, commemorating some of the greatest historical figures of all time. The first one was created in Jules Massenet’s honour (1842-1912), appropriately placed outside the grand Salle Garnier, as he was a French composer of the Romantic era best known for his operas. The bust was created by the Russian sculptor, Léopold-Bernard Berstamm, and was inaugurated in February 1914 as a reminder of one of the greatest melodists of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Keeping with the theme, a portrait of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) stands proud nearby, commemorating the iconic French Romantic composer, created by the same Russian sculptor using marble. It was erected in 1903 to celebrate the centenary of the composer’s birth, and was inaugurated with the presence of Prince Albert Ier – Monaco and its royal family have always had a particular affection for Berlioz and his music.
The next sculpture is hidden away amongst the palm trees in front of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and it rightfully commemorates Serge De Diaghilew (1872-1929) the Russian founder of les Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise – he composed many ballets in Monte-Carlo from 1911 to 1929. The monument in his honour was inaugurated on the 8th of March 1973 by S.A.S. Rainier III, and was created by an unknown sculptor.
On the Allée François Blanc, you will also find the sculpted bust of François Blanc (1818-1889), a first French entrepreneur who established a casino operation in Monaco after the invitation of the Prince of Monaco Charles III.
The last profile sculpture can be found in front of the luxurious Hotel Hermitage, and depicts Prince Louis de Polignac (1909-1996), the cousin of Prince Rainier III’s father and the Honorary President of the SBM, Officer of the Legion of Honour to name a few of his titles. S.A.S Rainier III inaugurated the sculpture on the 13th of October 1997 on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi Dynasty.
To discover other sculptures of this part of Monaco, read our next article where we’ll continue our walk at the Place of Casino.