E.T. L., 19th Century
Lighthouse & Hôtel du Palais, (Villa Eugénie ) Pointe Saint-Martin Biarritz 1878

inscribed signed with monogram and dated " Biarritz E.T.L. 1878"

pencil and watercolour
15 x 23 cm.


The Lighthouse at Pointe Saint-Martin, located on a rocky escarpment dominating the whole of the Basque city of Biarritz . Built in the early nineteenth century, in 1834, it is up more than 73 meters above the sea level, proudly overlooking the Hainsart cape which marks the boundary between the side of the Landes and the Basque Country. Automated in 1980, it is accessible to the public who can climb the 248 steps. The site has also hosted a dinner in August 2019 bringing together top chefs from around the globe during the G7 summit. It will have a restoration campaign between September 2019 and April 2020.

The Hôtel du Palais (originally the Villa Eugénie) is a hotel located beside the Atlantic beach in the resort town of Biarritz, on the Côte Basque in the French department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It was originally built for the Empress Eugénie around 1855 as a summer villa. It was due to the visits of the imperial couple that the village of Biarritz developed into a fashionable resort. In 1880, the villa was sold and converted into a hotel casino. It was devastated by fire in 1903, but was lavishly rebuilt and enlarged within the original walls. For many years the hotel attracted the international elite, including members of the European royalty such as King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, who paid several extended visits. Although the hotel later fell into disrepair, and closed for a period in the 1950s, it has since been refurbished and is again a luxury hotel. The hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.

The building is set on the main beach of the town, which lies on the rugged coast of the Bay of Biscay at the foot of the Pyrenees. In 1854, the emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie bought several acres of dunes in Biarritz and gave the engineer Dagueret the task of establishing a summer home surrounded by gardens, woods, meadows, a pond and outbuildings. Napoleon III chose the location near Spain so his wife would not get homesick for her native country.

Hippolyte Durand was given the job of designing the Villa Eugénie and outbuildings, and overseeing construction, which began in 1854. Durand was abruptly dismissed in June 1855 and replaced by the twenty-seven-year-old architect Louis-Auguste Couvrechef, who adopted a less austere style. Couvrechef died in 1858 and was succeeded by the architect Gabriel-Auguste Ancelet. Ancelet built a new wing facing the lighthouse before he was replaced by Auguste Lafollye, who added an attic with rooms for the staff.

The villa, in néo-Louis XIII style, consisted of a long main building with three perpendicular wings. The first two wings formed a court, while the third was shorter. A description in 1856 said that the two-story villa left much to be desired for such an important residence. It was excessively simple, with so little in the way of ornamentation that the facade looked bare. Later the facade was decorated with busts of members of the imperial family and regional personages. Victor Huguenin undertook the decoration with Corinthian columns and reliefs of arms and crowned eagles.

In 1830, Victor Hugo had expressed the hope that Biarritz would remain unspoiled. However, when the imperial family established its residence, it quickly became popular as a resort with the wealthy and aristocratic. The imperial family spent most of August and September at the villa each year, with a small entourage. Early visitors were not always impressed. An English magazine described the village in 1858 as:

... a spot now rendered classic by the visits of our imperial French ally, who has there erected a marine villa—the "Villa Eugénie"—commanding an extensive view of the cruel grey expanse of the Bay of Biscay; the really beautiful landscape towards the Spanish frontier being skillfully excluded. Sans this landscape, and taking the village in itself, lo! we are transported once more to the outskirts of Brighton. Brightonian dwellings, square, and new, and ugly, meet our bewildered gaze on every side, and in miniature proportions. But here the likeness stops. In vain we look for esplanade and goat-chaises; Biarritz boast them not. In vain we sigh for cupola and dome, and, sighing, learn that even the Villa Eugénie lacks the eccentric beauty of our own Pavilion!

In 1864, land was purchased on which to erect a chapel designed by Émile Boeswillwald, the inspector general of historical monuments. The chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, was consecrated in September 1865 and incorporated an eclectic mix of Roman and Byzantine art with Hispano-Moorish elements from Seville and Granada. Alexandre-Dominique Denuelle and Louis Steinheil completed the decorative painting.[9] In 1867, the villa was renovated and another floor was added. An 1867 description was still unenthusiastic:

A few minutes before we reach Biarritz, we pass on our right hand the private chapel of the Empress, and the gates leading to the Villa Eugénie, to the latter of which a large box is attached with the words 'BOÎTE AUX PETITIONS,' inscribed in prominent letters. The Villa itself we can see through the shrubbery, a plain substantial building close to the shore ... but bare and bleak-looking, exposed on every side to the wind, although the shrubs and trees that were planted around it have grown up during the last two or three years, and give it an appearance of shelter on the land side. It is the least picturesque and the bleakest spot in Biarritz, and almost the only one, whence no good view of the Spanish mountains ... can be obtained.

Villa Eugénie c. 1898. The town has grown closer, and the villa, still relatively low, is no longer as isolated.
Biarritz remained fashionable after the fall of the dynasty in 1870. With the return to a republican constitution for France, the question of ownership of the villa and its contents, and of other property of the Bonapartes, became a topic of parliamentary debate. It was agreed that the state would take possession of the most valuable furnishings. In 1880, the Empress Eugenie sold the estate to the Banque de l'Union Parisienne. The villa was converted into a hotel casino, the "Palais Biarritz". In 1893, it became a prestigious hotel receiving royalty including Queen Victoria and the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known by the nickname Sisi.

According to an 1883 travel book:

Biarritz is a small but picturesque town, which was brought much into notice by the Empress Eugenie, who used to reside there every year. It is distinguished for its very selected society, which assembles both for sea bathing and the winter season. The scenery is beautiful, although the vegetation in the immediate environs of the town is rather scanty. The town is built like an amphitheatre on the rising cliffs of the Pyrenees, and has some fine modern buildings, of which the Villa Eugenie is one of the most striking.