For many years we have walked by this Rose-colored building at the intersection of rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules and wondered what its history was but never made an attempt to investigate. We were very excited recently to see a story on the Montrmartre-Adict blog [in French] about its history. Like many buildings in Montmartre, its history is fascinating. Montmartre-Addict kindly has agreed to let us reproduce their story in English.
La Maison Rose is undoubtedly one of the most important places in Montmartre. At the corner of rue des Saules and Abreuvoir, it has been immortalized by many painters, including Maurice Utrillo and Bernard Buffet. For several years, the Rose House has been attracting tourists mainly due to the picturesque charm of the facade, but few locals ventured there. However, the history of the house is closely linked to that of a large number of local personalities, starting with its series of owners.
A few months ago, we learned that the Rose House was to be taken over by Laurence Miolano, the granddaughter of the last owner of the place. With Laurence’s help, we traced the thread of a story that was both wild and symbolic or the time and Montmartre
Back to the beginning of the last century, when Picasso and his friends were beating the pavement of our streets… It is not known exactly when the house was built, probably before 1850. On the other hand, we know that it was bought around 1905 by a certain Laure Germaine Gargallo, wife of the painter Ramon Pichot, and former model of Picasso. It is said that it was she who allegedly caused the death of the painter Casagemas, an intimate friend of Picasso, who, defeated by her beauty, committed suicide in 1901 in a restaurant on Clichy Square, marking the beginning of Picasso’s blue period for art historians. Less famous than Casagemas, Ramon Pichot is still a significant painter, who is very well known in Catalona, Spain (an exhibition entitled “Des Quatre Gats à La Maison Rose” was dedicated to him at the National Museum of Barcelona last autumn). Regularly staying in Cadaquès, he met Salvador Dali’s family, and became a mentor to the 10 year old Dali. History would have it that during one of the couple’s stays in Catalonia, Laure, amazed by the colours of the houses, had the idea on her return to paint the famous house in pink…
One of the first Photos of “La Maison Rose”, around 1870
Photo taken between 1910 and 1920, Laure Germaine and at the window, her husband Ramon Pichot [personal archive L. Miolano]
For many years, the place was frequented by all the artists and other picturesque characters of Montmartre, and even if the sign was ‘La Maison Rose’, everyone used to meet at “Aunt Laure’s house”. At the death of her husband in 1925, Laure found herself alone in charge of the establishment. At the beginning of the 1930s, the house was threatened by a construction program (certainly the same one that threatened the neighbouring land where the vine-yard would be planted), but without knowing whether Laure had agreed to sell her house or not, it was finally saved. It has been attached to the Rue des Saules side of a magnificent Art Deco villa since then.
Years go by, and Laure Germaine Pichot, consumed by syphilis, is nothing but the shadow of herself. Picasso will remain faithful to her until the end, regularly visiting the “old toothless lady” in Montmartre. She died on December 3,1948, and at the end of the same month, Béatrice, Laurence Miolano’s grandmother, bought the house. Although of Italian origin, Beatrice was a true “montmartroise”. Now we are at the beginning of the 50’s, there are many cabarets in the area, where young artists perform, who do not fail to stop at La Maison Rose, just like the montmartroise who remained faithful to the place. However, although supported by her son Jean, she thought of selling the place, and finally entrusted the management to Toutoune, a figure also illustrates the eccentric nature of the Montmartre at the time. In the meantime, Jean, Laurence’s father, bought Les Trois Marches, the grocery store on Girardon Street, which would later become the restaurant l’ Assommoir; Jean, who many montmartrois knew better under the nickname of “Nounours”, was a true icon of the neighbourhood.
Beatrice and Laurence in the arms of his father Jean, aka “Nounours” [personal archives L. Miolano]
Toutoune remained in charge of La Maison Rose for 25 years, but the place gradually lost its charm and identity, only to become a mere tourist trap… But this was without counting on Laurence who, was not willing to allow the decline of this place full of history. She decided to take back the lease and restore La Maison Rose its letters of nobility. Who better than Beatrice’s granddaughter could be more legitimate to embark on such an adventure?
After months of hard work, La Maison Rose officially reopened its doors a few weeks ago.” But I didn’t see myself selling Coca-Cola to Americans all day long! I wanted to return to the soul, and conquer a new generation of montmartrois, in the same vein as that initiated by Laure and then by my grandmother”. Laurence therefore thought of La Maison Rose as an artistic project (she herself is a musician), relying in particular on archival documents, but also on family memory. The place has now regained its charm of yesteryear, and one is quickly charmed by the decoration, entirely composed of chiné furniture and original materials (take a look when entering the floor tiling, which has certainly seen an impressive number of personalities!).
It was also important for Laurence to refocus on quality and value. On the a la carte menu, here you will find traditional dishes, cooked with products that are fresh and bio, Its simple, seasonal, home made and very good. Open from 11am ,you can take lunch, have tea with small homemade pastries in the afternoon, meet from 6pm on Tuesday for an after-work glass of wine or take diner until 11pm and consider brunch at the weekend.
All that remains to be done is for the local montmartois to rediscover and reinvest in similar places in order to definitively revive the spirit of La Maison Rose.
Originally Published on 31 January 2018 [in French] – reproduced and translated with permission.