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A visitor who arrives for dinner, paints the walls and stays for 11 years is unlikely to receive another warm welcome—unless that visitor is artist Jean Cocteau. Once host to Picasso, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, Villa Santo Sospir now stands as a living monument to the Dionysian excess of 1950s France.

If only the walls could talk. Fortunately, at the Villa Santo Sospir they actually can. In 1950, painter, filmmaker and bohemian all-rounder Jean Cocteau came for dinner. He ended up staying 11 years. The white walls of the newly built villa weren’t to his taste, so he proceeded to fresco nude Greek mythological dreamscapes above the fireplace. Over the next decade Cocteau simply carried on “tattooing” (to use his term) the entire edifice. More fortunately still, the villa’s owner didn’t

  • Words:
    Tristan Rutherford
  • Photography:
    Kristofer Johnsson

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  • Words:
    Tristan Rutherford
  • Photography:
    Kristofer Johnsson
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