One day in April 1879, on his return from his daily rural postman tour, Ferdinand Cheval, then aged 43, stumbled upon a stone so bizarre that it reminded him of a dream that was gradually sinking into oblivion, a fairytale palace beyond his imagination.
He devotes thirty-three years of his existence to modeling, night after night, in what was originally his vegetable garden, a monument of obstinacy. Inspired by nature he crosses every day, by the illustrated magazines that he distributed during his postman tours, and finally, by the postcards that began to appear in 1890, he was going to build a unique Palace in the world.
Mocked by some, criticized by others, he devotes 33 years, 10,000 days, 93,000 hours to his Palace, on which he engraves”Work of a one-man” he completed his Palace at the age of 76 and found himself quite courageous to then build his tomb, just alone in the cemetery of the village of Hauterives for 8 years. He died at the age of 88 and is buried there. Before his death, he had his biography “sincere and true” certifying that he alone built his Palace.
Independent of all artistic trends, not relating to any architectural technique, the idéal Palace is today considered a benchmark world of brut art. Ardently defended by André Malraux, the Palace was classified as a historical monument in 1969 under the title of naive art. Ferdinand Cheval was the source of inspiration and tributes to many artists such as André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Tinguely, Max Ernst, Niki de Saint-Phale.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE MONUMENT
The East Side
This is where Postman Cheval starts the construction of his Palace. It begins in the center with the Source of Life watched over by a lion and a dog. He continues on the right, successively building the cave of Saint-Amédée, Socrates, the Egyptian temple, architectures of the world as well as a double-slab tomb, where he imagines being buried. For reasons of public health, his request was refused.
In order to balance his facade, he built at the other end the Hindu temple, where strange animals intermingle, a niche for his faithful wheelbarrow. Then come to the 3 giants, Caesar, Archimedes, Vercingetorix. At the top, he creates his BarbaryTower, lush and exotic. He devoted 20 years to his totally baroque and abundant facade.
The South Side
He continues by a Southern facade, consisting mainly of an anti-flood museum, where he stores the stones that are close to his heart. We can see a remarkable mineral tree, inhabited by funny birds and small animals.
The West Side
The west facade is part of a deliberately universalist vision. Here, the Postman Cheval brings together styles from all cultures and religions: Arab mosque, Hindu temple, Swiss Chalet, the square house in Algiers, medieval castle. Structured by columns on which he inscribes his name, this facade invites travel and gives access to the extraordinary Gallery of Sculptures in Primitive times.
The North Side
This is undoubtedly where Postman Cheval finishes his monument. Here he is at the top of the game. The massages are very rich, and the facade is abundant. Snake, doe, caiman, pelican, frog, Phoenix, minotaur, and other strange, repetitive figures cohabit there under the eye of Adam and Eve. It is about hell, of paradise, of life, of death. ” From a dream, he brought out the queen of the world.
This is where Postman Cheval chooses to place his “stumbling block” the stone at the origin of the construction of the Idéal Palace. It sits near the tree of life. The terrace offers a nice view of the upper part of the monument: pilgrims, birds, turrets. Three stairs give access to it.
Entrance to an imaginary Palace adorned with a frieze of shells, chandeliers, dreamlike massages, shows a fascinating bestiary. It is strewn with quotes engraved by the Postman Cheval, expressing both his hard work, his modesty, as well as his dreams of greatness “This rock will one day say many things”. We can read the poem “your Ideal, your Palace” seen by a poet from Grenoble, Emile Roux Parassac, in 1904 at the Facteur Cheval. This poem gave its name to the monument.
In 1912, he completed his work by launching a challenge to the world “1879-1912, 10,000 days, 93,000 hours, 33 years of trials, more obstinate than I set to work”.
THE BIOGRAPHY OF POSTMAN CHEVAL
Ferdinand Cheval was born in Charmes, a small village near Hauterives in 1836. Coming from a poor rural family he left to work with his father. Having become a baker’s apprentice, he worked in small trades before returning to Hauterives, where he became a rural postman at the age of 31. The profession that he exercises until the age of his retirement at 60 years. From a first marriage with the young and pretty Rosalie Revol, two boys were born, the first of whom died in infancy. Then followed to the death of his wife. A few years later, he married Claire-Philomène Richaud. From their union were born Alice, who loses her life at 15 years old. A drama for Joseph Ferdinand Cheval who inscribes on the family tomb “Alice bitterly regretted”.