During the summer we went for a week's holiday in the Dordogne area of France. Being unfamiliar with the area, we pretty much took pot-luck with the Chateaux's and Castles we visited. The most enjoyable of which was Chateau des Milandes.
So, what has a French Chateau got to do with a website dedicated to Art Deco Style? Answer; its famous owner Josephine Baker, who I must confess, I hadn't heard of before visiting. As I walked around the beautiful building some of the photos of her seemed familiar, the image of her wearing only her famous banana skirt for example.
I quickly learned that she was an icon of the jazz age and that's of course why I'd seen photos of her before - whilst researching the Art Deco era. As you walk around you gradually learn more and more about this amazing woman's incredible life!
In fact, when you list some of the key points of her life, as I've attempted to do so below, its little wonder she's considered a goddess locally.
- Born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, she became a French national following her marriage to French industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.
- Shot to fame as a dancer in 1925, wearing that iconic banana dress, and one of the most celebrated performers to headline at the Folies Bergere in Paris.
- Performed for the troops during World War Two and helped the French resistance for which she was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military and was named a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur by Charles de Gaulle.
- An important figure in the civil rights movement, in fact, she was offered unofficial leadership of the movement following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Refusing to perform to segregated audiences, she was only accepted back in the US in 1973 when she performed in New York's Carnegie Hall.
- Received over a thousand marriage proposals, including one from President Hollande, who was definitely too young at the time! She married four times and adopted twelve children with her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon.
- Her performance at the Bobino, Paris, in 1975 resulted in the best reviews of her life, the performance was attended by Princess Grace of Monaco, Sophia Loren, Lisa Minelli, Shirly Bassey, Diana Ross and Sir Mick Jagger.
- She died soon after her last performance at the Bobino. Twenty thousand people lined the streets of Paris for her funeral. She was honoured by a twenty one gun salute and was the first American woman to be buried in France with Military honours.
She also brought Art Deco style to the Chateau, most of the bathrooms are flamboyantly fitted out in the style. Baths and basins have a distinct stepped design and generally featured a three hole mixer that's so typical of the style.
While we were there we enjoyed a tasty, but admittedly expensive, meal at the restaurant and saw an excellent 'birds-of-prey' display in the lovely grounds. For a day out in the Dordogne, it's pretty hard to beat in our opinion.