This Cézanne Mural Was Hidden in the Walls of the Artist’s Family Home

Workers found fragments of a naval scene while renovating the mansion in the south of France

Mural Full
The mural, now known as Entrée du port, depicts buildings, ship banners and masts piercing a sky. Ville d'Aix-en-Provence / Philippe Biolatto

The remnants of a 64-square-foot mural created by Paul Cézanne have been discovered beneath layers of wallpaper and plaster in the painter’s idyllic home in France.

The Post-Impressionist painter’s father purchased the mansion—known as the Bastide du Jas de Bouffan—in the town of Aix-en-Provence in 1859. Cézanne went on to produce dozens of oil paintings, watercolors and murals at the house, and experts thought these works had been recorded in art historian John Rewald’s 1996 catalogue raisonné of Cézanne’s art.

But as Sophie Joissains, mayor of Aix-en-Provence, writes in a translated Facebook post, “Cézanne has not stopped surprising us.”

After Cézanne and his sisters sold the house, the edges of the maritime mural were plastered over. Ville d'Aix-en-Provence / Philippe Biolatto

The property is currently under renovation, and its walls have “revealed some hidden, unknown treasures,” she adds.

Workers discovered the Cézanne mural embedded in a wall of the mansion’s main living area, as Artnet’s Adam Schrader reports. While the painting’s side borders and top quarter are intact, its middle and bottom sections appear to have been ripped away, leaving jagged plaster edges. The remaining sections evoke a maritime scene, including “floating pennons [banners], masts, a sky that stretches across the upper part of the wall and architectural elements running along the sides,” per the Art Newspaper’s Sarah Belmont.

Cézanne scholar Mary Tompkins Lewis was among a small group of experts invited to see the mural last year. “We were sworn to secrecy,” she tells NPR’s Chloe Veltman. “We were just thunderstruck. It was a very exciting moment.”

Cézanne's father purchased the Bastide du Jas de Bouffan in 1859. Ville d'Aix-en-Provence

Previously, art historians thought Cézanne had painted only nine works directly onto the room’s walls, according to a translated statement from Aix-en-Provence’s tourism office. When the artist and his sisters sold the mansion to the Granel-Corsy family in 1899, those nine murals were transferred onto canvases and distributed to various museums. But fragments of this sea scene—the newly designated tenth Grand Salon mural—remained on the wall.

Now known as Entrée du port (Entrance to the Port), the mural might have been influenced by painters Claude-Joseph Vernet or Claude Lorrain, who depicted seaports in their work, as the Art Newspaper writes. In 1864, Cézanne partially covered the mural with another: Jeu de cache-cache (Game of Hide and Seek), which reinterpreted a scene by French artist Nicolas Lancret. The remaining edges of Entrée du port—which have been authenticated as Cézanne’s by the Société Paul Cézanne—were then plastered over.

The restoration of the mansion preempts a 2025 celebration of Cézanne and his connection to Aix-en-Provence.

“The public will then be able to discover this place, enriched by the updating of its first paintings produced from 1859, as well as by the arrival in Aix of the most famous of Cézanne’s paintings, The Card Players,” writes Joissains.

The discovery of Entrée du port has complicated experts’ understanding of the chronological order in which Cézanne painted the Grand Salon murals, per the tourism office’s statement. But this maritime scene only adds to the value of the property, which served as the artist’s “open-air workshop,” surrounded by vines and orchards. The previously hidden mural is “of capital importance” to experts on the so-called “father of modern art.”

“It is the last in situ testimony of the artist’s work in his bastide,” write officials. “It allows us to perceive and understand, from the works of the ‘Grand Salon’ … the pictorial revolution that the artist carried out, moving from works considered decorative to works asserting his personality as an artist.”

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