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Mise à jour: 25.02.2015
 

Famous People along the Nations' Cultural Trail

Along the Trail, with the help of historical anecdotes, we will meet the Empress Josephine, Gustave Revilliod, Albert Thomas and even Casanova. But who were they and what were they doing in Geneva?

The Empress Josephine

© LDD

The Empress Josephine (1763-1814),  repudiated by Napoleon, came to Geneva in 1810, staying at the famous Hotel d’Angleterre which, from 1777 until its closure in 1842, was host to the great writers and crowned heads of Europe. There, she received Geneva high society, attended balls and a memorable Festival of the Lake in a boat drawn by two swans. In 1811, she acquired the Chateau of Pregny-la-Tour, located at 10 Chemin de l’Impératrice, refurbished it and lived there with her daughter, Hortense, before returning to Malmaison, where she died in 1814. It was only in 1976 that this street was named after her.

Albert Thomas

© LDD

Albert Thomas (1878-1932) was a trade union activist, a Socialist Deputy close to Jaurès, Minister of Armament in 1916 and then the first Director of the International Labour Organization, at the time housed in the Centre William Rappard, from 1920 until his death. He can be seen on one of the bas-reliefs on the monument «The Four Races», that bears extracts from speeches by Albert Thomas summarizing his thinking : «Labour must transcend all competitive struggles, it is not a commodity.»

Gustave Revilliod

© Ariana

Gustave Revilliod (1817-1890), a wealthy and erudite art lover, built up over the course of his many professional travels – he was the first Swiss ambassador to Egypt – diverse art collections. He exhibited them to the public for the first time in 1866 in his residence in the rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, while dreaming of a real museum for his artworks, both for educational purposes and for the sake of posterity. After the demise of his mother in 1876, he devoted the last fourteen years of his life to the construction of a grandiloquent edifice which, unmarried and heirless, he named Ariana in memory of his mother, Ariane, née De la Rive. The Musée Ariana, the second purpose-built museum in Geneva after the Musée Rath, was greatly admired on its completion and topped the list of attractions in tourist guides to Geneva.

Casanova

© LDD

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), by turns a violinist, writer, magician, spy, diplomat and librarian, had friends and patrons among the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. He borrowed the Villa Mon Repos from his banker in 1762 and spent a licentious evening there in the company of two uninhibited young women from Geneva, Hélène and Edwige. This episode is described in great detail in Casanova’s autobiographical «Story of my Life».

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