At the end of a row of attractive townhouses on the Boulevard Pereire stands one that seems to have come from another place and another time. If this is the case, it is also true for the home's original owner, the painter and caricaturist, Jean Veber.
Born in Paris in 1864, Jean Veber was trained as a painter before being tempted by his brother Pierre into producing caricatural sketches for various publications. As a fervent patriot, Veber began by attacking Otto von Bismarck before moving onto his favourite target – the English.
Veber worked at a time when anglophobia was prevalent in France, but the behaviour of the British army in the Transvaal during the Boer war gave him ample material to work with. He was particularly scathing of the 'reconcentration camps' they created, and was quick to contrast his brutal images with the misleading words of the British leaders. Veber went as far as sketching the features of Edward VII on the buttocks of Britannia, an image that was censured and which not surprisingly caused something of a scandal.
Veber himself would later gain first-hand experience of war, signing up himself for action in the First World War despite being aged 50 when the conflict broke out. He published a book of letters and memoirs about his experiences in the trenches called J’y étais – un peintre dans la guerre which was much praised and is still available today. He was eventually discharged in 1918 after being severely gassed, an affliction which would eventually bring about his death – in this house on the Boulevard Pereire – in 1928.
If Veber's life and work has been well documented, little has been written about the house in which he lived. Today there is just a small and barely legible plaque marking this building out as his home, and it doesn't seem to be earmarked as a heritage spot to protect. It is owned today by an architect, but remains in a pleasingly scruffy condition, irratating its smarter neighbours with its irreverence. What is most remarkable about the building though is the presence of a mashrabiya on the second floor. It is not clear why this feature is here, but then little about the building is ordinary.
The lower floors seem to be the living quarters, secondary in importance with their small windows, but the reason for this house's existence is the top floor studio with its mysterious mashrabiya and glass roof. Veber continued to paint throughout his life, producing a series of often odd and disturbing canvases, and this atelier would have been where he spent most of his time. He has been viewed as something of an inspiration to the surrealists and science-fiction writers who came after him, and looking at his home, it is easy to see why!