April 05, 2010

Séraphin Enrico, Jardin de l'Eden/Garden of Eden

all pictures courtesy of
herbaltablet (Flickr, august 2009)

Seraphin Enrico's Jardin de l'Eden, an art environment with a variety of colourful sculptures from concrete, doesn't exist any more.

Just some sculptures have been saved, like a group of bathers around a small pond, currently exposed in the Musée-jardin de la Luna Rossa in Caen.

Olivier Thiébaut, who in the 1990's was behind the initiative to start this private museum, is also closely related to the unearthening of some of Enrico's dumped sculptures.

Unearthening? Dumped sculptures?

The story has been told by Thiébaut himself on Bruno Montpied's weblog (march 23, 2008, text in french).

What follows is a resume.

Life and works

Séraphin Enrico (1898-1989) was born in Mougrando, Italy. After WWI he left for France to find a job as a mason. From 1925 on he had a house in the community of St Calais, in the Sarthe area, east of the city of le Mans.

In 1959, when he was in his early sixties, he began making sculptures as a decoration of the garden around the house, a creative activity he continued for over ten years.

The garden became a popular place to visit and in the 1960's and 70's it attracted a lot of people.

Cariathides et Ste Vierge (avec coquille)

However, when Enrico became older he had to leave St Calais for reasons not listed in the available documentation, but probably against his will. He joined other members of his family, who lived in Divonne-les-Bains.

That was in 1972. Enrico died in 1989 and it is presumed that he has never been in St Calais again..

Soon after he left, the site must have been demolished, although it is not quite clear to me how and by whom.

Digging for buried sculptures

Anyhow, in 1995 Thiébaut. who was very interested in outsider environments in western France and who was preparing a book about the subject, got the idea to ask permission to do some digging on a plot, an old pond, where as some inhabitants of St Calais said, items of the garden might have been dumped.

And bingo, Thiébaut and the friends who helped him, discovered a number of buried sculptures, most still with the lively colours Enrico had used to paint them. Moreover, Enrico had constructed his sculptures so robustly, that they emerged out of the dump in their entirety.

The rescued sculptures currently are out in the open again, facing the skies, displayed in the garden of the Musée de la Luna Rossa in Caen.

* Olivier Thiébaut, 'De l'art chéologie' pour l'art, in Gazogène, nr 20
* Articles by Bruno Montpied in his weblog (march 2003) and in his inventory of folk art environments in France Le gazouillis des éléphants, 2017 p. 666-668

Séraphin Enrico
Jardin de l'Eden
(in the 1960's and 70's) in St Calais, dep Sarthe, France
site demolished
(some recovered sculptures currently in) Musée-jardin de la Luna Rossa,

Caen, Normandy, France
the museum can be visited on sunday afternoons, apr-oct

first published april 2010, revised jan 2018

1 comment:

  1. Like a real work of archaelogy. What a look that somebody take the job to look after those great sculture pieces and a luck that they successfully managed to find them. And it makes me think if it could be possible that several many others art works like that may be now lying under the earth, without we having any news about their existance. Hope at least that some curious archaelogist or researcher from nowadays or from the future, got to bump with them once.