Trust me, I am absolutely not morose. I always have a smile on my face and I’m always eager to take the largest “bite” out of life. But I love a good cemetery.
On a recent visit to Paris, I took myself to Montmartre and after exploring the winding and cobbled streets that surround the Basilica Sacre Coeur, and I’d had “enough” of the wanna-be artists and their chintzy copies, I found my way to the real thing, Cimetiere de Montmartre, where the greats of all the muses awaited me.
Covering nearly 25 acres in the hollow of an old quarry in the 18th arrondissement, and built below street level, Cimetiere Montmartre was opened in 1825. Although located in the midst of a bustling section of Paris, with a major boulevard running over divisions 17 and 18, once you find your way into Montmartre you’ll discover the peace and quiet of strolling down its streets and avenues.
Among the famous and near-famous here you’ll find Edgar Degas, Jacques Offenbach, Heinrich Heine, Hector Berlioz, Stendhal, Adolphe Sax (yes the guy who invented the saxophone), Gustave Levy and Francois Truffaut. Their tombs are in fact, among the most striking sculptures and monuments in all of Paris.
The tombstone of Vaslav Nijinsky is in Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris. Nijinsky was a Russian ballet dancer, born in Kiev, Ukraine, and one of the most gifted male dancers in history. His ability to perform seemingly gravity-defying leaps was legendary.
Nijinsky met Sergei Diaghilev, a celebrated and highly innovative producer of ballet and opera as well as art exhibitions, who concentrated on promoting Russian visual and musical art particularly in Paris. In 1909, Diaghilev took his dance company, the Ballets Russes, to Paris, with Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova as the leads.
The statue, depicts Nijinsky as the puppet Petrouchka. Rendered in pink marble, this extraordinary sepulcher brought tears to my eyes because of its lifelike posture and the details. Sadly, Nijinsky’s last years were lonely and tragic. He had a nervous breakdown in 1919, and his career effectively ended. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and taken to Switzerland by his wife, where he was treated unsuccessfully by psychiatrist, Eugene Bleuler. He spent the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums. Nijinsky died in a London clinic on April 8, 1950 and was buried in London until 1953 when his body was moved to Cimetière de Montmartre.
Need I say more? Cemeteries all over the world are filled with great art and history and as a history and great art.