The Ideal Aviary

Quiet, poetic and made of stones, a flight of birds populates the Ideal Palace.

By Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace

Bird on the north facade (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

Effectively, Postman Cheval scattered his work with several birds' nests: a very subtle touch, nearly invisible, which brings pure poetry to the environment when you look out for it. 

Swallow's nest on the east facade (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

The Swallows' Nest

One of the first nests, a swallow's nest, appears under a vault on the east facade, by the postman's wheelbarrow. On the walls of the gallery, you can find several nests entwined amongst the trees that the postman sculpted.

Bird on the north facade (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

A lot less secretive, but nevertheless just as poetic, everyone can admire the majestic bird which overlooks the peaks of the north facade. 

I pulled the queen of the world out of a dream (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

Just underneath, although much more discreet, you can also spot a small, metal bird, and not far from it, Postman Cheval's quote, "he placed me in this charming palace, where the swift shall return each spring." 

Bird on the north facade (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

They are an integral part of the decor throughout the entire palace. Throughout their journey through the palace, visitors may spot an eagle, a cockerel, an ostrich, a pelican, a flamingo, and even a phoenix chicken, hidden in the midst of the Garden of Eden. 

Birds in the gallery (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

In his quest to share his knowledge of the world with his visitors, Ferdinand Cheval had inscribed the names of these animals into their sculptures; yet many others remain anonymous in the crowd of subjects that constitute the Ideal Palace. 

Bird on the terrace (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

This is particularly the case for the central bird figure in the Source of Life, in which chicks, waiting to take flight, are perched on a branch of the terrace. 

Entrance to a fantasy palace (detail of the Ideal Palace on the west facade) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

In the gallery, attentive visitors may also discover two birds with sapphire eyes, as well as a flight of bluebirds. From time to time, real nests appear on the Ideal Palace and accompany this flock of birds, fixed in stone by Postman Cheval.

Bird on the Source of Life (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

This phrase of Postman Cheval is inscribed into one of the niches of the Palace "to the lark's song, in the morning with my loyal wheelbarrow, I will roam the paths," and it reminds us that, from the very beginning, the birds were companions for this tireless worker. This is certainly what led Nils Tavernier to borrow these words from the postman, in his film: "The wind and the birds spur me on." 

Bird (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

In 1932, André Breton paid tribute to Postman Cheval via a poem entitled: Le Revolver à Cheveux Blancs (The White-Haired Revolver). His poem opens with these lines:  "Nous les oiseaux que tu charmes toujours du haut de ces belvédères/Et qui chaque nuit ne faisons qu'une branche fleurie de tes épaules aux bras de ta brouette animée. (Us, the birds, that you always charm from atop these belvederes/And who each night make but a flowered branch from your shoulders to your lively wheelbarrow)." 

Bird (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

Furthermore, the figure of the bird in the Ideal Palais isn't without its reminders of the carrier pigeon—a messenger bird—which, like the postman, delivered messages after a long journey. Pablo Picasso had understood this in his homage to Postman Cheval, representing him as a chimera with an equine body and the head of a pigeon, holding an envelope in its beak. 

Angel (detail of the Ideal Palace) (1879/1912) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

The more attentive amongst the visitors may also spot the presence of other winged figures: angels. One of them can no longer be accessed by visitors, as it's hidden away in the small genie tower, which has been blocked off from the public for over 25 years. Its invisible presence makes it one of the hidden treasures of Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace. 

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