André and Ivanna Lemaître’s fresco
The fresco that decorates the Asia salon, situated in the south-east corner of the Hall of Honour, and classified as a historic monument since 1987, was created by the painters André Lemaître (1885-1965) and Ivanna Lemaître, née Jacovlena Koytcheff (1893-1973), a couple who worked together extensively.
The purpose of the fresco in the Asia Salon was to express the philosophical and artistic contributions made by Asia. The characters and scenes portrayed are inspired by Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucian thinking, with illustrations of the great spiritual figures of Asia on the panel to the left of the entrance: Krishna playing a flute, Buddha meditating and Confucius teaching his disciples.
To the right of the entrance, a caravan of elephants loaded with products heads towards the river linking East to West. Then, against a background of plants and mountains (snowy Himalayan peaks or wooded peaks of Mount Meru), the themes of dance (Cambodian dancers), music and sculpture are developed.
Lastly, the four elements are evoked, through scenes mixing the supernatural and terrestrial worlds: water, evoked through the god Varuna and fishermen in search of their daily food; fire, represented by the god Agni, bringing life to a small child as he breathes on him; the earth, illustrated by the god Rama, hunting ferocious beasts so that men can devote themselves to their role as food-providers. Above him, on the overhanging wall, the Earth Mother of Mankind is depicted.
The characters, majestic and sensual, are shown in action, often twisting, rarely in a frontal position facing the viewer, which reinforces the liveliness of the overall composition. They appear a little blended into the background, like dreamy apparitions.
The drawing style is fine and light, the range of colours soft, warm and in pale yellow and orange tones, with a few bright notes, as if to admit the ambient serenity. The lines are fluid and undulating, painted in vibrant touches, producing a pearly, light effect.