Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace in Hauterives

Ferdinand Cheval was born on April 19, 1836 in Charmes sur l'Herbasse.

Son of a small farmer, nothing predestined him to create a work that would go down in history. 

This monument is a composite of decorative elements belonging to several styles.

If some people draw connections with naive art, others claim it is baroque.

In effect, this unclassifiable work occupies an important and unique place in the worldwide history of art.

If the Ideal Palace is today cited in most textbooks, it was only after the builder's death that the surrealists, along with André Breton, began to recognize the work's interest. 

Picasso regularly visited during his travels. He made twelve drawings of it in August 1937, today the property of a Swiss gallery.

This monument testifies to a man's unshakeable determination to give life to the dream that haunted him. 

Tour of the Palais Ideal

In 1879, already a Post Office employee for 10 years, Ferdinand Cheval tripped on a stone. He marveled at the beauty of the rock, sculpted by erosion. Day after day, during his rounds, our postman would gather stones that he left in small piles along the sides of the road, coming back to collect them at the end of the day with his wheelbarrow. 

Ferdinand knew the neighbouring countryside well and where to find the long and flat, poetically shaped shales hardened by the water of the streams, the rounded sandstone, the tufa and red porphyry. 

“In seeking, I found. For forty years I shoveled and dug to make this fairy palace rise up out of the earth. For my idea, my body braved it all, the time, the critics, the years.”  Ferdinand Cheval

Rural society was poor, often in crisis, little by little deserted and prey to revolts. The peasants that Ferdinand Cheval visited during his rounds lived in precarious conditions. Sleeping in beds of leaves and wearing rudimentary clothing, they were often subjected to famine and disease. It was in this context that in 1879, at the age of 43, the postman Cheval began building his ideal palace, initially called the Temple of Nature.

To create this monument composed of four façades, a terrace and a gallery, the postman worked for 33 years and used more than 3,500 sacks of lime. Ferdinand Cheval completed the Ideal Palace in 1912.

Considered by the people of the village as an eccentric, even a madman, Ferdinand Cheval passed away in 1924 at the age 88, bequeathing this monument to his two grandchildren, the only living heirs at the time of his death. In 1994, his descendants sold the Ideal Palace to the town of Hauterives. 

Independent of any artistic trend and not conforming to any architectural technique, the Ideal Palace is an illustration of naïve architecture. 

This original building is a work out of time, and outside of standard norms.   

Ardently supported by André Malraux, the Ideal Palace was listed as a historic monument in 1969. Internationally recognized, Ferdinand Cheval has been the source of inspiration for many renowned artists, such as André Breton, Picasso, Tinguely, Max Ernst and Nikki de Saint-Phalle, who have rendered homage to him.

He is today considered a worldwide reference in Outsider Art. 

Palais Ideal du facteur Cheval - 26390 Hauterives

+33 (0)4 75 68 81 19

Scroll To Top