Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Amour x 4

photo Le style et la matière

If the world seems to having trouble turning round these days, there is always one more love story worth telling. Everytime I'm on the chateaux trail, I fall head-over-heels at least once, and Villandry, a château most famous for it's gardens, is a place worthy of more than a passing flirtation. Its recent history, that of the present owner's family, is a true love story as well, between a Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo, and an American, Ann Coleman. The two met in 1896  in the Paris labortory of Nobel Prize winner, Dr Charles Richet. Dr Carvallo was conducting medical research there when the very determined Miss Coleman arrived to study physiology. Carvallo was a brillant but penniless Madrilenian and Coleman a wealthy but free-thinking woman from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. 

photo Le style et la matière

They were married in America, then returned to live in Paris. The couple soon sought a summer home and in 1906 they settled on Villandry, built in 1534, the last constructed of the great 
Renaissance Loire Valley Châteaux. 

photo Le style et la matière
Along with their scientific preoccupations, the couple both enjoyed history, poetry and art.

photo Le style et la matière
Philosopher with a Mirror Johann Heinrich Schonfeld
They saw in Villandry a suitable setting for their growing art collection, focused primarily on Spanish Renaissance painting.

As anyone with restoration work in an ancient abode soon discovers - no matter how large or small the project may be, there is always more at hand than first meets the eye. Carvallo wrote of his first impressions of his acquisition,

I was near Lyon when I heard about this property. I came to visit. The castle was all windows, balconies, sham openings. The park was designed in the English fashion, in hills and vales...
The castle itself disappeared in the middle of a forest of trees and greenery ... The whole, however, pleased me. The price did not seem exaggerated. The deed of sale was signed within the hour. Two days later, the poor man died of gout. When, in early 1907, I came to settle Villandry, I was terrified, looking closely at the castle and property, the crushing burden that I had assumed.

photo Le style et la matière
Man and rebus, Spanish school 17th century
The rebus probably refers to the identity of the sitter, unknown to us today.
The "summer home" was to become an all consuming occupation, a puzzle to be solved. The Renaissance buildings had undergone many transformations through time  (some by aesthete Boni de Castellane) which the Carvallo couple would remove in order to restore the exterior its original state...

photo Le style et la matière
Vanity of Knowledge

while for the interior the traces of successive lives from various periods were left in place, 
as the chateau became little by little a real home to the Carvallo family. 

photo Le style et la matière

 Boni de Castellane's dining room decoration was retained.

photo Le style et la matière

photo Le style et la matière

The kitchen is the only room to have a Rennaissance theme.

photo Le style et la matière

Prince Jerome's (Bonaparte) bedroom. 

A wonderful sense of courtesy prevails at Villandry; a guard removed the separating cord in this room to accommodate this photographer.

photo Le style et la matière

Beautiful geometric parquet prepares the sight of the gardens beyond.

photo Le style et la matière
To complete the period character of the château, Carvello did away with the English gardens created in the 19th century and reinvented gardens in the spirit of the Renaissance
which are today admired around the world.

The gardens closest to the chateau are constructed as 'salons de verdure' that speak of love. 
They were designed by Lozano and Winthuysen. 

Amour tendre is symbolized by hearts separated small flames and capped with white ball masks to permit intimate conversation - earnest  or frivolous.  
Amour passionné, hearts again but rent by passion. The boxwood hedges form a maze and suggest an impelling whirling movement.
Amour volage has 4 fans in its corners to represent airy sentiments and borders with 
the pointy horns of deceived love.
Amour tragique  is depicted with the blades of daggers and swords used in rival lovers duels. 
In summer, red blossoms symbolise bloodshed.

photo Le style et la matière

 Amour tendre

photo Le style et la matière
Today's garden fresh menu: Love as you like it- Tragique, Volage Passion, Tendre.

Today the chateau and gardens and restaurant are owned by the Carvello descendants who cater well to their visitors with the sort of charm and warmth found all too rarely in a highly visited monument.

photo Le style et la matière

Our story could have been another one entirely, as quite young,
Ann Coleman had another exotic suitor.
see here...


donna baker said...

Incredible, Gesbi. Just yesterday, my husband and I were cleaning out a flower bed and re-planting iris bulbs, and I said that I need an arborist, a landscape architect and a full time gardener. My husband told me to dream all I want because it will never happen. But I need a knot garden built, I told him, and he said, go build one yourself. I guess I never will get that garden.

gésbi said...

It seems that viarious pleasure is the way to go. You don't want to see daggers in your own garden of love!

Mlle Paradis said...

looooove villandry. stayed there in a gite on property which had once belonged to the chateau. we had a lovely stay in the sweet village. there was not such access to the interior of the chateau at the time of our visit though. now i'm caught up on what i missed!


Blue said...

Of all, for me, the dining room is the most magical. Frigidly magical in winter, I imagine, but beautiful nonetheless. Oh, and the glimpses of parquet (as we call it) make me wish for more photos of them.

gésbi said...

Mlle, you do get around. Along with the architecture, the wine and cuisine and the beautiful light of the region, what I love most are the people there.

gésbi said...

Blue, it must be the marble floor that gives that impression in the Castellane dining room despite the warm colors. Parquet would be warmer but this is more in keeping with the Provencial feel.

Renée Finberg said...

this is an amazing post.
i want to go!!!

the gardens are intoxicating...
and the details of the home are GORGEOUS.
especially the floors.


Kristin Linnea Backe said...

A little brocade for you over at my blog - finally - folk costume/bunad :)