There are venues that touch you more than others, venues with a strong personality, marked by the imprint of those who lived there and who shaped them. Private mansions, bourgeois houses, country manors that have become palaces, in turn refuges or sources of inspiration, they all have in common that they allow us to penetrate into the intimacy of their owners and to shed new light on the small stories of the great History, the affinities that were born there and the passions that grew there.
On this day that celebrates love, we take you to discover our venues exceptional witnesses of some of the most beautiful love stories at the crossroads of history, art and literature.
MALMAISON CASTLE - Napoleon and Josephine, a story of passion and ambition
At first he loved her passionately, while she rejected him. Then she adored him but he was thinking about his Empire and his posterity. Napoleon and Josephine remain one of the mythical couples of history and Malmaison the symbol of this tumultuous love.
They met at a social dinner and Bonaparte immediately fell in love with the beautiful Creole. Josephine remained cold but was seduced by the ardor and ambition of the young general with a promising future, who could provide her with the financial security she had lost in the throes of the Revolution. They got married in the spring of 1796. She cheated on him shamelessly but opened the doors of the most prominent salons and accompanied his meteoric rise.
In the spring of 1799, while Bonaparte was busy with his military conquests, Josephine fell under the spell of a small, slightly outdated château , just outside Paris. Bonaparte, who could refuse her nothing, made her a gift of it and she began major work to turn this country home into a veritable palace where her taste for the arts and luxury would find its most refined expression.
A place of power and sumptuous parties throughout the Consulate, Malmaison regained its calm after the coronation and the move of the imperial family to the Tuileries. Later, the estate became Josephine's refuge when she was unable to give him an heir and was forced to divorce the Emperor, who separated from her against his will and remained devoted to her for the rest of his life.
DOMAINE DE LA VALLÉE-AUX-LOUPS - the beginnings of 30 years of love
Having had the misfortune to displease Napoleon, Chateaubriand was forced into exile from Paris. In August 1807, he bought the estate of the Vallée-aux-Loups, located in the hamlet of Aulnay. Chateaubriand undertook renovation work in the house, and settled there with his wife. At the Vallée-aux-Loups, he wrote a lot, but he also indulged his passion: gardening. He put his aspirations in harmony with his daily life and enjoyed creating the park of the Vallée-aux-Loups, guided by his memories and his travels.
In 1817, he met the beautiful Juliette Récamier. A prominent figure in the cultural life of the first half of the 19th century, famous throughout Europe for her beauty, Juliette Récamier was a model, patron, collector and initiator of a new taste, between neo-classicism and the beginnings of romanticism. A brilliant woman of spirit, she received in her salon all the Parisian elite and the greatest thinkers.
She became Chateaubriand's lover, friend and confidante and stayed at the Vallée-aux-Loups many times, even after the writer, faced with financial difficulties, was forced to sell the estate to a friend of Madame Récamier at the end of 1817. The estate of the Vallée-aux-Loups is a witness to the beginnings of this love which lasted 30 years and preserves today many memories and evocations of it.
GEORGE SAND'S HOUSE IN NOHANT - appeased love and artistic emulation
Throughout her life, the house of Nohant, inherited from her paternal grandmother, was an essential anchor for George Sand. She spent a large part of her childhood in this mansion built in the 18th century in the heart of Berry and later surrounded herself with those who were dear to her: her children, her friends from Berry or Paris among whom Franz Liszt, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix, Pauline Viardot, Théophile Gautier, Gustave Flaubert...
Frédéric Chopin and George Sand met in 1839 in the Parisian salons. The affair between the committed, free and passionate writer and the young Polish composer, exiled to Paris at the age of 20, became a hot topic. Chopin suffered from tuberculosis, George Sand took him to the Balearic Islands to regain his health, but the stay proved disastrous. They took refuge in Nohant. The quiet life in the country will be a long moment of appeasement where Chopin will regain hope and health. It is the moment when their genius blossoms. Chopin will compose all the masterpieces of maturity, she writes, at night, six major novels. Bonded by an extraordinary artistic complicity, the couple spent seven long summers in this privileged setting, which was conducive to creation.
1846 will be the last summer together in Nohant before their separation. Back in Paris, Chopin will hardly compose anymore, before dying in 1849 at 39 years old. George Sand dedicated La Mare au diable to him.
MAISON DE VICTOR HUGO - Juliette Drouet or 50 years of love and devotion
Victor Hugo met Juliette Drouet in 1833 while she was playing the role of Princess Negroni in the play Lucrèce Borgia. They became lovers although the writer was married. Very quickly, the young actress stops her career and devotes her life entirely to him. She is both his collaborator and his inspiration. They wrote thousands of passionate letters to each other, in which she showed a real talent for writing.
While Victor Hugo is forced to go into exile with his family in Brussels, Jersey and Guernsey following the coup d'état of December 1851, Juliette follows her lover who systematically installs her near his place of residence. After the death of Adèle, Victor Hugo's wife, Juliette shares more of the writer's life. She died in May 1883 after 50 years of devotion.
Juliette Drouet never lived in the Hôtel de Rohan Guéméné where the writer, his wife and their 4 children lived for 16 years (1832 -1848) and yet this apartment with its singular atmosphere keeps many traces of this faithful lover. The gothic dining room and the iconic Chinese salon that can be found today on the second floor of 4 Place des Vosges come from Hauteville Fairy, the house where Juliette lived in Guernsey. These sumptuous decorations are the work of Victor Hugo himself who, in addition to being a genius writer and a committed politician, was also a talented decorator.
HOTEL LE MAROIS - the romantic shadow of Marie Duplessis
Now the headquarters of the France-America Association, the Hôtel Le Marois was built in 1863 by Count Le Marois, a great art lover, collector and son of General Le Marois, Napoleon I's illustrious best man at his wedding to Josephine de Beauharnais.
On this magnificent Second Empire building floats an irresistible perfume of romanticism: the building was built on the site of a Private Mansion inhabited by Marie Duplessis, a courtesan renowned for her beauty and wit who held a salon that was popular with the Parisian business and arts world of the time. Alexandre Dumas shared a feverish love affair with her between 1844 and 1845 and used it as inspiration for his novel La Dame aux Camélia, which he wrote a few months after the young woman's untimely death. Shortly after Verdi set Dumas' novel to music and made it into one of the most performed operas in the world, La Traviata
VILLA L'ANGE VOLANT - a story of love and friendship
It was during the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts that the Italian architect Gio Ponti befriended Tony Bouilhet, heir to the Christofle company. The Bouilhet family entrusted Gio Ponti with the construction of their country house on the hill of Saint-Cloud, which was at the time a testing ground for modernist architects such as Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret.
Gio and Tony were thinking of calling the villa the Saint-Cloudienne when an event occurred that changed the course of events. One of the architect's nieces by marriage, Carla Borletti, who was only eighteen years old at the time, went to Paris with her father on a business trip. Gio introduced her to Tony. It was love at first sight: they got married a year later, in September 1928. For Ponti, an angel had flown into Tony's life, so the villa was eventually named the Flying Angel.
The Flying Angel is the only villa built in France by the famous Milanese architect and designer and is one of his masterpieces.