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Chateau de Saint Aubin sur Loire

by habituallychic

01 . 09 . 22

Interior designer Timothy Corrigan posted photos of an 18th-century French chateau today that he was touring on behalf of a client. I love a mystery and couldn’t resist trying to find out more. One clue was that it was located south east of Paris and then someone commented that it was located in Burgundy. I started researching chateaux for sale but was coming up empty. That’s when I started to suspect that it was a potential off-market sale.

This photo that Timothy Corrigan posted was helpful because of the distinctive pattern of the windows and the triangular pediment above the entrance. There would usually be a coat arms of the owner inside. There is not one on this chateau but there is one on the gate.

I finally found a photo that was saved with the name Chateau de Saint Aubin sur Loire. There also happened to be a website for the chateau from when it was open to the public. It was closed in 2019 after its owner Kristen Van Riel died. He started renovations on Chateau de Saint Aubin after purchasing it in 1999 and continued making improvements for 20 years.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Above, is an engraving of Edme Verniquet with a plan for the chateau found via “Edme Verniquet, architect Châtillonnais”, a conference by Jenry Camus.

Chateau de Saint Aubin is located seven kilometers to the southwest of Bourbon-Lancy (Saône et Loire 71). The village of Saint Aubin sur Loire gave its name to this residence and to the lands that extended to both banks of the river up until the time of the French Revolution.

It was built between 1771 and 1777 by Edme Verniquet, an architect from Burgundy, for the Intendant of Provence and the First President of the Parliament of Aix, Charles Jean-Baptiste des Gallois de la Tour, in a Neoclassical architectural style.

Edme Verniquet was born on October 10, 1727 in a family of Burgundian carpenters and surveyors, settled since 1593 in Châtillon, where his father, Germain Verniquet (1694-1751), surveyor of the king in the control of water and forests of Châtillon-sur-Seine.

After the death of his father in 1751, Edme Verniquet took over. He married Marie Lambert on1763 and left for Dijon, where he founded, in 1765, with a few artists including the painter François Devosge, an art workshop which would later become the School of Fine Arts in Dijon. 

Edme Verniquet first lived in Burgundy, where he built many monuments and works of art then, in Dijon, he met the Count of Buffon who offered him the opportunity to work on the development of the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants (the current Jardin des Plants, headquarters of the National Natural History Museum). His Burgundian activity allowed him to achieve a certain ease which allowed him to settle comfortably in Paris in 1772.

At the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, Edme Verniquet carried out important work on Buffon’s order. He enlarged the building housing the King’s cabinet in 1780, fitted out the labyrinth with its belvedere in 1786 (inaugurated in 1788), and began construction of the anatomy amphitheater in 1787. It was between 1770-1780 when the majority of his commissions were for private hotel particuliers and chateaux.

Verniquet produced a large atlas of Paris in 1796, on which he worked for the last third of his life  from November 1785 at October 1789 with a team of around fifty engineers and designers. The plan established by trigonometric triangulations, published in 72 feuilles-grand-atlas, is the first exact topographical representation of Paris which served as a basis for those produced later.

He died in Paris on November 24, 1804.

The Toulongeon family owned Saint Aubin for more than one hundred and fifty years.

In 1579, Saint Aubin became the property of Claude d’Ambly, a descendent of a bourgeois family from Bourbon-Lancy.

The daughter of Claude d’Ambly married Louis de Ramilly, who took on the name of d’Ambly and became Louis d’Ambly de Ramilly, Lord of Saint Aubin, Perrigny sur Loire, Sommery and other lands.

The Ramilly family sold the land of Saint Aubin in 1652 to Charles Le Gendre, Lord of la Faye, son of a Parisian bourgeois family who had moved to Moulinsand who during the same year married Marie du Buisson, the daughter of André du Buisson, Lord of Beauregard, Chief Treasurer of France for Moulins.

In 1718, their grandson, Gilbert-Charles convinced the Regent to elevate the lands of Saint Aubin to Marquisate and also had title to the Barony of Bourbon-Lancy transferred to him.

Unfortunately, Gilbert-Charles Le Gendre threw himself into speculating on the shares of John Law’s Indies Company and all of his assets were consumed by the famous bankruptcy of this Company. He died in 1746 and his creditors sold off his assets.

On July 31, 1751 the domain of Saint Aubin was transferred by decree to Pierre-César Du Crest, father of the well-known Madame de Genlis (the children’s governess for the Duke of Chartres, then Duke of Orleans, and finally Philippe Egalité) who spent his childhood in Saint Aubin in the old fortified castle of Toulongeon, built along the Loire.

There, the new owner and his family led a life of feasting and receptions which resulted in their ruin.

Their desperate conditions led them to sell the Marquisate of Saint Aubin in 1757 to Charles-Guillaume Le Normand d’Etiolles, “fermier général”, and the husband of the Marquise of Pompadour.

He never came to Saint Aubin and sold the domain in 1771 to Charles Jean Baptiste des Gallois de la Tour, Lord of Dompierre, Chézelle and other lands, who was none other than the grandson of the first Charles Le Gendre, Lord of Saint Aubin.

Returned once more to Saint Aubin, Charles Jean Baptiste des Gallois de la Tour died there in 1802.

His granddaughter Mademoiselle de Pontcarré, heir to half of Saint Aubin, married the Marquis d’Aligre, nephew of her grandmother, who purchased the other half from the brother of his wife, Mr. de Pontcarré, the Marquis de Viarmes.

The couple had no children and left Saint Aubin and half of their immense fortune to the city of Bourbon-Lancy with the charge of building a hospice, which still exists today, under the name of the hospital of Aligre.

The château and 3000 hectares of land were sold by Bourbon-Lancy; several families succeeded each other until its purchase in 1999 by Kristen Van Riel, a corporate lawyer.

After Kristen Van Riel died in 2019, it was purchased by “real estate and finance visionary Zaya Younan who came to the United States at age 13, near-penniless, and has since built an empire that includes business towers, fine wines and cigars, as well as a collection of stunning converted-castle hotels across France and Portugal.

The Younan Group have purchased French chateaux and turned them into luxury hotels and resorts. It was thanks to finding an article Be the Next Zaya Younan that I learned that Chateau de Saint Aubins on the market privately which I suspect is due to a decrease in travel revenue because of the Coronavirus.

An old postcard of Chateau de Saint Aubin.

A classic architectural masterpiece from the end of the 18th-century, the Château de Saint Aubin is comprised of a main building built of golden stone, the two stones central part incased by two wings with trusses, one-and-a-half stories high, under a steeply sloped roof, covered by slates as well as two out buildings of L shape made of brick, covered with tiles and broken by a colossal arch.

To the east, an imposing bridle path, more than one kilometer in length, initially intended for the departure of hunting parties, faces the Château, while to the west, the lawn, organized into terraces, hosted magnificent fountains.

To the north and south, the space was devoted to cultivating fruits and vegetables, beyond the North Commons the kitchen garden could be found, while fruit trees spread out to the south.

The neoclassical architecture, in vogue in France for some 50 years starting from the mid 18th-century, with the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculanum, included a quite varied span of stylistic manifestations, all of which had as a common denominator the antique model, the symbol of purity, simplicity, and moral values which the people aspired at that time in reaction to the frivolous character of the rococo style of which Louis XV was so enamored.

This reference to antiquity was reflected specifically by the inclusion of elements from Greek temples. Thus, in Saint Aubin, a perfect example of the style can be found: façades with a harmonious rhythm are organized around a central front building, barely set forward, comprised of four engaged pilasters, topped with colossal capitals, all of it, in turn, crowned by a triangular front plate which, doubtlessly, originally held the coat of arms of the owners, most definitely recalling Hellenic religious sites.

It was a blog post on The Peak of Chic from 2016 on the Paris apartment of Kristen Van Riel from the September 2001 issue of House Beautiful that helped me put the final pieces of the puzzle together. Zooming in on a caption revealed that the architect Laurent Bourgois collaborated on the renovation of that apartment. I hoped that perhaps he also worked on Chateau de Saint Aubin and luckily for us, he did. Although, I wasn’t quite sure at first. While the Castle in Bourgogne had the date of 1999 and architect Edme Verniquet, the photos didn’t look like the others I had seen. It was the article in CSQ that tied everything together.

From CSLV Studio, the firm of Laurent Bourgois, that was founded in 2014, “Having been entirely restored with contemporary amenities (electricity, plumbing, heating, roofs and façades), the interiors were subsequently refurbished. Thanks to the great commitment of the owner we enlivened every room in the house. The house is now wonderfully rehabilitated and retains all of its charm and character, after all, everything must change so that everything may stay the same.”

Their website also revealed that Louis Benech was responsible for the landscape design. The only thing I could find to confirm this was a photo on his Instagram from 2016.

Laurent Bourgois also collaboration with Frédéric Didier, conservation architect, on Chateau de Saint Aubin.

An old photo of the main hall of Chateau de Saint Aubin.

The chateau includes a central rectangular main building flanked by square wings, totaling approximately 30,000 square feet of space over three levels, plus 5,000 square feet of subterranean cellar space. There are numerous large reception areas as well as 14 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms upstairs. 

The Chateau de Saint Aubin website includes before and after photos of restoration of interior rooms, the exteriors, and the grounds. Here is a before and after of the entry hall.

The photo of the entry hall shows that this small office room that Timothy Corrigan photographed sits to the left of the hall.

A before and after of the restoration of the dining room.

A view of the dining room by Timothy Corrigan.

You can see how the artwork in the dining room changes from this photo to the one below.

From the Chateau de Saint Aubin website, “The interior decorating and layout being greatly sober, associated elegance with comfort, reflecting a provincial life that was both simple and refined, testifying to the desire of Mr. des Gallois de la Tour to design a residence that was the image of his era, with respect to style (neoclassical), taste (sober), and innovations in terms of comfort at the end of the 18th-century.

In fact, until that time, the guiding principle behind the organization of a residence was designed only to satisfy the taste of the grand aristocrats, leaving aside notions of comfort; but progressively thoughts about a residence for ordinary living began to take shape.

Then, bit by bit different rooms began to be identified, thusly forming zones in the living area which consequently determined the most directed pathways.

Hence, primary rooms such as the salon overlooked a garden. Such is the case at Saint Aubin, while the primary succession of rooms, up until the 19th century, occurred along the main facade of the building.

The dining room, rarely identified as such at the time, was most often found located within an anteroom; service rooms in turn, were always located in zones far removed from the central part of the Main Building, the place where the owners lived, given the many unpleasant occurrences that could arise.

In Saint Aubin, the dining room occupies a genuinely select place, located center of the central body, it possesses a double panorama on the hunting bridlepath to the east and a more spectacular view over the Loire and the Allier plain to the west.”

“In terms of comfort, the end of the 18th-century also saw the appearance of spaces designed exclusively for women such as boudoirs, thus determining, once again, differentiation among zones of habitation reserved for women and for men.”

This room was referred to as room of Madam. If you are looking toward the front of thee chateau, it sits to the right of the dining room.

The salon overlooked a garden. It sits to the left of the dining room.

Another view of the salon.

I wish the photo of the plan of Chateau de Saint Aubin was larger so I could figure out where each of the smaller rooms are located. I think this room sits the salon on the entry side of the chateau and might sit beside the small red office room of the left side of the house.

I’m speculating that this room sits on the front of the right side of the chateau. I also wonder if this was a room for the man of the house.

This double-height gallery library probably sits on the right side of the house on the other side of the dining room.

The gallery area of the library.

Looking down at the library from the gallery.

You can see the curved area of the house where the side service wing is connected on the right side of the chateau.

Another view of right service entrance.

The restoration of the former kitchen of the château was conducted from 2001-02.

A view of the other side of the kitchen shows that it sits on the main level and not in the basement as wood have been the case in many English manor houses.

This is a photo of the he entry of the service wing in 1998 along with how it appeared after the renovation. The last photo of the gallery is from one of the separate North Outbuilding of the Château which hosted the Fondation Saint Mauris since June 2004.

I assume this is a small bedroom in the service wing since the ceilings are low. Another article stated that, “the staff were very well accommodated, in particular the head of the kitchens, the butler, and the maid of Madame who she had beautiful apartments.

This is perhaps anther bedroom or a sitting room.

Another bedroom or sitting room.

A very tiny bed for a very tiny person.

The only photo of a bathroom in chateau.

A lord’s residence, the Chateau de Saint Aubin is also a country residence inserted in an environment of greenery and water.

Thus, the location of the chateau, on this platform dominating the river, originally allowed one to enjoy a magnificent view overlooking a French garden doted with waterfalls and fountains organized into terraces, but also an incredible panorama over the valley of the Loire and the Allier plain which visitors can still experience today.

The site’s hunting past has not been set aside, since varied evidence of hunting parties organized at Saint Aubin remains; namely, the imposing bridle path leading to the Château, intended originally for hunters, but also with the kennel located in the park sit to the east, while to the west, terraced lawns host stunning landscaping. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens dot the grounds to the north and south.

The domestic aspect of the chateau leads to the kitchen garden where you can plunge into the atmosphere of the era by discovering the garden restored following the plans from the 18th century.

There are also two outbuildings on the property at Chateau de Saint Aubin. The north outbuilding was created as the Fondation Saint Mauris, a restored gallery to conserve archival family portraits from the 15th to 19th centuries. The other outbuilding hosts opulent reception rooms and additional bedrooms, and a 60-foot swimming pool was added just outside of it in 2013.

Some of the exterior renovations can be found here.

The sumptuous outbuildings including the stables which surround it are built from locally made bricks as well as tiles, materials which were sufficient for the accommodation of the numerous staff.

The Chateau de Saint Aubin property is not listed online but is available for approximately $8.3M. It appears to be turn key ready so it’s actually a great deal.