Passionate collectors of old paintings, with a preference for the "Golden Century" (17th) of Spanish Art. In point of fact, needing a place to house their collection is why they purchased Villandry in 1906 so they could exhibit them.
Despite its fame before the war it was unfortunately broken up through inheritance requirements but it still has an excellent collection; these days maintained by their great-grandson Henri Carvallo. Most works relate to the Spanish realist school, which resulted from the fusion of Flemish and Italian styles.
The chateau, being in private hands, is beautifully furnished in period manner, as shown in these pictures.
The opening picture is from Joachim Carvallo's bedroom but there's a sublime view of the ornamental garden and the vegetable garden.
In the room the religious paintings and the statue of St. Francis are testimony to Joachim's strong devotion to the Christian faith.
The first, brightly coloured bedroom was that of Prince Jerome. Napoleon's youngest brother was Villandry's owner for several years during the Empire period. This room's furniture and design, therefore, is in the Empire style; mahogany furniture, red watered silks, trompe l'oeil and military draps and lances.
The windows overlook the splendid Love Garden.
In the Oriental Drawing Room there is a unique ceiling with a fascinating history. It was once part of the 15th century ducal palace in Maqueda, a municipality in the Province of Toledo, Spain. Dismantled in 1905, this palace had a drawing room at each of its four corners. Each room had a coffered dome of polychrome wood and gilding. This is the only ceiling of the four in private hands; the other three cupolas are currently housed by prestigious international museums. Moorish craftsmen created the work in the Mudejar style, including such design elements as floral patterns, Franciscan cords, scallop shells, and royal coats-of-arms that intermingle with tracery, gilding and arabesques to form an harmonious alliance. In all, a total of 3,600 pieces of wood took one year to reassemble when Dr. Carvello brought the ceiling to Villandry.
The paintings around the room reflect time spent in Turkey by the Marquis Michel-Ange de Castellance as French ambassador under Louis XV to the "Gateway to the Ottoman Empire".
If you want some facts, here they are: They have 10 permanent gardeners here but also a bucketload of volunteers; they use 125,000 bedding plants and 85,000 vegetable plants, half of which come from their own nursery; the planting of the kitchen garden changes every 3 years; colour schemes and replanting occur twice yearly.
It was tucked away at the end of the Belvedere walk, a place where you might fancy a cup of tea one afternoon.
The “Audience” is a small, slate-roofed, neoclassical pavilion built in the 18th century by the Marquis of Castellane, on the south side of the estate. This kind of ornamental structure, known as a fabrique, was one of the elements of 18th-century French formal gardens (“jardins à la française”). In this charming building, the Marquis would “grant an audience” to the farmers and peasants who worked his lands. It was completely renovated in 2004.
Up on the higher area at the back are three gardens, one of which is the colourful summer garden which was just coming into bloom when I was there.
The Sun Garden occupies the only part of the Villandry estate which hitherto did not contain a garden. It stands in what used to be a meadow surrounded by lime trees, on the chateau’s highest terrace.
Between 1908 and 1918, Joachim Carvallo recreated the Chateau of Villandry’s Renaissance gardens, in place of the 19th-century “jardin à l’anglaise” (English-style landscaped garden). He had come up with the design for this terrace.
To mark the centenary of the recreation of the Renaissance gardens, the current owner Henri Carvallo wanted to produce this garden based on his great-grandfather Joachim’s earlier design.
The Sun Garden respects the general principles for the structure of the gardens of Villandry, forming a cloister of greenery made up of three chambers:
The Children’s Chamber, where there are outdoor games and decorative apple trees,
The Sun Chamber, the central part of the garden, with a sun-shaped ornamental pond, the eight-pointed star designed by Joachim Carvallo, and beds of perennials,
The Cloud Chamber , where little grassy avenues forming triangles wind their way amidst rosebushes and shrubs.
For this garden, Henri Carvallo called on the services of Louis Benech, one of France’s leading landscape architects, who designed the garden of triangles and chose the collection of perennials. Alix de Saint-Venant, landscape architect and owner of the Chateau of Valmer, designed the garden’s overall structure. Arnaud de Saint-Jouan, head architect at the Historic Monuments department, designed the sun-shaped ornamental pond, the garden’s focal point.
The designs were executed entirely by the Chateau of Villandry’s team of gardeners. The work began in winter 2006/2007. The inauguration took place on 20 June 2008.
Designed as an extension of the salons of the Chateau of Villandry, the Ornamental Garden is laid out over the second terrace, between the Kitchen Garden and the Water Garden. A channel divides the Ornamental Garden into two salons of greenery, known as the First Salon and Second Salon. The Renaissance design of this part of the gardens of Villandry is the result of a collaboration between the Sevillian artist Lozano and the painter and landscape architect Javier de Winthuysen for the First Salon, while the Second Salon was designed by Joachim Carvallo. The designs of the parterres of these salons clearly evoke the Andalusian style.
The Second Salon of box uses symbolism to evoke music. The large triangles represent lyres, alongside which are harps. Topiary completes the scene. Here, yews clipped in the shape of candelabras illuminate the sheet music.
Monks traditionally planted tree roses, called rose standards, in the kitchen gardens of their abbeys; thus was the origin of the flowering French potager or ornamental vegetable garden. At Villandry, the rose standards are planted geometrically, and are meant to represent monks tending to their vegetables.
Situated above the level of the gardens, the wood covers a walled area of approximately three hectares. It is a pleasant place to stroll and offers a very different view of the gardens, looking down on them through plant cover. At Villandry, the wood highlights more than anywhere else the contrast between untamed nature and the ultimate domesticated setting of the gardens. In 2003, it was embellished with a wooden belvedere, which is reached by a charming path, under the cover of tall trees.
A place like this makes for a wonderful contrast to the order of the main garden and highlights the difference between the two. You can go for a walk along the trails and escape the order entirely and immerse yourself in the noise of rustling leaves and birds.
Up behind the chateau is one of the two best veiws of the gardens; well worth your time going for a wander up there. It is only up here that the vastness of the six hectares becomes apparent.
Gazing across their vastness of the dream of the Carvallos becomes apparent.
Today it is one of the most popular chateaux in France and definitely one of the most popular gardens.
Like an extension of the interior salons, the Ornamental Garden is itself divided into salons of greenery. The design of this part of the gardens is the work of Sevillian artist Lozano, assisted by painter and landscape architect Javier de Winthuysen.
Closest to the chateau is the first salon, composed of four beds. In the Andalusian style, its plant structure traces geometric shapes to form the “Love Gardens”.
Tender Love is symbolised by the hearts separated by flames of love in the corners of the square. At the centre are masks which were worn at balls to conceal the face, enabling their wearers to engage in all sorts of conversation, from the most serious to the most light-hearted.
Passionate Love: Still hearts, but this time they are broken out of passion. The clumps of box are entangled to form a maze, further evoking the dance and whirlwind of passion.
Flighty Love: The four fans in the corners symbolise the fickleness of the sentiments. Between the fans are the horns representing betrayed love and, in the centre, the love letters and sweet notes exchanged by lovers. The predominant colour in this square is yellow, the symbol of betrayed love.
Lastly, Tragic Love: The designs represent the blades of daggers and swords used in duels caused by amorous rivalry. In summer, the flowers are red to symbolise the blood shed in these combats.
On the left, in the centre: a design easily recognisable as the Maltese Cross. Behind this cross, to the right, is the Cross of Languedoc and, to the left, the Basque Cross. Lastly are the highly stylised fleur-de-lys lining the moat.
Main Photo:Rear - tender (left) and passionate love, front - tragic (left) and flirty.
For a good view of the whole, it is best to go up to the belvedere, from where one looks down over all of these gardens. (see next tip)
Between the Kitchen Garden and the Church lies the Herb Garden. Though it mimics a traditional garden of the Middle Ages as it is devoted to aromatic, culinary and medicinal herbs, it wasn't planted then.
The fragrances that emanate from the beds may well recall the walled gardens of monasteries in medieval times.
In a classic hands-on effort, the Herb Garden at Villandry was designed by Joachim Carvallo, but, it didn't get laid until much later, in the 1970s, by his grandson and his grandson's wife, Robert and Marguerite Carvallo.
The plants are cultivated in circular beds, symbols of eternity, while the paths intersect at right angles to form crosses.
A good thirty plant varieties are to be found here, in amongst beds of flowers.
The fact is that, unless Joachim Caravallo had a Spanish art collection, the chateau we see today may never have eventuated.
A doctor of Spanish descent, Joachim Carvallo moved to Paris in 1879 to work with Charles Richet (winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1913). In 1899, he married Ann Coleman, the young heiress of a wealthy American family of iron and steel magnates. The couple bought the Villandry estate in 1906 essentially to house their extensive Spanish art collection. Carvallo devoted the rest of his life to restoring Villandry to its Renaissance glory. In 1924, he founded “La Demeure Historique“, an association of owners of listed buildings.
"When you look at the main courtyard from the front, you are amazed at the fine proportions of the pilasters, the capitals and the moulding decorating the facades. The ornamentation is sober and discreet to such an extent that it takes a practised eye to appreciate its richness and its beauty, but when you look at its profile, then the facades look as richly decorated as lace; but what makes it so distinctive is that, when you look at each projection from various angles, the eye can make them all out, without the slightest confusion. Nowhere else will you find a more perfect example of Renaissance architecture." The previous was written by Carvallo in 1923.
The Ornamental Kitchen Garden is the high point of the gardens of Villandry. In a purely Renaissance style, it consists of nine patches all of the same size, but each with a different geometric motif of vegetables and flowers. The patches are planted with vegetables in alternating colours – blue leek, red cabbage and beetroot, jade green carrot tops, etc. – giving the impression of a multicoloured chessboard.
The vegetable garden has its origins in the Middle Ages. Monks liked to lay out their vegetable patches in geometric shapes. The many crosses in the Kitchen Garden at Villandry evoke these monastic origins. In addition, to liven up their patches, the monks would add rose plants, whose blooms also served to decorate the statues of the Virgin Marie. According to an old tradition, the roses, planted symmetrically, symbolise the monk digging his vegetable patch.
The second influence comes from Italy. In the Renaissance, Italian gardens were enriched with decorative elements, fountains, arbours and flower beds, skillfully laid out to divert the stroller, thus transforming the “jardin utilitaire“, or ‘utilitarian garden’, into a “jardin d’agrément“, or ‘ornamental garden’.
French gardeners in the 16th century thus combined these two sources of inspiration – French monastic and Italian – to create the garden they needed for roses and the new vegetables from the Americas, which they called a “potager décoratif”, or ‘decorative kitchen garden’.
Here are some technical details about the Kitchen Garden:
Two plantings are made each year: one in spring, which remains in place from March to June; the other in summer, from June to November.
Forty species of vegetable belonging to eight plant families are used each year.
The layout of the vegetables changes with each planting, both for the purpose of achieving harmony of colours and forms, and due to horticultural constraints requiring triennial crop rotation to avoid exhausting the soil.
Watering is carried out by an automatic irrigation system buried in the ground.
The Kitchen Garden regularly has the place of honour at the “Journées du Potager” (Kitchen Garden Open Days), on the last weekend of September.