“I was near Lyon when I heard about this property. I came to visit it. The chateau was all windows, balconies, trompe-l’oeil openings. (…) [It] was lost in a forest of trees and greenery (…). But overall it appealed to me. The price didn’t seem over the top. The contract was signed there and then.” (1)
Villandry regains its Renaissance appearance
As a result of architectural changes made in the 18th century, the Renaissance chateau had lost its character: it remained that way until 1906. In the early 20th century, Dr Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman, heir to an American iron and steel empire, purchased Villandry. Leaving behind the laboratories of the Paris Faculty of Medicine where, a favourite disciple of Charles Richet (winner of the Nobel Prize in 1913), he was conducting advanced research into the physiology of digestion, Carvallo put all his energies and fortune into restoring Villandry to its former glory. WIth the help of a team of 100 stonemasons, he gave the chateau’s façades back their Renaissance beauty.
“The effect of the initial transformations was amazing. In less than a week, Villandry had regained its Renaissance character. I invited the members of the Touraine Archeology Society to come and witness the work I had carried out. These gentlemen, who were accustomed to seeing Villandry covered in false windows, which gave it the gloomy, monotonous appearance of a barracks, were filled with wonder; they couldn’t believe their eyes and thought that, with the wave of a magic wand, I had built a new chateau.” (2)
Villandry, a family story
Joachim Carvallo devoted the rest of his life to restoring Villandry. His heirs have carried on his work and with the same passion have maintained the chateau and gardens open to the public since 1920, thus preserving the family element which has been characteristic of the house ever since it was built in 1532. The current owner, Henri Carvallo, is Ann and Joachim’s great-grandson.
(1) and (2) P. Le Noach, Histoire de Villandry et de son château, Tours, Impr. Mariotton, 1949