Paris (75), France - It is not often that a seventeenth century stone garden seat comes up for sale, and rarer still when it has a provenance connected to the world's earliest prime minister, Cardinal Richelieu, noble, statesman and collector, and famously the anti-hero in Alexander Dumas book The Three Musketeers. In the 1600s His Eminence built a mansion, the Chateau du Rueil outside Paris, which had fabulous gardens with parterres, vistas, avenues, fountains, and a 20ft long limestone bench.
When Richelieu died his niece Marie Madeleine de Vignerot, Duchess of Aiguillon, inherited the estate, and it was then that the young Louis XIV and his courtiers came to stay during turbulent times in Paris. The Peace of Rueil was signed there in 1649 which resolved the conflict between powerful and belligerent French nobles and the natural power of the French monarchy.
The estate passed to Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, Duke d'Aiguillon, who in 1759 was chosen to command an army to land in Scotland to support a Jacobite rebellion, but the plan was abandoned following the French naval defeat at Quiberon Bay. A quarrel with the young queen Marie Antoinette in 1774 forced Emmanuel-Armand out of favour and when he died in 1788 the estate was inherited by his son Armand.
In 1789 Armand could foresee that things were getting tricky and became the first member of the National Assembly to renounce the privileges of the nobility. He became a general in the Republican Army, but fled to London during the Reign of Terror. He had been one of the twelve peers of France, who, in former days, had an immense fortune, was a great patron of the arts, and reputedly had a box in every theatre in Paris. In London the duke resorted to copying sheet-music to make money until the government demanded that he leave. He went to Hamburg, where he was promptly shot.
In 1800 the estate was given to André Massena, the son of a shopkeeper who joined the French army and rose through the ranks until, Napoleon said, Messena became his greatest general. In 1804 he became Marshal of France, but in the Peninsular war in 1810 he was defeated by Wellington and retired in disgrace.
Next the Massena family sold the Rueil estate which was bought successively by the families of Lemarie, Breant and finally the Mercier family who demolished the Chateau du Rueil and sold off parcels of land. Jean Coquelin, creator of Cyrano de Bergerac, built a house on the Chateau site, and the gardens were developed by Doctor Georges Claude. It is now the site of a large complex of the pharmaceutical Innovartis group, which kept small parts of Richelieu's fabulous gardens. During the course of all this the bench ended up in the garden of a nearby house, in a private road just off the Boulevard Richelieu.
BCA has now acquired the bench which it is offering for sale, and has described it on SalvoWEB:
For Sale: Cardinal Richelieu's 17th century antique French limestone bench. 17th century limestone bench with known provenance, one of the few surviving elements of the lavish parks and water gardens created in the 17th century at the Château de Reul initially from 1606 to 1620 by Jean de Moisset (an important financier of Henri IV) and subsequently by the Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) under Louis XIII's reign. This bench is one of the last vestiges of the château and water gardens (pre-dating Versailles park and water gardens), but demolished and sub-divided after the French Revolution by the Maréchal Massena. It has come through 350 years outdoors in remarkable condition.
On display at BCA's Maine & Loire premises at L'Hotellerie-de-Flée.
Dimensions in Metric, approx: Length 575cm. Overall height 100cm. Seat height 50cm. Seat platform front to back 49cm.
Dimensions in Imperial, approx: Length almost 19 feet. Overall height 3ft 4 ins. Seat height 20 inches. Seat platform front to back 19 inches.
Contact : BCA, Calvados (14), France. Tel: +33 (0)607 019 026.
BCA is a member of the Salvo Code.
B.C.A. Materiaux Anciens S.A.
SalvoWEB: Cardinal Richelieu's antique French limestone bench
Story Type: News