Built during the Renaissance by Jean le Breton, finance minister of Francis I, Villandry underwent significant transformations in the XVIII and XIXth centuries. The purchase of Villandry by Joachim Carvallo and Ann Coleman in 1906 marked a renewed interest in the history of the site.
In 1906, Joachim Carvallo, a young Spanish doctor, and his wife Ann Coleman, heiress to a US steel empire, purchase Villandry, it was love at first sight..
Joachim was conducting advanced research on the physiology of digestion.
Since their first visit to Villandry, the couple felt they were in the presence of a masterpiece that had been disfigured by its transformations during the XVIIIth century.
Abandoning their proposed scientific laboratory, the couple put all their energies and fortune into restoring the castle to its Renaissance beauty.
No significant changes was made to the Renaissance building until the acquisition of the Seigniory of Villandry by the Count of Castellane in 1754.
Michelangelo Castellane came from a very ancient and illustrious family in Provence. From 1741 to 1747 he was Ambassador Extraordinary to the Ottoman Court.
The new owner made major changes to the building: he wanted to adapt it to the style of his day, marked by classicism.
The courtyard arches are walled in and become, to the left, kitchens, to the right, corridors overlooking the salons.
Renaissance windows are rounded and between them the Louis XV style windows are cut and adorned with balconies and railings; trompe l'oeil windows are added in all the solid areas and provide greater symmetry to the facade.
These changes completely disrupt the appearance of the Le Breton Renaissance architecture.
With the help of a team of 100 masons, Joachim Carvallo intends to restore the facades back to to their Renaissance beauty. He removes the windows and arches created by Michelangelo Castellane. Although the entrance wall and spiral staircase in the courtyard are not included in the restoration, Joachim Carvallo is pleased with the results of the work.
"After the first changes it underwent, the effect was surprising. In less than a week, Villandry had regained its Renaissance character. I invited members of the Archaeological Society of Touraine come to appreciate the work I had done. These gentlemen who were accustomed to seeing Villandry covered with false windows, which gave it the gloomy, monotonous appearance of barracks, were amazed; they could not believe their eyes and thought that I had waved a magic wand and rebuilt a new castle." Joachim Carvallo.
The castle remained in the Hainguerlot family until the Revolution. Starting in 1791, many owners succeed one another in Villandry, including Jerome Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon, who sold the property to the Hainguerlot family.
When the classical garden was no longer fashionable, the estate was transformed once again and became an English park. This type of park reflected a new vision of nature in the XIXth century: it was thought that a garden should look like nature, wild and free, hence the term "landscape garden."
This garden has the advantage to requiring much less maintenance than a French garden. Villandry's landscaping thus becomes sinuous, full of curves, groups of trees and shrubs.
When Joachim Carvallo visited Villandry 1906, the English park was not to his liking. "The park [is] made in the English style, with valleys and mounds (...), many recently planted imported exotic species [...] massed on the back of artificial mounds. The castle itself [disappears] in the middle of a forest of trees and greenery."
Joachim Carvallo thus begins a major transformation of the park. With the thoroughness of science, he intends to create gardens in keeping with the transformed castle.
Between 1908 and 1924 he dedicated himself to restoring the gardens to the Renaissance style.
To do so, he gathers archaeological and literary evidence: the remains of foundations and pipes in parallel with the old plans, which allow him to replace the XVIth century decorative vegetable garden.
Similarly, works such as Les Plus Excellents Bâtiments de France, by Jacques Androuet Hoop enable him to better understand Renaissance landscaping. Deploying large resources, he cut down the trees in the park, cleared the moat, the terraces and the great XVIIIth basin, of which he found the general outline.
The entire project is not completed until 1924.
The gardens of Villandry are a reinvention. From its shape to the choice of plants, everything was designed to bring back the original French Renaissance garden.
Designed as an extension of the castle reception rooms (living room, dining room), ornamental salons unfold on the second terrace from the kitchen garden and water garden.
They are Renaissance-inspired in their structure made of plants trimmed to varying geometric shapes. Divided into two green salons separated by a canal, they were finished shortly before 1914.
Adjoining the south façade of the castle, between the XVIIIth century Orangery and the canal, the first salon is divided into two rooms (the garden of crosses and the garden of love). These rooms were designed to offer the best view from the first floor, the main floor of the castle. To create them, Joachim Carvallo called upon the painter Lozano and Javier Winthuysen, a Spanish artist and landscaper; by their layout, these rooms reflect a Spanish flavor due to the origins of the creator.
The grouping of straight lines and curved lines, for example, is typical of the art of Moorish-style gardens, art which experienced a revival in Andalusia in the mid-XIXth century.
"Fickle Love" has four fans in the corners, symbolizing the lightness of feelings. You can see these fans between the horns of the wrong love (or butterflies evoking a fickle character) and at the center are the love letters or love notes the lovers exchanged. The dominant color in this square is yellow, the symbol of love deceived.
The second salon in the ornamental gardens, to the west, is the garden of music.
Overlooking the garden, it was designed by Joachim Carvallo and symbolically evokes music. The large triangles represent lyres, next to which there are harps or metronomes. Yews trimmed to the likeness of candelabras illuminate the musical score. The color contrast is obtained by plantations of lavender or perovskia supplemented by annual plants.
The decorative vegetable garden on the lowest terrace (yard), covers almost a hectare.
Joachim Carvallo paid special attention to its design when restoring it; he based it on archaeological excavations (with half walls buried under the gentle slopes confirming the existence of terraces), old plans and literary sources.
Joachim Carvallo wanted his garden to be perfectly in line with the newly restored Renaissance castle.
The water garden is located above the ornamental garden at the southern end of the estate. This lawn bowling, lined with grass glaze, consists of a central basin in the shape of a Louis XV mirror, compartmentalized grass beds, a network of perpendicular symmetrical alleys, four sub-basins and boxwood topiaries.
Its organization reflects the architecture of classical gardens.
While first a reflecting pool was created during the transformation of the Villandry gardens into French gardens in the XVIIIth century, the rearrangement of the park in the romantic fashion in the nineteenth led to the replacement of the classic pool with a natural water feature.
Taking his inspiration from the Count of Castellane's XVIIIth century plans, immortalized by the Napoleonic land registry, Joachim Carvallo restored the reflecting pool, giving the space an even, unobstructed appearance once again.
Joachim Carvallo created gardens organized in three successive terraces: the decorative vegetable garden, ornamental gardens and the water garden.
The labyrinth and the herb garden would be created by his descendants from plans drawn by Joachim. In 2008 the garden of the rising sun became the sixth garden of Villandry, adding a fourth terrace area.
Without a doubt, Villandry owes its international reputation to its terraced gardens that surround the castle as in a case.
This is a skirt lifter (1870-1875)