07 July 2011

Details Count: The Vicomte de Noailles

A salon at L'Ermitage de Pompadour, a former home of Charles, Vicomte de Noailles, and his wife, Marie-Laure, in Fontainebleau, France. The 18th-century building—which was constructed for royal mistress Madame de Pompadour and is now owned by Noailles grandson Carlo Perrone—and its six-acre grounds are being sold for $9.3 million.

“My grandfather also planted scented flowers beneath the guest room windows so when they were opened in the morning, guests would smell their fragrance.”

So said Italian newspaper publisher Carlo Perrone in The New York Times on 30 June 2011, recalling one of his family's French residences, L'Ermitage de Pompadour, which recently came on the market after nearly a century in private hands. The six-acre estate in the commune of Fontainebleau, near Paris, was purchased in 1919 by Perrone's great-grandmother Madeleine de Noailles, Princesse de Poix. It is being sold through Emile Garcin.

The scent-conscious grandfather to whom Perrone refers was French society figure Charles de Noailles (1891—1981), an inspired patron of the arts who created some of the most inspiring gardens of the 20th century. The Vicomte de Noailles's strategic positioning of perfumed plants at his Fontainebleau residence is worth remembering when the subject turns to gardens or even spare rooms, for that matter. I, for one, would cultivate tuberoses beneath all my bedroom windows or perhaps Confederate jasmine or great masses of Oriental lilies.