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Palais Rose

Paris, 16th Arrondisement

Completed in 1902, for Boni de Castellane (1867-1932) and yet entirely funded by his American wife, Anna Gould (1875-1961). Standing on 2.5 acres at the corner of Avenues Foch and Malakoff, it was designed by the celebrated Ernest Sanson in collaboration with René Sergent (1865-1927), a specialist in the style of Louix XVI. Built with pink marble, it was modelled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles and was one of the last of the great French neo-classical mansions. During the occupation of Paris in the Second World War, it was occupied by the Germans. It was demolished in 1969...
Boni, the impoverished aristocrat with expensive tastes, left Paris for New York with just one thing in mind: to bag himself an heiress; and, though Anna Gould was certainly not the prettiest, in marrying her he hit the jackpot. Her dowry was a lump sum of $15 million wrapped up in a trust that gave her $500,000 a year. Having no concept of what a trust was, Boni was at first a little dismayed that the $15 million nor even its residue was at his immediate disposal. But, he determined that by whisking his wife back to Paris (away from the suspicious eyes of her family and friends) he could use his effete charm for which she had fallen to persuade her to spend the money as he would himself.   

Before we start feeling too sorry for Anna, she did fall in love with the affected, effeminate man who'd made no secret of why he was in New York. And, of course, her millions came from her father, Jay Gould, the ultimate "Robber Baron" whose attempt to corner the Gold market in 1869 caused "Black Friday" and ruined thousands. Among his more notable victims that day was LeGrand Lockwood (1820-1872) who worked himself into an early grave trying to recuperate his family home, Elm Park. The American playwright in Paris, Natalie Clifford Barney, warmed to neither Boni nor Anna: "she is the most unwashed and dirty-looking creature I ever laid eyes on, and he the most insipid. Quel ménage!"

In just their first year of marriage alone, Boni charmed his wife into renting a mansion that had belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette, purchasing two chateaux and a yacht before hosting a party for which they hired the entire Bois de Boulogne (think Central Park)... and, at the end of that year, Boni had the audacity to complain that he was "hard-up"! So, the entitled title-holder unleashed his rabid lawyers onto his wife's trust fund. They were successful, and like his beloved pug "Bouboulle" in a park, Boni started his eleven-year spending frenzy that tore through $10 million of his wife's $15 million fortune.

Having purchased 2.5 acres on the corner of the fashionable Avenues Foch and Malakoff, for 3,625,000 francs, the de Castellanes employed France's pre-eminent neo-classical architect, Ernest Sanson (known in America for Carolands), to build them a pink marble replica of the Grand Trianon at Versailles. Sanson collaborated with Rene Sargent, and in order to establish its authenticity they built it with marble mined from the same quarries that Louis XIV had used to construct Versailles. 

Boni, who despite all his faults did have an exceptional eye for quality, then set about collecting a spectacular array of furnishings and art: His purchases included Gobelin tapestries, a 13th century carpet from Lisbon Cathedral, reams of artwork by the grand masters, a clock gifted to the Pope from King Louis XIV etc., etc. He later admitted “I was driven by passion as strong as that of some players for cards... (decorating the Palais Rose was) my slide into the abyss”.



Work in progress....