Illustrious families have succeeded each other at the Franquenot Chateau, an imposing yet understated residence in the département of La Manche. A new chapter begins with the sale of its contents.
View of the Château de Franquetot, Coigny.
At the end of a 12-hectare (29.6 acre) estate stands a building consisting of a central section (a corpus de logis) adorned with a pediment and two pavilions forming a vast cour d’honneur or courtyard that has survived to the present day. In the second half of the 17th century, Robert de Franquetot decided to build in order to bestow opulence and majesty on his domain of Coigny, which had been raised to the rank of a comté by Louis XIV. As Dukes of Coigny, the Franquetots became one of the most powerful families of the French aristocracy, providing the king’s armies with several lieutenant-generals and two marshals. The first section of the château, which includes a chapel, was built in the spirit of the French Renaissance, and was followed by a second identical section between 1735 and 1739. The façades, roofs and former stables are now listed as historical monuments.
A Beautiful Captive
In the sale staged by the Daguerre Auction House, some pieces evoke the first patrons. Leading the way is a portrait of French King Henri IV by the circle of the painter Jacob Bunel (€1,500/2,000)—for it was during his reign that Louis Guillotte became Lord of Franquetot. Next up is a linen hanging in pure silk embroidered with the arms of the Coigny family from the second half of the 17th century (260 x 174 cm/102.4 x 68.5 in), which is estimated at €1,500/2,000. Among 250-odd lots in the sale, a pastel of the poet André Chénier after Charles-Louis Müller (€400/600) again illustrates the family history. One of François de Franquetot de Coigny’s grandsons, Augustin Gabriel, Comte de Coigny (1740-1815), had a only child, Aimée, Duchesse de Fleury. She became André Chénier’s future prison companion and muse during the French Revolution as the poet’s Jeune Captive (Young Captive). The residents of the time remembered the beautiful blonde girl who often stayed at the château.
In 1865, after seven generations the Franquetot family died out along the "male line." Having married in 1822 Henrietta Dalrymple-Hamilton, who hailed from a noble family in England, the third Duc de Coigny, brought the château and its land under the British flag. His two daughters were the last representatives of the Franquetots, and in 1912, one daughter, the Lady Beauchamp, became the duke's heiress.
Various mementos connected with the Talleyrand and Orlowski families will be up for sale. Collectors will be particularly interested in the provenance of a rare Chinese vase (€150,000/200,000: see below) and a wool and silk tapestry depicting a mythological scene with the Talleyrand family coat of arms on the borders (Aubusson, c.1720, €4,000/6,000). Some portraits depict illustrious forebears, including Dorothée de Courland (1793‑1862) after Joseph Grassi (€1,000/1,500), and Comte Orlowski (dated 1892, €3,000/4,000). Other lots are imbued with the spirit of 18th and 19th-century Central Europe, like a miniature of the Polish Prince Joseph Poniatowski (400/500 €), a heraldic pendant with a helmet flanked by two stag antlers (€2,000/3,000) and some officer’s swords. The craftsmanship of these artisans is splendidly illustrated by a magnificent cabinet secretary of c.1800 with a rolltop section containing niches and drawers (€3,000/4,000).
A Living Residence
The château was furnished and decorated in keeping with its historical spirit, but with a discreet subtlety. “This is a unique opportunity to see the interior furnishing as it was planned by the Orlowskis. It fits well with the house and some pieces are truly exceptional,” says Benoît Derouineau. A fine portrait of a princess of the royal blood in an embroidered gown and ermine mantle (€4,000/6,000) by the painter Pierre Gobert (1662-1744), who was accustomed to depicting prominent figures in Munich and at the court of Versailles, brings a graceful, playful note to this long history. Like a guided tour moving through the vestibule, kitchen, bedrooms, chapel, dining room and main salon, the catalog lists, room by room, the various objects, curios, furniture items and artworks furnishing the different spaces of a residence inhabited until only recently. A molded wood lintel and a Boulle marquetry wall clock with its console (€1,500/2,000) are among 15-odd pieces from the Louis XV period, not to mention, from the main salon, a kingwood veneer commode stamped by Pierre IV Migeon, one of the leading cabinetmakers of his time (€5,000/8,000). A cupid astronomer adorns a Louis XVI chased gilt bronze clock with a dial by Vanier (€4,000/6,000). Lastly, we find some fine 17th-century Dutch pieces, including a rosewood and ebony veneer cabinet decorated with foliage, masks and columns (€6,000/8,000): “an extraordinary, majestic object” according to Benoît Derouineau.