Perfect French home for a fine art collection

The late John Richardson at his New York home – he died in March 2019, aged 95

John Richardson, who died in March, was a British art historian and friend of Picasso. In his entertaining last book, he revealed how a rundown French castle became his home

1950 Douglas Cooper, whose pursuit of me had been swift and focused, invited me on a Grand Tour of the Continent. En route to the dilapidated duchy of Uzès, in the south of France, Douglas and I were stunned by glimpses of golden columns on the edge of a vineyard.

We stopped the car and found ourselves in front of a miniature version of Bernini’s colonnaded peristyle in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Part of the peristyle, which had been quarried from the same sandstone as the nearby ancient Roman Pont du Gard, had fallen down – in an earthquake some thirty years earlier, we later discovered – but so picturesquely that Giovanni Paolo Panini might have stage-managed the scene.

What made the place of more than casual interest was a small sign proclaiming Château à Vendre (Castle for Sale). Little did Douglas and I realize that our lives were about to undergo a radical change.

The approach to the chateau, along a short, colonnaded drive, was nothing if not theatrical.

Besides concealing two ranges of tumbledown farm buildings, these colonnades were part of an elaborate trompe l’oeil effect.

The columns decreased in scale and converged, thereby accentuating the perspective—“ ...

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