Rebel Ferré and his chimp’s chateau for sale at €4.7m

The former Lot home of composer, poet and author Léo Ferré and his chimpanzee is on the market for €4,770,000.

20 December 2018
By Claire McQue

The 14th-century Château de Pechrigal – where Ferré lived from1963 until 1968 – stands three kilometres outside the village of Gourdon.

Pech-Rigal means royal hill in old local French dialect, befitting its hilltop position.

The 67-hectare plot includes meadows, tennis courts, a pool and half a hectare of Merlot vineyards, giving 4,000 bottles of wine a year.

The chateau, a grand affair of 17 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, guard house, pigeonnier, wine cellar, restored farmhouse and two outhouses, was bought and renovated by a Frenchman in 1998.

He transformed the crumbling property into a luxurious second home, occasionally used for private events and weddings.

It had fallen into disrepair after rebel composer Ferré left it unlived-in for 25 years.

Ferré, born to bourgeois parents in Monaco, escaped his strict Christian upbringing to live in Rome and then Paris, where he fell into intellectual life and composing music.

In Paris, he hung out with the likes of André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Jacques Prévert and Juliette Gréco, whose all black clothing was inspired by Ferré’s anarchist’s black shirt and trousers. Jolie Môme and Paris Canaille were two of Ferré’s songs made famous by Gréco.

The artist’s ardent support of the anarchists during the Spanish Civil War fed much of his creative output.

His contempt for society, the church, the army and the government translated into his mixture of classic chansons, surrealist poetry and writing. 

Known also for the songs Avec le Temps and La Chanson du Scaphandrier (The Deep sea Diver’s Song), his lyrics were inspired by the poets Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Apollinaire.

The period Ferré spent at Pechrigal with his second wife Madeleine Rabereau and her daughter Annie was prolific. It was there he composed the album Verlaine et Rimbaud.

He also wrote C’est le Printemps, recorded the album Ferré 64, and wrote the controversial Franco la Muerte. He even set up a printing press in one of the wings. Most famously, Ferré lived there with Pépée, a female chimpanzee.

A 1966 documentary showed the chimp drinking soup at the dinner table and smoking a cigarette. Pépée even stripped tiles from the roof and threw them at people.

Ferré considered the chimp his child and when Pépée died, he moved to Tuscany with third wife Marie-Christine, and the chateau lay unused.

Kirsten Pollard of Maxwell-Baynes, the estate agent managing the sale (maxwellbaynes.com), said its rich history and recent artistic links had not added any financial value to the property but “give a sense of interest and cultural value. People are interested in the story of a place”.

She said Pechrigal was getting many inquiries: “It would make a great second home. It is in a beautiful, low-key area where you can live normally and escape the crowds.”

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