The World of Interior Designer Madeleine Castaing

I am a big fan of many of the books on home decor that Rizzoli press publishes and I have accumulated many over the years in my home library.  One of my latest additions is The World of Madeleine Castaing by Emily Evans Eerdmans.  If you don’t already have this book, I recommend adding it to your collection.  I wasn’t familiar with Madeleine before making this purchase and I am enjoying browsing the pages and learning about this fascinating woman!

This is a blurb on Madeleine, excerpted from Wikipedia:

Madeleine Castaing (1894–1992) was a French antique dealer and interior designer of international renown. She was the friend and the sponsor of many artists, including Soutine, who made her portrait in 1928. Original, even whimsical, she revolutionized the world of decoration, creating the style Castaing which is now a reference.  The daughter of an engineer who built the train station in Chartres, Madeleine Magistry early married an heir from Toulouse, the art critic Marcellin Castaing. Their meeting, very romantic, had concluded by a “kidnapping” of the girl, who was barely fifteen or sixteen at the time. Twenty years older than her, Marcellin Castaing was known for his impressive literary and artistic culture. During the fifty years of their marriage, he remained his wife’s great love, according to all the couple’s friends, including the writer and photographer François-Marie Banier, who remembers “Madeleine’s legendary love for her husband”.

In the 1920s, Madeleine Castaing made her debuts as an actress in silent films, then gave up this career while being already nicknamed “the French Mary Pickford“.
At that time, her husband had offered her a neoclassical manor she had been longing for, in Lèves (see photo below), not far from Chartres. He wanted her to “unwind”, he explained. The young woman had indeed discovered her own vocation for interior design.
Shortly after their friend Modigliani‘s death, the Castaings made the acquaintance of Soutine at the Café de la Rotonde, in the centre ofMontparnasse. The first meeting was difficult: Soutine refused the 100 franc note handed to him by Marcellin Castaing in order to buy him a painting without having even looked at it.[4] A few years later, in 1925, the Castaings could buy their first painting by this artist at Leopold Zborowski‘s, the primary art dealer of Soutine and of Modigliani, and became friends with him. From 1930 to 1935, they welcomed him home during the summer in their mansion of Lèves, becoming his patrons and main buyers. It is thanks to them that Soutine could hold his first exhibition in Chicago in 1935.
The Castaings possessed more than forty paintings by this artist, which means the most important private collection of Soutine’s works. Madeleine Castaing saw in him the greatest painter of the 20th century: “Above others, he gives his hand to the Greco and Rembrandt“, she said.
Madeleine Castaing’s portrait by Soutine, entitled La Petite Madeleine des décorateurs, is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The words “petite madeleine” refer to the “petite madeleine” of Proust, an author Madeleine Castaing was specially interested in: she spent decades reading In Search of Lost Time again and again, fully, several times. She had discovered this work in 1913.
Generally speaking, the Castaings were patrons of artists belonging to the École de Paris and to the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
Madeleine Castaing was a friend of Erik SatieMaurice SachsBlaise CendrarsAndré DerainJean Cocteau (she arranged his house of Milly-la-Forêt), Marc ChagallIché,PicassoHenry MillerLouise de Vilmorin (to whom she inspired the character of Julietta in the novel of the same name) and Francine Weisweiller (for whom she decorated the Villa Santo Sospir at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat).
The historian and politician Michel Castaing (1918–2004), the Castaings’ younger son, was a famous expert in paleography. Michel’s son, Frédéric Castaing, is a specialist in autographs and also a novelist.
When Michel Castaing died, in 2004, the mansion of Lèves was sold in auction, as well as the family collection of paintings and art objects, including seven paintings by Soutine.

Here are some photos from Emily’s book that I enjoyed.  The book is over 250 pages, so there are plenty more photos to see when you actually purchase the book:

Madeleine and Marcellin

Madeleine with her first son

Madeleine at home on the grounds of Leves.  Spectacular!

The salon at Leves, which Madeleine redecorated with a fabulous leopard carpet and brilliant blues – such nice contrast

Elegant pairing of furniture and accessories

Elegant in stripes!

I love the draped swags

I love this door!  The leopard carpet here in the empress’ dining room in Chateau de Compiegne in the early part of the 19th century served as inspiration for Madeleine’s use of similar carpeting at Leves and on her other projects and certainly has influenced interior designers ever since!
A perspective of Madeleine and Marcellin’s dressing room – with storage for the collection of hats, for which she was famous

Madelline tented this room for a client

Watercolors by Alexandre Serebriakoff of rooms Madeline designed or influenced

Elegant and inspiring! Check out the book for yourself!

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