The gallery of 6 rue Royale: An exceptional residence

La galerie du 6 rue Royale

Une demeure d’exception

6 rue Royale in Paris, from the fermier général Le Roy de Senneville, Madame de Staël and the Maison Jansen to the Maison Steinitz, a place laden with history...

View of the rue Royale in the 1900’s
View of the rue Royale in the 1900’s

Rue Royale, creation and elevation

On 21 June 1757, on the authority of letters patent countersigned by Louis III Phélypeaux (1705­1777), count of Saint-Florentin, chancellor and Keeper of the Seals, Minister of State and Secretary of State to the Maison du Roi, registered by the Paris Parlament on 6 July of the same year, Louis XV gave birth to the rue Royale as well as to the square bearing its name, the future place de la Concorde: “Let the square that was destined to host the Monument we decided to agree upon go on being formed and built to its full perfection in the site designated by us, in the esplanade located between the ditch ending the Garden of our Palace of the Tuileries, the former gate and faubourg Saint-Honoré, the avenues of the Champs-Elysées and Cours de la Reine and the quay running along the River, and all the contruction works and decorations needed for the building and perfection of the aforementioned square shall be made by the orders and to the care of the said Prévôt des Marchands and Echevins and executed by the General Master of the City Buildings, under the supervision and inspection of the sieur Gabriel, our first architect and with the sole exception of the walls enclosing the Garden of our Palace of the Tuileries for the rebuilding of which we reserve the right to give our particular orders, the whole according to the plans and designs that were approved by us and to be attached under the counter-seal of our Chancellery.1

By 31 August 1757, the architects sent the “Elevation of the façade of the Buildings of the rue Royale with the extraction of the Pavillon de l’Encoignure of the said street on the square” to M. Lombard, model maker, so as to make the model that would allow to have a clear view of the layout.2 Built circa 1758-1759, this thoroughfare, among the most prestigious ones of the capital and connecting the Madeleine to the Place de la Concorde, was originally an old pathway which was the extension of the rue Basse-du-Rempart and of the boulevard de la Madeleine, and ran along the Louis XIII walls from the third porte Saint-Honoré — pulled down in 1733 — to the Seine. That street was successively called chemin des Remparts in the 17th century, chemin des Fossés-des-Tuileries in 1714, rue Royale-des-Tuileries in 1768, rue de la Révolution in 1792, rue de la Concorde in 1795 and then agin rue Royale-Saint-Honoré on 25 April 1814.3 In order to harmonize the whole and match the architecture of the future private buildings of the street — nos 1 to 15 and 2 to 14 — to the sumptuous colonnade buildings of the square, which today host the Ministry of the Navy and the Crillon Hotel respectively, Gabriel imposed a uniform façade to the five-level elevations of the rue Royale.

Present view of the Rue Royale, along the axis Place de la Concorde and the Église de la Madeleine
Present view of the Rue Royale, along the axis Place de la Concorde and the Église de la Madeleine

With their sober yet majestic architecture, the street façades were thus provided with a first level adorned with a mezzanine and punctuated by arcades with plain keystones and flanked by slightly protruding flat pilasters of the Doric order alternating with narrower, rectangular openings adorned byframes with crossettes, imparting a kind of Serlian appearance to the whole. High windows with frames with crossettes, abacuses and small balcons form the piano nobile, which is surmounted by an attic with square windows and a garret floor with windows adorned by triangular pediments. The apartments behind the façades were entrusted to architects and contractors, such as André Aubert (†1812) or Louis Le Tellier (†1785) who, often in association with businessmen, many of whom were fermiers généraux, made profitable property operations in the Paris of the century of the Enlightenment.4

The L-shaped building behind the façade at no 6, which will interest us here, was built circa 1769-1770 by the architect Louis Le Tellier, Controller of the King’s Buildings, who had won a contract for a part of the buildings of the place Louis XV as early as 1757.5 On a plot of land extending to the rue Saint-Florentin, Le Tellier built four hôtels at the same time, two opening on to rue Royale, nos 6 and 8, built against two other hôtels opening on to the rue Saint-Florentin. Le Tellier was a flourishing architect who had taken part in the construction of the new église Saint-Louis, that of the Grand Séminaire and of the Royal Opéra in Versailles, and was the author in of many townhouses and other official or religious buildings, such as the hôtel de la Monnaie, which he helped to build after the plants of the architecte Antoine. Assisted by his son Louis-Pierre, he built rue Royale, apart from the hôtel at no 6 already mentioned, that of La Tour du Pin-Gouvernet, located at no 8, also built in 1769 and a few years later, from 1781 onwards, those of nos 9, 11 and 13 and known today as the hôtels Le Tellier.6 A final survey took place on 26 August 1785.7 For their decoration, the architect called on the team which had already taken part for him in 1767-1768 for building the hôtel Tessé, at no 1 quai Voltaire, on behalf of Charlotte of Béthune-Charost and her son, the count of Tessé, grand écuyer of the Queen. That team was composed of the sculptor Pierre Fixon, know as Fixon Père, who went into a partnership with his son, Louis-Pierre Fixon, the marble cutter Le Franc, and the joiner Huyot. In 1781, another joiner called Maréchal worked on the buildings sites of nos 9, 11 and 13 of the rue Royale along with the roofer Benoist, the locksmith Taillant, the glazier Préau, the tiler Godard, the master painter Presle and the paver Penel.8 Salons from the no 11 rue Royale and thus built under the supervision of the Le Telliers, have been reassembled in the musée Nissim de Camondo9; and in the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, inside the Errazuriz mansion in Buenos Aires,10 a salon coming from no 13 and known as the salon de compagnie of the apartment of the marquis of Vichy, adorns today a room of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Philadelphia (USA), a donation of Eleanore Elkins Rice in 1928.11 When he died in 1785, Louis Le Tellier was the owner of twent-two buildings in Versailles, Paris, Chaville and Châtillon-sous-Bagneux.12

Godefroid Marie Eleonore (1778-1849), Germaine Necker, baroness of Staël-Holstein, known as madame de Staël (1766-1817), oil on canvas. Versailles, châteaux of Versailles and Trianon (inv. MV 4784).

Famous guests

The first to live at n° 6 rue Royale was Jean-François Le Roy de Senneville (1715-1784), secrétaire du Roi from 1752 à 1780 and fermier général from 1772 to 1780, who resided there until his death in 1783. Le Roy de Senneville married a Jarente, daughter of Balthazar-Alexandre, marquis of Orgeval, and sister of the wife of Laurent Grimod de La Reynière, fermier général from 1756 to 1780.13 He was a great amateur who owned in his hôtel rue Royale an exceptional collection of paintings and pastels of different schools, of sculptures, bronzes and art objects that were described on the occasion of two auctions, one of which took place in his lifetime from 5 to 11 April 1780,14 and the second one after his death in 1784. Also mentioned in the 1780 auction were several groups by Clodion — Satyr arranging flowers in a Nymph’s hair as well as a group of two children representing La Poésie & La Musique, a piece executed in marble for M. l’Abbé Terray — a group by Clodion Frère and another by Challe; as well as an important collection of bronzes, including an Andromeda tied to the rock by Robert Le Lorrain from the collection of Blondel de Gagny — n° 485 of his auction catalogue — two Horses by Girardon, a group showing Latona accompanied by her children by Le Gros, on a gilt ormolu base, or A lying child by Germain Pilon, resting on a chest executed by Boulle, fitted with four key-locked drawers with a tortoiseshell ground and adorned with pilasters & low-reliefs and framed, representing children’s plays. The whole supported by four gilt ormolu balls. A bust of Vitellius with a porphyry head and base in black marble enhanced with a drape in white marble and ornaments in gilt bronze, 27 inches high, two vases in grey granite on bases in Spanish brocatelle, a fine porphyry vase covered & fitted with handles in the shape of snakes caught in the mass, pieces of furniture by Boulle, including a Chest, en tombeau, called toilette and its feet by Boulle, counterpart, with feminine and lion’s masks, 54 inches high, 2 foot 8 inches long and 20 inches deep, an elephant clock signed by Julien Le Roy, several nécessaires, vases, mantelpiece garnitures and objects in porcelain from Sèvres, Meissen and other manufactures completed this lavish collection. In that collection, paintings had pride of place. In the post-mortem auction of 1784, no fewer than forty-nine paintings of the French school were put up for sale, including on Sébastien Bourdon (Country Scene), two Parrocels, one Pater (Young Woman Wearing a Nightgown on her Bed), three Bouchers (Landscapes), two marine paintings by Joseph Vernet (The Calm & The Storm), two Greuzes (Young Girl Knitting and A Young Girl, with a Bird), six Fragonards, forty-seven paintings of the Northern Schools, including a Jan Brueghel (The Froen Canal), two Teniers (Sea view and Peasants, interior), two Philips Wouwermans (Riders), one Paul Potter (The Rape of Europe), three Ruysdaels (Landscape et view on the Meuse), and thirty-seven paintings from various schools, including fifteen with religious themes. There were also in Le Roy de Senneville’s collection twenty-eight pastels under glass, including one Boucher (The flower seller of the Opéra) also from the collection of Blondel de Gagny, and two Fragonards (Landscapes). In 1784 was also mentioned a lavish series of Sèvres and Meissen porcelains, vases, cups, caisses à oignons (lidded bulb vases), mantelpiece garnitures, Chinese vases adorned with pagodas and mounted with necks, garlands and bases in gilt bronze, or a potpourri of old Japanese pieces.15

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), Portrait de la Viscountess de La Blache, née Catherine Le Roy de Senneville, daughter of farmer-general Jean-François Le Roy de Senneville (1715-1784), circa 1770. Private Collection.

Lui succéda le contrôleur de la Maison de la comtesse de Provence, Marc Randon de La Tour, également trésorier payeur général de la Maison du Roi. En 1787, celui-ci devint propriétaire du château de Mortefontaine à Villers-Saint-Paul dans l’Oise, ancienne propriété d’Antoine de Sartine (1729-1801), lieutenant général de police puis secrétaire d'État de la Marine, qu’il fit entièrement rebâtir. Colonel de la Garde nationale de Creil en 1791, il fut arrêté sous la Terreur et ses biens furent mis sous séquestre en vertu d'un décret de la Convention Nationale promulgué en janvier 1794. Randon de La Tour fut condamné à mort par le Tribunal révolutionnaire, le 27 juin 1794, et guillotiné le jour même place du Trône-Renversé, actuelle place de la Nation. Au début de la Restauration, vers octobre 1816, le 6 rue Royale accueillit pour une très courte période l’une de ses plus illustres locataires en la personne d’Anne-Louise Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), fille du fameux Jacques Necker (1732-1804), riche banquier d’origine genevoise nommé directeur du Trésor royal par Louis XVI en 1776, après la disgrâce de Turgot, puis ministre des Finances et membre du Conseil du Roi en 1788. Né à Paris en 1766, Germaine de Staël fut élevée dans un milieu d'intellectuels où Buffon, Marmontel, Grimm, Edward Gibbon, l'abbé Raynal ou encore Jean-François de La Harpe fréquentaient assidûment le salon de sa mère. Étonnamment précoce, elle résumait à quinze ans L'Esprit des lois, causait avec les philosophes, lisait Rousseau avec passion. A vingt ans, elle épousa le baron Eric Magnus de Staël-Holstein (1749-1802), ambassadeur du roi Gustave III de Suède auprès de la cour de France à Versailles. Ils se séparèrent en 1800. La baronne de Staël accueillit la Révolution d'abord avec enthousiasme, mais détesta les crimes commis pendant la Terreur, même si elle resta fidèle aux idées de la Constituante. Elle mena une vie sentimentale agitée, nourrit une grande tendresse pour François de Pange, et entretint en particulier une relation orageuse avec Benjamin Constant, écrivain et homme politique franco-vaudois rencontré en 1794. Ses premiers écrits politiques furent des Réflexions sur la paix adressées à M. Pitt et aux Français et des Réflexions sur la paix intérieure, parues en 1793. En 1796, elle publia un ouvrage moral et politique : De l'influence des Passions sur le bonheur des individus et des Nations, et, en 1799, écrivit, pour faire suite à ce livre, un ouvrage longtemps inédit intitulé Des circonstances actuelles qui peuvent terminer la Révolution. Elle fut persécutée sous le Consulat et sous l'Empire, ayant fait de son salon, en 1802, un centre d'opposition contre Napoléon Bonaparte, et fut finalement contrainte à l’exil. Ses publications au cours de cette période pour le moins mouvementée sont célèbres : De la littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales en 1800 ; le roman Delphine en 1802 ; Corinne et l’Italie en 1807, et en 1810, son fameux ouvrage : De l'Allemagne. Elle voyagea en Autriche, en Russie, en Suède, en Angleterre, en Suisse où elle séjourna longtemps dans son château de Coppet, en Italie et en Allemagne. Elle se remaria en 1811 avec un jeune officier genevois, Albert de Rocca. Ralliée aux Bourbons, Madame de Staël rentra en France au printemps 1814, après avoir publié outre-Manche Sapho ainsi que ses Réflexions sur le suicide. Elle quitta à nouveau Paris après la courte période des Cent-Jours, mais fut de retour au début de la Seconde Restauration. C’est à cette occasion qu’elle loua l’appartement sur cour du 6 rue Royale où elle reçut brillamment ministres et généraux. Mais en février 1817, elle fut terrassée par une attaque cérébrale en se rendant à un bal que donnait le duc Decazes. Bien qu’alitée et souffrante, Madame de Boigne et Châteaubriand lui rendirent visite au 6 rue Royale. Transportée par sa famille dans une maison proche appartenant à Sophie Gay, sise rue Neuve-des-Mathurins, elle continua encore à recevoir, faisant même en sorte de réunir un en couple célèbre Juliette Récamier et Châteaubriand. Madame de Staël s’éteignit peu après, le 14 juillet 1817.

A leading centre for the Parisian luxury trade

After the Restoration, the rue Royale gradually became less residential and grew into one the leading centers of the Parisian luxury trade, especially at the end of the 19th century. The great joailliers-bijoutiers left the Palais-Royal neighbourhood to settle rue Royale, like the famous maison Fouquet, at n°6 and the maison Heurgon which had been at n°15 since 1865. That trend still holds true today — Rue Royal hosts the boutiques of the great luxury names such as Chanel, Dior, Gucci or Cerruti. The precursor of the Maison Steinitz and its workshops was the Maison Jansen which settled for a time in 1881 at n°6 before moving to n°9. The famous design firm settled on the left-hand side of the porte cochère at n°6 which includes the former apartment of Madame de Staël thanks to a monumental staircase taken from former stables and later connected to a section built in the 20th century overlooking the courtyard. On the right-hand side of the porte cochère, the jeweler Fouquet commissioned in 1901 for its boutique a remarkable decoration in Art Nouveau style designed by Alphonse Mucha and executed with the help of the Maison Jansen. That amazing decoration was removed in 1923 and can now be seen at the musée Carnavalet.

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), View of the of the jeweller Georges Fouquet at 6 rue Royale, circa 1900. Paris, Carna-valet Museum, donation to the museum in 1941.
Present view of the la porte-cochère at 6 rue Royale

The 6 rue Royale today

This history-laden place where a salon in the piano nobile has kept its original decoration of the 1770’s and where the Honour Staircase remains, with its wrought-iron banisters of the Louis XV period, today hosts new exclusive exhibition rooms of the Steinitz gallery but also, on the ground floor and the second floor of the main body of the building and its wings, its design office and part of its workshops and team uniting in the heart of Paris a unique sum of savoir-faire and skills in all the domains of art professions relating to interior design, furniture and decorative arts. A remarkable nod in the direction of the “Gobelins” dreamed and created by Bernard Steinitz in Saint-Ouen in the 1980’s, this “installation” right in the centre of Paris is also — all things being equal — reminiscent of the Furniture Depository of the Crown, which had moved, in 1774, to the Place Louis XV, a stone throw’s away from n°6 rue Royale, in the large colonnade building by Gabriel and allocated to the Ministry of the Navy since the Revolution. This prestigious place had been especially built for the Furniture Depository wit its exhibitions rooms, its lodgings, including the sumptuous apartment, still existing today, of Thierry de Ville d’Avray (1732­1792), Intendant and Controller General of the Furniture Depository of the Crown from 1784 to his death, of its offices, its warehouses, its workshops...

  1. National Archives, O1 1585-307 ; quoted by Jean Ducros, “La place de Louis XV”, Les Gabriel (edited by Michel Gallet and Yves Bottineau), Paris, 1982, p. 270.
  2. ; see also H. Clouzot, “La rue Royale”, in La renaissance de l’art français et des industries de luxe, 1924, p. 344-345 ; and Bruno Pons, “Hôtels Le Tellier” (1785), 9, 11 and 13 rue Royale », Grands décors français, 1650­1800, Dijon, 1995, p. 380-381.
  3. Jacques Hillairet, Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris, vol. II, L-Z, Paris, 1963, p. 368-369.
  4. See P. Pinon, “Lotissements spéculatifs”, in Soufflot et l’architecture des Lumières, Paris, 1980.
  5. National Archives, M.C.N., CXXI 369, 20 March 1757, Société avec Laubard et Pierre Louis Le Tellier; quoted by Pons, cit., p. 430, note 424.
  6. National Archives, M.C.N., LVII 553, 24 April 1781, Vente d’une portion de terrains place Louis XV par les Echevins de la Ville de Paris à M. Le Tellier; quoted by Pons, cit., p. 430, note 426.
  7. National Archives, Z1j 1139; quoted by Michel Gallet, Les architectes parisiens du xviiie siècle. Dictionnaire biographique et critique, Paris, 1995, p. 346.
  8. Quoted by Pons, cit., p. 430, note 428; also quoted after Pons by Hervé Gransart, “Rue Royale, chez Mme de Staël”, Connaissance des Arts, no 666, décembre 2008, p. 133.
  9. Salon de compagnie of the apartment of the count of Menou; see Pons, op. cit., p. 388-389.
  10. , p. 390-391.
  11. , p. 392-394.
  12. See Gallet, cit., p. 346.
  13. See Yves Durand, Les fermiers généraux au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1996, p. 361.
  14. Library of the National Institute of Art History, Jacques Doucet collections, VP RES 1780/7, Catalogue of a fine collection of original paintings of the best French and Dutch painers, bronze figures, old porcelains, & other, repetion clocks, & various curious objects, composing the Cabinet de M*** [Jean-François Le Roy de Senneville], auction organized in Paris from 5 to 11 April 1780 under the supervision of Chariost and Paillet.
  15. Bibliothèque de l'Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, collections Jacques Doucet, VP 1784/34c, Catalogue de tableaux des trois écoles, pastels, dessins sous verre, bronzes, porcelaines anciennes, de Sève & de Saxe, pendules par de bons auteurs, feux, bras dorés & belles girandoles, bureau en marqueterie par Boule, petites bibliotheques, secrétaire & autre meubles en différens bois de placage, qui composent le Cabinet de feu M. Le Roy de Senneville, auction in Paris on 26 April 1784 under the supervision of A. J. Paillet; quoted by Durand, op. cit., p. 536-537.