|Villa La Leopolda, Villefranche-sur-Mer|
There's a Slim Aarons portrait of Mrs. Safra, on the dust jacket of the Gilded Lily book, and I must say, she is truly a beautiful and elegant looking lady. Villa La Leopolda was always her favourite residence, and one can certainly see why. In the late 1980's she and her husband spent 2 million dollars hosting an open house, which lasted for two days- the first day party (in August) was for the social set, and the second day was for the more business side guests...above, a view from the villa- so beautiful and serene. Before Ogden Codman bought this property, it was an estate owned by King Leopold II of Belgium, a wild spender and bon vivant known for the grand gesture. The house was a gift for his scandalous mistress, Blanche Delacroix, known to have been a Romanian-born prostitute, with whom he had two sons, out of wedlock, as they used to say. Much of the money used to build all of this lavish living was from the Kings' exploitation of the African Free State of Congo slave trade. The slaves, you see, were forced by cruel and ruthless drivers, to extract rubber and precious metals for the Belgian crown. Ten to fifteen million slaves died from the abuses, and the Joseph Conrad novella "Heart of Darkness" tells the grisly story. In the late 1950's the estate was sold to Gianni and Marella Agnelli, who supposedly painted over scagliola walls with white paint. Lily Safra bought La Leopolda in about 1988, and hired Renzo Mongiardino for the main floor decor and Mica Ertegun ( a friend) for the upstairs bedrooms.
Villa La Leopolda, like many famous old estates, has been used for location shoots in various films, including the 1948 "The Red Shoes" and the 1955 "To Catch a Thief" with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. The main house invokes the style of the Belle Epoque. It is registered as a French "monument historique". (Thanks Wikipedia). I'm certainly hopeful, that, the next time I find myself anywhere near Villefranche-sur-Mer, I can perhaps catch a furtive glimpse of this fabled old villa on the cote d'azur...! DF *****