Exposing the Villa Noailles: The Women Behind the Promotion of Robert Mallet-Stevens

By Megan Meulemans.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates the promotion of the modern architect Robert Mallet-Stevens through imagery. Commissioned in 1923, the Villa Noailles in Hyeres marked the introduction of Robert Mallet-Stevens as an architect. The promotion of the architect and his first realized commission was a direct result of the efforts of two women: the Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles and the American photographer Thérèse Bonney. Marie-Laure, a wealthy patron of the avant-garde and socialite, requested the architect to build the villa and was the driving force behind commissioning Man Ray to film Les Mystères du Château de Dé at the Vicomtes’ newly completed villa. Thérèse Bonney, a photographer who broke into the realm of modern architecture and decorative arts through fashion photography, photographed the Villa Noailles and served as the liaison between France and America, promoting the architect in journals and shopping guides. Through imagery, these women not only illustrated Mallet-Stevens’ propensity for working with the modern women, but also showcased his emerging talent in modern domestic architecture.

Keywords: Robert Mallet-Stevens, Pierre Chareau, Francis Jourdain, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Therese Bonney, Man Ray, Modern Domestic Architecture, Modern Decorative Arts, Architectural Photography, Film

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.119-140. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.270MB).

Megan Meulemans

Graduate Student, Architecture Department, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Megan is a graduate student at the University of Washington studying architectural history and theory. Her current research examines the role of women as clients, designers, and promoters of modern domestic architecture and decorative arts in interwar France. The main protagonists of her research are members of the progressive Union des Artistes Modernes who had a propensity for working with and for women. These architect-decorateurs include Robert Mallet-Stevens, Pierre Chareau, Francis Jourdain, and Adrienne Gorska, the female architect attributed to teaching Eileen Gray how to create architectural drawings.