The Maison Taittinger has renovated and is striving to bring back to life the “genius loci” of a historical private mansion on the boulevard Lundy, nestled amongst leading champagne houses, which it intends to open to artists and the general public as part of the Philanthropic ArsNova foundation.

Art is at home at 44 boulevard Lundy in Reims. Two artworks prove this point upon entering the building. A bronze sculpture by Emile Peynot representing a male and female winemakers at a harvest is a miniature of the original that he created for the Paris International Exhibition in 1900. It demonstrates the deep, long-standing bonds between the champagne and art worlds. A spray of branches bearing glass sheets gathered at the Simon-Marq stained glass studio, confirms this concept in a more contemporary fashion. The birches lining the elegant boulevard, the leaf motif of the mosaic floor in the reception hall along with the Majorellle banister inspired artist Sarah Walbaum to create this plantlike figure that captures the light. Objects of yesteryear, objects of today: a dialogue between past and present, the venue’s history and contemporary creation, is starting to form in this private mansion that has been nurtured by the character and sensibility of its successive residents. 

At 44 boulevard Lundy, the walls themselves boast an unusual history starting in 1876. Louis Huet, a commissions merchant, had the residence built in the Napoleon III style. Between acquisitions and successions, the mansion would pass from owner to owner, including Ernest Irroy, who would use it to establish the headquarters of his champagne house in 1882, and then, in the early 20th century, Georges Charbonneaux, a leading industrialist and great Reims patron. 

The Charbonneaux touch

He would modernise, expand and revamp the residence in line with the Art Nouveau canons, and open it to the arts. Under the supervision of architect Pol Gosset, its reconstruction following WWI would not change its overall structure. According to Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger “Georges Charbonneaux, whom my paternal grandfather Pierre Taittinger met and mentions in his memoirs, remains a prominent figure in Reims. This art lover had discerning taste, as seen both in this residence and in the Saint-Nicaise church in the Chemin Vert garden city, for which he had commissioned such renowned artists as Maurice Denis, Lalique, and others.” 

The private mansion was sold along with the industrial site located at the far end of the garden, and was acquired by Taittinger in 1955 to develop its production facilities. As fate would have it, at the time it served as the Champagne Irroy headquarters, the property belonged to the Goerg family who also owned the Domaine de la Marquetterie in Pierry… which is today one of Taittinger champagne‘s guest residences. And yet another coincidence: “Edouard Goerg was a celebrated engraver, as was my maternal grandfather, Jean Deville,” As Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger likes to recall, in the words of Einstein himself: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

The reawakening of La Belle Enchantée

Christened with the lovely fairy tale name, “La Belle Enchantée” was a sleeping beauty who awakens to the touch of Vitalie Taittinger, President of the Maison Taittinger. A part of the family heritage for close to 70 years, having first served as a residence as well as a workplace, kept on standby for the past fifteen years, the venue today becomes the focal point for a project that fuses the passions of all the family. Passion for the arts and heritage, passion for the greater good. “I wanted this house to have a cultural calling that corresponds to our family history,” she confirms.A family which has always been committed to culture and the defence of the general good and which has dedicated thousands of hours to the political world as well as to associative organisations. Whether it concerns her grandfather Jean, her uncles or her mother Claire, president of the Flâneries musicales festival (Reims), her father Pierre-Emmanuel, president up until last summer of the World Heritage Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne project, and she herself involved in the Regional Fund for Contemporary Art (FRAC). “I wondered how to optimise everything that our company is abler to do in terms of patronage and how to gather together other partners with a desire to share their generosity.” Her solution: the creation of a charity foundation. 

The Maison’s crowning achievement

Its name (inspired by the Middle Ages historian Patrick Demouy) : Philanthropic ArsNova, which refers to the polyphonic music composition of the 14th century, illustrated in particular by Guillaume de Machaut, to an artistic style developed in that same century by Flemish painters, to the Art nouveau as seen inside 44 boulevard Lundy, and to contemporary art. Her ambition is to promote the arts and heritage, musical creation and cooking (notably through the Taittinger International Culinary Prize) and to make them accessible to as many people as possible. The venue has therefore been renovated to accommodate the ArsNova project. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of the foundation, is overjoyed: “Vitalie revamped this venue with discerning taste and in line with the Taittinger spirit while respecting the former work and keeping original decorative items, all within a reasonable budget.” 

Restored to its timeless beauty, the Maison’s jewel is unquestionably the ballroom and music room that Georges Charbonneaux would have loved. This magnificent space with parquet floors and a decorated ceiling houses a grand piano framed by bay window that looks out over a garden. The paintings by Gustave Jaulmes have found their natural home. It is here where artists and the general public will mingle during exhibitions, concerts and workshops. In October 2023, Georges Charbonneaux’s grandsons – one of whom is one-hundred years old – were invited to rediscover the venue where they had spent a lovely part of their childhood. 

>> You can find our article on Philanthropic ArsNova here

Text : Catherine Rivière
Photos : Benoît Pelletier