Partner Mary Wallace Shillito

Queer Places:
Château de Cussigny, 21700 Corgoloin, France
Château de Moux, 18 Rue du Manoir, 21700 Corgoloin, France
31 Rue La Perouse, 75116 Paris, France

Marcelle Senard (1879-1971) was originally from Burgundy. Her parents lived in Cussigny Castle, near the village of Corgoloin, where they owned important vineyards. In 1948 she published Le Zodiaque, clef de l'ontologie, appliqué à la psychologie, a well documented work, attempting to link the knowledge of occidental and oriental myths to the psychological interpretation of the zodiacal signs : "The common source of astral and mythic energies can be found by exploring the psyche into its most archaic origins, which explains their similarity".

Born in 1879, Marcelle is therefore slightly younger than Violet and Mary. Like these, she received an exceptional education for a daughter of that time: in 1898, it was at the Sorbonne that they met. Marcelle also belonged to a wealthy background, although the Senard fortune comparable neither to that of the Shillito nor to that of the Gaff (Mary and Violet's mother). Her father, the count Jules Senard, was a wine merchant in Beaune and operated the wine estate which he created in Aloxe-Corton. Her mother, Mathilde Borderel, financed the construction of the new church in Aloxe, following a serious horse accident which Jules miraculously survived. It was, indeed, a very Catholic family and Jules Senard was knighted by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, hence his title of Roman count. Jules, born in 1849, and Mathilde, born in 1855, were married in 1878. Two children were born from this union, Marcelle in 1879 and Daniel in 1882. The Senards live at the Château de Cussigny, next to Corgoloin. This house, whose origins date back to the Middle Ages, was completely rebuilt in the 18th century and surrounded by a very beautiful Park. The roof bears the date of 1771, when the castle belonged to the Receiver General of Domains Claude Poulletier de Périgny who sold it, in 1788, to Bénigne-Antoine Carrelet de Loisy, adviser to the Parliament of Dijon. In the 19th century century, his descendants endowed Cussigny with lighting gas: at night, in the courtyard, gas lanterns illuminated the facade of the castle, which did not fail to cause a sensation in the region. Jules Senard bought this domain in 1888, at the same time as that of Moux whose castle dates from the 15th century century. This strong house, flanked by a staircase tower and accompanied by a dovecote, had been built by the lords of Salins. Cussigny and Moux, unlike Aloxe-Corton, were not located in the vineyard on the coast but in the Saône plain, between the woods of Bornotte and the forest of Cîteaux. Jules Senard therefore undertook to develop various crops and breeding Charolais.

Since 1623, date of the acquisition of Moux by Claude de Saint-Belin who also owned Cussigny, the destiny of these two castles had always been common. It remained so until 1958, when Cussigny was sold to François de Vilmorin, while the Senards retained ownership of Moux. Today, Cussigny belongs to François de Vilmorin's three children, while Moux, superbly restored, offers a gite and rooms d'hôte managed by Irène Lenoir, great-great-niece of Marcelle Senard. The production of aloxe-corton, still the rule in the family, is ensured by the Count Philippe Senard, grand-nephew of Marcelle. As for the Grande Maison, the ancestral home in the heart of the village of Aloxe-Corton, it belongs to Mme Claire Senard-Charlier.

Marcelle Senard and Mary Wallace Shillito lived in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, at 31 rue de la Pérouse, but at the beginning of the 1900s they wished to move away from the capital. Shillito was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, a powerful businessman, made his fortune in Chicago's railroads, copper mines and department stores. From her childhood, Mary had a strong admiration for her younger sister Violet Shillito. As teenagers, the two sisters dove with delight into a Paris plagued by Orientalism. Violet died, aged 24, in Cannes in 1901, of typhoid fever. Mary, inconsolable, travelled the world, often accompanied by her best friend Marcelle Senard. Without a road, it took them an hour to walk from Cruseilles. They were captured by the exceptional beauty of the panorama. Instantly, Mary made the decision to build here the sanctuary that she dreamed of dedicating to her sister Violet too soon deceased. Her parents had just died, she was alone now, at the head of a huge fortune. She bought the land, sold by farmers in Cruseilles. These lands, until 1789, belonged to the monks of Pomier Abbey. They had been confiscated by the revolutionary state and sold to various owners. Construction of the building began in 1907 and lasted 6 years. The limestone stones, drawn from the Quarry of Comblanchien (located 4 kms from Marcelle Senard's house, near Beaune not far from Dijon in the Côte d'Or 300 km south-east of Paris and 150 km northwest of Geneva), were transported from Burgundy by train to the saint-Julien station, then climbed to the Avenières by horse-drawn. The company was cyclopean. There was no road yet, only agricultural roads.

The works lasted from 1907 to 1913 according to the plans of a architect from Burgundy named Louis Guinot. He was born in 1849 in Châtillon-sur-Seine and settled in Paris, rue de Bassano, in the 16th district, a stone's throw from rue de la Pérouse where Mary Shillito and Marcelle Senard lived. It could be that he is also the creator of the tower and the terrace that Marcelle added to Cussigny, two additions whose picturesque did not reach to make you forget how badly they agreed with the style of the castle. The masonry, which leaves the stone exposed, was similar to that used at Avenières. The materials themselves were identical, as the Château des Avenières was built, like the tower of Cussigny, in Comblanchien, famous quarry in Burgundy, near the residence of Senard.

Marcelle Senard played an important role in furnishing the castle. Mary passed her off as her secretary, but the presence and role of Marcelle at Les Avenières did not fail to intrigue the local population. Marcelle advised, Marcelle choosed and Mary signed the checks. For the dining room, authentic Flamboyant Gothic style woodwork was purchased and was completed by neo-Gothic joinery. Was also acquired a superb fireplace from the same period, decorated with a rich composition heraldry with helm, lambrequins, crest, tenants and motto. Other elements, such as the carvings in the moldings of the two doors framing the fireplace and on the polychrome consoles which surmount them, completed to give its medieval touch to this dining room. Its only side wall which was not occupied by the windows or the fireplace was hung with precious tapestries from the early 16th century century, one representing the Crucifixion, the other the Resurrection. The library had a fireplace Renaissance style, decorated on its lintel with two medal profiles and on its cloak of eight boxes furnished with putti or monsters. These boxes were grouped by four on either side of an azure coat of arms with two leopards one on top of the other, accompanied in chief by a fleur-de-lis of the same. Enter here dining room and library, the large living room, was warmed by beautiful Regency-style oak paneling and its over-doors were decorated with bas reliefs animated by children whose activities evoked the four seasons. On its largest wall and between its windows a series of four tapestries of 18th century Beauvais century were dedicated to Diana, goddess of the hunt. In the music room, instruments decorated the woodwork. In all pieces the curtains were at the point of Venice or the point of Bruges. The hangings of red velvet had embossed golden patterns and the valances were in tapestry. The precious furniture was mostly Louis XV style.

With a mystical temperament, these two women were inclined towards esotericism. In 1914, Marcelle Senard published a study on the philosophy of Edward Carpenter and the translation of one of his works, entitled Vers l'affranchissement,, at the Librairie de l'Art Indépendant, run by the writer and musician Edmond Bailly, a leading figure in symbolism, esotericism and theosophy at La Chausséed’Antin, assisted by Gaston Revel, other influential member of the Theosophical Society. It was founded in 1875 in New York by Russian Helena Blavatsky to form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without any distinction of race, color or belief, to encourage the comparative study of religions, sciences and philosophies, and to investigate psychic powers and spiritual latent in man. Much later, in 1948, Marcelle Senard published in Lausanne and Paris a book with a revealing title: Le Zodiaque clef de l’ontologie appliqué à la psychologie (The Zodiac, a key to ontology applied to psychology), a book still very popular with astrologers today. It was probably while attending this environment that she met a passionate about esotericism named Assan Farid Dina, certainly a regular customer of the Librairie de l'Art Indépendant, because this publishing house published, in 1894, a study by Laurent on Magic and divination among the Chaldéo-Assyrians, and Assan Dina was passionate about Assyriology. Assan Farid Dina was to marry Mary.

In addition, through Pauline Tarn (Renée Vivien), Mary and Marcelle got in touch with a friend of Assan Dina, Salomon Reinach, from a family of German Jewish bankers from Frankfurt. He was the vice-president of the Universal Jewish Alliance. Great scholar, archaeologist, he was director, since 1902, of the Museum of National Antiquities in Saint-Germainen-Laye. He was also a member of the Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres. Passionate about mythological tales, he published Cults, Myths and Religions in 1905, a book to which Freud makes numerous references in Totem et Tabou which appeared in 1913. Meanwhile, in 1909, Salomon Reinach published Orpheus, general history of religions. Among the personalities of the art world he frequent, besides Renée Vivien, figure an American living in Paris since 1893, Romaine Brooks, talented painter, who in 1915 became the great Amazon sweetheart, Natalie Clifford Barney, Mary's childhood friend. Naturally, Romaine Brooks was also a friend of Marcelle Senard and Mary Shillito.

Solomon's brother, Theodore Reinach, was an omniscient genius. Lawyer, archaeologist, mathematician, jurist, philologist, epigraphist, historian, numismatist, musicologist, he was also a member of the Académie des inscriptions and beautiful letters. He was a friend of Gabriel Fauré. To be able to present to the deputation in Savoy, he acquired in 1901 the castle of Costa de Beauregard at La Motte-Servolex and had it lavishly rebuilt. He ardently militated for the republican cause, directed Le Démocrate savoisien, newspaper of which he was the founder, and sat in the National Assembly as a deputy of Savoy for the district of Chambéry. His wife, Charlotte Hirsch-Kann, was the cousin of Russian billionaire Maurice Ephrussi, banker from Odessa. The two families mingled in Beaulieu-sur-Mer: at the time when Mary Wallace Shillito and Marcelle Senard built the castle des Avenières, the wife of Maurice Ephrussi, Béatrice de Rothschild, build on Cap Ferrat the fabulous Ephrussi de Rothschild villa, not far from which, adjoining the property of Gustave Eiffel, Théodore Reinach built the Villa Kérylos, a spectacular reconstruction of a palace from ancient Greece. It seems that it was in the company of Salomon Reinach that Assan Farid Dina came for the first time to Les Avenières, after having already met Mary Shillito in Geneva on the occasion of a conference on theosophy and Marcelle Senard in Paris at the Librairie de l'Art Indépendant. A fascination mutual, based on their esoteric concerns, immediately bound Assan and Mary in a sort of mystical relationship of unusual intensity. At point that the newcomer settled in the castle where the second floor was upgraded for him.

Mabel Ganson, the daughter of a wealthy Buffalo banker, married at 21 Karl Evans, the son of a shipowner. But Karl was killed in a hunting accident and Mabel, widowed at 23, remarried Edwin Dodge, an architect from Boston. With her new husband she is immediately went to live in Tuscany, where she acquired a magnificent villa in the Renaissance in the Arcetri hills, very close to Florence. There she welcomed artists from all disciplines. This is how the writer Gertrude Stein stayed at Villa Curonia where he formed a romantic relationship between her and Mabel. Mabel Dodge also belonged to the world of female homosexuality and it was there that she was linked with Mary Wallace Shillito and Marcelle Senard. She would tell her feminine adventures in Mémoires intimes, an autobiography published in 1933. In the book she said she had fallen in love with Mary's sister, Violet, in 1896, when she spent time as a guest of the Shillitos. In 1912, Mabel and Edwin, increasingly strangers to each other, return to the United States, to New York, where Mabel launched Greenwich Village as a district of Bohemia and placed of all the new experiences of the American artistic life. In June 1913, Mabel and Edwin returned to Europe and stayed in Paris where they met Gertrude Stein and bonded with Picasso. Then they took the direction of Tuscany to meet the new boarder they were accommodating in their Arcetri villa, a young 26-year-old pianist named Arthur Rubinstein. It was during this trip that they stopped at Avenières where they met Assan Farid Dina. Accordind to Mabel Dodge: "Mary and Marcelle acted with him as if he had been deaf, dumb and blind. At least he enjoyed playing tennis with Edwin the few days he spent at the castle. He appeared in white flannel pants and his child's face still pale. Marcelle told me he was in love with Mary. Hearing Marcelle say this, Mary bit his nails and just put on a dignified air."

Mary's "secretary", her best friend, her sister's friend, his Violet in absentia, noticed the change and felt the new enterprise in Mary's spirit and heart. There was no way out, Marcelle abandoned her retreat from the Château des Avenières the year Mary married. Mary Shillito was 35 and Assan Dina was 42.

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