Partner Marcelle Senard
23 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, later avenue Foch
31 Rue La Perouse, 75116 Paris, France
Chateau Des Avenieres, 74350 Cruseilles, France
45 Friedland Avenue, Paris
Spring Grove Cemetery Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Mary Wallace Shillito (July 23, 1878 - September 22, 1938) was the younger sister of Violet Shillito, and a childhood friend of Natalie Clifford Barney. The Château des Avenières was built by Mary Wallace Shillito, between 1907 and 1913. Her Indian husband, Assan Farid Dina, designed the garden and built the chapel in 1917.
Violet Shillito was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Jane Wilson Gaff (born 1850 in Aurora, Indiana) and Gordon Shillito (born 1846 in Kenton City, Ohio). Fifteen months another daughter, Mary, was born in Cincinnati on July 23, 1878. The family then moved to New Jersey, where a third child arrived in 1880. He died at the age of eight months, suffering from acute bronchitis. A boy, Gordon Junior, the fourth and final child, was born in 1881 in Cincinnati. In January 1884 the family moved to Paris. Gordon Junior dies from complications from a cold snap. He is only two years old. The parents were at the head of a huge fortune that came from the department stores they owned in Chicago.
The family lived in the Cincinnati area. From an early age Violet and Mary spoke French with a neighbor, Natalie, by game. She had a French governess and read "The Countess of Segur." Later Natalie became famous for being the femme fatale of all literary, social and lesbian Paris, Natalie Clifford Barney, known as "the Amazon". She was the daughter of a wealthy family. Shillito's parents wanted to introduce their two daughters to the world. The influence of Paris at that time was considerable. A wind of freedom blew. It was far from the stifling puritanism of the east coast of the United States and a young girl from a good family must breathe the air of the sea, of the novelty. So they left for France and settled for a time in Paris, while going back and forth for their business on the new continent. Barney's parents did the same. The Shillito family lived in Paris at 23 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, later avenue Foch. Mary and Violet were educated in Fontainebleau, in a boarding school, and in Paris.
Violet died at Sunny Bank Hospital in Cannes (a hospital built in 1894 for members of the British colony) in 1901. She was 23. The funeral ceremony was celebrated in the American church on Avenue de l'Alma in Paris (now Avenue Georges V). She was buried in the old cemetery of Saint Germain in Laye, according to the Anglican rite, that of her family, without respect for her recent conversion. Three years later, in 1904, Violet and Mary's mother died, aged only 54. Mary turned to Marcelle Senard, friend of her sister Violet since they met at the Sorbonne faculty in Paris in 1898. A new friendship is formed between the two women around a centre that has become empty, the memory of Violet. Each hopes to find in the other a part of Violet.
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. They then decided to take a trip to Geneva. Geneva enjoyed a solid tourist reputation with its lake and nearby mountains. It was also an international, cosmopolitan city. The Côte d'Azur brings back horrible memories. In Geneva they walk through the surrounding countryside to Mount Salève, a rocky bar that rises to 1250 meters above sea level and stretches for more than 15 kilometres on a north-south axis. They climbed the mountain, probably thanks to the funicular installed on the north side of Mount Salève. From there, they walk to the south side of this mountain. Pastures, forage fields and forests alternate in this part of the world, with no road. There are only forest paths and it takes a good hour to walk up the valley, from Cruseilles, to the "France" side.
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."
That same year Mary and Assan already knew each other and they decided to get married in Paris. The wedding was celebrated on January 22, 1914 at 5:45 p.m. at the town hall of the 15th arrondissement. Mary Shillito is domiciled at 45 Friedland Avenue. Assan Dina lives at 150 Emile Zola Avenue, in the 15th arrondissement, with his sister Amina Dina. Mary's "secretary", her best friend, her sister's friend, her 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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