The history of the Marquis of Berangose
Charles Auguste Bierroy, known as "Marquis de Bérangose"
Born in Laguenoux, in the department of Corrèze in south-west France, in 1769,
Charles Auguste Bierroy was a land surveyor who began working as a furniture dealer by chance.
In 1801, having moved in with Eugénie Lafont, he went out in search of items to furnish his home in Corrèze.
Bierroy was an aesthete. His interest in fashion was clear by the way he dressed, but he also loved art and fine objects.
He heard about “revolutionary sales” in Paris, where furniture created by Jean-Henri Riesener was to be auctioned. And so he went there with some of his savings.
At the time, such pieces were of little interest, as their style was no longer popular. Bierroy bought a few pieces for a mere trifle.
Little by little, he built up a fine collection: tables, writing desks, drawer units and consoles. The pieces began to take up more and more space in his home and, regularly confronted with his wife’s remarks, he had to find a small room to store them.
Caught up in a flurry of compulsive organising, he decided to sell off a few pieces. The new space was soon filled with other items of increasing size.
In 1803, at the age of 34, he decided to try his luck as a furniture dealer. His work as a land surveyor no longer paid much, as orders had declined.
Bierroy was drawn to the open sea, and he seized the opportunity to move near a port city. This would allow him to sell exported goods, and to the French islands.
The Vendée region, more specifically the town of Montaigu, was quickly chosen for its strategic location between Nantes and Les Sables-d’Olonne, rather than Bordeaux or Brest.
In 1804 he settled in Montaigu, where he was housed by a farmer, at the Domaine du Rocher, until he found a place that could accommodate his small family and business.
He continued to collect furniture, making an arrangement with his landlord to store the pieces on the farm. The barn was used both as storage and a shop when it came to selling a few items.
Buyers from Paris and Nantes — and even sailors stopping over in Nantes — would come by to visit him.
How did he become a marquis?
In 1808, Charles Auguste Bierroy heard that the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, would be travelling through Montaigu. The Emperor had planned to pass through the Vendée in August. All of the town’s notable figures were invited to attend, and asked to be there half an hour before and half an hour after the passing convoy.
Bierroy would seize this opportunity by posing as an aristocrat among them and by claiming a noble title. He was actually from Corrèze with Spanish ancestry on his mother’s side. Thus the title Marquis de Bérango (Berango being a town in the greater Bilbao region, where his mother was from) was adapted into the French Marquis de Bérangose.
He prepared small cards with his title, address, and a wax seal. He carefully wrote the name of each notable figure before handing out the cards in person to each guest during the Emperor’s visit, a gesture which was much appreciated.
In the weeks that followed, appointments and orders poured in — and to such an extent that Bierroy had to hire two coach drivers to deliver the items.
As Marquis de Bérangose’s business was flourishing, the farmer, who was getting older, offered to sell him the entire estate where the barn and house were located. The deal was soon signed.
Thus, from 1810, inscribed above the gate to the property were the words Aux Objets du Marquis de Bérangose.
Widespread interest led him to design his own furniture, working closely with a cabinetmaker, a woodturner and a metalsmith. The company had a total of 11 employees, which was considerable in the business at the time.
But all traces of Marquis de Bérangose were lost after 1820. No one knew what had become of him until 2013, when a lot of several items — sketches, etchings and six pieces of furniture, likely prototypes — which had belonged to Marquis de Bérangose were sold to a collector.
The spirit of Marquis de Bérangose and his creativity have been passed on, inspiring others to break the rules and overturn conventions. This provocative appeal and eccentric touch can still be found in Marquis de Bérangose’s catalogue today.
Beyond function and aesthetics, we offer a one-of-a-kind story, a culture of difference. The techniques and materials are those of today and tomorrow.
Would the Marquis have imagined them that way? It is anyone’s guess.
But one thing is for sure… he would have given it his all!