There are many fabled South of France villas with storied histories featuring glamorous guests (just take a look at the most recent installment of Downton Abbey). But few can compete with the history of La Vigie—which has recently come to market for $27 million. The property—which is set close to Cap D’Antibes—was originally completed in 1912 and offers an enviable location directly facing the azure Mediterranean. First built for a wealthy local family, the property was sold in 1926 to the American mogul Frank Gould whose French socialite wife, Florence Lacaze, filled it with global swells ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Jean Cocteau to Pablo Picasso himself.
“Many villas in the area can claim a visit by Picasso, but he mentions La Vigie himself in his diaries from that time,” explains Jack Harris of Knight Frank in London, which is handling the listing with Douglas Elliman. “Rumor has it he even painted directly onto the walls of the property as a way to thank his hosts.” What is known for certain, is that in the summer of 1924, Picasso used the villa’s garage as a studio, where he painted myriad canvases—and perhaps even the garage’s wall itself.
La Vigie is nothing if not spectacular. Built on the Cap D’Antibes peninsula—a short stroll from the Belles Rives Hotel and the verdant La Pinede in Juan les Pins—the property sprawls over more than 6,000 square feet of indoor space and includes between seven and eight bedrooms (and nearly as many bathrooms) depending on the configuration. Beyond its history, what’s most unique about La Vigie is its distinctive location, architecture and design.
For one thing, the property is set directly on the water—and not separated from it by a road like many other “waterfront” villas in the area, Harris explains. The architecture is a Mediterranean take on Neo-Gothic, rendered here in dazzling pinks and peaches and cream colors that reflect the area’s iconic sunlight. The home is anchored on its lower level by a massive infinity-edge pool that is elegantly split in half by a bijoux bridge with one side literally lagoon-like.
Other amenities include a grand formal dining room and main salon, extensive wine cellars, office area, boat dock and boat house. In the primary suite, there is a private lounge, en suite bath and dressing room, while a nearby junior suite features its own balcony. Thousands of square feet of lush gardens both imbue the property with endless greenery as well as keep on prying eyes. Perhaps, most intriguing, the villa’s now iconic tower—which dates back to its original construction—houses a pair of bedrooms and a bath along with its own alfresco lounge with sweeping sea views. Positioned prominently over the entire villa, the tower serves as the home’s unofficial “look-out”—fitting, since La Vigie means “the lookout” in French.
According to Harris, the property “was renovated extensively by the previous owners. . .who have used the villa as a family escape for the past 20 to 25 years. While the current owners love the home, they do not use it now as much as they wish to,” he explains. Considering its impressive prominence, Harris says La Vigie’s new owner could very well be a French family who understands “that this is a trophy asset—the best of its kind in the region.” At the same time, Harris could also see history repeating itself and La Vigie once again sold to an American family like it was to the Goulds nearly a century ago.
While current geopolitical conditions have limited, somewhat, the buyer pool of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, Harris is confident La Vigie’s history and location will help it resist any market slowdowns. “Buyer sentiment remains healthy,” he says—particularly when it comes to US buyers. According to a recent Knight Frank report, searches by US buyers for second homes in France rose by 37 percent in the year to May 2022.
Helping to spur interest—particularly in the South of France—is now daily service on Delta between New York and Nice. Equally key, the strong dollar means French homes are roughly 16 percent less expensive than a year ago.
Check out more photos of this history-rich home below: