Sunday, 9 March 2008

It is far better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven

Count Robert de Montesquiou
Giovanni Boldini, 1897
Musée d'Orsay

Arrangment in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1891–92
The Frick Collection

Count Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921). A descendant of d'Artagnan, a writer, and a savage wit of France's Belle Epoque. Now best remembered as a dandy and an aesthete, who inspired the literary character, amongst others, of the Baron de Charlus in Marcel Proust's novel, Remembrance of Things Past.

Montesquiou was an arbiter of taste, whose profound belief in Beauty as an absolute, helped to cement taste as one of the new century's virtues. A poet not in words, but in life.

Here are a few items that he may have well culled from the chaos that was 19th Century interior decoration. A look that I absolutely love, but find virtually impossible to sell.

An Aesthetic movement inverted breakfront sideboard, circa 1870, the thumb moulded top over centre twin glazed doors flanked by cupboard doors and open shelving with fine painted decoration, upon bulbous reeded and turned supports with platform undertier.

A Louis XVI style centre table, the veined and variegated inset marble top above gadrooned edge over acanthus leaf frieze upon shell leaf and scroll pierced tapered supports united by X-frame stretcher with stylized pineapple finial.

A 19th century Japanese black and gilt lacquer cabinet on stand the two panelled cupboard doors decorated with figures and buildings in landscapes, enclosing an architectural balconied interior, with galleried shelves, drawers and doors, on British stand with pierced fretwork frieze and triple cluster column legs, scrolled spandrels, on chamfered block feet.

A Louis XVI period giltwood and upholstered confidante the shaped arched back and overstuffed serpentine seat covered in buttoned red fabric, raised on turned fluted legs.

A Victorian period Aesthetic ebonised and amboyna library table the canted rectangular top above two real and two opposing dummy frieze drawers, raised on foliate carved spiral turned legs united by an x-form stretcher and terminating in brass cappings and casters

Le Palais Rose, Montesquiou's last house. It was here, that he was the first to revive the Empire style, and hung pale tinted walls with beautiful white painted 18th Century frames.

The Neuilly house - Pavillon des Muses.
Surely, the precursor to the work of Elsie de Wolfe.

Now playing: America - Lonely People
via FoxyTunes


An Aesthete's Lament said...

It is a pity such things are so difficult to sell (the taste of the public is so deflating at times, no?). I, however, would be happy to spend my last farthing on such objects, especially the Japanese cabinet on stand. Such beauty.

Mrs. Blandings said...

The lacquered cabinet is the stuff dreams are made of.

Be the change..... said...

I can always trust on you for fabulous reading. Such a treat!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

BtC - how sweet of you.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Mrs B - isn't it just.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

AL - it is enough to know that there are others, who too, would beggar themselves for the sake of beauty.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Just did some quick research and am breathless to learn that after R de M's death, the Palais Rose was purchased (or rented) by ... drum roll, please ... Luisa Casati! ... she lived there for nearly a decade, from 1923 until 1932 ... built in 1900 for its first owner, a millionaire engineer named Arthur Schweitzer, the Palais Rose still stands in Le Vésinet, France, and has been for sale for many years now ... Robert de M owned it from 1908 until his death in 1923 ...

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

AL - La Casati, owned and transformed it into her Chateau de reve. Most significant addition was the marble floor from the Palazzo dei Leoni. Unfortunately she had to sell it to cover bad debts, before moving to England.
What is more bizarre is one of the last owners (late 1990s) was Khashoggi, who renovated and made additions?!