Sunday, 31 August 2008

Useless, but so beautiful

A Spanish marquetry cabinet on stand in ivory, tortoiseshell, rosewood, ebonised wood, and gilt metal mounts , late 19th century, bearing an eagle crest and inscribed Isabella Castilla ferrer Bobadilla P.Santeger Cristobal Columbus P. Marchena P.Boyl Cpt Margaret' and TANTO MONTA, GRANADA 1492 , detailing scenes from the life of Christopher Columbus.
237.5cm high, 180cm wide, 54.5cm deep
Provenance: Previously at Great House, Hambledon, Surrey

This form of Spanish cabinet with engraved narrative and pierced gilt metal gallery is reflective of the typical 17th century form known as a papeleira. The eagle crest is believed to be the armorial insignia of Ferdinand II, King of Aragon (1479-1516) and his wife (married 1469) Isabella I, Queen of Castile (1474-1505) thereby uniting Castile with Aragon. The motto TANTA MONTA and the crowned cyphers F and Y, and the badges of a yoke (left) and sheaf of arrows (right) all support this identification. The shield appears to have been borne on the breast of an eagle as Ferdinand was Holy Roman Emperor.

Now playing: Christopher Cross - Sailing
via FoxyTunes

A different world

Museum Villa Stuck, Munich

Seraph and Splendor of Chintz of Darkness have done an interesting post on the German symbolist artist Franz von Stuck and his former house, now the Museum Villa Stuck.

Do have a look.

Now playing: Joe Jackson - Moonlight
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 29 August 2008

More ways to waste time

This week's film, Russ Meyer's cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

This is not a sequel — there has never been anything like it before.

The original trailer

Valley of the Dolls, the film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's best selling novel, and the precursor to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, in spite of what the studio may have claimed.

This is one of the best scenes, ever.

An interesting footnote: Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson. Fox replaced her with Susan Hayward due to creative differences.

Now playing: Antony and the Johnsons - Cripple and the Starfish
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Spotlight on...

London antiques dealer Christopher Hodsoll.

A pair of carved wood mirrors after a pair at Harewood House

A large oval gilt wood mirror in the 18Th century manner after a design by William Kent

A pair of chinoiserie lacquer cabinets of early 20Th century manufacture with the finest 17Th century doors incorporated

A pair of jasper baluster lamp tables

Known for his idiosyncratic taste - an English country house grandeur as seen through an 18Th century connoisseur's eye. Mr. Hodsoll worked for many years with the late great Geoffrey Bennison. Like his late mentor, Mr. Hodsoll is increasingly turning his hand from simply dealing in antiques to decorating, having recently completed a number of overseas commissions and a substantial London townhouse.

In partnership with Lulu Lytle, Mr. Hodsoll has formed the design company Soane, producing furniture, lighting and accessories with a classical bent, all made to the highest of standards in the United Kingdom.

Now playing: Air - Sexy Boy
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Master of the crosshatch

Pierre Le-Tan, Trompe l'oeil 1998
Lot 192 Sotheby's Paris

Pierre Le-Tan, Interieur 1999
Galerie Bartsch & Chariau

Pierre Le-Tan, Salon du Dessin 1999
Galerie Bartsch & Chariau

Three of the eighteen covers Pierre Le-Tan has done for The New Yorker

Pierre Le-Tan was born 1950 in Neuilly near Paris. He learned how to draw in the studio of his father, the painter Le-Pho, a well known Indochinese born artist. After having spent three months at the Paris Academie des Arts Décoratifs, he decided to quit and aged hardly 18, published the first of numerous covers for The New Yorker.

Pierre Le-Tan’s drawings have been published in every prestigious periodical fromVogue to The World of Interiors and have brought him international acclaim. He has become a cult figure for a small set of bright and sophisticated aesthetes.

Now playing: Grace Jones - Art Groupie
via FoxyTunes

Flair, February 1950

Monday, 25 August 2008

I have read the book, now I must see the film

Madeleine Castaing's Leves, Photograph by Rene Stoeltie, Copyright 2008.

I have been in torment ever since I discovered that there was a documentary on Madeline Castaing. Madeline Castaing by Christopher Flach, premiered earlier this year in San Francisco and in New York. According to Wendy Moonan, at The New York Times, the DVD can be purchased directly from Mr. Flach. I hope she is correct.

Madeleine was brilliant, witty, talented, very clever and very creative, but she was also very manipulative. Behind the glamour there is something very dark and terrifying in her personality. - Jean-Nöel Liaut author of Madeleine Castaing: From Montparnasse to Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Note - An Aesthete's Lament did a post about this very film back in February.
Now playing: Madeleine Peyroux - Dance Me to the End of Love
via FoxyTunes

The poisoned room

A contemporary account of Longwood House, its interiors, and its furnishings from T.E. Wathen's A Series of Views Illustrative of the Island of St. Helena. Published by Clay, London, 1821.


The late residence of Napoleon Buonaparte, where he arrived in the letter part of 1815, and at which he died on May the 5th, 1821. The situation, and other particulars concerning Longwood, have already been given at Page 6; and a very brief description of the building is all that remains to be added. The present erection was formed in timber framework at Woolwich, by the Architect for the Ordnance department, to be erected at St. Helena. It is designed in the cottage style, and contains 24 rooms, the general size of which is 25 feet by 18. The length of the house in front is about 120 feet; and it contains 16 windows with an open corridore. The depth of the building is 100 feet, and the back is also ornamented with a corridore. It is two stories in height, and the right hand wing was appropriated to Buonaparte, In the centre stands the Drawing-room, coloured of various shades of green, and arabesque gold panels; with curtains of light silk taboret, of Pomona green, and velvet borders edged with gold coloured silk twist. Above them is a matted gold cornice, to conceal the rings and curtain rod, and the top of the room is finished by a cream coloured ceiling. The carpet is of Brussels texture, of various shades of brown, olive, and amber. The furniture consists of an elegant oak centre table; pier table, inlaid with a slab of Verd Antique Mona marble; splendid pier glass, with a frame of Buhl and ebony; chairs of British oak; two Greek sofas and footstools ornamented with Or Moulu; a piano forte; and chandeliers and candelabri to light the apartment, The Dining-room is next in the suite, the fittings up for which are of a lavender tint, and the curtains of silk, with a black border and gold coloured silk lace fringe. The carpet and walls are of the same lilac hue, as well as the coverings for the chairs. The furniture consists of a fine oaken Dining-table, capable of accommodating from six to fourteen persons; a side-board, peculiarly made for holding the Imperial plate, with the wine coolers constructed of Bronze and rich wood. Adjoining the Dining-room is the Library, which is furnished in the Etruscan style, with several dwarf book-cases; a Library table with desks and drawers, and curtains of a new cotton material, having the appearance of cloth. The Sitting-room is ornamented with an ethereal blue carpet shaded with black, and several ebony cabinets inlaid with brass. In the Bed-room is a high canopy Bedstead, enclosing a silken musquito net, and hung with furniture of lilac persian edged with gold coloured fringe. The Bath is lined with marble, and made to admit hot or cold water. The other wing of Longwood House contained spacious apartments for Buonaparte's suite, with servant's offices and store-rooms in the rear. The Kitchen is a detached building, yet convenient to the Dining-room. The materials for this erection, together with the elegant furniture, table services, dresses, and plate presented to Buonaparte, by the noble munificence of the British government, amounted to 500 tons in weight, and were contained in 400 packages. A number of artists were also sent with them to fit out the Establishment.

Longwood House as it is today.

A wallpaper fragment from Longwood House showing a single star, the principal of which is green and brown. It is possible that the brown had originally been gold. Gold and green were the Imperial colours.

One of the theories surrounding Napoleon's death was that he had been poisoned by his wallpaper. The wallpaper at Longwood House was painted with Scheele's green, an arsenic compound called copper arsenide. When attacked by certain molds, possibly present in the damp environment of St. Helena, arsenic would have been released into the air. Giving further credence to this scenario, in the late 1950s Clare Boothe Luce, the then American ambassador to Italy, was diagnosed with arsenic poisoning caused by paint chips falling from the stucco roses on her bedroom ceiling.

The original, but less romantic, cause of death has been confirmed by the use of modern technology.

Now playing: ABC - Poison Arrow
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 24 August 2008


Japanese carving of a male figure

a small army of these, all in different poses, trooping along the shelf of a bookcase or a tabletop...

In a mad world, only the mad are sane. - Akira Kurosawa

Now playing: Air - Alone in Kyoto
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 22 August 2008

This week's film selection is...

The Dying Gaul starring Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, and Campbell Scott.

Dying Gaul, Capitoline Museums Rome
Roman marble copy after a bronze original from Pergamon, Turkey; life size. Circa 230 B.C.

Now playing: Erykah Badu - Next Lifetime
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Look Book - The New England F-Off

Garth's Annual Labor Day Weekend Auction
August 29/30, 2008
Delaware, Ohio

Lot No 2062
FOLKY NORTH CAROLINA NEEDLEWORK. Kate "Granny" Donaldson, Cherokee County, 1930s-1940s, wool and cotton. Crocheted barnyard animals, a couple with a child, fanciful tree and vase of flowers on a grey tweed background.

Lot No 2183
SET OF SIX FANCY CHAIRS. Probably Massachusetts, Ca.1815-1835, pine and mixed wood. Retains original painted decoration consisting of yellow ground with freehand stripes and stenciled gilt grapes on the crests.

Lot No 2025
BOATS IN HARBOR BY HAYLEY LEVER (AMERICAN, 1876-1958). Oil on canvas, signed lower left.

Lot No 2035
FOLDING LOW POST ROPE BED. American, late 18th-early 19th century, walnut and pine retaining old dry finish.
Could be easily turned into a sofa with a few additions.

Lot No 2280
DECORATED ARMCHAIR ROCKER. American, 2nd quarter-19th century, mixed woods including pine. Boston style in old black paint with handpainted pink roses on crest and splat.

Lot No 2150
CHIPPENDALE MIRROR. American or English, late 18th-early 19th century, mahogany, pine and glass.

Lot No 2056
PAINTED MULE CHEST. Probably New England, early 19th century, pine and maple.

Now playing: Joni Mitchell - All I Want
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Deliverance - New England Style

Phyllis' Jewelry - Provincetown

Or, as one friend put it, That's what you call a New England fuck off.

Evidently, in a store crammed full of junk, only one showcase actually had things in it for sale. All the while, Phyllis sat petting her orange tabby giving the browsers the stink-eye. I don't blame her one bit, if my friends came into my shop I'd give them the stink-eye too.

Now playing: John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John - Summer Lovin'
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Define majestic

adj 1: majestic in manner or bearing; superior to mundane matters;
"her majestic presence"; "olympian detachment";
"olympian beauty and serene composure" [syn: olympian]
2: having or displaying great dignity or nobility; "a gallant
pageant"; "lofty ships"; "majestic cities"; "proud alpine
peaks" [syn: gallant, lofty, proud]
3: belonging to or befitting a supreme ruler; "golden age of
imperial splendor"; "purple tyrant"; "regal attire";
"treated with royal acclaim"; " royal carriage"
[syn: imperial, purple, regal, royal]
4: Miss Jessye Norman

Miss Jessye Norman singing the aria When I am laid in earth from Dido and Æneas by Henry Purcell, recorded at Yves Saint Laurent's gardens in Marrakech. From Jessye Norman - A Portrait, directed by André Heller.

Jessye Norman by Irving Penn graces the cover of Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits by Deborah Willis (Editor)

The book features 100 images selected by the principal author Deborah Willis from the photography collection of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. The book traces the history of portrait photography through the lens of the African American experience, exploring its influential role in shaping public identity and individual notions of race and status. The book also explores the effect on race relations of these positive images that celebrate the beauty of African Americans from the mid–nineteenth century to the present.

MacArthur Fellowship laureate Deborah Willis gives an insight to her work on NPR's Challenging Stereotypes Through Photos

Amazing Grace sung by Miss Jessye Norman

Monday, 18 August 2008

Visual revolutionary

"If you know yourself, you are doomed."

Such was the attitude with which legendary designer and photographer Alexey Brodovitch, the long-time art director of Harper's Bazaar, approached each new project and transformed graphic design in the 20th century. Brodovitch was known foremost for his work on Harper's, but his legacy extended far beyond the magazine's pages: as a teacher in Philadelphia and New York for some five decades, he inspired dozens of young photographers and art directors who would go on to become famous names themselves, including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Robert Frank and Lisette Model.
Alexey Brodovitch by Kerry William Purcell

Oh, of course he was a good designer and a superb typographer and had an innate sense of elegance about space, but his layouts were done only as approximations. He stood in the middle of the room and, with a scissor, cut out photostats which he taped to a piece of paper. Others later straightened them. It was communicating an idea, a mood, a criticism that he was precise and masterful. - Henry Wolf, Brodovitch’s successor at Harper’s Bazaar, commenting on Brodovitch's unique approach to a layout.

Now playing: Rickie Lee Jones - Magazine
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Howard is that you?

A Howard and Sons chaise reupholstered with a tight buttoned seat in Jean Moro's Amelia (tan colourway).

Gathered edge detail which would not have been originally found on a piece by Howard and Sons. Just a case of showing off.

Howard and Sons was established in 1820 by John Howard, at 24 Orange Street, London. By 1854 the firm had expanded considerably and was situated in the heart of London's furniture district at 22 - 36 Berners Street. They worked for many important clients with important houses such as Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire and Elton Hall in Huntingdonshire.

Interestingly, while leading the way in innovation and engineering, Howard and Sons held onto many decidedly traditional upholstering techniques long after other manufacturers had abandoned them. Some of these methods were decidedly 18th Century and must have made Howard and Son's upholstery more costly. Features such as tenon jointed frames, a hard stitched front edge, and smooth chamfered frames meant that their upholstered pieces were not just comfortable, but also very hard wearing.

Still fashionable at the end of the 19th Century they provided the fittings for the Vanderbilt yacht. Their work is in the Royal Collection, and the Queen’s private collections at Sandringham and Balmoral, and a cabinet made in 1862 is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The company ceased trading in 1947.

Now playing: Louis Armstrong - Rockin' Chair
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Do you know what I have been thinking?

A phrase which has been known to strike fear in the hearts of the most stalwart of men. And how I always preface a new scheme for some change or other. Schemes which would either test the patience of Job or gamble our last farthing. Usually, it's both. Luckily this time, aside from we need to move that wall, change those doors, I want a showroom, etc., it's nothing drastic.

I have been thinking that there is something missing. In my quest for a new scent it struck me that it is richness that is missing. Not splendour, that is too superficial, but richness, like that found in old scents. That deep shading of tone that is an amalgam of different layers. Layers that are not necessarily analogous.

Life should be lived in an excessive regal way, not in a comfortable bourgeois way.

Notting Hill, London

Now playing: Grace Jones - Private Life
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Another offering from the House of Logan

It is this Saturday 16th August, at teneleven, 171 Avenue C btw. 10th and 11th Streets in New York.

Now playing: Shirley Bassey - Get the Party Started
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

There are times I loathe London

And, there are times I simply love it. This is one of those times.

I often pass C. John and marvel at their magnificent rugs. And I do mean magnificent. Unlike most of the other establishments dealing at this level, the goods on offer at C. John posses a certain charm.

This beauty made my heart sing. It is one of the most beautiful rugs I have ever seen.

Now playing: Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Another fabulous film is...

The River, Jean Renoir's intoxicating first colour feature. Shot entirely on location in India, it is an adaptation of Rumer Godden's novel, set during the last days of the Raj. As much about a young girl's coming of age as about the ebb and flow of life. Exquisitely shot by Renoir's nephew, Claude Renoir. The River is a visual feast.

After a family tragedy, an adolescent girl blurts out angrily at table, We just go on as if nothing has happened?
No, her mother responds, we just go on.

Now playing: Oleta Adams - Rhythm of Life
via FoxyTunes

Guest room

The guest room of my first commission, 1996.

Walls - paperbacked Jean Monro chintz
Ceiling - Pale blue, matte
Floor - Dark straw sisal, trellis wool rug in Indian jade
Bed - Dressed as a daybed in pale blue linen moire, large antique Aubusson cushion
Chair - Large Billy Baldwin slipper chair in shell glazed linen
Wardrobes - Dragged to match woodwork (chintz ground) and lined in shell glazed linen
Curtains - Pale blue linen moire lined in the chintz, tortoiseshell blind
Mirror - Oriel Harwood faux bois in plaster
Jardiniere - Louis XV filled with maidenhair ferns
Side Tables - Papier mache tray on stand, nacre inlaid side table
Lamps - Brass floor lamp (far end of bed), blue porcelain table lamp

Now playing: The Beauty Room - Those Days
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 11 August 2008

Tell the truth and shame the devil

Still think that ebay "find" and punch of colour are a good idea? Think again.

James Lileks's take on the hideous, Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible '70s

Welcome back to Interior Desecrations, a brutal examination of the unlovely, unattractive, unlivable and unforgivable homes of the 1970s. All eras have some bad taste, of course – but it took the 70s to make bad taste triumphant and universal. It took the 70s to convince everyone to stick foil wallpaper on the wall, paint the bathtub purple, smother the floors in shag so deep it tickled the tops of your ankles, and hang art that managed to clash with everything, including itself. I mean, look at this picture – what is that? A dissected Rubiks’s Cube attempts to threaten a potted plant and his child, I guess.

Here we see the problem that bedevils most urban dwellers: what can I do to make my unbearably claustrophobic room seem even smaller? Even with the gigantic empty-staring 17th century moonhead there still seems to be a certain airy quality to the place.

I know! I can paint the window!

Sweet smokin’ Judas, what were they thinking?