Monday, October 29, 2012

Thomas Jayne's American Decoration

The Sitting/Guest Room in the New Orleans apartment
of Rick Ellis and Thomas Jayne.
Photo by William Waldron from
One of the season's most anticipated book is surely the monograph of interior designer Thomas Jayne, AMERICAN DECORATION: A SENSE OF PLACE.  Published by The Monacelli Press, the book will be released October 30, 2012.
Twenty-four projects by Jayne Design Studio are discussed in the book and illustrated with remarkable color photographs of the highest quality.  Thomas' rich academic background in decorative arts and historic interiors reinforces his respect of the traditions of the past while creating interiors to suit modern sensibilities. 
The stairhall of a house in Philadelphia
features a green painted floor.
Photo by John Hall from
Although I have not yet seen the book, I've had a few sneak peaks at parts.  One project in particular stands out as being representative of Thomas Jayne's talent for finding inspiration in history, but very much of today.  It is a house in Scarsdale.

The dining room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from
The living room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from
The sitting room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from

Thomas Jayne's own announcement of the launch of his new book can be read on his blog Decoration: Ancient and Modern.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Stuff

One of the very promising new books to be released before the end of the year is "STUFF: The M (Group) Interactive Guide to Collecting, Decorating With, and Learning About, Wonderful and Unusual Things".  Written by Carey Maloney, an interior designer and partner with architect Hermes Mallea in the firm M (Group), the book is a monograph of the pair's work.  But the unique twist is the 40 topics relevant to the projects shown, with additional online resources available at just a point of the smart phone or tablet using the free Digimarc Discover app. 
The Devoted Classicist has not seen the book yet -- it won't be released by Pointed Leaf Press until December 16, 2012 -- but it promises to be an interesting melding of print and electronics and a boon to Enquiring Minds and lovers of the decorative arts.
More about the book may be seen at the STUFF website.  Devoted Readers may order it at a discount from the published price here.
All images are from the M (Group) website:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Auction Results for the Treasures of France

While there may have been no gasp-inducing surprises, the results of the dispersal of Dr. Bruce Wilson's collection of Fine French Furnishings at Christie's on October 24, 2012, may have exceeded the expectations by a bit.  The final proceeds were $5,456,025.
As is often the case, bidding for some of the lots did not meet the reserve price and the items were not sold.  Such is the case for Lot 133, a room of late 18th century Louis XVI panelling.  Painted pine with a celadon ground and white detailing, there were plaster lunette overdoor panels emblematic of Music, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.  A white marble chimneypiece was also included.  The estimate was $50,000 to $100,000.  Apparently Dr. Wilson had kept the boiserie in storage and never installed it.
The item that brought the highest price was Lot 76, a circa 1755 marquetry table a la Bourgogne that opened with a mechanism that revealed a desk.  It realized $278,500.

To revisit The Devoted Classicist's earlier post on highlights of this collection, the estimates, and the prices realized, click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cool Oasis

The rear garden of Dr. Cooley's residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
Anyone doubting that Global Warming is upon us has not been to Memphis in the past few miserably hot summers.  A swimming pool is a much-appreciated amenity in this climate, and a particularly refreshing pool is one feature of a house with six landscaped courtyards that is presented in the article "Cool Oasis" by Anne Cunningham O'Neill in the October, 2012, issue of Memphis Magazine.  Although I am friends with the homeowner, John Tackett Design had nothing to do with the property.  My associate Hector Alexander Samada had revamped the garden, however, refining the planting to give more interest to the Brutalist architecture of the house.

The entrance of Dr. Cooley's residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
At the end of the 1970s, the deep garden of a neo-classical mansion was subdivided, providing four additional building lots along the side street.  The three other houses are typical suburban types, but this one is a complete departure, stylistically, for the neighborhood.  Since this house was built in 1980, the neighborhood primarily of early 20th century houses has been designated as a National Conservation District known as Central Gardens.  Although the house might not fall within the design guidelines for the district today, it is much admired though shielded from the street and is often overlooked, in fact. 

The Great Room of the Cooley Residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
The house was designed by Memphis interior designer J.O.E. Beck as his own home.  It includes a feature that Mr. Beck often employed, panels of a coromandel screen are hinged to fold open to reveal a bar.  Knowing that, it may be made out in the background of the photo above;  the lamp is on a table at the end of the sofa and the panels are partially open to reveal that the back wall of the bar is mirrored.  A glimpse through the doorway on the right reveals the galley kitchen with the original flame-red cabinets.  The central doorway leads to the entrance hall with a spiral staircase to a second bedroom and the door to the left opens into the master bedroom, giving a clue to the compactness of the plan.

A satellite view may be seen on Bing Maps.  Sorry, I could not get the link right, but you may search the address 684 South Willett Street, Memphis, TN.  The mansion from which this lot came is Beverly Hall, located adjacent at the corner of Central Avenue and South Willett Street.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Brilliance of Tiffany

Detail of the Dragonfyl Hanging Lampshade.
Tiffany Studios, New York, 1900 to 1905.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
"The Brilliance of Tiffany:  Lamps from the Neustadt Collection" is an illuminating exhibition now on view at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art through January 13, 2013.  Thirty five lamps on loan from the Neustadt Collection, Long Island City, New York, form the core of the exhibit, amply supplemented by Tiffany silver and Favrile glass from both the Brooks permanent collection and items on loan from local private collections.  It is all expertly organized by the Brooks Curator of European and Decorative Art, Stanton Thomas.
Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Image:  Neustadt Collection.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848 to 1933, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany who was the founder of the luxury retailer Tiffany & Company, started as a landscape painter, eventually branching out into interior design and the decorative arts, becoming one of the foremost artists of his time.  In 1869, Tiffany established a studio in the new headquarters of the New York City chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association, the YMCA Building by Renwick and Sands.  But it was Tiffany's design for his own residence at the Bella Apartments that caused a sensation when completed in 1878.  Read about "the fly-eye of New York" as O. Henry called it, in two articles from the early 1880s posted in the Half Pudding Half Sauce blog here.  In 1880, Tiffany established the interior design firm Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists with partners Lockwood DeForest (furniture and woodwork specialist), Candace Wheeler (textile and embroidery specialist, often credited as the Mother of American Interior Design) and Samuel Colman (a former Hudson River School artist who became one of the country's first professional interior designers). 

Tiffany Studios, New York City.
Image:  Macklowe Gallery.
In 1883, Tiffany left Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists to form his own glassmaking firm, first known as Tiffany Glass and later, Tiffany Studios.  When his father's magnificent Romanesque Revival house commissioned from architects McKim, Mead & White was completed in 1885 on the northeast corner of East 72nd Street and Madison Avenue, New York City, L.C. Tiffany and his family occupied the top two floors.

The Charles Lewis Tiffany residence,
East 72nd Street and Madison Avenue.
Image:  Macklowe Gallery.
Although he continued to collaborate on interior design projects, Tiffany built large workshops and furnaces in Corona, Queens, New York in 1893 and registered "Favrile" as the trademark for his iridescent glass that same year.  Tiffany had become interested in the artistic effects of elecric lights, especially after his collaboration with Thomas Edison for the Lyceum Theater, the first theater to  have electric lights.  The growing availability of electricity provided the impetus for producing commercial lamps in 1895, although the early ones were kerosene and then with the option of either kerosene or electricity.  In 1900, Associated Artists was reorganized as Tiffany Studios.
Laurelton Hall, Laurel Hollow, Long Island.
Image: David Aronow, circa 1924 view, 
Historic American Building Survey.
Louis Comfort Tiffany became the Artistic Director of Tiffany & Company in 1902, following his father's death.  Art jewelry, copper enamels and pottery designed by Tiffany wered added to the retail offerings.  Tiffany's grand estate, Laurelton Hall, was completed in 1905 in Laurel Hollow, Long Island;  it was destroyed by fire in 1957 with its mosaic-decorated loggia installed in the Englehard Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1970s.  (Devoted Readers will recall reading about benefactors Jane and Charles Englehard and their estate Cragwood here).  Louis Comfort Tiffany died in 1933 at the age of 85.
Dragonfly Hanging Lamp.
Tiffany Studios, New York.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
Despite the many facets of his career, Louis Comfort Tiffany is best remembered for his colored glass lampshades.  These lampshades were influenced by his experience in painting nature, and his exposure to Art Nouveau with his several exhibitions in Paris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The Dragonfly Hanging Lamp, 1900 to 1905, exemplifies these influences.

Pond Lily Library Lamp.
Tiffany Studios, New York.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
There were several variations on the Pond Lily shade shapes with a library lamp shown here.  The large, hardy, white water lily, Nymphaea odorata, is depicted on the table lamp.  A globe lamp, probably for a newel post lamp, features Nelumbo nucifera, or sacred lotus.

The Pond Lily globe.
Photo by permission of the curator,
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Image:  John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
The lampshades were assembled on a wooden mold with different molds for the various shades offered.  Brass patterns provided guides for cutting glass, with many colors and effects created in the studio's own furnaces.  Each piece was wrapped in a thin strip of copper foil and placed on the mold, and then the edges were soldered together.

Using the wood mold to fabricate a Tiffany Shade.
Photo with permission of the curator,
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Image:  John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
Lindsy Parrott, Director & Curator of the Neustadt Collection, will give two talks in Memphis in conjunction with the exhibit.  On Saturday, November 17, 2012, Ms Parrott will talk at 3:00 pm about the seven Tiffany windows at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church in a Decorative Arts Trust event open free to the public;  this lecture will be given at the church located on Peabody Avenue at Belvedere Boulevard.  On Sunday, November 18, 2012, Ms Parrott will talk at 2:00 pm at Memphis Brooks Museum about the artistry and historical context of the lamps in the exhibit;  this second event is free with museum admission. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jeffrey Bilhuber: Reflections on American Beauty

An enormous ceramic vase centers the Living Room
of the townhouse of the Laird family
as furnished by Jeffrey Bilhuber.
Image by William Abranowicz for
The Way Home:  Reflections on American Beauty
published by Rizzoli.
Mid-Southerners are in for a real treat on Friday, November 9, 2012, when Jeffrey Bilhuber, one of today's most in-demand interior designers, comes to speak at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art for a special event sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust.  Mr. Bilhuber's list of clients ranges from design legends Hubert de Givenchy and Elsa Peretti to celebrities Iman & David Bowie to media mogul Robert Pittman and wife Veronique to cultural icon Ashton Hawkins of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, also a client, sums it up best, "Jeffrey is great at taking one's taste and making it better".
A detail of the entrance of the Entrance Hall
of the Laird townhouse as furnished by Jeffrey Bilhuber.
The image by William Abranowicz is from Bilhuber's latest book
The Way Home:  Reflections on American Beauty
published by Rizzoli.
While Bilhuber's portfolio is full of one glamous room more fabulous than the last, his latest book THE WAY HOME: REFLECTIONS ON AMERICAN BEAUTY focuses on very livable residences, often home to children, that are furnished to suit the way families live today.  While it would be difficult to choose a favorite from the dozen residences featured in this book, one stand-out for The Devoted Classicist is the very first presented, the Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse of advertising superstar Trey Laird and his family.  (And it is merely a coincidence that Trey's lovely and most gracious mother was a client of John Tackett Design).  Although this project was also featured in Architectural Digest magazine, it was beautifully re-photographed for this book by renown photographer William Abranowicz, as evidenced in these images.
More will follow in the weeks leading up to this event, but the tickets have just gone on sale for the special two-part presentation in Memphis and more than half of the seats are already sold.  So I did not want to delay any further in announcing it here.  Ticket information, and advance purchase is recommended as it is sure to be a sell-out, may be found on the website of Decorative Arts Trust here.  (Unfortunately it is flash-driven site and cannot be viewed on many mobile devices).

Jeffrey Bilhuber
Image:  Bilhuber & Associates
I look forward to seeing many Devoted Readers on Friday morning, November 9, 2012, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Southern Cosmopolitan

Susan Sully, author of ten books on regional architecture and design, will celebrate the sophisticated South with a presentation sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust this Saturday, October 20, 2012, 10:30 am, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Ms Sully leads tours of stylish Southern destinations and is also the author of the blog The Southern Cosmopolitan.
There will be a books sale and signing of her latest title THE SOUTHERN COSMOPOLITAN, SOPHISTICATED SOUTHERN STYLE before and after the lecture.  The event is free with regular museum admission.

Photos are from The Southern Cosmopolitan, Sophisticated Southern Style by Susan Sully, published by Rizzoli, 2009.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Treasures of France, By Way of Memphis

Many in the Central Gardens district of Memphis know the residence of cardiologist Dr. Bruce Wilson because of the many roses covering his Arts & Crafts era home.  Some know that he collected French furniture and art.  But very few had ever set foot inside since Dr. Wilson bought the house in 1979. There had been a few rumors earlier this year that a local museum might even have an exhibition of the collection.  But it was a surprise to the neighbors a couple months ago when four moving vans from Christie's New York came to collect the antique furnishings and art for a spectacular single-owner auction on October 24, 2012, aptly named "Treasures of France".

The Wilson Residence, October, 2012.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
There were a few photographs taken to show the furnishings in situ and those give an idea of the decor along with the catalog shots that more clearly show the objects.  However, the interior design is not the story here, but rather the collection itself.  Some representations of the range of the collection follow.

Louis XIV bibliotheque basse
by Andre Charles Boulle, circa 1700.
This ormolu mounted, ebony, ebonized brass, simulated tortiseshell and Boulle marquetry bibliotheque basse (low cabinet with bookshelves behind doors) was made by Andre Charles Boulle about 1700 when the ebeniste was 60.  The central door is mounted with a figure of Pamona flanked by musical trophies.  According to the condition report, the feet have been replaced and some of the mounts were replaced in the 19th century.  This type of bas d'armoire, enriched with figures of Ramona, Ceres, Mars, and Bacchus enjoyed enormous success again from 1720 and yet again during the Neo-classical 1770s.  Estimate $250,000 to $350,000.  Price realized:  $266,500.

Louis XIV Savonnernie carpet fragment,
circa 1670 to 1685.
This low pile carpet is part of the 93 commissioned by Louis XIV for the Grande Galerie of the Louvre.  However, it is thought not to have been used at the Louvre but instead laid out for official ceremonies at Versailles.  It was not unusual for these large carpets to have later been cut down for use elsewhere.  There are more than fifty surviving in the national collections of France, and three in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as other museums and private collections.  This Savonnerie carpet is now 13 ft 10 in by 7 ft 8 in.  Estimate $40,000 to $60,000.  Not sold.

Marquetry table a la Bourgogne
by Jean Pierre Latz, circa 1755.
This Louis XV ormolu-mounted amaranth, bois satine, tulipwood and bois de bout table by German-born cabinetmaker Jean Pierre Latz dates from circa 1755.  Although the marquetry is fine, it is the desk components, revealed when opened, that makes this piece truly remarkable.  It was believed to have been commissioned by Marie-Victoire Sophie de Noailles, the duchesse de Penthievre, before 1756, then by descent to her son (of the chateau de Sceaux), and then to his daughter, the duchesse d'Orleans, mother of King Louis Phillipe.  Estimate $200,000 to $300,000.  Price realized:  $278,500.

A pair of porcelain Bleu Nouveau vases and covers,
Sevres. circa 1774.
Believed to have been made in 1774, these vases with biscuit portrait medallions of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI are thought to commemorate the coronation of the King and Queen of France.  Whether or not they were intended as a gift to the King or as a diplomatic gift, it is not known.  The plaster model still exists at the factory, but it is thought that these are the only extant finished pair.  It is noteworthy that the gilding is different on each.  Estimate $250,000 to $350,000.  Price realized:  $242,500.

Louis XV giltwood canape en corbeille,
attributed to Etienne Meunier, circa 1750.
This "couch", as canape translates, follows the corbeille form with the back gently curving forward and downward to form the arms.  More unusual of the form, however, are the dips of the back and the asymmetrical ends.  Estimate $20,000 to $40,000.  Price realized:  $40,000.

The Bird Nesters,
Francois Boucher, circa 1732.
The Bird Nesters, 36 x 32 1/8 in. oval, is an oil on canvas painting typical of Boucher's style.  The Lot Notes says it best in describing the series of similar paintings as "depicting life-sized, half-length, rustically attired couples engaged in subtly erotic, sexually suggestive interaction.  The broad paint handling and the small-featured faces of their protagonists connect these paintings with Boucher's large mythologies. . .The Bird Nesters depicts a pretty young bird seller putting chicks in a cage as an eager suitor chats her up.  The boy's casual assertiveness - the confident manner in which he rests his arm on top of the girl's birdcage, strokes one of ehr birds suggestively with his finger, and gazes directly into her gently diffident eyes - underscores the flirtatious undercurrent of the painting, as does the girl's ambivalent gesture of offering one small bird with her left hand while withdrawing another with her right hand.  The verdant overabundance of colorful flowers that surround and ornament the pink-cheeked fresh-faced protagonists adds to the scene's mood of blossoming fecundity".  Now that is a catalog description, Devoted Readers.  Estimate $250,000 to $350,000.  Price realized:  $242,500.
Plat d'hors-d'oeuvres, Bleu Celeste,
Vincennes, circa 1753.
This porcelain oblong octagonal dish is from the first Louis XV service, the first time this newly developed blue color was used.  The gilt scrolling was reserved for exclusive use on the royal service.  Estimate $50,000 to $70,000.  Price realized:  $50,000.

Pair of service plates, Louis XV Versailles service,
Assiettes 'A Groseilles', circa 1763 to 1770.
It is thought this Sevres dessert service was first used at the Pavillion Francais and later at the Chateau de Trianon. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.  Price realized:  $43,750.

Tureen stand, 'Service de la Reine',
Sevres, 1784.
Marie-Antoinette commissioned this Sevres service, it is thought, for the redecorated apartments a the Tuilleries.  Instead, the service was presented as a gift to the King of Sweden, Gustave III, who was visiting France.  King Gustave commissioned an additional 73 pieces.  When Marie-Antoinette received her own service, there were an additional 24 large oval and round platters.  The Comtesse d'Artois, her sister-in-law, commissioned an identical service 5 years later.  Herend produced copies in the second half of the 19th century.  Wile the last two services are identifiable, pieces from the first two are not.  Estimate $40,000 to 60,000.  Price realized:  $74,500.

Plateau de sauciere, 'Service Arabesque',
Sevres, 1784.
The last service ordered by Louis XVI in 1782 or 1783, political unrest ceased production at the Sevres factory around 1787, leaving the order incomplete.  Louis Le Masson, an architect and engineer, designed the service inspired by Antiquity and the recently discovered frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.  Not sold.

Ormolu mounted Chinese lacquer commode,
Dennis Genty, circa 1750.
It is not known for certain, but perhaps the fabrication of this commode was contracted out and retailed by the marchand-mercier Genty who was based on the rue Saint Honore, the center of the luxury goods trade.  Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.  Not sold.

Regence giltwood mirror,
circa 1725.
The cresting of the the Regence mirror is thought to be associated (that is, not original to this piece).  Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.  Not sold.

Louis XV giltwood pliant,
circa 1750 to 1755.
Possibly made by Nicolas Quinibert Foliot or his brother Francois, this folding stool was believed to have been supplied to the Garde Meuble de la Couronne around 1750 to 1755 for use in the State apartments.  Folding stools were used almost exclusively at this time by the royal court, where only the king and queen were allowed to be seated in a chair with arms. Estimate $60,000 to $100,000.  Not sold.

Pair of Louis XVI white painted and parcel gilt fauteuils a la Reine,
Adrien-Pierre, circa 1785.
This pair of open armchairs were probably delivered to Marie-Antoinette for either St. Cloud or the Maison de la Reine at the Hameau at Versailles.  Part of this suite is currently installed in the Petit Trianon, Versailles.  Estimate $50,000 to $80,000.  Not sold.

Pair of Russian ormolu-mounted bloodstone urns,
circa 1790 to 1800.
This pair of urns with covers are indicative of a fashion that started in France, but the cost to import them became prohibitive, then illegal by 1793 when Russia enacted a trade embargo.  The bronzes are attributed to the Imperial bronze workshops of St. Petersburg, and the hardstone from the Imperial lapidary workshops.  Bloodstone is a type of dark green chalcedomy with distinctive small red dots, also known as Heliotrope or Blood Jasper.  The mounts are similar to those on a pair of urns in the boudoir at Pavlosk Palace.  Estimate $60,000 to $100,000.  Price realized:  $170,500.

Pair of Louis XVI ormolu and patinated bronze
three branch wall lights.
Attributed to Francois Remond, circa 1785.
Two pairs of this model delivered to the Comte d'Artois for the Palais du Temple are now in the Petit Trianon.  Estimate $120,000 to $180,000.  Price realized:  $206,500.

A large ormolu twelve light chandelier,
after Jacques Caffieri, 20th century.
This chandelier is based on a model by Jacques Caffieri between 1750 and 1753 for Chateau d'Anet (and then moved to Bibliotheque Mazarine, Paris).  Putti holding a turret representative of 3 towers in Madame de Pompadour's coat of arms is the dominant decorative theme.  Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.  Price realized:  $25,000.
A late Louis XV lit a la Polanaise
Noel Baudin, circa 1765.
The bed is primarily included here because it is one of the few photographs that shows the rooms of the house with the collection.  The bed has been extended to better conform to today's standards.  Estimate $5,000 to $8,000.  Price realized:  $3,750.

Except as noted, photographs and descriptions are from the Christie's catalog for Sale 2762 "Treasures of France" which may be viewed at the website.  Christie's will hold Panel Discussions in connection with this auction on Sunday, October 21, starting at 2 pm with designer Thomas Jayne joining in at 5 pm followed by a hands-on tour of the gallery and a reception;  more information about these Special Events may be found here.

There is a video here showing some of the objects displayed in Dr. Wilson's home.  The collector gives the we-are-just-custodians speech, but sadly, offers no insight into his thoughts in acquiring these magnificent objects.  Where there treasures will go next is unknown.  But it is doubtful that any will ever return to Memphis.