Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

Entrance to Venetian Pool, Coral Gables, Florida.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
One of this country's most beautiful public swimming pools is the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida, and perhaps the only one listed on The National Register of Historic Places.  The Devoted Classicist had an opportunity to revisit it recently, just before a sudden summer downpour.
An early view of Venetian Pool.
Coral Gables is a beautiful community of esplanades, fountains, and plazas that is the result of a desire to create a perfectly designed city by Dade County commissioner and land developer George Merrick starting in 1921.  Although his dream was not fully realized, it is a remarkable, lush garden area adjacent to Miami that is protected by ordinances and a strong appreciation for historic preservation.

The Venetian Pool, Coral Gables.
Photo: John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
The site was a stone quarry pit that Merrick's uncle, artist Denman Fink, and architect Phineas Paist transformed in 1922 to 1924 to become a venue originally called Venetian Casino.  Noted swimming film stars Esther Williams and Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan) performed aquatic routines and orchestras serenaded poolside dancers during the entertainment heyday. 
The entrance pavillion and cascade at Venetian Pool.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog

The clear, cool water is fed by underground artesian wells, providing 820,000 gallons of water at a temperature of 76 to 78 degrees. Until 1988, the pool was drained and refilled every day during the summer;  now a conservation method is utilized that recycles the water through natural ground filtration and returns it to the subterranean acquifer, according to the city's official information.
Another view of the cascade, Venetian Pool.
Photo: John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
The coral rock waterfall is twenty five feet tall and originally supported a high dive platform.  It must have been particularly breathtaking to watch the daring dives as the pool is only eight feet deep.

The grotto behind the cascade, Venetian Pool.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
A 1989 restoration of the facility cost about $3.5 million to rehabilitate the historic features and add some new elements.such as a wading pool.
Another view of the entrance pavilion, Venetian Pool.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
I could have the uses of the two towers switched, but I think the one in the distance contains a lifeguard's apartment.
A tower at Venetian Pool.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
This tower contains the management office, if I am not mistaken.

A detail of the enclosure for the perimeter of the Venetian Pool.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
Hopefully the artistic stucco can be appreciated in these photos.  The effect is intentionally distressed to reveal patches of brick.  But the truly special feature is the subtle mix of coloring that combines pigments ranging from light pink to medium rose to lavender.  And the matte pink iron fence is much more successful than one might have imagined.

Venetian Pool is located in a residential neighborhood of Coral Gables, Florida, at 2701 DeSoto Boulevard, and open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day (and closed on Mondays during the winter).  For vintage photos and more information, see the Venetian Pool website at http://www.coralgablesvenetianpool.com/History.html

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Duchess of Windsor Had Baggage

The Luggage of the Duchess of Windsor made by Maison E. Goyard.
Photo:  Goyard
On a recent visit to the Miami area, I was able to stop in and take another look at one of the most beautifully landscaped shopping venues in the country, The Shops of Bal Harbour, a two-story, open-air mall.  There is not a Foot Locker, Auntie Ann's, or Spencer Gifts in sight;  it is packed with luxury brand stores and chic sidewalk cafes with a definite European feel. 
A view of the common interior space of The Shops of Bal Harbour in Bal Harbour, Florida.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
With dire economic news seemingly more bleak every day, I thought I would find the stores deserted, especially since The Season was over.  But music moguls, professional athletes, and vacationing South Americans apparently have more than enough cash to keep not only the doors open, but an expansion is being planned.  And news is that Louis Vuitton, if unable to enlarge its boutique, will have to relocate to the Aventura Mall.
A view of the second floor common area of The Shops of Bal Harbour in Bar Harbour, Florida.
Photo:  John J Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog
This reminded me of my first John Tackett Design project after leaving Parish-Hadley to set up my own firm.  The job was to make improvements to a large Georgian Revival townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side, two Renaissance Revival brownstones that had been reconfigured in an extensive 1920s renovation.  The scope of my work included the additional excavation of the cellar with waterproofing and climate control to create a special Louis Vuitton storeroom for the extensive collection of the Lady of the House.  (More about this project will appear in a future post).

A vintage view of the Maison E Goyard workroom.
Photo:  Goyard
I began to think how well known the Louis Vuitton brand had become, but that relatively few were familiar with Maison E. Goyard, another luxury brand of luggage makers that now also makes handbags.  Goyard was a very popular brand among the rich in the early part of the 20th century, with clients such as the Emperor of Russian, John Rockefeller, and the Duchess of Windsor.  In 1845, Francois Goyard started working with Morel in Paris, the trunk-maker who provided the Duchesse de Berry with her luggage, and Goyard became the successor of that company in 1853.  Ever since, each Goyard piece is still completely handmade and custom, unique pieces are still standard.

Malle a Chapeau.
Photo:  Goyard
Bags and accessories can take 3 or 4 months to be constructed, and trunks, 6 to 12 months.  The French-made products are available at 15 points of purchase worldwide, with the only U.S. boutique in San Francisco.

Malle Pullman.
Photo:  Goyard
Although luxury foreign cars such as Rolls Royces, Maseratis and Bugattis are plentiful in Miami, The Devoted Classicist was especially attracted to a Bentley Continental GTC convertible that utilized custom options for both the dark blue metallic exterior and the cream with brown piping leather interior.  Goyard can produce a trunk with matching chevron-painted canvas to perfectly fit the car's "boot".  But for now, the old black canvas and leather MoMA tote bags and a few vintage Il Bisonte pieces will do just fine, thrown in the back of my current wheels.

A Side Note:
The new book by my friend Anne Sebba, That Woman:  The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor will be published in August.  Although neither beautiful nor brillant, the Duchess became a style icon and a symbol of empowerment, albeit an often reviled one.  My questions to the author have revolved around the contention that this was the romance of the century, but much more is addressed in this upcoming new book.  That Woman is the result of in-depth research of new archives and material not previously available.  Keep a look-out for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cragwood Furnishings

As promised in the previous post of The Devoted Classicist, this will show some of the furnishings from the notable house, Cragwood, as it appeared when it was the residence of Mrs. Charles (Jane) Engelhard, Jr.,  The interiors were decorated by Parish-Hadley, my former employer, and only a few limited photos were ever published, to my knowledge. 
Many wonderful projects from Parish-Hadley will, unfortunately, never be seen by the general public because of privacy issues.  (This is also an issue with my own John Tackett Design projects).  The source of all these images and their descriptions are from the auction catalogue, code CRAGWOOD-1596, that took place a year after Jane Engelhard's death, but 15 years after she had sold the house.  Although the views of the interior are not of great quality, they do show an accurate record of how the house actually looked, and not propped or rearranged just for a photo shoot.  Dollar amounts are not usually a feature of this blog, but since these are in the public domain, the realized auction prices, including the buyer's premium, are included for educational purposes.  Many standard, traditional decorative arts terms are illustrated, so it is hoped this will be a useful reference as well.
Sister Parish contended that a proper Living Room had at least three seating groups, and the Big Room, as it was called at Cragwood, illustrates that point.  Decorating styles can sometime be hard to catagorize;  while this room's contents were all carefully considered, I hestitate but call it an Undecorated Style.  More edited and curated than the Eclectic Style popular today, there is no mistaking that the resulting intent was to show a home whose owners were secure in a position of wealth and good taste.

One end of the room is anchored by a very rare Kesi trompe l'oeil twelve-panel screen from the Qianlong period (1736-1795).  $408,000.
An Austro-Hungarian stool,, with white painted and parcel gilt decoration was almost certainly part of a salon suite made for the Erdody Palace, Budapest, and may have originally had a fan-shaped padded back.  Circa 1800.  $21,600.
A pair of French ormolu-mounted Chinese powder-blue porcelain baluster vases were installed as overdoor decoration.  The Kangxi (1662-1722) porcelain was cut down to accommodate the mounts, probably 19th century. $12,000.
An Italian Empire giltwood center table with porphyry top, circa 1803-06, was almost certainly ordered by Cardinal Joseph Fesch, uncle of Napoleon I, for his residence in Rome, Palais del Buffalo-Ferraioli.  The 45 inch diameter top is particularly impressive.  $168,000.
A pair of Buddhistic lions, a male and a female, glazed in green, amber, and cream are from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).  $2,280.
A Louis XVI ormolu-mounted tulipwood, amaranth and mahogany tric-trac table is stamped "J. POTARANGE JME", late 18th century.  Tric-trac is a game that uses the same equipment as backgammon; the top lifts off to reveal the playing surface.  $14,400.
A pair of Louis XVI voyeuses, from the late 18th century, were originally intended to be sat on backwards.  (This form should not be confused with a prie dieu).  $18,000.
The Venetian etched glass mirror, 20th century, hung over the fireplace.  $46,000.
A Louis XVI ormolu and white marble lyre mantel clock has the signature "Bourdier a Paris" on the dial.  Circa 1790.  $31,200.
A pair of porcelain Hochst models of parrots, circa 1752, on later German ormolu bases in the Louis XV style were thought to be from a Sotheby's London auction in 1965.  $156,000.
A pair of Anglo-Irish cut-glass two-light candelabra, late 19th century, were placed on the mantel with black candles, another Sister Parish trademark.  $1,200.
A pair of late Louis XV ormolu chenets are stamped "FF" and "FEUCHETE".  Circa 1765-1770.  $33,600.
A Chinese style gilt and black lacquer low table, 20th century.  $4,200.
A Bristol tankard, circa 1770, is 5 5/8" high.  $2,280.

A wonderful lacquer cabinet visually balances the Kesi screen at the other end of the room.

A Regence bois satine and Chinese and European lacquer armoire, signed and dated Louis Guidnard, 1723.  The Chinese lacquer panels are 18th century, probably cut from a screen.  $180,000.

A pair of English giltwood and faux marble brackets are from Stair & Company, New York, probably 20th century.  $3,340.

A pair of Meissen models of Jays (Eichelhaher), circa 1740, were modelled by J.J. Kandler.  $22,800.

A pair of George III white-painted and parcel-gilt armchairs, circa 1780, bear a Norman Adams, London, label.  $45,600.

A near set of six Louis XVI giltwood  fauteuils from the late 18th century had been regilded.

The giltwood and gilt composition lectern from Central Europe is 49 inches tall and dates from the first half of the 19th century with the rockwork platform later. 

I could be mistaken, but I am thinking that this is a slightly earlier view of the Big Room.  There are only a few adjustments and relocations.

A Chinese export porcelain "Canton Famille Rose" part dinner service, 19th century, is decorated in the "Thousand Butterfly" pattern.  $22,800.
A pair of ormolu-mounted Meissen porcelain potpourri pierced baluster-form vases, circa 1750, have German and French flower decorations, 18th/19th century.  The associated tole inserts and the mounts are probably 18th century.  $36,000.
A pair of part-silvered brackets are in the form of a scroll issuing acanthus.  $2,400.
A set of four George III giltwood armchairsare in the manner of Gillow, circa 1775.  $20,400.
A Regency giltwood center table, second quarter of the 19th century, has an associated French top.  $25,250.
A Louis XV ormolu cartel clock, mid-18th century, has the movement and dial signed Olin a Paris.  $19,200.
A pair of Louis XVI ormolu and porphyry busts of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI date from the late 18th century.  $14,400.
This sale on Friday, March 18, 2005, totalled $4,409,160 including the buyer's premiums.  As mentioned in the previous post, items from Mrs. Engelhard's estate was also included in the April 12, 2005, auction "Magnificent Jewels", the March 17, 2005, auction "Old Master Drawings", the March 30, 2005, auction of "Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art", and the June 14, 2005, auction of "Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts", all Christie's New York.

The ring with a 34.15 carat rectangular-cut diamond, flanked by marquise-cut and circular cut diamonds in a platinum setting was designed by Van Cleef and Arpels.  $1,080,000.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Notable Homes: Cragwood

This view of Cragwood, painted by noted artist Felix Kelly, 1917-1994, was not included in the auction.
Many readers of The Devoted Classicist are familiar with this country's finest works of residential architecture, some that have become museums that have been beautifully showcased in countless books.  There are a number of others that are notable homes, perhaps not based strictly on the architecture alone, however, but rather a whole combination of factors that also considers the owners, the contents and how they are presented, and that most elusive of qualities:  how the house is run.  Cragwood, a 1920s Georgian Revival mansion on 172 acres in Far Hills, New Jersey, near the Bernardsville border, is one of these notable homes.
Mrs Charles (Jane)  Engelhard in a 1949 photo by Horst.
For many years, Cragwood's chatelaine was Mrs. Charles (Jane) Engelhard, Jr.  Born Marie Annette Reiss in Qingdao, China, in 1917, she was the daughter of Hugo Reiss, a German-born diplomat who served as Brazil's consul in Shanghai, and Ignatia Mary Murphy, a native of San Francisco, California.  After her mother's second marriage, Jane and her two sisters lived in Paris, and was graduated from the Convent des Oiseaux, a fashionable school in Neuilly.  In 1939, Jane married forty nine year old Fritz Mannheimer, the director of Mendelssohn & Company in Amsterdam, a branch of the fabled private bank headquarterd in Berlin.  Eight weeks after the wedding, Mannheimer died, reportedly of a heart attack.  The Amsterdam branch was declared insolvent the next day and Mannheimer's noted art collection was confiscated with the entire firm liquidated by the Nazi German government soon after.  The couple's only child, Anne France Mannheimer, now known as Annette de la Renta, was born after Mannheimer's death.  (See the January 20, 2011, post for a view of Annette and Oscar de la Renta's master suite in Kent, Connecticut).
Mr & Mrs Charles Engelhard in the Library of their home, Cragwood.
Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., 1917-1971, served in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II and married Jane in 1947, adopting her daughter.  Together, they had four more daughters.  After his father's death in 1950, he inherited the metals processing business his father had founded and expanded it into an international mining and metals conglomerate, developing it into one of the world's leading refiners of precious metals with substantial expansion of operations in Europe, South America, and Africa.  A friend of Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, Mr. Engelhard was reportedly delighted to be the inspiration for the title character in the novel Goldfinger and the 1964 film of the same name.  In the days when it was not possible to import gold bullion to the U.S., Auric Goldfinger had it cast into the form of a vintage Rolls Royce and shipped into this country so it could be melted back into gold bars.  According to society legend, Englehard had his gold roughly cast into inexpensive looking costume jewelry and shipped it to the U.S., and melted it back into gold bars, therefore avoiding the import restrictions.
The Hochst model of a horse, circa 1755,  8 3/4" wide and 6 1/8" high, brought $132,000 at auction.  More furnishings from Cragwood will be featured in a future post as Cragwood,  Part II.
The Englehards were a major force in Thoroughbred horse racing with stables in England, South Aftrica, and Aiken, South Carolina.  There were many successful horses, but the most famous was Nijinsky.  The horse was an English Triple Crown winner that was voted Britain's Horse of the Millennium in a 2000 Sun newspaper poll and immortalized in the 1970 film A Horse Named Nijinsky.
While there was no identification for this photo, it may have been taken on the occasion of the second Inaugeration of Lyndon B. Johnson on January 20, 1965.
The Englehards were major contributors to the United States Democratic Party, especially for the Kennedy and Johnson campaigns in the 1960s.  Charles Englehard's own political aspirations were cut short in 1955, when he was defeated in a race to represent Somerset County in the New Jersey State Senate by the Republican incumbant, Malcolm S. Forbes, the magazine publisher.  The outcome was close -- only 370 votes, 19,981 to 19,611. 

The Englehards supported numerous humanitarian and benevolent causes, not only in the United States, but in the United Kingdom and South Africa as well.  Jane was notably a supporter of the White House restoration and a Board Member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which benefited from the gift of the Engelhard Court at the entrance to the American Wing.  The Charles Englehard Foundation, headed by Jane after his death and then by their daughters, still provides funding to a wide range of causes, from education and medical research to cultural institutions and wildlife conservation organizations.

When Mrs. Engelhard moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1990, Cragwood was sold to Lyndall and John E. Bailye, the chief executive of Endrite International, a pharmaceutical sales analysis and marketing company.  Parish-Hadley alumni Bunny Williams designed the interiors and Madison Cox further developed the gardens for the new owners.
Jane Reiss Engelhard died of pneumonia at her Nantucket home in 2004.  Property from her estate was sold at auction at Christie's New York, March 18, 2005, with images from the catalog shown here.  Four additional auctions, "Magnificent Jewels", "Old Master Drawings", "Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art", and "Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts" during March, April, and June, 2005, passed her belongings on to other appreciative collectors.  Photos of the interior and selections from the furnishings will be presented in a post by The Devoted Classicist in the near future.