Saturday, April 28, 2012

Albert Hadley Remembered

Several blogs have paid tribute to the passing of the Dean of American Interior Design, Albert Hadley.  One, written by my friend and former Parish-Hadley employee Thomas Jayne for a NY TIMES blog includes some photos that Devoted Readers may not have seen before.  Anthony Barzilay Freund wrote a fitting tribute for 1st Dibs in which some former employees (including The Devoted Classicist), friends, and clients were quoted in praise of the legendary designer, accompanied by photos of his work.  And now VERANDA magazine has a similar tribute produced by long-time A.H. devotee Carolyn Englefied with interviews by Mimi Read in the May-June, 2012, issue.
Rendering by Albert Hadley
now in the collection of the New York School of Interior Design.
This Albert Hadley sketch of a proposed New York City Living Room is from the VERANDA article, as is the photo at the start of the post.  The sketch is a remarkably characteristic expression by Mr. Hadley, showing a ceiling perhaps a bit higher than actual, a mixture of antiques and contemporary furniture, comfortable upholstery and auxiliary pieces and an acknowledgement of architecture, in this case the large scale paving and the big but well-proportioned window.  Although the art appears to be contemporary, it could be a large traditional painting in the final realized scheme.  Of course there is decorative lighting instead of recessed downlights, in this case a two-tiered chandelier.  The indication of pattern might be the most telling, however.  It is not the intent that it be a spotted room, but rather that is just a proposal for the walls, curtains, folding screen, armless chairs, and large pair of square cushions to be all the same fabric.  The sofa is shown in a subtle stripe, but that meant a fabric different from the previous.  And the center decorative cushion in an accent fabric meant just that;  maybe it was a Alan Campbell batik just as it appears.  A study of any of Albert Hadley's later sketches reveals similar thought put into his initial designs.

The Sanctuary of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville.
Photo:  American Guild of Organists

Albert Hadley lived a long life and shared his talent for design and gracious living with scores of clients and employees whose careers he so greatly influenced.  Uncharacteristic of an individual of such stature in the the design field, he was modest and very private.  Along with relatives, friends, and other former employees, I attended his funeral a few weeks ago in Nashville.  It was as sparse and modest as he undoubtedly requested.  The Sanctuary appeared as it would on any other day;  there was no additional decoration for the funeral.  The pastor gave a brief history of Mr. Hadley's life, but there was no eulogizing.  For me, the memorial service will be the opening of the exhibit of selections from the personal archives that had been donated to the Nashville Public Library as related in my February 9, 2012, post Albert Hadley: The Zen of Seeing.  Surrounded by a sampling of personal scrapbooks and sketches, Bunny Williams addressed a gathering of appreciative Albert Hadley fans with stories of his achievements and influence, interspersed with anecdotes.  I have many personal recollections, of course, but that address by Bunny will be the tribute to the great man to remember.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Point Breeze: Joseph Bonaparte's Estate in New Jersey

Not so many outside the Mid-Atlantic region seem to be aware that Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain and the Indies (and King of Naples before that) and elder brother of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I, lived in the United States as the Comte de Survilliers.  There were large numbers of artists and craftsmen who came to this country seeking opportunities, but Mr. Bonaparte, as he was sometime called, was one of the most significant of the emigres to become a catalyst in bringing European culture to early 19th century America.
Joseph Bonaparte in a portrait by Jean-Baptiste Wicar, 1803.
Image from Wikipedia.
Abdicating the Spanish throne after the defeat of French forces to the British in the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, he returned to France.  But with an 1816 French law banishing the Bonapartes from France, Joseph Bonaparte and his party (minus his wife) sailed to New York incognito.  After a time in New York City and then Philadelphia, Joseph Bonaparte became enamored with the countryside of western New Jersey and bought an estate of 211 acres called Point Breeze in Bordentown, near the confluence of Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River for $17,000.  Reportedly financed with the sale of some of the crown jewels of Spain, Bonaparte was comfortably ensconced in a mansion with his fine and decorative arts collections, library, and entourage.  The Count was known as a generous, gracious host, entertaining guests both local citizens and friends who were some of the most distinguished men in the country. 
"View from Bordentown Hill on the Delaware" by C.B. Lawrence.
Point Breeze is visible on the horizon on the right.
Image from New Jersey Historical Society.
Bonaparte sometimes lived in Philadelphia during the winter and became close friends with Stephen Girard, General Thomas Cadwalader and Joseph Hopkinson, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  The Bonaparte estate became a cultural center and often guests were rowed up the Delaware River in a sixteen-oar barge, given to the Count by Girard.  Enlarged to 1,800 acres, the property was improved with trees planted, twelve miles of bridle paths and carriage drives added, and an arched brick causeway across a man-made lake was constructed, all at a cost believed to be over $300,000 (over four and a half million in today's dollars).
Point Breeze, The Estate of Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte at Bordentown, New Jersey"
Attributed to Charles B. Lawrence, c. 1817-1820.
Image from the Art Institute of Chicago.
A fire in 1820 caused great destruction to the mansion, but many furnishings were saved and a new house was constructed.  Some accounts say that the former stables near the road were incorporated into the new house with even more opulent rooms than before including a grand staircase, a state dining room, and a library, all decorated with paintings by Velasquez, Rubens, Canaletto, Murillo, Rembrandt and DaVinci.  In addition, there was a 'Statuary Room' containing antique bronze castings from Pompeii, a "Young Diana and Hound" by Bartolini, a figure of "Ceres" and "A Female Figure in Roman Dress" both by Bosio, and several busts of the Bonaparte family members by Conova, according to the E. M. Woodward book BONAPARTE'S PARK AND THE MURATS.
Marble statue of Ceres by Francois-Joseph Bosio, Paris, c. 1808.
Image from Boston Athenaeum.
The Woodward book includes a passage by a visitor who had the privilege of viewing the Count's summer sleeping apartment.  "It consisted of a chamber, dressing and bathing-room, with a small studio, or rather boudoir.  The curtains, canopy and furniture were of light blue satin, trimmed with silver . . . The walls were covered with oil paintings, particularly of young females, with less clothing about them than they or you would have found comfortable in our cold climate, and much less than we found agreeable when the Count, without ceremony, led us before them, and enumerated the beauties of paintings with the air of an accomplished amateur".
Portrait of Julie Clary Bonaparte by Francois Gerard, 1808.
Image from Wikipedia.
The Count went to England for a period, 1832 to 1837, to be closer to France as he was Pretender to the Throne, but returned to Point Breeze 1837 to 1839 before again journeying to England and then to Florence to be reunited with his wife who he had not seen in twenty five years.  Julie Clary Bonaparte forgave her husband's indiscretions. (He had a mistress, Annette Savage, who gave birth to a daughter in 1821 and again in 1822;  one died young and the other later married Colonel Zebulon Howell Benton.  Annette, however, was sent from America with a pay-off to not publish her memoirs).  Joseph Bonaparte died in 1844 and was finally laid to rest in Paris at Les Invalides in 1862 during the rule of his nephew Napoleon III.
Pier Table, one of a pair from Point Breeze, French, 1800-1810.
Image from Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Point Breeze was inherited by his grandson Joseph Lucien Charles Napoleon who held two spectacular auctions of the furnishings before selling the property in 1847.  The lots brought high prices according to accounts, with successful bidders proud to own a part of the classical collection that had once belonged to Joseph Bonaparte.  The sales included upholstered furniture, elaborate curtains, extraordinary gilt light fixtures and large gilt pier mirrors.  Two of the pieces documented from the sale, a pair of "very rich mahogany Side Tables, supported on Egyptian columns, with black marble top and heavy gilt ornaments, (from France.)" were purchased by the Hopkinson family and now belong to the Philadelphis Museum of Art.
Ruins of the house of Bonaparte's secretary that served as a gatehouse to Point Breeze.
Image from New York Public Library.
Point Breeze was purchased by the British consul at Philadelphia who had the house razed and replaced by an Italianate villa.  There were several other houses on the estate, one that housed daughter Zenaide and her husband Prince Charles Lucien.  (Daughter Charlotte also stayed on the estate at times, but there is no record of her having her own house).  Another housed Bonaparte's trusted secretary Maillard and served as a gatehouse.  In 1970, the property was bought by the Divine World Seminary.

Though now just a memory, and a faint one at that, Point Breeze is a notable example of what was once a dynamic center of culture and influence, exposing European tastes to New York and Philadelphia patrons who, in turn, patronized cabinetmakers such as Charles-Honore Lannuier, Joseph B. Barry, Michel Bouvier, and Anthony G. Quervelle.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Furnishings from the Paris Apartment of Suzy and Pierre Delbee

The Entrance Hall of the Delbee apartment, avenue Foch, Paris.
It is no secret that The Devoted Classicist is a big fan of Maison Jansen, the most influential decorators of the 20th century.  So it would come as no surprise that this writer would appreciate the apartment of one of the firm's directors Pierre Delbee and his wife Suzy.  As his reserved predecessor Stephane Boudin merged into retirement, the flamboyant Pierre Delbee, who had joined the firm about thirty years previous and had perhaps become a partner after World War II, led Maison Jansen to include more eclectic approaches to design, embracing modern as well as historical styles.  Delbee was a collector of antique objects and greatly appreciated luxurious materials and finishes;  these characteristics were apparent in the work of the firm as well as in Delbee's own avenue Foch apartment.

Although there were only four main rooms - a hall, a library, and two bedrooms - the apartment in a contemporary building had an almost palatial feeling because of the architectural detailing and furnishings.  The apartment had been featured in numerous blogs, such as The Peak of Chic which provides some additional photos, and the highly recommended book JANSEN by James Archer Abbott which includes a chapter devoted to this apartment.  But a closer look at some of the furnishings are presented here, taken from the catalog of the 1999 Christie's sale in Monaco;  the U.S. dollar amounts given are the hammer prices realized, not including buyer's fees, etc.

The entrance hall in the first image also sometimes functioned as the dining room.  The Jansen workshops produced transitional Louis XV/XVI style panelling painted in three shades of blue with glazed antique cream trim for the walls and the ceiling as well.  But the most memorable feature was the doors, also made in the Jansen workshops over a period of twenty months, inlaid with designs of an architectural theme of temples and follies with geometric trophies presented as a Surrealist ideal.
Set of five doors, designed by Pierre Delbee and made in the Ateliers Jansen, about 1957.
Ebony inlaid with ivory and bronze.
A pair of lacquered wooden corner cabinets, "paire d'encoignures",
with ormolu mounts and breche d'Alep marble tops.
Pair of Italian marble medallions, Lot 500, 16th century.
A pair of silvered chandeliers.
(In typical Jansen fashion, they hold candles but are wired for electricity
with tiny bulbs concealed in the bobeches).
A pair of Regence wall lights, gilt bronze and mirrored glass.

A gateleg table "Royal", 1960, of gunmetal steel, gold plating, and black Formica.
This model was originally designed for the actress Jacqueline Delubac.

The Library of the Delbee apartment.
The library, serving as the only sitting room, was lined with bookcases of Brazilian red-oil wood (Myroxylon balsamum as we learned from the chapter in JANSEN) with passage doors upholstered in olive green suede detailed with strips of gilt bronze.  Suzy Lazard Delbee (reportedly a member of the family that owned the French investment firm Lazard Freres et Cie, again according to JANSEN) had a passion for antique books that was expressed here, with a collection of globes, busts, and architectural models displayed amoung the rare volumes.  But the most outstanding furnishings of this space were the almost throne-like chairs that were constantly rearranged to transform the room.
An ormolu gueridon, mid-19th century.
A pair of Empire period fauteuils of mahogany, stamped Georges Jacob.
Probably made for the Salle de la Convention.
A fauteuil with harp and eagle motifs, early 19th century.
An Empire period bergere of mahogany featuring terminal sphinxes.
A similar chair appears in the painting "Les Licteurs rapport Brutus lses corps ses fils" by David, 1789.
Pierre Delbee's Bedroom
Pierre Delbee's bedroom was an intimate jewel box with the walls upholstered in dark green silk velvet trimmed with a specially woven decorative tape.  (A variation of this scheme was used in the White House Treaty Room during the Jansen decoration for the Kennedys).  The headboard of the bed was covered in a fragment of an antique allegorical tapestry.  The walls were decorated with an array of crucifixes, bas-reliefs, and portrait miniatures.  Here, the stand-out piece was a red lacquer secretaire a abattant signed by Francois Rubestuck dating to circa 1766.  The decorative, fragile piece was not usable, however, because of the narrowness of the room (as noted in JANSEN) but placed there as a work of art.
A Louis XV period secretaire a abattant, lacquer with ormolu mounts.
Stamped F. RUBESTUCK et JME.
A bed with a headboard covered with a tapestry fragment of peiti and gros point
and a cover of antique needlework.
A Louis XV red and cream painted chaise.
The Corridor to Suzy Delbee's Bedroom.
The corridor leading to Suzy Delbee's bedroom was lined with framed panels of sheet music, not included in the auction, that appear to cover concealed doors to storage.  The simple furnishings of the bedroom centered around a George I bureau-cabinet.

The Terrace of the Delbee apartment.
The famous Jansen 'coral' garden furniture on the terrace was not included in the sale.  The egg-shaped vase was manufactured by Sevres in 1969. 

After Pierre Delbee's death, his widow sold the furnished apartment and their country home to one of Jansen's best clients, Bartolome March-Servera.  After March's death 15 years later, the furnishings were dispursed at this 1999 auction.
All the photos in this post are from Christie's publications.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

While some might think The Devoted Classicist is comfortable only with houses adorned with Vitruvian-correct columns, this writer admires good architecture of all styles and periods. So it should come as no surprise that the exceptional prefabricated house featured on the cover of ATOMIC RANCH, MID-CENTURY INTERIORS by Michelle Gringeri-Brown with photos by Jim Brown would be so appreciated.

This house, one of eight featured in the book, was constructed in Brighton, a suburb of Rochester, New York in 1957. A recent, sensitive renovation was undertaken with the help of designer Josef Johns. On the surface, this might seem an unlikely match for a designer known for his work in the traditional style to find himself involved with a Ranch style house from the mid-century. "Yet this is no ordinary ranch house," explains Josef Johns about the Alcoa House. "The logical disposition of spaces, the contrast of gleaming surfaces with warm woods, the pleasing mixture of comfort and glamour would seem to place the house in a class by itself. And there is the fact of its being perfectly symmetrical. That's what won me over".

Architect Charles M. Goodman, 1906-1992, was engaged by Alcoa to design a prototype for domestic architecture that relied on aluminum and prefabricated elements.  It contains 7,500 pounds of aluminum;  the roof, exterior walls, doors, window grilles, interior partitions, folding closet doors, cabinetry, and decorative trim are all aluminum.  Twenty-four Alcoa Care-free Homes were built in sixteen states;  this is the only one in New York State.

The end walls are supported by wood clad in aluminum and in-filled with plate glass framed by aluminum, and each end has six sliding glass doors.  The covered garden court and private bedroom courtyards also contribute to the extension of outdoor living.  The Alcoa House reflects a survey of middle-class homemakers who were asked many questions about their preferences for the ideal home and its features.  Included were how many bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen appliances, and even the ideal height for countertops.

The Ranch style house has 1,900 square feet with an open floor plan where the Entrance Hall, Living Room, Dining Room, and Family Room all flow in a U-shape around the Kitchen.  The interior walls and cathedral ceiling are finished in wide-plank cypress.  There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Bobby demonstrates the classic comfort of a Barcelona chair in the Living Room as it appears today.
The patterned carpet fits into a recess bordered by linoleum.
The Living Room today.
Aluminum panels in the entrance framed by walnut.
The Dining Room today.
The Family Room today.  Interior designer Josef Johns reupholstered the original sofas as part of a fresh contemporary scheme that pays tribute to the concept of the house.
A view of the Family Room showing the decorative grilles.

The present owners and their designer have been particularly sensitive in undoing previous renovations and making improvements in keeping with the original design concept.  The bathrooms have been fitted with a wall-hanging toilet and lavatory as Goodman intended.  And the new kitchen appliances were carefully selected to be sympathetic.  And the house is furnished in the style of the 1950s, including the art;  many paintings by nationally prominent Rochester artist Robert Marx are particularly suited to the style of the house.
Bathroom One as improved.
Bathroom Two as improved.
Bedroom Two as it appears today.

In 2010, this house was listed in the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.  All the photos are courtesy of the designer Josef Johns of Rochester, New York, and may not be copied or used without his permission.
Homeowners Steve Plouffe and Mike Linsner with Bobby.