Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bubbles Rothermere

Pamela Harmsworth, Viscountess Rothermere,
in the library of her New York City apartment.
Photo by Fred R Conrad for the NY TIMES.
Despite what your mother may have told you, it sometimes makes more sense to start with dessert first.  As a prequel of sorts to a series of upcoming posts of The Devoted Classicist, this will not be in chronological order, but with the subject that first comes to mind.  Those who followed International Society in the 1980s will conjure up this image at the mention of the Rothermere title, the larger-than-life wife of the 3rd Viscount, media billionaire Vere Harmsworth, universally known by her nickname "Bubbles."

The actress Beverly Brooks,
later to become Viscountess Rothermere.
Kobal Collection mage via New York Times.
Patricia Evelyn Beverly Matthews quit secretarial school and was working as a model when she met and married Christopher Brooks, a wealthy, handsome Coldstream Guards captain in 1951 (with some sources saying 1953).  They had a daughter in 1956 but, as actress Beverly Brooks, she appeared in five films released in 1955 and 1956. She gave up the acting career in 1957, getting a divorce and marrying Brooks' friend since school days at Eton.

Pamela Harmsworth
photograph by Baron, 1962.
Image: National Portrait Gallery
via Fashion's Most Wanted.
In the T Magazine series by Christopher Petkanas, "Fabulous Dead People." the writer contends that the captain suggested to his wife, on learning of interest from Harmsworth, that an affair would be more suitable than marriage due to the class difference.  "Talk about bitchy and cutthroat" she was quoted to say years later.
Bubbles Rothermere.
Uncredited photo via Google Images.
After having two daughters with Harmsworth, Bubbles pulled through a potential family catastrophe by producing a son in 1967, providing an heir to both the title and fortune.  A separation eventually followed in 1978, however, but the couple stayed on good terms.  It was reported that Bubbles received an annual stipend of seven figures, so lack of funds was not an issue.

Eaton Square, London.
Photo via Fashion's Most Wanted.
Bubbles Rothermere maintained a London apartment that spanned two townhouses on Eaton Square, a country retreat, Stroods House in Sussex, a house in Round Hill, Jamaica, a house in Beverly Hills, a seaside villa in the south of France, and a penthouse at 960 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Bubbles Rothermere's NYC apartment
as it appeared in House Beautiful.
Image via a private collection of clippings.
Charles Jennings, working as a tutor for her daughters, wrote about his experiences in PEOPLE LIKE US: A SEASON AMONG THE UPPER CLASSES (with used copies starting at just $.01 from The Devoted Classicist Library).  Also, there is some insight on the Viscountess Rothermere in AN UNLIKELY HERO: VERE ROTHERMERE AND HOW THE DAILY MAIL WAS SAVED by S.J. Taylor, a book commissioned by Lord Rothermere and published in 2002 after his death.

The Library of Bubble Rothermere's
NYC apartment as it appeared in House Beautiful.
Image via a private collection of clippings.
As a slight detour in the story, the penthouse at 960 Fifth Avenue, has recently come on the market for $65 million.  Last occupied by Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Bubbles Rothermere's name is associated with the apartment in the recent articles as being the former owner.  The photos do not clearly correspond with the real estate listing or floor plan, however, so these previous two images might be another apartment.

The floor plan of the penthouse,
960 Fifth Avenue.
Image via The Realestalker blog.
The Viscountess Rothermere reportedly traveled with 2,000 pills in 75 bottles.  Her fatal heart attack at age 63 in August, 1992, in the villa on the French Riviera that was formerly owned by Greta Garbo was ruled "death by misadventure," accidental drug overdose. 

Villa Roc at Cap D'Ail,
Bubbles Rothermere's home in France.
Image via Fashion's Most Wanted blog.
Not long afterwards, Viscount Rothermere married his long-time mistress, always referred to in the press as a former Korean hand model, Maiko Jeong Shun Lee.
Bubbles Rothermere photographed by Helmut Newton
in her Eaton Square apartment, 1985.
Image via Fashion's Most Wanted blog.
The several upcoming posts of The Devoted Classicist will feature Daylesford, the sumptuous home of Bubbles Rothermere's father-in-law.  Those reading an abbreviated version of this blog can leave comments, search previous posts, and sign up to follow The Devoted Classicist at the regular web site here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pavillon Frais Restoration

The garden of Le Pavillon Frais
near the Petit Trianon.
Photo: Versailles.
J'adore le treillage!  Yes, Bunny Williams' and John Rosselli's shop of course, but I am referring to the French term for architectural trellis-work, treillage.

Pavillon Frais with partial mock-ups
of the flanking arcades.
Photo: Versailles.
There is a small garden structure near the Petit Trianon at Versailles that is sometimes referred to as the Pavillon du Treillage because it was covered with trellis-work.  But the official website of the chateau refers to it as Pavillon Frais, so that name will be used here.  Both the building and the surrounding garden have recently undergone a very interesting restoration.

Drawing of Pavillon Frais dated December, 1751.
Image: Archives Nationales.
At the encouragement of Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV settled at the Grand Trianon in 1749, away from the rigid court formality of the palace, and away from the courtiers who disapproved of her being the favorite of the king.  (Previously, the mistress of the king was of high noble birth, but Jeanne Antoinette Poisson who was given the title of Marquise by the king came from a non-aristocratic background, though she was particularly well-educated).  The royal architect Angel-Jacques Gabriel designed additional Trianon gardens and, in 1750, was asked to design a pavilion in the middle of a garden laid out in geometric beds, contrasting with the trend in English gardens for a more natural landscape.  Both the pavilion and the garden began to be known as "French" because of this new style.  A menagerie was added nearby, not for exotic animals, but for cows, chickens, and similar animals.  In 1751, another small pavilion designed by Gabriel was added consisting of a small dining room where the fresh products of the diary and vegetable gardens could be served;  this was known as the Pavillon Frais.

In this site plan, the Pavillon Frais is in the lower left corner
above the wording "Avenue".
The French pavilion is the shaped building above it.
Image: American Friends of Versailles.
The garden in front of the pavilion was surrounded by trellis-work creating a courtyard.  An arcade of trellis covered iron supports against a dense hedge flanked the pavilion, installed in July, 1752, at the same time as the trellis design covering the pavilion.

In this site plan detail, the Pavillon Frais
can be made out, backing up to the tree-lined avenue,
with the courtyard garden in front, above.
Image: Versailles.
The entrance to the garden consisted of lattice piers built around the trunks of lime trees pruned into the shape of spheres.  The main piers were like the pilasters of the pavilion and mounted with large wooden trellis urns.  Fifty-four smaller urns adorned the keystones of the archways of the arcades, each with an orange tree.  In 1756, statues of "Illness" and "Health" from the Antiques Room of the Louvre were placed on marble plinths at each end of the arcades.

This 1751 plan of Pavillon Frais by Gabriel has a reversed orientation
from the two previous garden plans,
with the northern direction towards the bottom.
Image:  Wikimedia.
The one room interior was primarily used for dining on pleasant spring and summer days, although there was a fireplace with a Languedoc marble chimneypiece.  The walls were painted boiserie decorated with carved floral garlands and inset sheets of mirrored glass.  The floor was a black & while marble checkerboard covered with a large Savonnerie carpet, commissioned in 1754 but not completed until 1760.  The furniture included two canapés and two fauteuils upholstered in green & white toile de perse, a chic but casual cotton fabric with a printed Persian floral design.  A later inventory also included sixteen assorted side chairs.

The interior of Pavillon Frais
as it appeared in 2013,
with representations of the boiserie.
Image: Wikimedia.
The pavilion was essentially destroyed in 1810, with only the foundation remaining, and the lattice courtyard enclosure was pulled down the next year.  Some restoration was begun in 1980, enabling the stone structure to be reconstructed, but more progress was realized when a support group, The American Friends of Versailles, took the project on.

The restored garden elevation of Pavillon Frais
by the office of the Chief Architect of Historic Monuments,
Pierre-Andre Lablaude.
Image:  the Facebook page of
The American Friends of Versailles.
Test pits and archaeological excavations found the original locations of the basins as well as fragments of their remains.

'Before' and 'After' views of Pavillon Frais
showing the restoration efforts of
The American Friends of Versailles.
Images: Facebook.
The fragments of the bottom of the basins revealed a mosaic design in marble that were reproduced in the restoration.

One of the pair of restored basins
in the garden of Pavillon Frais.
Image: Facebook.
The flanking arcades and courtyard enclosure have not been recreated, but a representation of how that would look is given with two flat theatrical mock-ups flanking the pavilion.

The back of the arcade mock-up
at the Pavillon Frais.
Image: Facebook.
The treillage on the building has been wonderfully restored, however, by the French company which specializes in such work, Tricotel.

The restored entrance doors of
Le Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.

The original layout of treillage
was created for Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.
With the success of the work so far, perhaps the recreation of the interior and the arcades will follow.  The American Friends of Versailles has also sponsored the restoration of the Trois Fontaines Bosquet and is dedicated to preserving interest in Versailles through seminars and educational exchanges as well as specific restoration projects at the palace and its gardens.

Le Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.
Those more interested in plant material than garden structures will enjoy Elisabeth de Feudeau's book published in September, 2013, FROM MARIE ANTOINETTE'S GARDEN: AN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY HORTICULTURAL ALBUM.  Based on archival documents, the book uses eighteenth-century illustrations to present the plants, flowers and trees loved for their beauty, scent, and herbal qualities.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bouillotte: Game, Table, and Lamp

La Bouillotte
after Bosio.
Via "Tweedland" The Gentleman's Club
The Devoted Classicist finds it interesting that some home furnishings were historically made for one particular purpose.  Such is the case of the French game, bouillotte ("BOO yot"), inspiring both a table and a lamp.  Although neither the specific table nor the particular lamp type are required to play the game, both were developed to meet the needs of the card game.

Le Supreme Bon Ton No. 4
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
The gambling card game, bouillotte, dates from late 18th-century France, based on the game Brelan.  It was very popular in 19th-century France, and in the United States from about 1830.  Bouillotte is said to be one of the games that led to the development of poker.  As in poker, chips are used as wagers or payments during the game.

La Bouillotte
A hand-colored satirical etching on the
Congress of Vienna with five monarchs
playing cards for the countries of Europe
while Napoleon interrupts their game. 1815.
Image: British Museum.
The game was so popular that special tables of the same name were introduced just for that purpose.  These tables were usually round in form with a diameter of about 27 to 30 inches, having a pierced brass gallery encircling the top, often marble.

An Italian bouillotte table of inlaid walnut
and Ritsona Red marble with
a brass gallery and feet.  Circa 1780.
30" high by 27" diameter, currently available at
Florian Papp via 1st Dibs.
The gallery held a second loose top that would have a leather or felt inlaid playing surface that might be reversible to show a decorative inlaid wood design.  Over the years, these second tops might have been damaged or lost, or might have been used for the replacement for the damaged marble top.  In any case, the antique tables are attractive whether they have the second top or not and very much in demand today, along with good reproductions still being made. 

Two views of a bouillotte table
signed by Jean-Jacques Pafrat,
and made in Paris in 1785.
The view on the left shows the
removable top with a leather playing surface.
The view on the right, revealing the marble top,
shows the pull-out surfaces for lighting and a
drawer for the cards and game chips.
Image: artfinding
The game also inspired a special lamp of the same name.  During the first period of use, these lamps were referred to as flambeau couvert (a large candlestick lamp), flambeau bureau (desk lamp or candlestick), or flambeaux des jeu (lamps for gaming tables). A candelabra form rises from a dish that held the game chips and comes equipped with a single shade, usually painted metal (tole peinte), that can be lowered on a central stanchion to shield the eyes from glare as the candles burn down.  Although many variations of the form are often called bouillotte lamps today, The Devoted Classicist reserves the term for only those with both the dish and the adjustable shade.  
A bouillotte lamp in gilt bronze
made in Paris circa 1810.
Currently available at the Stockholm
antiques dealer Polstjernan via 1st Dibs.

A bouillotte lamp with the base inscribed
"Flaton & Priemer, Berlin"
currently available from Harbor View Center
For Antiques via 1st Dibs.
There were uses for the lamp other than just for the game, of course.  Today, it is still a favorite desk lamp for stylish traditional interiors.
"Man Reading By Candlelight"
by the Danish artist Georg-Friedrich Kersting, 1814.
Image via private collection.
Note the uses of clear glass collars
(bobeches) to catch the wax candle
drippings of this bouillotte lamp
in this unidentified image from
"Tweedland" The Gentlemen's Club.
In today's interiors, all sorts of variations of bouillotte tables and bouillotte lamps are used in a variety of ways, especially flanking a sofa.  But it is always helpful to be mindful of the original use.

The Blue Room of the White House
as it appeared circa 2005,
showing a 1902 McKim sofa flanked by
a pair of bouillotte lamps and two bouillotte tables
 in a photo by jrazz12 via The White House Museum.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

George Stacey

The Dining Room of the Palm Beach Home
of Dr. & Mrs. Leon Levy.
Image via
George Stacey's interiors for Dr. & Mrs. Leon Levy,
Entrance Hall looking into Dining Room,
1409 South Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, Florida.
John Volk, architect..
Image:  Library of Congress.
There is a wonderful new book just published, GEORGE STACEY AND THE CREATION OF AMERICAN CHIC, that will be a 'Must Have' for all interested in influential twentieth century interior design.  Maureen Footer, the author who is also an interior designer, and Mario Buatta, the living legend who wrote the Forward, both relate how George Stacey helped them formulate their own design aesthetic.  And the last chapter shows examples of work by today's well-known designers and how they are influenced as well.  Students of interior design might be familiar with George Stacey's philosophy from his writings;  articles from 1941 and 1942 issues of Vogue are reprinted in an Appendix as is the text from his chapter in the immensely popular 1964 book, THE FINEST ROOMS BY AMERICA'S GREATEST DECORATORS.
Maureen Footer.
Photo by Zev Starr-Tambor.
Used by permission of Rizzoli.
Most of the book, however, is devoted to showing and discussing the work of the talented Mr. Stacey.  Great praise is due Maureen Footer for her research, providing extensive and informative End Notes (far too uncommon these days) and a wealth of interesting photographs.  One theme that is repeated several times was the exceptional interiors Stacey created for particularly stylish female clients.  The homes of film star Ava Gardner, Brenda Frazier (Debutante of the Century), Mrs. Anthony Drexel Duke, Blanche Levy (Bill Paley's sister), Lil Isles, Marie Harriman, Betsey Whitney, and Minnie Astor all benefitted from the stylishly edited interiors by George Stacey.  In addition, the book goes into detail to present the homes, usually plural, of several clients who were confident enough to receive the full benefit of Stacey's talent.

Diana Vreeland
in the entrance hall of her apartment
at 400 Park Avenue.
published by Rizzoli, April, 2014.
The apartment that Stacey decorated for Diana ("dee AHN a") Vreeland and her family at 400 Park Avenue was used as the set for fashion photo shoots for Harper's Bazaar in the late 1930s.  Light colored walls, ebonized floors, lacquered doors and accents such as blackamoors and Regency convex mirrors promoted the edict of the times:  high style, high contrast, and perfect scale.  (Some readers might remember Vreeland's next apartment, at 550 Park Avenue, where Stacey's fabric-festooned mirror and other furnishings were re-purposed by Billy Baldwin).  The Devoted Classicist's favorite Vreeland room, however, was the living room of their country house in Brewster, New York.  The wood paneled walls and trim of the double-height room were painted a bold cyclamen pink, unusual for interiors at the time but identified with the fashions of Schiaparelli.  A sheet of mirror with a narrow frame was affixed to the wall above the 19th-century carved white marble Italianate chimneypiece with a polar bear skin rug laid on the Besarabian  carpet.  Large white lampshades punctuated the space anchored by a large sofa in a floral slipcover.  A basket of firewood, lots of accent cushions, books, magazines, plants, a butler's tray fully stocked with liquor, and even a white furry dog all added up to create the kind of room still cherished today.  (This photo of the room was not supplied from the publisher, but is a very similar image from the Louise Dahl-Wolfe Archive).

The Vreelands in the big room of their house in
Brewster, New York.  Image from the
Center for Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
Around the same time, Stacey began to be involved in the decoration of a series of residences for Mr. and Mrs. Ward Cheney.  Unlike the Vreelands, the Cheneys seemed to have an endless supply of money.  And Frances Cheney had the confidence to trust Stacey's judgment, with their new Fifth Avenue duplex apartment becoming one of the most glamorous residences of its time.  Dramatically presented art and antiques combined with comfortable upholstery, the Cheney apartment was also used as the location for Harper's Bazaar fashion shoots, a design story for Town & Country, and a lifestyle feature for Vogue

The Cheney Master Bedroom in New York City
photographed by Louise Dahl-Wolfe
via Veranda magazine.
The master bedroom was dominated by the bed.  No frame or fabric was exposed, only gigantic bullion fringe which created a half tester canopy with valance, backdrop, and pulled-back side panels as well as a bed skirt, all of the twisted/braided trim made to the length required.  A Venetian style chandelier was suspended by a sheath of silk from the ceiling covered in squares of mirror held by mirrored discs.  Textural contrast was provided by an impossibly shaggy, room-sized rug of string.  Papier-mache chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl provided shots of black accents and contributed to the exotic effect.  Tailored curtains framed the windows with the urban views softened by lace under-curtain panels.  The apartment's decoration was a grand expression of high-rise luxury before World War II.

Babe Paley and George Stacey
shopping for antiques in Paris.
published by Rizzoli, 2014.
Stacey decorated for Mrs. Stanley "Babe" Mortimer as he did for others who searched out style with a budget in mind.  But when she became Mrs. William Paley, wife of the head of the CBS Television empire, that all changed in regard to costs.  The expanded colonial house at Kiluna Farm on Long Island was re-imagined as a Belle Epoque country villa by Stacey for Babe Paley, a Francophile.  Her bedroom was furnished almost entirely in French furniture.

Babe Paley in her bedroom at Kiluna Farm.
Photo via
 A one-time Vogue model, Mrs. Paley is shown on an extravagantly large, tufted sofa, like those Stacey used for Babe's sister Betsey Whitney at Greentree, the adjacent estate.  (Jock Whitney was tall and the sofa model became an often-used feature of Parish-Hadley's rooms for tall clients as it was so luxuriously comfortable).  A floral carpet provided the foundation for a black lacquer Louis XV desk, an assortment of caned and painted Louis XV chairs, blackamoors, black papier-mache tables, and crenelated tab curtain valances reminiscent of continental pavilions.  (A special pair of boudoir chairs from this room will be featured in a future post of their own).  Paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Rousseau, and Cezanne added to the very personal effect of the private retreat of the lady of the house.

Her Serene Highness Princess Grace
in the family room of the palace.
published by Rizzoli, 2014.
In addition to the masterpiece decoration for a new house by architect John Volk for Blanche Levy, Stacey decorated the Levys' house in Philadelphia, neighboring the family home of Grace Kelly.  Kelly admired the décor, and when she became successful in film, she rented an extravagant apartment at 998 Fifth Avenue, Stacey was hired to design the interiors.  Soon afterwards, she became the Princess of Monaco and Stacey was brought in as successor to Emilio Terry at the Palais Princier in Monaco in 1956.  Stacey updated the décor of many of the grand state rooms of the palace as well as the private quarters, the yacht and the apartment on Avenue Foch in Paris.  But the room I wanted to show to illustrate the development of his style (on page 183) was part of a palace renovation in the 1970s to accommodate the family with growing children.  The family room was a two-story space in the palace that opened on to a balcony overlooking a garden with views to the harbor below.  With some large-scaled furnishings matching the huge room, a central borne was given a contemporary appearance with new upholstery, contrasting with a large Coromandel screen, a very long rustic table, a slat park bench and chairs, and a multitude of assorted potted plants scattered across a bare marble floor, adding points of color and texture to an otherwise neutral scheme.

by Maureen Footer with Foreword by Mario Buatta.
Published by Rizzoli, April 1, 2014.
There's much more to the book, of course, and Ms. Footer has done an admirable job of bringing it all together.  It is a well-crafted presentation of George Stacey, the man who brought a stylish, contemporary twist on traditional decoration, a talent just as desirable today as it was eighty five years ago.

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