Thursday, October 16, 2014

House trained

This grizzly image has been jammed in the back of a file for some time. 
It's surreal and it fits into my old anthropomorphic (animal-pomorphic?) and curio themes. 
It's a stunning piece of Americana 
that made me think of  Jean Baudrillard's book, Le système des objets
 where  he calls objects the perfect pets!

 L’objet est l’animal domestique parfait. 
C’est le seul " être " dont les qualités exaltent ma personne au lieu de la restreindre. 
Au pluriel, les objets sont les seuls existants dont la coexistence est vraiment possible, puisque leurs différences ne les dressent pas les uns contre les autres, comme c’est le cas pour les êtres vivants, mais convergent docilement vers moi et s’additionnent sans difficulté dans la conscience.

The object is the perfect pet. 
It  is the only "being" whose qualities glorify my person instead of restricting it. 
In the plural, objects are the only entities with whom co- existence is fully possible, since the differences between them do not pit them against one another, as is the case for living beings; 
instead submissively, they come together with me and are amassed with the greatest of ease
 in my consciousness. 

more on the chair's maker here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The tale of the three beds from the château of Effiat

This is not a tale of cottages. No, the story begins in a certain château in Auvergne.


It was a proud dwelling built between 1626-28 by the Marshal of Effiat, Antoine Coëffier de Ruzé, counselor to Louis III and close friend of Richelieu.
 His château held at three beds,
They were sold at auction in 1856, as were the rest of the furnishings that had managed to be keep intact until then.

Through my various explorations this way and that, I realized that I had seen all three of these beds and had photographed them, although my pictures aren't all of the same quality. I thought I would reunite the beds here and supplement better pictures where needed.
My story is a simple one. A document really. There are no indignant bears or sassy little girls  - unless Time itself could be said to hold the role of Goldilocks!

photo:RMN Louvre

The most famous of these beds is today in the département des arts décoratifs at the Louvre. It is the perfect example of the bed à la française or the lit en housse (covered bed) of the mid 17th century and one of the few beds to come down to us from the period with its original textiles. With its hangings of Genoa velvet down, it makes a cube and has the solemn air of a catafalque. Underneath all that exhuberant fabric, the bed posts are said to be uterly simple. The luxurious aspect of beds of this time owed entirely to their upholstery and trim. In fact if few of these marvelous beds have survived, it is because the precious textiles wore out and the plain wood was usually of no value in itself.

Abraham Brosse
This engraving by Abraham Bosse shows the cords for raising the curtains - the 17th century gradually left the expression courtines behind for rideaux.
Otherwise tie backs were used to attach the curtains to the posts.
photo Cluny via Chest of books
An early image shows the hangings parted but we don't see the headboard.

photo: jpbraud decoration
It may have been like this one, Effiat bed No. 2  at the chateau of Azay le Rideau whose hangings have been beautifully reconstitued here.

photo Marc Walter
These seem to be the original bed textiles found in Jacques Anquetil's book La Soie en Occident.

photo: Le style et la matière
To quote Bill Pallot,
"Beds were greatly prized pieces of furniture in the 17th century 
and as such described very precisely in inventories. Louis XIII had one 
covered with purple damask and adorned with large gold embroidery, Richelieu 
owned another with tapestry of white satin and gold embroidery and Mazarin 
possessed several. Beds accompanied their owners in their travels. They were 
taken apart and placed in leather trunks. Often monumental in size, they 
were set in a corner of the bedchamber. 

Abraham Brosse

The space between the bed and the 
wall was called the 'ruelle' (narrow street). This was where private 
gatherings were held as it was customary to receive company at home while 
lying in bed."

photo: Le style et la matière

photo: Le style et la matière

photo RMN

Finally, my visit to the Musée de la Renaissance at Ecouen a few weeks ago permited me to see Effiat bed No. 3. Made in the late 16th century, it is the oldest of the trio but retains some 19th century modifications.

photo: Le style et la matière
The hangings are not original and the curators plan to restore it to its 19th century state as it was presented by Sommerard at the Hotel de Cluny in what was called the
chamber of Francois I.

photo: Le style et la matière
This ornately carved bedstead
has fine detailing on the foot posts

photo: Le style et la matière
and military cariatides at the head of the bed.

image: RMN

This engraving of the Musée de Cluny depicts the brimming cabinet d'amateur atmosphere that reigned in 1840. There must have been some indecision as to how to assemble the posts. Here the cariatides have been installed at the foot of the bed rather than at its head. 
 I have seen other beds with four cariatides or atlantes, never only two as we see here. 

© Léon et Lévy / Roger-Viollet
Here, somewhat later but still at Cluny, the columns have been switched around in the way 
which is today believed to be the correct assembly of the bed.

Cluny is now specialized in art and artifacts of the middle ages, Ecouen is the place to go for the 
15-17th centuries which is why this bed is located there now.

photo: Le style et la matière.
No pomme , no panache naturally, on this 16th century bed from Effiat at Ecouen, 
but nearby in the textile department is displayed a vase-finial which looks very much like those on the later Effiat beds in the Louvre and at Azay. 
From this angle, in a case, we get a good close look at its construction 

and next to it is a charming miniature bed, once considered to be part of a doll house.
(C) RMN-Grand Palais Gérard Blot
(musée de la Renaissance, château d'Ecouen)  

It is now recognized as an upholsterer's or embroiderer's maquette. 
 This is a model of  a Duchesse bed 
which really only became popular at the end of the 17th century.
 Louis XIV himself prefered four posts.


For another article on beds and my own 17th century bed - 
look here
 It is carved with a commemorative date of 1601 and the initials I.V. and C.G.. 
The date probably refers to a wedding date.
One day I may find out just who I.V. and C.G. were...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulnes: Vertumnus and Pomona

Did you notice the image of a tapestry Vertumnus in my post on Teixidors? I found some better illustrations of this tapestry from 16th century Brussels. 
I find him a very attractive fellow, this Mr Change/Sir Seasons. Yes, I like change and all four seasons. Roman legend tells that Vertumnus changed forms seven times in order to win over lovely Pomona, goddess of  fruitful abundance. By turns harvester, labouer,

 pruner, gardener, soldier, fisherman, it was finally it was disguised as an old woman that he won Pomona's trust and convinced her to accept his love.

(I've been planning to disguise myself as Pomona this Hallowe'en and this dress inspires me.
Hallowe'en isn't a holiday in France and is really not understood,
but that won't stop me from having fun!)

These improved illustrations of the tapestry located in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez south of Madrid come from the site Flandes en Hispania, a beautiful place to view many Flemish tapestries on-line.
The description explains:

"The tapestries of Vertumnus and Pomona are, without a doubt, the greatest artistic representations of the tale as told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (Book XIV, 623-771). According to the poet, the goddess lived a reclusive life in her land, where she devoted herself exclusively to her duties: the tending of her gardens. She was distrustful of the creatures of the woods and did not let outsiders – especially male ones – into her orchards. Ovid tells how Vertumnus, the god of the seasons who fell in love with Pomona, manages to approach the goddess and seduce her using his special power, the ability to transform himself into whatever form he desires. The Habsburg tapestry collections contained at least four series of the story of Vertumnus and Pomona, woven in gold, silver, silk and wool. The series currently on display in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez is one of these, series 18 in the National Heritage catalogue."

The pruning knife is Pomona's attribute.

                                                             Mouth watering seasonal fruit

"In the tapestries, the setting of the tale is Pomona’s marvellous garden, which is notable for the way it is innovatively depicted: a sort of stage with a sense of perspective. When all the tapestries are displayed together in one room, one beside another, they form a monumental interior garden – about 40m x 5m – in which figures of hot baths and caryatids stand out, holding up the exquisite pergolae. The compositions of these tapestries reflect the interest which was sparked by gardens in Renaissance courts, and the influence of iconographic programs first used on frescoes in northern Italy. However, the spectacular and luxurious settings in which the loves of Vertumnus and Pomona are told are related to the new forms of the 'architectural” garden which appears in literature such as the Poliphilo’s Dream, written by Francesco Colonna and printed by the celebrated Aldo Manucio in Venice in 1499.' "

Friday, October 3, 2014

Carried away

photo: Le style et la matiére

Seen in Barcelona 

and re-discovered in Paris

Monday, September 29, 2014

All wrapped up with shawls, sheep and a social vocation: Teixidors

photo le figaro

Eco-pâturage/eco-grazing in Paris

I love wool. I feel I need to say, I still love wool.  Do you? 
It sometimes feels like we're a dying breed, those of us who appreciate wool - and other natural fibers for that matter. People who speak of fleece today are usually talking about polyester! Wool in most inexpensive to mid-level brands is getting rarer and rarer and when present, usually in blends, it is mostly of inferior quality taken from dead sheep, sometimes pulled off with chemicals. 
On the other hand, the pure new (virgin) wool that is produced today has never been better. Just as our hair is healthier and more attractive when we eat the the right things, the quality of wool has improved considerably with dietary changes. The nutritional needs of sheep have been studied to produce softer, finer quality wool entirely different from that of the itchy pants of yesteryear and the pill prone, low-grade blends of today. 

The animals in the picture don't give us their wool, but because I love wool, I tend to like sheep, too, so I thought I would show them anyway !
These sheep are good little alternative lawn mowers, part of the eco-grazing campaign
in Paris started in 2013.

17th century Brussels tapestry
Vertumnus, Roman god of the seasons and change
The first crisp, cool winds of  Autumn always seem to nip harder than what comes later in the season. And though, of course, it gets much colder later on, I always feel those first shivers more intensely. It's a little crazy, but once my head is used to the idea of cold, my body is more easily braced for chills and I don't notice them as much..
There are those who have trouble saying goodbye to golden summer who tend to cling desperately to light summer garb. They put away sandals and  pull on socks again only with the greatest reluctance. Not only their feet risk strangulation but socks can be the bell toll for all
those idealized summer days.
The problem is obviously worse for these people, I am not generally one of them, but I've been a little stubborn about clearing out my  lightweight wear this year feeling that my summer clothes weren't needed much and that we might just get a little more warm weather yet.
(Translate: summer was more crummy than golden.)

But even if you are ready and eager to change wardrobes for the season , there's always a day or two when you are under- or over-dressed dependant on the whims of those trickster weather gods.

My solution is layering and especially, carrying a lightweight wool shawl or scarf to greet these these first chills and temperamental temperatures. I like being able to tuck one into my bag or toss it over my shoulders and take it on and off easily throughout the day. The bother of a heavy-ish jacket is avoided and an extra gleam of color doesn't hurt. Boys and girls of all ages can benefit from this sort of teddy bear carry-along-comfort during the day.

 Ocre throw 50% mohair 50% linen
all photos to the end of post: Teixidors
These mohair and linen scarves above by Teixidors are sumptuous. I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with this Spanish brand from just outside of Barcelona earlier this month. First I was drawn to the products textures and beautiful materials - merinos, cachemire, mohair, yak - 

and then I also learned that  their scarves, throws, blankets were handwoven as part of a project of social insertion for people with learning disabilities that was started thirty years ago. These people learn satisfying skilled work using the best European fibers; the end result is something anyone would be proud of. 

Jazz blanket
100% cashmere
 These cashmere blankets have the colorful woven irregular cordings that have become 
Teixidors' trademark.

Verdon throws
100% ecological French Merinos wool

Apt throw
100% Merinos

50% yak 50% Merinos

Teixidors is part of the best wave of Now into the Future that we could all hope to build. 
 Products that are traceable. Real quality. True beauty. Active humanitarian concerns.

Shiver no more!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sage green Splendeur at Compiègne

all photos Le style et la matière/St Tyl

The Salle de Conseil at the château de Compiègne has only a few elements in it - 
but oh, 
what there is is a precious sight.

Compiègne was one of the only châteaux, along with Versailles and Fontainebleau, where the king held Council. The tapestry behind the bureau shows the Passage of the Rhine by Louis XIV.

Velvet bedecked with passementeries and a lampas carefully cut-out and applied  
to form a rolling leafy border.

all photos Le style et la matière/St Tyl

At the window,
the here uncut border of lampas with its tawny ground weave sets off the oak leaf pattern.The leaves detach themselves from the ground with finely woven effect of cast shadows.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Petite toile, belle toilette

In the Middle Ages, a small, fine cloth or toilette (towelette) was used to cover clothing as a protection from insects and dust. The various and sundry articles necessary for a woman's or a man's personal grooming and embellishment were also wrapped inside such a small cloth and tucked away  when not in use, to be laid out in the morning when it was time to dress.   

Abraham BosseLes Cinq Sens, v. 1638 : La Vue
By the 17th century the "little cloth" might be of plain or decorated linen, or it could be a luxurious silk or sometimes even a small tapestry served as a wrapper for these necesary items. Now, the cloth, its contents, as well as the process were known as la toilette.

Jean-Francois de Troy
Dame à sa toilette recevant un cavalier
"J'avais ce matin un Provençal, un Breton, un Bourguignon, à ma toilette," 

Mme Sévigné.

Little by little, in the 18th century, the piece of furniture supporting the toilette 
very naturally became known as the table de toilette.

Elle passe des heures à sa toilette!

Clothing and all manner of finery being  part of the process from the start,
a lady's dress once worn took on the same expression, la toilette.

The room cabinet de toilette and toilette(ladies'/men's room) came later
but then someone put a halt to the spreading of the word before everything was called toilette!

Avec le rare sentiment d'harmonie qui les caractériseles femmes ont compris qu'il y avait une sorte de dissonance entre la grande toilette et la figure naturelle.
Avec le rare sentiment d'harmonie qui les caractérise, les femmes ont compris qu'il y avait une sorte de dissonance entre la grande toilette et la figure naturelle.

With the rare feeling of harmony that characterizes them, women have realized that there was a kind of dissonance between the elegant toilette and the natural state.

Théophile Gautier  La Peau de tigre 

photo St Tyl

Embroidered linen  toilette from 1640 , Musée de la Renaissance at Ecouen

for another cloth that gave a name to a piece of furniture, here

and a very particular table de toilette, here