Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bonne Année!

The stage is set and there's no going back now.
May this charming procession light the way to celebration -
in just a few more hours the new year will find its way into every home.

Has everything been planned?

The table is set for a joyous réveillon.
The New Year is our guest of honor this evening.

However you chose to celebrate, here's to you and yours -

 Plein de bonnes choses pour l'année 2010!
Best wishes to you for 2010!
What a pleasure it has been to get to know so many interesting people this year!

photos: Plaisirs de France

seeing and believing

Ce que mes yeux ont vu/what my eyes have seen (2007) has been the best viewing surprise
I've had this holiday season. Laurent de Bartillat has imagined the suspense of a detective story concerning Watteau, one of the most mysterious painters of all times, that succeeds in being aesthetically pleasing and having a intriguing psychological edge.


It's a story of fascinating research conducted by art history student (Sylvie Testud) under a stony, if esteemed professor (Jean-Pierre Marielle), which overflows into their lives.  Their wounds and obsessions  permit identification with the art works and give it life in a way that allows new discoveries. The student's interest in a street mime (James Thiérrée) and her theories on the depiction of a mysterious woman seen always from the back will help her to reveal something as yet completely unknown.

The film director, himself schooled in art history, explains how in examining paintings,
"one takes a detail and tries to understand not only why the artist has placed it in the picture, but also what story it tells about him. And the further the research goes, the more one is drawn into the inside of the  painting. As with a police inquiry, it is a matter of working with clues, traces, correspondances,
cross-checks. We try to make details speak exactly like an investigator who tries to make objects witness in the room of a victim." (allociné)


Born in Valenciennes in 1784, Watteau's work shows the influence of the great Flemish masters, particuliarly Rubens and the Venitians. Little is known of him and he deliberately kept several ateliers throughout Paris so he could better hide away to work. His own artistic particularities result in a strange quality given through vaporous renderings, sensual palettes and scenes peopled with enigmatic figures. Painter of fêtes galantes, those fashionable outdoor gatherings, Watteau is perhaps most famous for the enchantingly melancholic Le Pèlerinage à l’île de Cythère (detail shown above). Other subjects of predilection are Pierrots (clowns) and characters from the commedia dell’arte.

Watteau died of tuberculosis at the age of 37.  He was an innovator in a period of change between Louis XIV and Louis XV, the Regency. His works were later to influence the Impressionists with their light but palpable air and were greatly admired by poets, in particular by Baudelaire and Verlaine.

Original paintings were made for the film by copy artist, Valerio Fascinani.

Sorry, no subtitles here, but you can get a sense of the atmosphere:

Sources: Le Monde, artefix, Musée du Louvre

Thursday, December 24, 2009

chanter noël

Two different moods for these Christmas songs: the first is the oldest known French chant de Noël the other from New Orleans:

Entre le bœuf et l’âne gris artist unknown
complete with skips and pictures I wouldn't have wished, but very pretty. Just close your eyes to listen.

'Zat you Santa Claus    Ingrid Lucia

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joyeux Noel

This endearing dimpled figure, smiling his welcome and simply holding a globe in his pudgy little hand as if he were offering a special ornament for the Christmas tree, was sculpted in Mechlin and polychromed in Brussels around 1500. Mechlin, Brussels and Antwerp were among the major centres of art in the former Southern Netherlands, and were particularly known for their production of finely carved wood statuettes, which flourished at the end of the Middle Ages.

 The Infant Jesus statuettes were designed to be seen from all sides and were generally intended for the devotional practices of nuns, who could look after the statuettes as they would an actual child, with maternal care, dressing them, putting them to bed, talking to them and embracing them.
The style of this Infant Jesus is so typical that its Mechlin origin is instantly recognizable. It is one of the rare statuettes of its kind that still survives while several hundred Virgin Mary, Virgin with Child, and male and female saint statuettes produced by the Mechlin workshops still exist, only a dozen Infant Jesus statuettes sculpted around the year 1500 remain today.

The Louvre was the very first French museum to acquire this Infant Jesus statuette in September 2009. The museum will soon undertake the reastauration of this major work which exemplifies the devotional practices of the Middle Ages in Europe. (Donations are accepted on the museum site.)

to ALL

Friday, December 18, 2009


brooch Dali d'or embraced by a serpent

After Dada, comes Surrealism - but can you follow after such amply spaced posts? Such a commotion  at and around the 20th anniversary days of the death of Salvador Dali. A spate of films recently out or in the works show that thee controversial artist still fasinates: Little Ashes (Paul Morrison),
Dali and  I: the Surreal Story (Andrew Niccol), Dali (Philippe Mora), and leading them all with a film short in 2005, The Death of Salvador Dali (Delaney Bishop). Hoaxter or genius, child-like prankster and swindler too - he is quoted as saying, “each morning after breakfast I like to start the day by earning $20,000.” Dismissing the scandals of his later life when he was said to make quick sketches or sign forgeries for quick cash, he was an extraordinary character. What does it matter when his whole life was spent to give us a jolt?His work and life were not about subtlety, he was quite the King of Camp, but both give issues to ponder.  I'm convinced we should pick and choose in it at will.

The Persistence Of Memory

Dali's idea of melting clocks was first expressed in a 1931 painting. The idea supposedly came to him while watching a wheel of Camembert melt in the heat of the midday sun.
One of his emblems, it was later translated into brooch form.
The Espace Dali in Montmartre is hosting les bijoux en Dali d’Or, inspired by the luxury and extravagances of the Sun King. In minting his own coins, Dali sets his self-aggrandizing profile face to face with that of Louis XIV on his Louis d'Or .

The jewels exhibited were designed in the 60s and dedicated to his wife and muse, Gala.
All bear the profiles of artist or muse.

Dali d'or pendant

What's better than a Louis d'or?  A Dali d'or of course, or a solid gold Dal 'or,
with effigies heads-or-tails of Dali and Gala in a flamboyant expression of love for his wife
...signed by the artist.

Dali with Gala in 1964

Bejewelled Gala adorns Dali
A true love story, perversions and all.

Royal Heart 1953*
Gold, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, peridots, farnets, amethysts, diamonds and pearls

The ruby heart still pulsates with shimmering majesty.
Just a click to see it beat.
Strange love and love of the strange coursed through his veins and were driving forces.

Tree of Life 1949*
Falsely classic and in his own image. A  face peers out of the foliage reminiscent of a ancient wood spirit carving or one of Arcimboldo's personifications of the seasons. Lost souls and man faced by Nature might not be the basic premises of surrealism, but they are never too far off.

The Eye of Time 1949*
Signature in evidence. Doesn't blink ; he's watching to make sure you are looking.

from Dali's sets for Hitchcock's 1945 Spellbound
Something tells me that if possible, he's still watching.

What part does dream and play have in your Life and Work?
Sources: arts and entertainment The Independant

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's your dada?

My daughter had this poem by Tristan Tzara to memorize for school.
Pour faire un poème dadaïste
Prenez un journal
Prenez des ciseaux
Choisissez dans ce journal un article ayant la longueur que vous comptez
donner à votre poème.
Découpez l'article.
Découpez ensuite avec soin chacun des mots qui forment cet article et mettez-
les dans un sac.
Agitez doucement.
Sortez ensuite chaque coupure l'une après l'autre dans l'ordre elles ont quitté le sac.
Copiez consciencieusement.
Le poème vous ressemblera.
Et vous voici un écrivain infiniment original et d'une sensibilité charmante,
encore qu'incomprise du vulgaire.

To make a Dadaist poem:
Take one newspaper.
Take one pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the cuttings one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And there you are an infinitely original writer of charming sensitivity,
though misunderstood by the common herd.
Tristan Tzara 1921

Feeling curious, I made my own clippings, shook gently and this is what I got. I'm a bit disappointed. It made almost too much sense to be truly Dada! Maybe this is a good game for the season's get-togethers. It's simple to try.
If the result isn't interesting, you can just sniff and say, "it's nonsense, that's the point!"

Crazies! The time is now for life and for anticipation !
Parisian because
sparkling practice

Revolutionizes style.
Choose effervescence
the new reference of ideas.

New art -
Take care of both sides of the page -
castles of mutation.
New ambitions - garden side.

The word MORE:
fusion, France, pleasures, passion
which makes all the difference in the domestic paradise.

The naked is a reality of a world in movement.
The marriage of convenience, openness,
style instinct - life is a merry-go-round !
That calls for furious celebration !
That's straddling a hobby-horse, isn't it?

FOR MORE ON DADA from a video which starts by saying it won't explain Dada :

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


photo Cecil Beaton for Vogue 1966
Once there was a beautiful young girl who was growing up in a hostile time. Inside her home were two quarrelling parents who would stay under the same roof together no more. At the very worst of times, she was left alone with her mother - for outside, fierce warring monsters breathed fire at her door and were taking over her village and beyond. They could scarcely venture out into the surroundings safely, and when they did, it was to try to gather the least morsel of food or a bit of wood to heat their lodging. They sometimes ate tulip bulbs and often went cold. As bad as it was, it was a better life than for some of the villagers.

There are those who have so touched us with their beauty and grace that history sings their praise.

Taschen book cover photo
Although she had become sickly and weak from years of want and fear, the girl grew more and more beautiful every day, so that when the glorious day came that the beasts had finally been vanquished, she was able to come out of hiding to spread her radiance throughout the world. As she grew stronger, she helped those around her to find the precious moments of Frivolity that were needed by all. Storytellers from far and wide had her dance their tales. Good Wizards of couture became her allies and people throughout the world longed to be in her presence. And because her enchanting beauty was accompanied by an even rarer grace and goodness, she was able to help some of the most humble of humankind's young with her presence so that they should not go hungry.

There are those who have so touched us with their beauty and grace that history sings their praise.

Mark Shaw photo left, bust of Nefertiti Berlin Museum right

Do you believe in fairy tales ? Sometimes they are confused with legends.

A very real woman, Audrey Hepburn didn't live a happy-ever-after life, but she did seem to be a beautiful princess to many and a good fairy to others. A woman of style, she could travel with 50 suitcases, yet hers was simple elegance. A wholesome beauty, but never the girl-next-door; no, it was perhaps the beauty of a dancer, who doesn't show pain, but through discipline and a natural gift, arrives at grace.
Givenchy collection 1966

Costume and Textile specialist, Kerry Taylor, in association with Sotheby's, is auctioning 36 articles of Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe on the 8th of December in London. These articles are on display at Sotheby's Paris today and tomorrow. I happened to visit today while Ms. Taylor was being filmed during a walk through interview at the exhibit. She explained that Audrey Hepburn had made a habit of giving her couture clothing to her dear friend Tanja Star-Busmann. The two met when Audrey was 21, Tanja 15. All her life Audrey would wrap up her Givenchy gowns, her Elisabeth Arden, Valentino, and Rose Bertin dresses and send them off to her when she judged she no longer needed them. Willowy Audrey went so far as to ask for extra seam allowances so Tanja could adapt the clothing to her own silhouette. Oh! the dresses - the black silk gazar worn in Paris When It Sizzles; the exquisite black Chantilly lace cocktail dress worn in How to Steal a Million, the famous point d'esprit ball gown from Love in the Afternoon here in both white and black versions because Audrey knew what she liked ! .... So many memorable pieces are here as testimony to her taste - "she chose it all," said Hubert de Givenchy - and to her unwavering sense of friendship, lifelong friendship. Clothes, hats, photographs and letters are in the sale. Kerry Taylor says she does not know who the buyers will be. For the entire catalogue of the sale click here.
left Nefertiti plaque  -  right AH modelling for American Vogue 1966 photo William Klein
Another dress, a wedding dress made by the Fontana Sisters for her marriage to James Hanson while Audrey was filming Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck in Rome, is also in the sale. When the wedding was called off, Audrey said she wanted the dress to go to "someone who couldn't ever afford a dress like mine." It went to Amabile Altobella for her marriage to farm worker, Adelino Solda, who says the dress brought her luck since she has been very happily married all these years.

One half of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund.
photo Mark Shaw
In 1953, Audrey and her mother hosted a party with the Star-Busmann family in London for the British opening of Roman Holiday. Among the guests was Cecil Beaton who met the young actress for the first time and recorded in his diary: "(She) has a huge mouth, flat Mongolian features, heavily painted eyes, a coconut coiffure, long nails without varnish, a wonderfully little figure and a long neck. She appears to take her wholesale adulation with a pinch of salt, and gratitude rather than puffed up pride. Without any preliminaries, she cuts through to a basic understanding that makes people friends."
Mark Shaw photos via

See also the book of Mark Shaw photos, Charmed by Audrey

and visit the Mark Shaw site for beautiful pictures of Audrey Hepburn and much more

For more information on Nephertiti and a fun site on Egypt, see Theti-cheri

Admirers can see AH's childhood drawings, many photos, and biographical information -including her humanitarian work - at

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eternal secrets

. . . le style, pour l'écrivain, aussi bien que pour le peintre, est une question non de technique,
. . style, for the writer, as well as for the painter, is a question not of technique,

mais de vision.
but of vision.

Il est la révélation, qui serait impossible par des moyens directs et conscients, de la différence qualitative qu'il y a dans la facon dont nous apparait le monde, différence qui, s'il n'y avait pas l'art, resterait le secret éternel de chacun.It is the revelation, that would be impossible through direct and conscious methods, of the qualitative difference in the way the world appears to us - difference that, if art did not exist, would remain the eternal secret within each of us.

Par l'art seulement nous pouvons sortir de nous, savoir ce que voit un autre de cet univers qui n'est pas le meme que le notre, et dont les paysages nous serait restés aussi inconnus que ceux qu'il peut avoir dans la lune.
Through art only we may come out of ourselves, to learn what others see of the universe - for theirs is not the same as ours, and its landscapes would have remained as unknown to us as those of the moon.

Grace à l'art, au lieu de voir un seul monde, le notre, nous le voyons se multiplier, et, autant qu'il y a d'artistes originaux, autant nous avons de mondes à notre disposition, plus différent les uns des autres -Thanks to art, instead of seeing one lone world, ours, we see it multiplied with as many different worlds at our disposition as there are original artists -

et bien des siècles après que c'est éteint le foyer dont ils émanaient,qu'il s'appelat Rembrandt ou Vermeer, nous envoient encore leur rayon spécial.
and many centuries later, after their emanating fire has been extinguished, from now Rembrandt, now Vermeer, we still receive their special light.

From his essay on Proust's character Bergotte and Vermeer's View of Delft
Les écarts d'une vision
Zao Wou-Ki, Samuel Van Hoogstraaten, Marc Rothko, Nicholas de Stael, Vermeer

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pied-à-terre Jansen 1943

The colors in these illustrations of Mme M's Parisian pied-à-terre by Jansen are a pure delight. Illustrator, Pierre Mourgue, better known for his work in fashion , captures the glowing quality of burnt tones set off by the surrounding cool violet-touched silver sophistication.

This elegant apartment served for receptions and as an after-theatre gathering place. It was created in 1943 when wartime transportation had become unreliable making Mme M's grand suburban residence unattainable during the late hours of her Parisian social life. This former atelier in the rue Saint Didier with loggia and a multitude of nooks made original interpretations of the space possible. The silver folding screen, modern tapestries by Legueux et Planson and heavy curtains of bordeaux velvet hung from the ceiling give a characteristic theatrical feel -

all worked in with the supreme refinement of the color scheme.

I couldn't help but think of another divan by Jansen in seeing this image...

The enviable object is here in the home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

These illustrations by Mourgue are from the Gazette du Bon Ton and date to the 20s. Alas,
I didn't have an example contemporary with the interior to show.

Illustrations such as these are full of color inspiration - be it for clothing or interiors.

As for Maison Jansen, probably the first of interior design firm, it was such a large operation and lasted so long (1880-1989) that at any given moment there are furnishings to offer on the market. In passing, a design school now occupies Jansen's manufacturing sites.
These sconces are to be found on eBay until the 21st of November.

The following three pieces were part of the Manalo March sale last October at Christie's. March was one of the firm's most important clients, after the Shah of Iran, during the second half of the 20th century.
Ormolu and glass table by Stéphane Boudin circa 1960

Lacquered brass and lapis lazuli gueridon circa 1965 by Pierre Delbée of Maison Jansen Christie's

4 green painted and parcel gilt side chairs circa 1965

Pierre Delbée of Maison Jansen Christie's