Monday, May 24, 2010

Putting things in perspective

venitian blind wallpaper by Nobilis /Halard

Instead of letting yourself feel boxed in, get a new perspective on things somehow, someway -
even if you have to fool yourself a bit to do it.

catalogue du Bon Marché

A small change and you may breathe more easily and stretch to horizons you hadn't even thought possible.

Hotel du Petit Moulin decoration Christian Lacroix

Open your space and you may even sleep better, which means more room for dreams.
Sometimes, it's okay to cheat.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Thank you, my fine feathered friend at the wonderful Porcelains and Peacocks, for the
Beautiful Blogging award you have bestowed upon me today.
Merci. It comes just at the right time to brighten my day when I’ve been
needing a bit of encouragement ! 

Despite my ardent belief in the power of numbers and other such lore, I've never worried about breaking a chaine and may have been remiss about awards in the past! BUT I would like to mention my own
Savorous 7 as a way showing my
appreciation of their fine work.


illustrations by M. Boutet de Monvel

Monday, May 17, 2010

Room for Catherine de Medicis at Chenonceau

A few steps away,

the passage of Catherine de Medicis at Chenonceau...

Education of Cupid by Correggio

is commemorated in this room on the second story of the chateau.
Supremely intelligent, patient Catherine had her way with things after the death of husband, Henri II. Catherine rid the place of mistress Diane de Poitiers, reclaiming at the same time the crown jewels. No more was she the tolerant spouse. As mother to three kings, she was the veritable ruler for approximately 30 years.

With her 'diabolical Florintine ambition', she brought Chenonceau to the height of its glory, further developing its architecture, decoration, gardens, vineyards, land revenues, even creating its own silk production - and all this in the midst of the turbulence of the Wars of Religions. She was, after all, the daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent.  She was a builder and had many projects, but Chenonceau was her residence of choice, where no blood had stained its stones.

If Catherine became more austere in her mise after Henri's death, according to Benedetta Craveri, it was to better project an image of majesty for the political role she had determined for herself. Since her authority was derived from her state as a widow and mother, she forced respect by permiting herself no feminine vanity.  Nothing was left to chance.

Seen through the window is the gallery designed by Jean Bullant that Catherine had built to top, literally and figuratively,  Diane's bridge. 
Both it and the surrounding gardens were to become the sites for spectacular celebrations. 

Catherine gave one of the most memorable of fetes here on the 15th of May 1577 in honor of two of her sons, Henri III and the Duc of Anjou. It seems that the party had ambiguity for theme, since the men dressed as women and the women as men, if dressed at all. Performers of the commedia dell’arte were brought in from Venice and performed among the revelers. A chronicler at the time reported that "at first glance everyone was perplexed, 
not knowing whether there stood before them a woman king or a man queen."

The abbey Chevalier wrote in his Histoire abregé de Chenonceau,

"It has never been involved with sad political events,  no, everything about it speaks only of art, beauty, festivities, 
and pleasures."

further reading: Chenonceau by Jean-Pierre Babelon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ladies' Choice: Chateau de Chenonceau

photo: château de Chenonceau
The most visited chateau in France following the chateau of Versailles is a Renaissance
chef d'oeuvre that stands firmly with its feet planted in the River Cher.
One of a garland of Loire Valley castellar beauties, it belongs now to the
Menier family and has had many illustrious proprietors. A bit of trivia: for a period of 22 years, it was the property of Emilio Terry, father of the reknowned decorator.

all photos: Le style et la matière

 Chenonceau is most known for the influential women who held sway there,
giving it the sobriquet of  le Château des Dames.

The construction of this nearly square structure was started  in 1514 on the site of a medieval fortified castle by the the Bohains, an ennobled merchant family of nearby Tours. Looking at the top photo you can notice a round tower, the Tour de Marques, all that remains of the medieval architecture. 
 The initials B-T-K and arms of Thomas Bohain and his wife Katherine Briçonnet are found in many rooms on doors and ceilings within these walls, despite the any transformations made with the successive centuries. As financial minister, Thomas Bohain was often absent on expeditions for the king during the construction of the chateau, leaving building supervision entirely in the hands of his wife. He died two years after its completion.

Catherine Briçonnet was Dame numéro 1. 

Over this interieur oak door showing the arms of Briçonnet (left) and
Bohain (right) we  find the family motto:
 S'il vient à point, me souviendra -
If built,  I shall be remembered.

The scuttling of many feet over the centuries has taken its toll on the Majolica floor.
Vestiges of its decoration are visible only around the edges of the Guard's room.
Gothic and Renaissance chests that once contained tapestries, silverware, and other necessities
now remain static, but signal the ancient mode of the nobleman's itinerant life.
bed chamber of Francois I

 This portrait of Diane de Poitiers as Diane the Huntress was painted at Chenonceau in 1556 by 
 Primaticcio, of  the Fontainebleau school.  Flowers from the parc grounds are arranged with talent and brighten every room
- the château comes alive with this welcome sign to its visitors.

Bohain might have been pleased to know that his home was fit for a King. Francois I approved of the appealing chateau and succeeded the Bohain family as its owner.  
Henri II, son of Francois I, more than approved of  his father's favorite, Diane.
Upon the death of Francois I, this beauté eternelle  became the new King's favorite
Henri II was 20 years her junior. Her influence over the king is legendary.

He gave Chenonceau as a gift to Diane, making her Dame numéro 2

Rich pattern is everywhere set off by the impression of space and symmetry.

One of the most beautiful mantels in the chateau 
contains three baldachins, today minus their original statues.

This 16th century Italian cabinet incrusted with mother-of-pearl and engraved ivory was a
wedding gift to Francois II and Marie Stuart.
Click on the photo to admire here its
ornate cariatides: female-?-?-male.

bed chamber of Diane de Poitiers

Diane was as clever as she was beautiful and had great authority in politics and arts and architecture.
It was her idea to extend the chateau with a bridge over the river designed by Philibert de l'Orme.

The mantel by Jean Goujon sports the initials of Henri II and his queen, Catherine de Medici.
The interlocking Cs of Catherine make mischief by forming the letter D of  her rival, Diane.

Off one side of Diane's room was Catherine de Medici's study, for 
following Henri II's death, Catherine claimed Chenonceau for herself. Though she was not beautiful like Diane, her fine intelligence was well-served by her patience.  Once a widow, she  put into place her own political vision through the reigns of three of her sons and left a powerful mark as one of the most important patrons of the arts known to France. 
It was in this octagonal cabinet that she worked as Regent.
She was far from being a dull girl and knew all about the importance of revelry as well.
 For this purpose, and as a way of outdoing her husband's mistress, she had an immense
 ball room constructed on the bridge Diane built over the River Cher.

Catherine was Dame numéro 3.

Catherine de Medici's library. The Italian style coffered oak ceiling dates to 1525 is
sculpted with keys and retains the initiales T-B-K in reference to the Bohain family.

A nice place to work...

with view on the Cher.

Of course, Catherine had to sleep too. Would you like to see her room?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Style Matters

Style is not something applied. It is something that permeates. It is of the nature of that in which it is found,
whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man.
It is not a dress. 

Wallace Stevens

perspective study of a chalice by Paolo Uccello 1430-40

Monday, May 3, 2010

Feline Furniture

Félix Vallotton

Most cat lovers will admit to being attached to
their pet's aesthetic presence

as much as to its independent personality and charm.

Why shouldn't your cat's accessories be as elegant as he is ?

I saw this today at Chat et Essai. It was so nice, I couldn't resist passing it along to you.
Finally, a scratching post that will look good in your living room!
From Cat-on.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Porte-bonheur

I'm not one to want to break with tradition where flowers are concerned, so here is a glorious vision of 
Lily-of-the-Valley said to bring happiness in Flora's lovely month of May.

Today is Labor Day in France and I'm just back from a week
of relaxation and visits to beautiful sites in the Loire Valley.

These tiny fragrant bell blossoms were part of many of the welcoming floral arrangements
at the chateau of Chenonceau in honor of the 1st of May. 
More pictures of  the chateau soon...