Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Merry Wife of Windsor




I'm not sure how many of you read World of Interiors, but the May issue has a great but brief article on the bathrooms of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at their Bois de Boulogne home. Photos of both bathrooms as well as the rooms' contents were included in the Sotheby's auction catalogue from 1997. But beyond what was included in the catalogue, I knew little about these rooms.

In the article, writer Hugo Vickers (who has written a book on the famous couple) touches briefly on the Duke's bathroom, which was elegant but rather plain (Vickers writes that the Duke, who preferred showers to baths, had a "Psycho" like shower in his bathroom). But fortunately for us, Vickers focuses on the Duchess' charming bathroom.

I learned that Dmitri Bouchene, a Russian painter and set designer, painted the ceiling of the bathroom to give it a tent-like effect. If you look closely in one of the photos, you will see an oculus painted in the ceiling which reveals a cloudy blue sky beyond the tent. Bouchene also painted garlands of flowers on the walls, and even painted scenes on the walls of the loo (see the photo below of the figure who is blind-folded, giving the Duchess her privacy!). I was always curious about the gilt-framed small paintings that were hung around the bathtub. According to Vickers, these paintings are actually New Year's cards that Bouchene sent to the Windsors every year. Lucky for Vickers that he successfully bid on many of these cards at the 1997 auction.

Of course, we're all familiar with the Cecil Beaton painting of the Duchess, hung on the mirrored wall above the bathtub. And those purple towels? They're by Porthault and are monogrammed with Wallis' cypher "WW" (Wallis Windsor) as well as the royal ducal coronet. I remember seeing the towels, or at least the bath mat, in the auction catalogue; I wonder who the lucky bidder was?

But I think that the most amusing anecdote from the article was Vickers' reminiscence about his shock upon seeing that Wallis' toilet had a plastic seat! And Wallis evidently was not alone- Vickers claims that Diana Vreeland had one too. Quelle horreur!








(All images from World of Interiors, May 2008; photographer Fritz von der Schulenburg)



20 comments:

  1. I want purple monogrammed towels and a scalloped monogrammed bath mat-Fabulous! As always, your blog is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marvelous, Peak!
    It's all very whimsical and light-hearted, isn't it?
    That painted ceiling is rather Elsie de Wolfe in spirit.
    Did Elsie have a plastic toilet seat I wonder?
    You might do a whole series on Legendary Loos.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beth- I'm usually not a purple person, but these towels are really fabulous.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Toby- Now there's an idea... Gosh, who might know if Elsie had a plastic toilet seat??

    ReplyDelete
  5. The plastic seat was likely considered more modern and hygienic than the standard wood version. And probably more comfortable. Could it have been padded, I wonder?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Now you all have me curious to look up a photo of Elsie's bath room in the book "Designers on Designers," I think the toilet might be shown :)

    Anyway, Jennifer what a fascinating post!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Aesthete- That makes sense. I do hope, though, that it wasn't padded!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Courtney- Do let us know!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love World of Interiors...they take you places no one else does or can. I was given a stack of early eightys copies and have been hooked ever since.

    ReplyDelete
  10. stljoie- You certainly are lucky! Old issues of WOI are hard to come by!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have a huge collection of WOI goign back 20 years and I reread them constantly -it's the best magazine on the market! I look forward to the new arrival every month (got this one yesterday and have already read it!).I have always been a little obsessed with the windsors and have always thought how ODD it was for Wallis to hang a portrait of herself in her own bathroom. And I'm sorry, but buying someone's used towels is a little creepy to me...no matter who they belonged to and how fabulous the towels may be!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Actually I am crazy about the Duke's bath ... very bright, very cheerful, masculine without overdoing the testosterone, all that red and white and heavily veined marble ... the Duchess's bath, on the other hand, just makes me think of circuses ... though I do love her diamond-pattern marble floor with the big bands ... or is it linoleum?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Aesthete- Oh I love his bathroom too. That red and white cabinet with the glass shelf-fronts is to die for. Re: the Duchess' floor- it looks like marble to me, but if it were linoleum- that would be genius!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Balsamfir5:54 PM

    I'm not too into the Simpson/Windsor thing which still seems pretty icky to me, but these are lovely photos of a bathroom. I like that there is just a standard tub, in a beautiful room instead of some insanely complicated built in thing(although I'm sure they're lovely to bathe in).

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wonderful post. (First time commenter here). I am so enjoying your blog, and particularly this post as I am a huge fan of this style of artwork on walls. I am presently stripping the wallpaper from my bed room and planning a mural of some description too. (I used to designs sets, so I should be up for it).

    ReplyDelete
  16. Balsamfir- Yes, in some ways it's a fairly simple bathroom, but the decoration is really unique and striking.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Super Kawaii- Thanks for commenting! I think the walls and ceiling in the Duchess' bathroom have so much pizzazz. I think your project sounds amazing too! Keep us updated.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The entire house and contents was bought by Mohammed Al Fayed, (of Dodi/Diana fame), and it was rumoured, (by him doubtless) that he intended it as a wedding gift to them. But as we know from numerous and expensive inquiries in UK and France, Al Fayed has a somewhat fantastic imagination. I'm not sure whether he still owns it, or whether I read recently that he has sold it on.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Columnist- I had read where Al Fayed had owned it, but did not know it was purchased as a wedding gift. I'll see if I can find out whether he still owns it or not. Thank you for this info!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I don't think Al Fayed purchased specifically as a wedding gift, but he was rumoured, (after their deaths), to have considered giving it to them, had they married. I believe he sold it, and all the contents in 1998, the year after their deaths in Paris. I have a small piece in my blog today about further items of the duke's that will go on sale this month.

    ReplyDelete