Friday, December 18, 2009

What's In Their Library: Miguel Flores Vianna

Miguel Flores Vianna probably doesn't know this, but I first became familiar with him thanks to the Barefoot Contessa. It was the airing of the first or second episode- A Moroccan Feast- and Miguel was working his design magic on one of Ina's parties. I remember thinking that Miguel seemed like an awfully nice person, and his decor for the party was gorgeous. But what I realized not too long after this was that I had been familiar with Miguel's work for some time. It was he who had styled and produced some of my favorite interior stories in magazines like House Beautiful, Veranda, and Elle Decor. And when my sister and I were in Los Angeles a few years ago and we saw Miguel across the room at Nathan Turner's shop, well, I got as excited as I would have had it been George Clooney! (I'm serious. I think I got the shakes.)

Miguel has now branched out into photography, an artistic endeavour which obviously suits him to a tee. He has shot for World of Interiors, Domino, and most recently Lonny. I encourage you to spend some time looking through his
online portfolio as you will certainly come away with loads of inspiration. But in the meantime, I think you'll find Miguel's list of his favorite books to be most interesting. Miguel finds inspiration in auction catalogues, books on interiors and history (my kind of guy), and fiction. And if you're wondering, those are indeed Miguel's photos of his favorite books.

"The two bibles: Vogue's Book of Houses, Gardens, People and Bruce Weber's A House Is Not a Home. I live by these books; they never cease to inspire, awe, and move me."

The Artist in His Studioby Alexander Liberman and Barcelo by Jean-Marie Del Moral.

The Chinese Pavilion: Dream and Reality

"Catalogues are a great source of knowledge and also provide with priceless voyeurism some of the places where very few go. On the top of that list is Sotheby's catalogue of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sale. I loved the rooms in her apartment, the faded gentility, the footprints of history in the making. On a grander scale, perhaps less poetic but certainly inspiring were the objects at the Alexis de Rede sale. These two are my favorites."

"A house without art is like a man with no soul. My favorite artists are Caravaggio and Cy Twombly. I can only afford books on them, no oils by them for me just yet. But I own almost every single book and catalogue on both of them. My favorite Caravaggio book is one published by Rizzoli, which contains reproductions which open up to poster size. Love it. The closest I can have in my apartment of his grand visions. My favorite Twombly book is almost an opposite in concept. It is the book published to accompany an exhibit on his flower paintings and photographs at Inverleith House in Edinburgh. Not only do you see the paintings and photos, but also there are pictures of the way they were hung. Lovely, gentle spaces full of the power of Twombly's art."
(Cy Twombly At Inverleith House Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Caravaggio (Rizzoli Quadrifolio))

"I love ethnic paintings. Both the schools that were born in the different corners of the globe and the schools that show the view Europeans developed as they began to discover the world. A favorite book is King of the World (Azimuth Editions- Sackler Galleries). It is a 17th Century manuscript of courtly life in India, filled with drawings and paintings, which reproduce the color and richness of that culture. The original, today housed at Windsor Castle, was sent by the Moghul emperor Shah-Jahan to Charles 1st. Another book is Casta Paintings, by Yale University Press. In the 18th Century, Spaniard and Mexican artisans began painting representations of the new emerging ethnic groups in Mexico as European, Native Mexicans, Africans and Asians began to form multiracial families. The paintings are of great beauty and also depict in great detail the interiors where these families lived. "

"I grew up in a house where travel was a daily topic of conversation. Behind my father's chair at the dining table was a trolley with two atlases and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Those books were indispensable at meal time as it was then that most of our trips were planned. I love atlases and I have the catalogue of an exhibit that I saw at Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris on Encyclopedias and Libraries from Sumer to the 21st century. I think I went about six times in less than four days!"

Voyages : Trois Siècles d'explorations naturalistes and "Paysages et Imageries du sentiment Romantique- Un Autre Monde"

Lartigue: Album of a Century

"Russia... I love Russia, with all its contradictions, the mightiness of Petersburg, the grimness of its poverty. The vastness of the landscape, that rich and turbulent history. I am fascinated by all of the photographic work done before the fall of the Czar in 1917. They show a country that I cannot sense anymore when I visit it now, but those brooding photos never cease to give flight to my imagination. My favorite book is one of photos taken by Tolstoy's wife Sophia; they show a quieter side of her turbulent marriage to the author of War and Peace (Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy). The other book is compilation of photographs of Czarist Russia across the social divide- Russia in Original Photographs, 1860-1920 by Marvin Lyons."

Landscape And Memory by Simon Schama and The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants by Anna Pavord.

CATHERINE II ET GUSTAVE III . Une Correspondance Retrouvee and
Italian Journey: 1786-1788.

"Of course no library can be complete without prose and biography. My two favorite novels are Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. What can I say: the layers of both novels are mind boggling at times and yet the simplicity of their message is moving. Love and change, the swift knocks of history on two lands-Russia and Sicily- that know about change and yet stay the same."

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov and Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor.


  1. I'm in such a rush but had to pause and say I adore Miguel! Love these selections. Looking forward to re-reading this over the weekend.

  2. Love Miguel's work. Thanks for the book list. Some of my favorites. Great post.

    Ragland Hill Social

  3. It's a shame Christmas is just a few days away. There are many titles here I would have added to my list for Santa. Next year.

    Thanks Jennifer and Miguel for such an inspiring post. Now I have a whole new crop of titles to look forward to collecting.

  4. Courtney- I know; I've added quite a few to my list in hopes of getting them in 2010!

  5. Wonderful list of references. I also love the Sotheby catalogs....incredible wealth of interior photos! Caravaggio and Cy Twombly...did you see the great article on him in World of Interiors about a year or so ago? Thanks for adding to my wish list of books!

  6. Miguel is fascinating ! Jennifer I went to Amazon for The Artist in his seller at $495!!

  7. Theresa- My memory is slipping b/c I don't remember that article. Off to find my back issues of WoI!

  8. Karena- That's the one I wanted...but alas, I might have to wait :)

  9. Miguel is such a great guy, what a treat to see his favorite reads! Thanks for the post!

    xo Katherine aka. Urban Flea :)

  10. Really interesting list. Since I love some of them, I'll have to buy the ones I don't know.

  11. That may be the best book list you've ever published. What a fascinating collection of titles!