Wednesday, September 25, 2013
A True Connoisseur
"A Choice Chateau for a Renowned Connoisseur". That was the title of a 1975 House Beautiful article on the French vacation home of the late Peter Wilson, former Chairman of the Board of Sotheby's. The article's title really stated the obvious, because upon first glance at the accompanying photos (which you can see here,) one immediately understands that this home was indeed that of a connoisseur. The photos capture the range and depth of Wilson's collections, which included 17th and 18th century paintings, blue and white porcelains and Imari urns, antique furniture, and many other choice pieces.
The article made me think about the term "connoisseur". There was a time when a number of men and women strove to be connoisseurs in such areas as food, wine, antiques, books, and art, just to name a few subjects. There was once a much lauded magazine whose title was simply Connoisseur. (Yes, it was geared to connoisseurs.) In my hometown department store, the late, lamented Rich's, there was the Connoisseur Gallery, which was known for its exquisite furnishings. In fact, many Atlantans still mourn the loss of the Connoisseur Gallery.
But, in the 21st century, are connoisseurs a dying breed? How many people take the time to learn- really learn- about antiques or art? Unfortunately, I think the answer is not many. And at a time when many homeowners want their houses to be decorated instantly and with furnishings assembled entirely by somebody else, are there still people who might possess the patience and fortitude to assemble collections over years, if not decades? And finally, would a shop like the Connoisseur Gallery be viable in today's age? (I think we sadly the know the answer to that one!)
Well, anyway, it's something to ponder.
Peter Wilson's chateau was built in 1790 by a leader of the French Revolution. During the 1920s, the chateau's then-owners entertained such artistic guests as Diaghilev, Cocteau, and Picasso, who created the entrance hall's mosaic floor. Also note the stone slab console table by Emilio Terry.
The drawing room featured an amalgam of 17th and 18th century paintings, 19th-century Anglo-Indian chairs, a Directoire backgammon table, and a bookcase painted in the faux bois style.
The dining room walls were painted in faux marbre. The Sheraton table boasted intricately matched wood grain.
In the study, the checked upholstery invigorated the surrounding furnishings. I also think that vignette is very handsome.