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.


  1. other than the photography, it's not dated at all! Yet another reason to collect antiques.

  2. I used to read the Connoisseur magazine and remember it well. Thanks for sharing this article and I agree real connoisseurs I fear are a dying breed.

  3. Lovely and thought inducing post. I think there are still connoisseurs out there, in fact, there may be more of them, what with ready access to so much information and images on the Internet. The flip side is that connoisseurship as a lodestone may, as in looking up to a single group in society as a touchstone for manners and mores, may have also gone the way of the dodo by virtue of the 'Net and its myriad possibilities and easy glorification of "Reality" personalities. Maybe Waugh was right and we have entered the "Age of Hooper."

    One thing I got from the images is that, just like the old saying that "every room needs a little black," it seems every room could use a shot of blue and white. That classic color combo is always refreshing and never seems to clash with anything, especially when it is introduced through the medium of porcelain.

  4. Thomas1:23 PM

    Man oh man- could I ever rock that Picasso mosaic- I'll bet this is the only place in the world where one can walk on a Picasso !!

  5. I fell in love with that mosaic when I saw the image, and when I found out that it was Picasso, I had to laugh! I always "say" that I don't care for his work, and yet every time I see a relatively unknown piece of his, I am immediately struck by it. Guess I really DO love his work. I could look at this all day.

  6. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Timeless and stunning! Thank you for sharing this. I loved every picture. How i adore a home that is formal yet so comfortable. I'm ready to move in!

  7. After much effort to prove that connoisseurship is NOT dying, I am in the verge of giving up. Sadly there are indeed too very few that strive for the peak of chic. Hardly a week goes by that I do not see a costly new house or interior renovation that - for the same price - could have been fabulous, but was awkwardly wrong. Not every example, of course, but the exceptions are few and far between.

  8. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Hello.....I enjoyed seeing each unique item in the photos. Re: "Connoisseur Magazine"......I have a stack of them beside my nightable, plus a couple of early ones, dated 1929. I can't seem to part with them.

  9. I think this may have started a whole run on blue and white plaid or check!

  10. I want to echo The Devoted Classicist. This is an amazing collection, but I covet the mosaic.
    As always, thank you for broadening my horizons. Mary

  11. Good points by all! Now I'm off to find some blue and white check fabric....

  12. Rachel7:27 AM

    I have too many interests to be a connoisseur of any one thing! (Upholstery classes, curtain-making, clothing sewing, canning, cooking, reading - on top of my lawyer job... there is not enough time in the day.)

    I absolutely agree with you about the blue and white plaid upholstery. It really makes the neutral room sing, doesn't it?

  13. I am green with envy! Ever since discovering Chateau de Clavery in Living Well, published by The New York Times in 1981, I have searched high and low for additional images of this remarkable property. Thank you for this gift - I know the amount of time and energy that goes into research. What a find! In fact, I can't say that I've seen any of the photos from Living Well posted either, at least not as of late. I'll look into it and if they don't appear to exist I'll post them in your honor. These glimpses into the past are an important piece of the story of interior design and decoration and, in a way, we bloggers are curators of the past, present and future of the world of interiors.

    1. Cristopher, I am so appreciative that you mentioned Living Well. I have that book, and yet, I completely forgot that the Chateau was featured in it. I'm so glad that you connected the dots, so to speak.

      Thank you!