Monday, February 13, 2017

J. Cellier, the Sunburst Specialist




The Georges Geffroy book, about which I wrote last week, has prompted me to revisit my paltry collection of fifties-era issues of the French arts and design magazine, Connaissance des Arts.  Dipping back into these magazines, I became reacquainted with a series of advertisements that have long intrigued me: those of J. Cellier, a Paris-based antiques restorer.  What initially caught my eye were the ads' black-and-white photographs of gilt sunbursts.  (You know how I love a decorative sunburst.)  Reading the ads' text, I came to understand that this restorer specialized in Louis XIV-era sunbursts (the motif that was, of course, the symbol of the Sun King), though gilding and lacquer seemed to have rounded out the firm's expertise.  Looking at these ads in 2017, when the audience for antiques sadly seems to be shrinking, I find it remarkable that a restorer, one who, perhaps, could have even been a dealer in these wares, once had the luxury- not to mention the depth of knowledge- to specialize in such niche forms of the decorative arts.  But then, looking at the magazine's other ads, I see that such specific concentrations were not unusual, but, to some degree, standard practice.  In fact, one Paris antiquaire advertised its expertise in wooden cherubs!  My, how times have changed.

I've Googled "J. Cellier" but have been unable to unearth much information about this firm.  Did the business trace its roots back to Jerome Cellier, an eighteenth-century clock-maker?  How long was J. Cellier in existence?  And, was it the go-to sunburst restorer for French connoisseurs?  Unless you can share any information, I may never know.  Nevertheless, now seems like a good time to indulge in some photos of the always-radiant and always-pleasing sunburst.  







23 comments:

  1. Hello Jennifer, It almost hurts to see what was so readily available in the old days! Your post reminded me of actress Loretta Young, who liked to talk about antique sunbursts on her show. Here is a photo:
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b7/f5/e9/b7f5e90ce52870b1a06ab00a1b44795a.jpg

    --Jim

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    1. Jim, What a terrific photo! I wonder if her mother, Gladys Belzer, fostered Young's interest in antique sunbursts?

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  2. I love a good sunburst! I once saw an amazing, very large one in a photo of Anjelica Houston's home, which I believed belonged to her parents, used as a ceiling medallion. My fave is a pair from the 70's, images of which I will forward to you as there is no way to attach them here. One day I will have them made up for me...

    The loss of knowledge due to the stratospheric costs of running a small business, coupled with a lack of appreciation for the slowly accumulated knowledge of these artisans and small shop owners in this nose-in-phone world, is truly a tragedy. In France, at least, they have a better chance, as the Government fosters these trades as part of the country's patrimony, without which France would not be France. Having to maintain the royal chateaux helps keep this tradition alive.

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    1. Excellent point regarding the upkeep of royal chateaux being good for business, so to speak.

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  3. It is supremely difficult to repair these beauties--matching the gold leaf: next to impossible. Wish this company were located here. Have a great week! Mary

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    1. Perhaps this difficulty is why so many of the antique versions I see remain in unrepaired condition.

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  4. It's nice to see these discussed in a historical context, since they had become so trendy- your post reminded me of visiting the antiquaire Paul Martini in Manhattan many years ago- with my mentor George Clarkson- and we found where Paul Martini had bought salvage from the old Waldorf Astoria ballrooms- a bunch of old sunburst gilt medallions from the ceiling! Of course I bought one since they were only about $150, and took it home to East 66 Street and hung it on my Billy Baldwin brown lacquered walls- above the one window- facing the 5th Avenue synagogue! And recall the Richard Neas studio with that big one ? Always liked it so much. Have been living with a good copy of a Line Vautrin sunburst obtained form Wisteria.com Looks great over my vintage Chesterfield in cognac leather! And dear Albert loved the modern ones too!

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    1. Dean, I hope you still have your Waldorf Astoria gilt medallion!

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    2. Jennifer,
      Sadly, it was destroyed in a fire- my James Mont writing table was also damaged in that fire, and I ended up giving it to an old friend. This post on Cellier reminded me of an old, quaint shop that used to be on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, it was a plaster cast shop! Do you remember it? in the 60's or 70's (streets) I think. They had all kinds of objects in plaster, and am sure they must have had sunbursts also! I think that Angelo (Donghia) like to buy there- and Olivieri was still in business back then, fabulous shop of all Italian decorative arts! Oh, how I do miss those places! So eccentric and so charming!
      I forgot to mention, going back to the Paul Martini shop on lower Broadway, he had so many old fauteuil and bergere down there in that basement- and they all seemed to be saying the same thing- "we represent the old world, the aristocracy and the desire of New Yorkers then to have FFF" (Fine French Furniture) but these chairs were so faded and so elegant, with their shredded silk damask and the beat up paint on the frames! So evocative of another time! It was fun to see things that hadn't been restored to look like new! The patina! The charm! One could imagine all the lovely parties that these old chairs had witnessed!

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    3. I adore the quality of the gilding on the 18th c ones!

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    4. So sad about the fire, but thankfully, you're okay!

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  5. I enjoy sunbursts and have 3 of them. They are popular now, but the old ones are hard to find. Love the idea that someone used to restore them.

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    1. Yes, very true. The old ones are hard to find.

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  6. Gladys Belzer, a name from the past never whispered but upon the lips of the cognoscenti...she was amazing, did so many homes here and great pals with Garbo...it was upon their little daily walks that she took Garbo too see a home under construction, The Pendleton house by John Elgin Woolf, who had designed Loretta Young's own home and rental compound on Fountain Avenue. I have a beautiful 18thC Italian carved and handpainted 2 drawer chest on the slenderest of legs which are inverted obelisks that belonged to Gladys which came from Loretta's home, which of course had interiors by her mother and ..a fascinating lady who swanned around some of the most delish rooms imaginable in the Golden Age of Interior Design.

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    1. Your 2-drawer chest sounds divine, and what a provenance! I wish that more images of Belzer's work were available for perusal. I once read that Belzer came from Tennessee. Do you know if that's accurate?

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    2. I believe she Is native too California of Southern ancestry. Her mother passed away, while she was young and her father took the family to Denver. Years later, upon the demise of her marriage, she moved back to Hollywood becoming a Set Decorator. Loretta Young and her sisters went to Ramona Convent in Alhambra...which was a private Catholic all girls boarding school...well into the 1970s. Gladys is spoken of by few today as most who knew of her have long gone. There has always been a coterie of legendary decorators/dealers well before Billy Haines. Loretta's compound is divine...below the Sunset Tower. Rock Hudson, Rod Steiger and Joan Crawford were past renters of the chic John (Jack) Elgin Woolf townhouses

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    3. This is so very interesting. You should lead tours of L.A.'s stylish dwellings from years gone by...I would pay for such a tour.

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  7. Wow, I bought a sunburst mirror for my bedroom two weeks ago. Not an antique, nor French, but I still love it.

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    1. Glen, like you, I have a sunburst clock that is neither antique nor French, but, it's stylish nonetheless. :)

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  8. I will forward this post to my partner Seb. He is always studying sunburst designs. We're still looking for a sunburst clock, mirror, anything. It has been delightful to read the collections of some of your followers and the stories behind their own treasures and interiors.

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    1. I hope you find a sunburst piece soon!

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  9. Wonderful post. I am also a sunburst lover, but didn't know their history. I, too, have one from Wisteria. Someday, would love to find a beautiful antique. To me, they are so happy and hopeful.

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