Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Party Planner for Cafe Society

Party planner or event designer? Frankly, neither title seems elegant enough for the late Jacques Frank, a Paris-based designer who conceived and decorated parties for the crème de la crème of café society, including Arturo and Patricia Lopez-Willshaw, Elsa Schiaparelli, Princess Chavchavadze, and Duc de Talleyrand.  A decorator who worked for decades at the prominent French design firm, Maison Ramsay, Frank was a conjurer of atmosphere, creating inspired settings that transported guests to other times and places.  A student of history, Frank seemed especially proficient in recreating eighteenth-century tableaux.  Based on the photos below (obtained from Connaissance des Arts, September 1957), it appears that a Frank-designed party could be part spectacle, but spectacle executed in a graceful, refined manner. 

I consulted my library to see if I could learn more about Frank, but sadly, the Baron de Redé makes no mention of Frank in his memoirs.  The same goes for both Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge, who doesn't reference Frank in his highly-collectible book, Legendary Parties, 1922-1972, and Thierry Coudert, who penned the recently-published book, Beautiful People of the Café Society.  I did manage to scare up this tidbit online: it seems that Frank worked on these shores, too, designing Anne Ford's 1961 coming-out party at her parents' Grosse Pointe Farm, Michigan estate, according to a 1961 Time magazine article.

I have a feeling we might be more impressed by his work had these photos been published in color.  After all, what's a party without color?  But if you zoom-in on these images, you'll see that while Frank might have had grand visions for his clients' parties, the décor was never ostentatious.

A Frank-designed party at the Neuilly home of Arturo and Patricia Lopez-Willshaw.  According to an interview with Frank, the party décor was classically-inspired.  Note the reflection in the pool.

Another party hosted by the Lopez-Willshaws at their Neuilly residence, this time oriented, presumably, on the other side of the pool.  The party was a recreation of a 1766 fête given by the Prince de Conti in honor of the Duke of Brunswick.  Frank took his design cue from this Michel-Barthelemy Ollivier painting, which captured the 1766 party:

For client M. Carvalho y Silva, Frank transformed the swimming pool at Deligny (la piscine Deligny), which was located on the Seine, into an eighteenth-century Venetian scene.

A party at l'hôtel Lambert, which Frank designed in collaboration with Baron de Cabrol.

An outdoor arbor, strung with May flowers and candelabra, graced a party hosted by Alain de Rothschild and his wife. 

Inside l'hôtel de Rothschild, Frank covered the walls of a tented room in greenery. The lacquered panels at one end of the room were painted by José-Maria Sert.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spy Les Giacometti

Everyone has been buzzing about Christie's upcoming Diego Giacometti sale, which will take place in Paris on March 6. Titled Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy, the sale is particularly noteworthy because all of the sale's twenty-one lots are being offered by legendary French couturier Givenchy, a noted Giacometti collector and friend who, according to the book The Givenchy Style, owns sixty some pieces of the artist's work.

Known early in his career as the assistant to his older and more famous brother, artist and furniture-maker Alberto, Paris-based Diego Giacometti eventually established himself as an artist in his own right, producing metal animal-motif sculptures and furniture that became highly coveted by the likes of Bunny Mellon, Henri Samuel, and Givenchy.

Though admittedly sad to sell part of his collection, Givenchy initiated this Christie's sales as a tribute to his late friend, who died in 1986. The sale's lots, scant in number but significant in importance, consist of pieces made specifically for Givenchy, including three highly-recognizable octagonal tables, some (or possibly all of) which have been ensconced in the couturier's country estate, Le Jonchet. Additionally, it should be noted that one of the lots does feature a piece made by Diego's brother, Alberto.

After learning of the sale, I revisited The Givenchy Style to see Giacometti's work in situ.  Below, you'll find photos of both Le Jonchet and Le Clos, the designer's retreat in the South of France.  Look closely at these photos, and you'll spy a number of the sale's lots.  And do be sure to visit the Christie's website, where you'll be treated to additional information on the sale plus a video tour of Le Jonchet's interiors.

Grande Table Octagonale aux Caryatides et Atlantes, c. 1983. Estimate EUR 800,000-EUR 1,200,000

Ensemble de Quatre Tabourets en X, c. 1983. Estimate EUR 300,000 to EUR 500,000

Tourterelle, c. 1975. Estimate EUR 20,000 to EUR 30,000

Grande Table Octagonale aux Caryatides et Atlantes, c. 1983. Estimate EUR 800,000 to EUR 1,200,000

Paire de Photophores au Cerf, c. 1970. Estimate EUR 100,000 to EUR 150,000

Table, c. 1978. (Similar to the one featured in the Givenchy photo.) Estimate EUR 150,000 to EUR 200,000

Paire de Photophores aux Anneaux, c. 1970. (Similar to the one in the Givenchy photo.)  Estimate EUR 80,000 to EUR 120,000

Le Clos:

Deux Tables Basses à L'Oiseau et Coupelle, c. 1970. Estimate EUR 300,000 to EUR 500,000

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beaton on Reddish

"Everywhere we find that modern life is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The golden egg was the stark beauty of individuality, and the goose was the social conditions that allowed for it." So wrote Cecil Beaton in his book, The Glass of Fashion, describing the modern (as in 1954) problem of the "failure of the personal".  Sixty-three years later, this observation seems just as canny, especially at a time when most people strive hard to behave like their peers, dress like their peers, and decorate their homes like their peers- the failure of the personal writ large. Could this be why, in an age of increasingly homogenized taste, so many of us find the homes of Cecil Beaton to be so refreshing?

Throughout his adult life, Beaton conjured up interiors that assumed any number of personalities, the most constant one being that of the Edwardian dandy.  His early efforts at decorating seemed, at times, trying too hard to impress with its originality, while his later homes feel more aesthetically self-assured and settled.  But no matter its style or success, a Beaton interior was more often than not singular and, subsequently, memorable.  His English country pile, Reddish House in Broad Chalke, was no exception, as you can see in these photos, shot by the homeowner himself sometime in the 1950s.  Although I have read much about Reddish (and I'm sure you have, too), I'm not familiar with some of these images, which I found in an old issue of Connaissance des Arts, although I believe they were originally published in Country Life.

Claret-colored velvet, floral-strewn chintz, and Edwardian light fixtures are just some of Reddish's more notable decorative flourishes.  None of it terribly popular with homeowners today, and that's just what makes these interiors noteworthy.  May individualism eventually win the day.

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.  

Monday, February 06, 2017

Georges Geffroy, A Legend

I've spent the last few days engrossed in a book that has become a new favorite: Georges Geffroy: 1905-1971, Légende du Grande Décor Français. Geffroy, the high-style French decorator known for his elegant touch, was, during the mid-twentieth century, the ne plus ultra of French decorators, boasting an impressive roster of clients that included café society stalwarts, such as Daisy Fellowes and Gloria Guinness, and couturiers, like Christian Dior and Marcel Rochas.  (You'll find photos of their Geffroy-designed homes below.)  Study a Geffroy-designed interior, and you'll see what true luxury is: fabrics by Prelle and Le Manach (including the latter's famous Velours Léopard, which Geffroy seemed to have employed quite frequently), eighteenth-century furniture by Georges Jacob, and Savonnerie rugs.  No one-trick pony, Geffroy employed color in sophisticated and unexpected ways.  Some interiors are awash in clear, vivid hues, while others are grounded by chic, muted shades of brown, camel, and drab.

Today, Geffroy's work is not as well-known as that of other star decorators, likely because he catered to a rarefied and thus small group of people.  But to those of us who take our design inspiration from the past, Geffroy ranks up there with the better-known design greats.  In fact, I often refer to Geffroy's work when making design decisions in my own home. 

Now, back to the book...if you are a fan of those great mid-century French design books such as the Connaissance des Arts series, Decoration, as well as The Finest Rooms in France, then you will likely cherish this book.  Yes, as the title suggests, the book's text is in French, which means that those of us not entirely fluent in the language might find reading the text a challenge.  However, in the vein of "a picture is worth a thousand words", if you study only the book's photos, you'll still gain so much.  How can you not be inspired by such gorgeous and immensely stylish interiors as these?  One last note- if you already own the Connaissance des Arts series, you will likely recognize some of the photos found in Georges Geffroy.  However, I don't find this a detraction.  In fact, I'm happy to finally have Geffroy's work compiled into one book.

Daisy Fellowes:

Gloria Guinness:

Marcel Rochas:

Christian Dior: