BOOK REVIEW: Spectacular Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection

Spectacular Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection

Liana Paredes

Published by GILES in association with Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
PRICE — UK£29.95 / US$39.95
ISBN — 978-1-907804-92-2

Marjorie Merriweather Post is well-known as a collector of Russian and French Decorative Arts but what is less appreciated is the collection of jewellery she amassed over the decades. This ranges from historic pieces such as the diamond earrings believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette, a diadem and necklace owned by Napoleon’s wife the Empress Marie Louise and an emerald which belonged to the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (a carpet thought to have been owned by him adorns the dining room floor at Hillwood). Alongside such gems add pieces by Cartier – she was their best American customer –, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb and Fulco di Verdura and you get a marvellous insight to jewellery design and fashion in the first six decades of the 20th century. Flowers, birds, figures, domestic objects all provided inspiration for brooches and bracelets – Mrs Post had a diamond-set brooch in the form of her legendary yacht ‘The Sea Cloud’ and another in the form of her turboprop airplane ‘The Merriweather’.

Turquoise, diamond and platinum necklace by Harry Winston 1961

This is a detailed and highly enjoyable look into this outstanding collection of jewellery and is well-illustrated throughout, including designs and pictures of Mrs Post wearing various pieces. It combines jewellery design and social history in a way that emphasises that Mrs Post’s life was indeed spectacular!

An accompanying exhibition is on at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens until 7th January 2018

 

https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/Spectacular-Gems-and-Jewelry

gilesltd.com

BOOK REVIEW: Gilded Interiors: Parisian Luxury and the Antique

Gilded Interiors: Parisian Luxury and the Antique

Helen Jacobsen

Imprint: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd

£19.95

ISBN: 9781781300589

 

This book is far more than just a souvenir of the recent seriously good exhibition at The Wallace Collection which focused on their gilt-bronze as it includes even more of the wonderful bronzes d’ameublement that are an important part of The Wallace’s justly famous collections of French eighteenth-century art.

Dr Jacobsen introduces us to the late 18th century Parisian interiors and the taste for the Antique setting the stage for these superbly designed and executed objects.  You will find clocks, firedogs, candelabra, mounted porcelain and even tables – which are then individually discussed in detail. It is beautifully illustrated with a combination of new photography and copies of original designs and proposals for both objects and interiors.  The book is a great celebration of 18th century connoisseurship and taste revealing the world of figures such as Marie Antoinette and the comte d’Artois and their circles. It is an absolute must for all interested in the interiors and the ‘douceur de vivre’ of the Ancien Régime.

 

www.ibtauris.com

Stunning objects!

Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze, The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1, until 30th July 2017

F292: Perfume Burner,
Pierre Gouthière, 1774 – 1775, detail.
© The Wallace Collection

We probably all have a vision of what an 18th century French interior may look like – white and gold panelling, commodes, chairs, sumptuous fabrics, tapestries or paintings, and gilded objects such as clocks or candelabra. The latter are probably the items we pay least attention too but you most certainly won’t after visiting this SUPERB exhibition.

F269: Mantel clock,
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, 1781, detail.
© The Wallace Collection

We are able to study these objects closely and see the great attention to detail and the exquisite chasing and gilding techniques used. Two of the items on show belonged to Marie Antoinette. The comte d’Artois, the duc d’Aumont and the Prince Regent are other important patrons and clients from the 18th century whom you will discover. Only one of the wondrous pieces does not come from the Wallace Collection and that is a pair of firedogs bought by the future George IV.  They are included because they are the same model as a pair owned by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in his Paris home*.

F131: Candelabrum,
Possibly François Rémond, France, 1783 – 1786
© The Wallace Collection

These gilded wonders, which were such an important and integral part of the homes of the great and wealthy 18th century patrons, are the creation of artists such as Pierre Gouthière, François Rémond and Claude Pition and are important examples of 18th century French taste and stunning works of art in their own right.

F164: Candlestick,
Claude-Jean Pitoin, 1781, detail.
© The Wallace Collection

The exhibition is curated by Dr Helen Jacobsen, Senior Curator and Curator of French Eighteenth-century Decorative Arts at the Wallace Collection who has also written a book on this aspect of the Collection which I shall return to later.  She has also borrowed 18th century drawings from the Bibliothèque Municipale in Besançon which are by the noted architect and designer of interiors Pierre-Adrien Pâris and they reveal how Ancient Rome was a source of inspiration while others show how that inspiration was enacted upon.

F317: Table,
attributed to François Rémond, 1785 – 1787, detail.
© The Wallace Collection

I have now visited the exhibition three times but will return again and again because each time you see new details and appreciate even more the perfection of 18th century French decorative arts.

F258: Mantel clock, The Avignon Clock,
Pierre Gouthière, France, 1771
© The Wallace Collection

 

* This was not part of Sir Richard Wallace’s bequest and they are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 

http://www.wallacecollection.org

A Cautionary Tale

Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE 10, until 17th April 2017

'Emma as La Penserosa', 1791-92 by Sir Thomas Lawrence ® The Abercorn Heirloom Settlement Trustees; Bryan F. Rutledge B.A.

‘Emma as La Penserosa’, 1791-92 by Sir Thomas Lawrence
® The Abercorn Heirloom Settlement Trustees; Bryan F. Rutledge B.A.

This is an exhibition that has exceeded my expectations and one I had been looking forward to since I learnt of it.

It is I think very much a story of a beautiful young woman that has resonance today – a tale of humble beginnings, of becoming a “celebrity” but ending in disillusionment and obscurity.

Berlin service: Teapot depicting Emma Hamilton ® National Maritime Museum, London. From the Clive Richards Collection

Berlin service: Teapot depicting Emma Hamilton
® National Maritime Museum, London. From the Clive Richards Collection

Born in Cheshire in 1765, daughter of a struggling blacksmith Emma came to London in her thirteenth year and became part of the Covent Garden world which mixed high society with the sexual underworld. Aged sixteen she became the mistress of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh and as readers of my blog ‘Unravelling Uppark’ (06/06/14) will know Emma danced naked on the dining room table there to entertain his friends. However when she fell pregnant Fetherstonhaugh chucked her out and she returned to Cheshire and gave birth to a daughter.

'Emma dancing the tarantella' c.1791 by William Lock ® The Jean Kislak Collection

‘Emma dancing the tarantella’ c.1791 by William Lock
® The Jean Kislak Collection

Fortunately she had made the acquaintance of Charles Greville, a son of the Earl of Warwick, and he took her under his wing, installing her in his house just off the Edgware Road in London, an area more rural then than it is today. It was there that Greville introduced her to the painter George Romney.  She was, as the wonderful paintings shown in the exhibition amply prove, a perfect Muse for the artist.

Emma as Circe, 1782, by George Romney ® The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Emma as Circe, 1782, by George Romney
® The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

She also met Greville’s uncle Sir William Hamilton and it was on to him that Greville passed Emma when he tired of her by sending her to Naples where Hamilton was British envoy. Naples was a major stopping-off place on the Grand Tour and thanks to Hamilton’s patient teaching and her own talent she created her famous “Attitudes” which brought scenes from paintings and sculpture to life. She achieved even more of a celebrity status which was crowned when Hamilton married her in 1791.

Gold and micro-mosaic necklace belonging to Emma ® National Maritime Museum, London

Gold and micro-mosaic necklace belonging to Emma
® National Maritime Museum, London

Her new position as an envoy’s wife meant that she had to play a political role too and in this Emma was fortunate that the Neapolitan King’s wife Maria Carolina, a sister of Marie Antoinette, liked her and made a confidante of her.

Horatio Nelson, 1758 -1805, Vice Admiral of the White by Johann Heinrich Schmidt ® National Maritime Museum, London

Horatio Nelson, 1758 -1805, Vice Admiral of the White by Johann Heinrich Schmidt
® National Maritime Museum, London

However in 1798 the arrival of Admiral Nelson, following his victory at the Battle of the Nile, was the beginning of what would be one of the great love affairs of history.  It was one fraught with dangers as her infidelity rocked society and it was not helped by Emma’s giving birth to Nelson’s child whom they named Horatia.

Emma, Lady Hamilton, 1761 - 1815 by Johann Heinrich Schmidt ® National Maritime Museum, London

Emma, Lady Hamilton, 1761 – 1815 by Johann Heinrich Schmidt
® National Maritime Museum, London

They acquired a house at Merton in Surrey and set up home their but because of Nelson’s naval duties he was frequently away.  His death at the Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805 brought it all crashing down. Life became difficult in every way and her attempts to maintain her lifestyle and position led to her being imprisoned for debt in 1813 in the King’s Bench Prison.  Thanks to funds being provided she was released but had to flee to Calais to escape her creditors and it was there in January 1815 she died after months of illness in the same poverty as she had been born.

Gold 'fede' or betrothal ring, one of a pair exchanged by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Emma ® National Maritime Museum, London

Gold ‘fede’ or betrothal ring, one of a pair exchanged by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Emma
® National Maritime Museum, London

This somewhat salutary tale is beautifully told through pictures, objects, jewellery, furniture, prints, costumes and personal letters.  It really does give a wonderful insight into her life and times and explains why she remains so beguiling a figure. She is one of those people from history you would really want to meet!

'View of Merton House showing Lady Hamilton and Horatia in the grounds' ® National Maritime Museum, London

‘View of Merton House showing Lady Hamilton and Horatia in the grounds’
® National Maritime Museum, London

 

http://www.rmg.co.uk/emmahamilton

BOOK REVIEW: HUBERT ROBERT

Hubert Robert

Margaret Morgan Grasselli and Yuriko Jackall with contributions from Guillaume Faroult and Catherine Voiriot

£45.00 GBP
Lund Humphries
ISBN: 9781848221918

hubert-robert-2d-cover-lores

This is a wonderful celebration of this multi-faceted artist and draftsman, Hubert Robert (1733-1808), who could also turn his hand to being an interior decorator and garden architect, including designs for the Queen’s Dairy at Rambouillet for Marie Antoinette.  We are fortunate that while the book has been published to coincide with the exhibition in Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art which ends at the beginning of October it will have a very long and useful life as a stand-alone reference work thanks to the scholarship and up-to-date research that the authors and contributors bring to it.

 

His time in Rome, where he met and became friends with Fragonard, Panini and Piranesi, led to his penchant for depicting ruins often peopled with figures and for which he became known as ‘Robert des ruines’. He received the support of wealthy patrons and in 1784 was appointed ‘Keeper of the Museum’ (the future Louvre Museum).  He was imprisoned for a while after the French Revolution but on his release continued with a series of paintings depicting the Louvre’s Grande Galerie.

Hubert Robert (1733-1808). Painting Gallery Being Used as an Artist's Studio, 1789 Paris, Musée du Louvre. RF1938-69.

Hubert Robert (1733-1808).
Painting Gallery Being Used as an Artist’s Studio, 1789
Paris, Musée du Louvre. RF1938-69.

I have long been interested in 18th century French art and have enjoyed seeing works by artist such as Boucher, Greuze, Fragonard, Vigée- Le Brun and so on, but my favourite has always been Robert.  To me he captures the spirit of the time perfectly and while his works are out of my reach I now have the great pleasure of this book to enjoy.

Hubert Robert (1733-1808) Burning of Rome, c. 1771 Musée d'Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre

Hubert Robert (1733-1808)
Burning of Rome, c. 1771
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre

 

http://www.lundhumphries.com

The 248th!

Summer Exhibition 2016, Royal Academy of Art, Main Galleries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1, until 21st August 2016

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016 (c) Stephen White

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016
(c) Stephen White

This year’s exhibition is the 248th one and it has been co-ordinated by the well-known sculptor Richard Wilson RA. Noted artistic duos have been the inspiration for this years show and as you move around the galleries you will find works by more than twenty of them.

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016 (c) Stephen White

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016
(c) Stephen White

Among those invited are Heather & Ivan Morison, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Boyd & Evans, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Langlands & Bell and Pierre et Gilles. Their works are among the twelve hundred works garnered from this year’s twelve thousand entries. Did I like it? Slightly more so on my second visit.

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016 (c) Stephen White

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016
(c) Stephen White

On arrival and departure do look at the screen on the Academy’s facade because you may have been caught on the camera that is part of Ron Arad’s wonderful 16 metre kinetic sculpture Spyre.

Pierre et Gilles Marie Antoinette, le hameau de la reine (Marie Antoinette, The Queen's Hamlet), 2014 Hand-painted photograph on canvas 154 x 139 cm Photo courtesy of the artists and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris â Brussels

Pierre et Gilles
Marie Antoinette, le hameau de la reine (Marie Antoinette, The Queen’s Hamlet), 2014
Hand-painted photograph on canvas
154 x 139 cm
Photo courtesy of the artists and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris â Brussels

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016 (c) Stephen White

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2016
(c) Stephen White

BOOK REVIEW: A Home to Kings and Emperors

A Day at Château de Fontainebleau

Guillaume Picon

Photography by Eric Sander

HC w/luxury slipcase, 224 pp., 170 illus.
ISBN: 978-2-08-020254-3
£25

61V2bfbJC7L

This attractive book takes us into the remarkable Château de Fontainebleau which has been the home of thirty-four French rulers.  For many years it was a centre of hunting for French kings and it was the place where Napoleon I abdicated in 1814 before his exile to Elba.  The fine interiors include those created for François I, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Josephine and Napoleon III. It provides a distinctive view of the various dynasties that have governed France and allows us to enjoy their story entwined with the history of this unique building.

editions.flammarion.com