Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Modern, Even Still

Jacques-Henri Lartigue's 1930 portrait of Renée Perle.

On March 13th Sotheby's Amsterdam will host its Photographs sale, featuring over 300 lots by some of the 20th century's most recognizable names - and not just the names of the artists, but the names of their subjects, as well.

In 1930 Jacques Henri Lartigue met Romanian model Renée Perle on a Paris street. A chance meeting that resulted in a two-year affair with a muse he would revere as an angel and document in countless images.

He was mesmerized and wrote in his diary, "She is beautiful...The small mouth with the full painted lips! The ebony black eyes. From under her fur coat comes a warmth of perfume. The head looks petite on her long neck."

The couple lived a glamorous life, enjoying the energy of the post-war years and blissfully yet unaware of the one that would follow. Their years together were a perpetual vacation in France's most decadent cities: for sunshine, Cannes and Juane-les-Pins and for skiing, the mountains of Biarritz.

Lartigue photographed many other fashionable women (and women he loved), but none so riveting as Perle, whose sleek hair and figure, trademark bracelets, two toned-manicured nails, and simple, sleeveless tops summed up '30s style. "Around her," he wrote, "I see a halo of magic." She was modern, sexy, streamlined and powerful. The very essence of Art Déco design.

Lot 26
Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986)
Renée Perle
Silver print, signed in ink with the photographer's blind stamp, 1930, printed later
Approximately 10 x 13 in.
3,000 - 5,000 €

Friday, February 23, 2007

Big Ticket Items in the Big Easy

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Oil on panel
Canvas: 35 3/4” high x 25” wide

M.S. Rau Antiques has been a New Orleans institution since 1912 - an institution so deeply rooted in the city's French Quarter, not even the winds of a catagory 5 hurricane could topple it.

In a letter on the firm's website, Bill Rau, the shop's president and third-generation owner, writes, "these past months following Hurricane Katrina have been especially trying, not only for our gallery, but for our employees and for the city of New Orleans. Each day moves us closer to the rebirth and revitalization of our beloved city and the entire Gulf Coast and we are slowly, but surely, beginning to see the return of the visitors that are the lifeblood to this region. Now, more than ever, we will need to utilize the internet to stay in touch with our customers and offer them the remarkable works of art and antiques that grace our gallery. While we hope you will make a trip to New Orleans very soon to see us in person, we know that our website is the best way to reach you."

And, while it seems a bit funny, at first, the thought of ordering a million-dollar painting online, its really quite logical. And incredibly smart. Not only for the survival of one of the country's most highly-esteemed dealers, but for you, the consumer, who receives not only a guaranteed and documented work of art, but the pleasure of knowing your purchase will help ensure the continuation of a very special, and historic, American institution.

Paysage du Midi
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 8” high x 13” wide

It Was Yellow and Pink, I
Georgia O'Keeffe, 1959
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 30" high x 26" wide

For more information about the shop and to view the wide range of fine and decorative arts available in their online catalogue, please visit

M.S. Rau Antiques
630 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-523-5660, 800-544-9440

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Velvet Affinity

Italian textile designer, Mirella Spinella, has been producing glorious hand-painted and block-printed silk velvets from her Venice studio or over 30 years. Originally a painter, she moved into theater design and eventually found her niche with textile production.

Shown (from top): Ramage 2 and Giotto 1

From her workshop in the heart of the city, Spinella creates a wide variety of patterns and motifs, inspired by the history and unabashed beauty of the art and architecture that surrounds her. Textiles can be purchased as yardage, finished hangings, or pillows (greyhound and unicorn examples are below).

For more information visit

Tea, with a Twist

Sarah Ferguson, photographed by Brian Aris

This April, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and partner Slatkin & Co. will launch a line of tea-scented candles with American retailer, Bath and Body Works. The candles will only be available in US shops, as an agreement with the Royal Family bars the Duchess from any commercial ventures in the UK, though its likely Brits will eventually be able to purchase the products online.

This winter Harry Slatkin, founder and president of Slatkin & Co., hosted a tea party at Manhattan's Lowell Hotel to introduce the line. A few, rare images of the soon-to-be released candles courtesy of the New York Social Diary:

Scented candles are the first major step into the Duchess's new luxury-home goods venture, Duchess Originals, which will shortly include a line of linens and silverware. The brand name is a cheeky play Prince Charles's Duchy Originals, a collection of organic goodies and gardening items. The Duchess's holding company, which will oversee Duchess Originals as well as her books and jewelry line, is to be called Hartmoor, named after her historical-romance novel due out in 2008. Its an unexpected (and probably genius) Barbara Cartland-meets-Martha Stewart turn for the one-time contender to the throne. Who needs a hefty divorce settlement when you've got a glorious head of red hair and your own royal lineage? (The crest on the tea canister-shaped candles pays homage to the heraldry of her maternal line.)

The candles, inspired by the idea of a traditional high tea, will be available in five scents: Bergamot Tea (Royalty), Rose Ginger Tea (Honesty), Mandarin Green Tea (Dignity), White Tea Ginger (Loyalty), and Green Tea & Mint Leaves (Tranquility). The names associated with each scent are also a bit cheeky, but true to the Duchess's plain-spoken approach. Each candle, packaged to resemble a tea canister, will retail for $16.50, or a boxed set can be purchased for $49.50. Its not a limited edition affair, as was the Slatkin-produced Elton John candle that Bath and Body Works retailed for $250 in support of John's aids foundation, but the volume of sales in this instance is sure to make it a profitable endeavor.

Elton John's prettily-packaged Fireside candle, designed by the legendary musician himself.

The Sarah Ferguson Foundation, established in New York last year, will receive all proceeds from the Duchess's portion of the sales. According to their website,, the foundation is “dedicated to making a difference in the lives of families and children throughout the world" and their sole purpose will be the management of funds generated by the Duchess's ventures. The foundation "adheres to the founding principles of Children in Crisis (CiC), the London-based international charity founded in 1993 by The Duchess of York to alleviate suffering and create opportunities for the world's forgotten children."

Its an ideal cause, so easy - and enjoyable - to support.

For more information on Duchess Originals and the foundation's work, visit the website (above); for information on the candles, keep an eye on for the official launch at the end of April.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unlikely Companions: Hapsburgian Courtly Splendors and Modern Italian Design

Vienna's Hofmobiliendepot, or Imperial Furniture Collection, was founded in 1747 by the Empress Maria-Theresa, the only female Hapsburg to rule during the family's 650-year long dynasty, as a means of saving luxurious court furnishings that had gone out of style and were destined for dispersal or destruction. Rather than cast out the old pieces, the Empress began to curate a very special collection, acknowledging the historical importance of the furnishings and assuring their survival for future generations.

A portrait of the Empress Maria-Theresa of Austria, c. 1745/1750, by Martin van Meytens II (Swedish, 1695-1770, active in Vienna), round about the time she founded the Hofmobiliendepot. The painting is in the collection of the Ringling Museum of Art in Florida.

The Hapsburgs had many palaces and hunting lodges that were continually updated to reflect the latest fashions, and the incredible foresight of the Empress, which has been continued since her death in 1780, has resulted in a collection of some 160,000 objects, ranging from every-day items used by the court, to the thrones from which the family ruled.

The depository, shown prior to their recent renovation, illustrates the old fashioned, and rather charming, means of storing objects, so different from the scientifically-monitored vaults of today:

The Hofmobiliendepot provides a unique study of a family, Austria's imperial history, and nearly 300 years of Viennese cabinet-making and period decoration. To represent the post-imperial commissions that have continued to define Austrian taste over the last century, the collection also includes works by 20th century architects and designers including Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann and Ernst Plischke.

The museum, which relocated to a renovated-warehouse complex in 1998, is a very modern structure, which makes an interesting juxtaposition to the historical nature of the collections. It also provides an ideal venue for small take-shows, especially those focused on modern design.

The Hofmobiliendepot's Modernist inner courtyard (below) and Hoffmannesque entrance hall (bottom):

The current exhibition, Italian Design 1945-2000, features 100 objects from the permanent collection at Milan's Triennial and is primarily focused on five defined periods of Italy's design history: the post-war years (1945-1960); the plastics boom of the 1960s; the social unrest of the 1970s; 80s Postmodernism; and the search for a new identity in the 1990s.

The Pratone chair, 1966
Gruppo Strum's Pratone seat, designed 1966, and manufactured by Gufram
© Triennale di Milano

Gaetano Pesce's 1987 Feltri chair, manufactured by Cassina
© Triennale di Milano

For more information the Hofmobiliendepot's collection and exhibition programming:

Möbel Museum Wien
7., Andreasgasse 7
Vienna, Austria
Tel. 524 33 57-0

January 25 – April 25, 2007
Tue - Sun 10am-6pm

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Glam, Bam, Thank you, Ma'am!

Reigning queen of retro-glam, Lulu Guinness has been designing handbags for London's most fashionable personalities since 1989. Some of her biggest fans include Dita von Teese, Helena Bonham Carter, Jemima Khan, Sophie Dahl, Rachel Weisz, Keira Knightley, and Claudia Schiffer. Her signature 'burlesque with a dash of English prim' style and famous phrase (and now book title), "Put on your pearls, girls!", has been translated into alarmingly sexy footware and eyeglasses, travel accessories, perfume, and, most recently, the bedroom. Last year saw the launch of a dramatic collection of bedlinens and custom rugs, in typical Lulu style.

Let's have a peek:

Lulu's rugs, manufactured by The Rug Company, can be custom sized: Glamour Girl (left)is £695 per square meter, and Canvas Rose (right) is £525 per square foot.

Duchess Stripe bedlinens, silk and satin, in a shade of pink to make Else Schiaparelli proud.

Polka Dot Icon, a pattern of all-things Lulu (tiny graphics of sunglasses, rose baskets, beach hats and shoes) with her emblematic lilac-and-white stripe on the reverse.

Birds of Paradise, a limited-edition bedspread, can double as a beautiful wall hanging

For more information and shopping sources, visit

Should you be in the U.K. during February 22-25th, you can find Lulu's charming designs on discount at London's Fashion Weekend at The Natural History Museum on Cromwell Road. Tickets for the opening-night charity party are available for purchase online. Funds will be donated to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, (FTBC) UK* in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Made, and Sold, in California

This May, Bonhams will hold its first-ever sale of California art. The impetus may be the recent recognition of West Coast work through exhibitions like LACMA's Made in California: Art, Image and Identity, 1900-2000 and the San José Museum's 2004 show, The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture. There's also been a recent look at California's contribution to design, in Jo Lauria and Sue Baizerman's 2005 publication, California Design: The Legacy of West Coast Craft and Style. More likely, though, is the nearly $5 million they made on their December 2006 sale, California and American Paintings.

Roland Petersen, Two Figures in a Golden Land, 1965
Estimate: $50,000-70,000

The sale, scheduled for May 22nd, and for which they are currently accepting consignments, includes paintings, drawings and sculpture by artists including Roland Petersen (above), Harry Bertoia, Ken Price, Manuel Neri (below), Nathan Oliveira, John Baldessari, Robert Graham, Claire Falkenstein, Herbert Bayer, Billy Al Bengston, Ynez Johnston, Hans Burkhardt, Robert Graham, Beniamino Benevenuto Bufano, Ron Davis, Vasa, Kim Dingle, and Larry Cohen.

For more information on the sale visit, or contact specialists Frank Hettig and Cecilia Dan in Los Angeles and Holly Sherratt in San Francisco.

Preview Dates:
San Francisco: May 11-13, 10am-5 pm
Los Angeles: May 18-20, 10am-5pm

Manuel Neri, Majic Act VIII, 1963
Estimate: $15,000-20,000

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Contemporary Historicism: Chris Kabel's Coral Vase

The past few years have seen a tremendous surge in ocean-themed accessories, particularly of corals and particularly for decorative, table top objects. Coral has turned up on everything from drawer pulls to slippers. A few examples:

Roost produces glass urchin vases and coral branches....

Anthropologie retails a reef-design tea service based on Belleek's 1860s design for Queen Victoria...

And dominating them all is Taschen's monumentally-proportioned reprint of Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.

What inspired this rebirth of oceanic motifs is something of a mystery. Maybe its a reaction to an increased awareness of the fragility of the planet? Maybe in an unstable world we find assurance in the handmade objects of our past? Or perhaps its the proverbial pendulum of design swinging away from the hype of mid-century modern and back to more historically-inspired design? (We're seeing precisely the same thing now with a resurgence of Bavarian style - Tyrolean motifs and coo-coo clocks are everywhere.) Whatever the reason, of all the sea-form objects out there, Chris Kabel's Coral Vase, designed in 2005, is surely the most interesting. Kabel, who graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2000 and established his studio in Rotterdam in 2004, created a limited production vase that takes a very inspired, and deeply nationalistic, spin on a 300-year old phenomenon.

Kabel's Coral Vase, designed 2005, is hand painted by José den Hartog and pierced to allow the insertion of flowers.

During the 17th century, the Dutch East India company was sailing to the Far East and returning to the Netherlands with ship loads of exotic silks and painted porcelains that kick started the world-wide obsession we know as chinoiserie. Dutch faience manufacturers, particularly those in Delft, were quick to pick up on the trend and began producing their own blue-and-white ceramics, closely resembling the popular Chinese examples. The desire for this particular color palette spread across the Continent and into England and the United States, where the striking blue designs on a white ground brightened interiors, which were primarily dark in color and heavy with wood.

Petworth House (below), built 1688-1702, in West Sussex, England, features large scale blue-and-white ceramics in the main hall and drawing room:

The 17th century also witnessed 'tulip mania', an era in which a single tulip bulb cost more than a year's salary. So important were they, that special vase-forms were developed specifically for the display of the high-value blooms. A Dutch-faience pyramid vase (below), c. 1690-1720, at the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, illustrates how lavishly tulips were displayed by the wealthy. In its day, something akin to about 20 Ferrari's in your garage.

The 17th century also saw the burgeoning interest in geographic exploration result in detailed studies of never-before seen plants and animals by artists like Seba, and also Emanuel Sweert, whose Florilegium was published in Germany in 1612. The tradition continued with artists like John Wilkes, whose collection of nature drawings, Encyclopedia Londinensis, was published in 1796 (an image from which is below) and R.T. Pritchett who travelled with Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle, documenting Galapagos findings in the mid-19th century.

Kabel's vase is so much more than shear replication of an existing form. The Roost and Anthropologie items have their place in today's design world because they make style accessible, but if you're looking for something more legitimate (and appreciable), the Coral Vase is the way to go. It is chock-full of meaning, if you know enough to see it: Chinese and Dutch antique ceramics, centuries of natural history pictures, Holland's lasting association with tulips, and a contemporary expression of national identity. It is Netherlandish history unfurled, shaken out, refreshed and repackaged.

Its one very clever distillation of design and warrants another look:

For more information on the artist, visit his website,; for information on ordering a vase, visit the website of the Paris-based gallery, Tools:

One More for the Bookshelf

Rooms to Inspire: Decorating With America's Best Designers
Written by Annie Kelly, Photographed by Tim Street-Porter
April 2007, Rizzoli

About this Book

In Rooms to Inspire twelve trendsetters bring a fresh point of view to creating interiors for a spectrum of living spaces-from houses to apartments and country retreats. This selective group-some professional decorators and others renowned for their taste making-includes Marian McEvoy, Kelly Wearstler, Muriel Brandolini, Jonathan Adler, and Simon Doonan. They offer their own very personal perspectives and advice using their own homes as examples-many published here for the first time. These intimate and inviting, absolutely non-formulaic interior spaces express the personal style of these highly creative individuals. Today's designers show how to experiment freely with every detail. This extraordinary sampling features the designers' own homes, ranging stylistically from the theatrical to eclectically modern. Common design issues such as color, balance, and comfort, as well as innovative approaches to kitchens and bathrooms are addressed. The designers also offer their favorite resources. This inspirational guide for professionals and novices encourages us to infuse our living spaces with style and personality.

About the Author

Annie Kelly is a well-known decorator and journalist who has been featured in such publications as Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Vogue Living, The World of Interiors, and in many books including Hollywood Style. Kelly and her husband, Tim Street-Porter, live and work in Los Angeles. Tim Street-Porter is an award-winning architectural photographer, whose books include Los Angeles. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

In Honor of Valentine's Day

Robert Indiana's "Love"
Copyright © 2003-2004 Max Froumentin

Green House Glasses

In 1978, artists Peter Marston and Adrian Langinger set up a studio and workshop in a 19th-century brewery in Norfolk, England, and began designing glass rooms - conservatories, orangeries, greenhouses and pool houses - that would complement historic houses and allow residents the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the English climate, from indoors. Before long, though, commissions were coming in from across the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.

A two-story conservatory makes fresh use of a shaded alley behind a London townhouse.

A sensitive, Victorian-style addition to a Regency house in the English countryside.

Approaching its 30th year, Marston & Langinger, has broadened its range to include not only the glass structures for which they are recongnized, but also architectural elements, furnishings, lighting, garden items, accessories and even a line of paint. In 2004 they opened a shop on Mercer Street in New York, to complement the London showroom.

A country house's conservatory and terrace, with furnishings and accessories from Marston & Langinger's product line.

The company's environmentally-safe paints are formulated for interior and exterior use.

Since its inception, the firm, which is intrinsically linked to the environment, has championed eco-friendly production. They continue this tradition today by using only carefully-felled wood from managed forests in West Africa, and by using their own water-based non-toxic paints. What's more, Toyota's Prius is the company car. Bridging the gap between inside and out, never felt -or looked - so good.

If a greenhouse or potting shed is what you require, Marston & Langinger offers a range of free-standing and lean-to styles, as well as bespoke options.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Watching the Clock

Each year, Christie's organizes fine jewelry sales across the globe - in Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong, to name a few locations - but no venue provides a more appropriately stunning backdrop for such beautiful gems than the historic Badrutt's Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

This February 21st, the hotel will host Christie's highly-anticipated Important Jewels sale. With a record of nearly $355 million in sales for 2006, this early spring sale will be a good indicator of the 2007 market. The sale boasts an abundance of magnificent pieces, including a purple-pink diamond ring (no, not J. Lo's) estimated at
$2,500,000-3,000,000 and a blue pear-shaped diamond ring estimated at $1,300,000-1,600,000 (shown below).

One of the more unexpected lots in the sale is a Cartier mystery clock made of red and pink coral, diamonds, mother-of-pearl and rock crystal. Mystery clocks, as they were called for their hidden workings, were first produced by Cartier in 1913. The floating hands appear to be completely unattached to the movement, and looking at the reverse side provides no additional clues to solving the illusion. Construction of the clocks, which took about a year for each one, was a closely guarded secret by the firm, but we now know a bit more about how they work. The central material of the clock face, usually rock crystal, had to be carefully - and perfectly - cut in half and then crystal discs, to which the hands were attached, were placed between the halves. The inner discs had a sawtooth edge that served as the mechanism, hidden within the surrounding frame.

The first clock made by Maurice Couet for Cartier was purchased by American industrialist J. P. Morgan. The Duchess of Windsor had one too, though it was smashed in a lover's quarrel. Mystery clocks reached their height of popularity during the 1920s-30s, and they are most often in an elaborate, exotic Art Deco style, each with a red-leather carrying case. The Gazette du Bon Ton, France's leading fashion magazine of the time, described the clocks as "otherworldly and precious, handspun with moonlight in a dream." A bewitched bidder will need to pay $80,000-120,000 for this genius little piece of theater and quite possibly more. They've been known to fetch sums of well over a million dollars.

Christie's cautions potential bidders with the gentle reminder that "several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell" and advises those interested to "familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country." But all that drudgery will soon be forgotten, once its owner stares, mesmerized, into the clarity of this mystery clock's brilliant face.

Important Jewels
Sale 1343
21 February 2007, 2:00 pm & 6:00 pm
Badrutt's Palace Hotel
St. Moritz

17 February 11:00 am - 6:30 pm
18 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
19 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
20 February 11:00 am - 7:30 pm
21 February 11:00 am - 1:30 pm

Sale Contact: Eric Valdieu
Tel: +41 (0)22 319 1730

Monday, February 12, 2007

Etched in Perpetuity

Signature Beakers with Sterling Scribe
Michele Oka Doner, 2007
Height 6"
$1,900 Set of Two

This spring, Steuben Glass, one of the most successful American glass companies of the 20th century, will launch a collection of eleven designs by contemporary artists. The collection primarily continues Steuben's long-established tradition of glass animals, but one design, in particular, strikes a decidedly different historical note.

Artist Michele Oka Doner's design plays on a 16th century tradition, in which inscriptions, dates and signatures were scratched with a diamond stylus onto a glass vessel, thereby commemorating a special occasion - a guestbook, of sorts. One such object, an Austrian covered beaker dating to the 1540s, is in the collection at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York (below). The inscriptions on the glass date mainly from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but 18th and 19th-century signatures can also be found. It may have belonged to a southern German confraternity, as the professions listed with the names denote educated burghers - a surgeon, a district magistrate, a town councilor, a notary, and a lawyer.

Oka Doner, a Miami Beach native now based in New York, is primarily known for the public artworks she has created for courthouses, libraries and airports across the country. But she also produces objects of a much more intimate scale, including furnishings, tableware and jewelry. With this first design for Steuben, she furthers her exploration in functional objects and takes an historicist, if not sentimental, twist, not often expressed in her modernist idiom.

Also available is the Signature Bowl with Sterling Scribe (9.25" diam.) for $1,900 and the Grand Signature Bowl with Sterling Scribe (13.75" diam.) for $6,000.