Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Wallace Collection London: Everything Else

I'll say it for you: finally the last instalment! Between working full-time which mentally leaves me out of tune, reading a book that's beyond my comfort zone that's turning out to be like a short course as it's a subject I'm clueless about, and trying to have a life, I finally found the time again to put together the remaining photos from my visit to the Hertford House which was almost a month ago. 

The grand staircase balustrade is made of wrought iron and gilt brass. Originally installed between 1719 and 1720 on the front straircase of the Banque Royale Paris which eventually became Bibliotheque Nationale, it was removed between 1868 and 1874 and installed in Hertford House in 1874 by the Parisian firm Geslin.

A chest of drawers attributed to Andre-Charles Boulle, c. 1710. The fanciest toilet mirror is also attributed to Boulle's marquetry. Part of a toilet service for the duchesse de Berry, daughter of Philippe d'Orleans (later Regent of France), c. 1713.

Copy of the writing-table made for the Elector of Bavaria, c. 1854 to  1857

I've not been a big fan of marble surfaces since moving to the UK as I find that they look out of place in small flats with wooden floors that creak and shake when lorries delivering pallets drive past. And yes, marbles remind me of mausoleums (and Catholic churches). Which reminds me of pretentious and forced restraint. And coldness. And death. Apologies for the reference if you love marble worktops and tables.

The one in the photos though is more like a painting laid out on a console table. The outer border is made of Portoro or Marble of Portovenere which is mainly found in the province of La Spezia in the Liguria region of Northern Italy. I find that black marble exudes elegance more than its cream or white counterpart.

I particularly loved the sculptured detail of this table leg. I'm quite surprised that it's the one feature I don't have any information on. The delicate intricacy is stunning, and while I'm not partial to anthropomorphic figures in furniture and home decor, these works of art are an occasional testament to those times when minimalist was unheard of. I favour the latter style, but would love to stay in accommodations where I'm surrounded by such luxury and opulence. That's why I call it a holiday: I pay a visit to aspirational surroundings that sensually stimulate my penchant for beautiful things that don't have a room in my daily life.

If you missed the rest of this series of posts, please click HERE for a view of some of the galleries and rooms, HERE for the rest of the exhibition galleries at Hertford House, HERE for porcelain and crystal pieces inside the mansion, and HERE for some paintings, sculpture, and other objects of curiosity from The Wallace Collection.

Thank you for looking!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Wallace Collection: OBJECTS Part II

The only time it's not rude to stare at someone is when you're in an art gallery or museum where you can lock eyes with portraits the features of which are almost anthropomorphic. It's also possibly one of the rare times when there's a connection and understanding between yourself and what (or who) you're gazing at without the need for verbal communication.

Out of the nearly 5,500 objects on display at The Wallace Collection, about 775 are paintings and drawings by the likes of Titian, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van Dyck, and Canaletto, among others. Some everyday objects on display give us a glimpse of aristocratic lifestyle and vice during the 18th century.

Susanna Van Collen and her daughter Ann by REMBRANDT

The Laughing Cavalier by FRANS HALS, 1624

Bronze, wood and gold sculpture of a panther, c. 1525.

Marble sculpture of Cupid and Psyche by Filippo della Valle, Florence c. 1732

The above glass display looks like an array of sumptuous pastries, don't they?

These elaborately and intricately designed decorative objects are snuff boxes, which accessory makers rolled out  as snuff-taking became fashionable in the 18th century. Snuff is smokeless pulverised tobacco that's sniffed for a swift hit of nicotine that was sometimes flavoured or scented. I've seen similar boxes in carved solid silver at the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam. These ones are probably the equivalent of today's 'IT' bags. 

Snuffing was to the elite as smoking was to the hoi polloi. Prominent historical figures known to snuff were Pope Benedict XIII, Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson. These snuff boxes were for the ladies, judging from the feminine and dainty designs. 

Below are just two of the ones I find very charming. 

Back in the day, a vice was concealed in fashionable gilded boxes decorated with enamel and precious stones. Nowadays, vices are concealed in what most of us receive at the end of the month which can make us pass out if and when we decide not to ignore it: a credit card statement. Who knows, our plastic cards may one day be exhibited in museums.

Back for more.

Click HERE and HERE for posts about the rooms and galleries; and on PART I for other objects in the collection.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Wallace Collection London: OBJECTS Part I

I heard that one of the big bosses from a well-known French fashion house didn't want to stare at an empty plain porcelain after dining that he commissioned designers to translate some of their silk prints on the porcelain they began manufacturing.

Not as elaborate as 18th century porcelain, but well made and decorated china can certainly shift from simply functional to aesthetical.

The Wallace Collection is host to a very impressive Sèvres porcelain collection. From its inception in 1740 up to these days, Manufacture nationale de Sèvres still produces luxurious and beautifully crafted wares. 

Almost all the porcelain in The Wallace Collection were either made in Vincennes between c. 1752 and c. 1756 before the move to Sèvres. They are largely in the high Rococo style or 'late Baroque' which was more playful and witty than the characteristic style of its predecessor. 

There are far too many that caught my eye, but these ones could somehow make its way to more modest modern homes. 

A 'Calabre' teapot from 1753 was named after Pierre Calabre, a shareholder in the factory. It can hold up to 10 cups of very strong brew of cold tea which was augmented by hot water from a silver jug.

On either side is a pair of flower pots from 1758, painted by Louis-David Armand. The vase in the middle with pastoral scene, is believed to have been painted by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, circa 1767. A profusion of vases was introduced around the time to bring the garden indoors. 

I'm quite fond of tea services. It must have started when as a girl I received a plastic tea service which I used to pretend I'm an adult sipping tea with friends during a hot summer afternoon back at my grandmother's in the Philippines. If space were not an issue, tea sets would fill up my cupboards. Tea serving is the only time I get to be lady-like and pretentiously cultured.

The above tea service was painted by Andre-Vincent Vielliard. This service is believed to have been purchased by Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress, on 28 December 1759 when she visited the factory. The 4th Marquess of Hertford acquired the service in London in 1849. 

My favourite piece: a ewer and basin in rock crystal with gold mounts of a young triton wrestling with a snake-like sea monster on the handle and a small barking dog as a thumb piece on the cover, circa 1727 to 1730, by goldsmith Jean Gaillard. This rare piece is one of two surviving works of the time, with this in The Wallace Collection the only one with the basin still remaining. They were owned by Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, the Duchesse de Mazarin, and Queen Marie Antoinette. 

If you're curious enough, you will see interesting finds in every corner of Hertford House. As someone who rates dual or multi-purpose pieces of furniture, I'd love to own this oak veneered work table with swivelling candelabrum. Built circa 1765 to 1770, it is likely to be an early work of Riesener who specialised in neoclassical Louis XVI style.

When I was a young girl, I would find myself reading by candlelight during frequent power cuts. It would be quaint and nostalgic to do so again, this time as an adult. I just have to make sure I'm not sitting next to my curtains and the wax doesn't drip on the carpet. 

More next time.

If you missed Part I and Part II of the posts on the rooms and galleries, please click HERE and HERE.

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