Archive for September, 2010

Sarah Bejeweled

Posted in Alphonse Mucha, Calouste Gulbenkian, Edouard Lievre, George Sandow, Georges Fouquet, Rene Lalique, Sarah Bernhardt on September 29, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My intention has been to post a simple little article on the Divine Sarah.

With Sarah Bernhardt  it AIN’T that easy.

Divine Sarah as the Empress of Byzantium Théodora by Sardou

I was a pissy little  homo- boy, my mother dismissed my histrionic fits by telling me to “stop acting like Sarah Bernhardt”.

I hadn’t a clue as to what she was referring to, I do now.

Sarah is eternally fascinating. As I cannot possibly tackle the Goddess in one little modest post, perhaps chapters would be best.

As I like shiny things, and Sarah liked shiny things lets begin with jewels.

We all know the quite fabulous Dragonfly corsage , so let us start with it.

Dragonfly corsage

Lalique 1897-1898

gold, enamel, chrysoprase stones, moonstones .

Museo Calouste Gulbenkian

I have read that this perverse little creature owned by Sarah’s friend, Calouste Gulbenkian, was a portrait sculpture of Bernhardt. I don’t see a resemblance, but it is of course  quite extraordinary.

Calouste lent this jaw dropper only once to dear Sarah, but we are still talking about it.

The man had fine taste, plus he was rather cute.

In addition to this bit of magnificence, he was a fine patron to Lalique. I must post more in a future date, but I cannot resist the siren call of this piece.

Serpents pectoral

ca. 1898-1899

gold and enamel

Museo Calouste Gulbenkian

Lalique wasn’t the only horse in Sarah’s bejeweled stable. Georges Fouquet and Alphonse Mucha produced this dazzling wonder.

Snake Bracelet

ca. 1899

gold, diamonds, opals , rubies, and enamel

Alphonse Mucha  Museum

Sakai City, Japan

As the opal is Sarah’s birthstone, the Snake Bracelet is particularly fitting.

It’s Orientalist mystique is by way of a larger snake that wraps round her wrist, Snake -1 linked to ring -Snake- 2 by a delicate series of chains. Flexibility is provided by discreet hinges from behind. a mechanical bit of genius that even I can appreciate.

In addition to designing Sarah’s jewels, Mucha of course famously designed posters for many of her  performances. this poster of 1898, depicts the divine one as Medea, in the production of  Médée performed at the Theatre de la Renaissance.

The Snake Bracelet quite visible, in addition to the bloody knife.

Georges Fouquet and Alphonse Mucha collaborated on other pieces, this pendant will drive you mad.

Brooch

ca. 1900

Georges Fouquet and Alphonse Mucha

gold, enamel, mother of pearl, emerald, colored stone, gold paint

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Clearly dear Mucha relished being Sarah’s lap dog.Mucha went on to design more for Sarah, jewels and posters most specifically.

When Miss Bernhardt was performing La Princesse Lointaine at the Renaissance Theatre in 1895, Mucha designed this magnificent tiara for her.

Diadem for La Princesse Lointaine

ca. 1895

Musée et Bibliothèque de l’Opera

Paris

Reutlinger Studio (1850-1930)

ca. 1895

Harvard Theatre Collection

As Sarah had great control of her image, she was involved on every level. This jeweled collar for her role s Cleopatra reflect this attention to detail.

Pectoral for Cléopâtre

ca. 1840

metal, pearls, beads, sequins, gold thread

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

It’s quite clear dear Sarah enjoyed her glamour, her image, her presence.

Even her mirror bore her imprint, her motto Quand même (even so).

Standing Mirror

ca. 1875

Edouard Lièvre

Ariadante, Paris

ca. 1891

In closing I may never tire of Sarah, I thank my mother for the intro.


Always eager to throw in beefcake, we have the Divine and the Elegant Brute, the always hot George Sandow.

Good Night


Caruso, the one , the only Canio

Posted in 20th century, Boardwalk Empire, Commedia dell'arte, Enrico Caruso, Opera, Pagliacci/Canio on September 26, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In anticipation of this evening’s episode of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, I am prompted to post about dear Enrico Caruso.

In one of many beautiful scenes, we find an Italian mobster in a pool of blood as Caruso crackles on the gramophone. Prior, we had the chance to see one of my favorite images of Caruso, framed as if he were a saint. The mobster so loved Caruso;it was fitting he met his end in the thrall of his voice.

Image similar to what was featured on “Boardwalk Empire”

Caruso as Canio, ca. 1905

Such attention to detail drew me in, but the NY Times , thought otherwise. Alessandra Stanley felt that “sometimes exactitude verges on pedanticism”. I’ve been known to be pedantic.

I’m pleased with the details, I relish the little flourishes. As any good Italian boy from New Jersey knows, Caruso was God. My Italian grandfather, a man with  very little cultural sophistication, adored Caruso. I present this little collection in his honor.

as Canio, ca. 1904

The following clip has wonderful images of Caruso in action.

Caruso’s “Una Furtiva Lagrima”,(Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore”, a furtive tear) ca. 1904, always a crowd pleaser. It has been digitally remastered , something my Grandpop Greco would have enjoyed;the purists, probably not so much.

As any  Italian American knows, “Ave Maria”, is a perfect blend of art and devotion; this rendition ca. 1913-15.

Enjoy tonight’s episode.

Good Shabbos Chair #14

Posted in 19th cent., chair, Herter, Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, White House on September 24, 2010 by babylonbaroque

It has  been some time since I last featured a chair. In my research for the various redecorations of the White House I stumbled upon this fantastic chair by the always wonderful Herter Bros.

One of a pair of “Ladies” Chairs, (this surviving Arthur’s house cleaning, see previous post) created for Mrs. Grant’s Red Room redecoration.

Herter Bros. N.Y. , N.Y.

ca. 1875

Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant

(Julie Dent Grant)

b. Jan. 26th 1826

d. Dec.14th 1902

Apparently Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant was a fun gal, enjoying her role as Hostess in Chief, she entertained regularly. In anticipation of her daughter Nellie’s marrieage to the Brit Algernon Sartoris in 1874, the house underwent extensive redecoration.

East Room ca. 1878

Her East Room redo made a great splash, influencing many a Gilded Age interior.

The lavish globe chandelier really is too much, in the best possible way.

As I said, the Herter chair was from a set of 13 in the Renaissance Revival style, 2  “Ladies”chairs as shown. Not sure if Arthur or Tiffany decided to not use the pair, but this one thankfully survives. Tiffany was instructed by President Arthur to reuse furnishing that were appropriate, Herter Bros. furnishings  was still fashionable I assume.

Red Room with chair visible

ca. 1870′s

I love this sort of post War interior, so lavishly optimistic.

We see the chair once again in 1889, either Cleveland’s first term, or Harrison’s .

Red Room ca. 1889

It really is such a handsome room, even with those ungodly “art” vases.

For a more modest version of the room, I conclude with this image from the Pierce administration.

Red Room ca. 1856

Terribly cozy, I find this so charming.

Well have a lovely weekend ,Good Shabbos !

Aestheticism hits the White House, the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration 1882

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, Oscar Wilde, President Chester Arthur, Thom. Ustick Walter, White House on September 21, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Like a fragile St.John preaching in the desert, St. Oscar lands upon our barren shores on January 3rd 1882 ready to preach the Gospel of Aestheticism.

St. John the Baptist

Titian

1542

(the above completely gratuitous , hunky men never fail to please)

Oscar Wilde had intended to spend four months cultivating the Cave-people of North America, poor fellow found himself stuck here for a year.

cartoon of Wilde by Keller, 1882

I feel for Wilde, I doubt most Americans were open to his fey notions of  Aesthetic Beauty. We tend to favor a robust expression of architecture, the infestation of Richardson Romanesque piles providing suitable argument.

Yet his wit and taste clearly affected at least one very important dandy, President Chester A. Arthur.

21st President Chester A. Arthur

term Sep. 19th 1881-Mar.4th 1885

20th President James A. Garfield and his Vice President Chester A. Arthur

“Chet” finding himself  President after the tragic assassination of President James A. Garfield, was  confronted with a new home loathsome to his own rarefied tastes. Finding the White House and its decor  outmoded and decrepit; Arthur shed the house of 24 wagonloads of furnishings and 30 barrels of old china. Like many of my readers, I cringe at what was lost.

Foolish where it concerns our heritage, he was quite wise in hiring the young buck Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of his friend Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany the younger had recently formed the design firm Associated Artists. Arthur assigns them the commission to redecorate the Entry Hall, East Room, Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room in 1882. The decision was made not to redecorate the Green Room. Furnishings were not to be commissioned, but architectural enhancements such as glass screens, lighting, and decorative finishes were to be employed to create this Aesthetic Palace we know as the White House.

a youthful Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Entry Hall

The Entry had long posed a problem in its draftiness. In 1837 President Martin Van Buren installs a decorative screen to combat the problem. In 1853 President Franklin Pierce hires the Philadelphian architect Thomas Ustick Walter to fashion a more agreeable screen. This screen was apparently handsome enough for Tiffany to fabricate his own wonder upon it’s skeleton.

This scene from 1881 shows the Walter screen of 1853

Tiffany transforms the Entry Hall into a harem worthy of any Pasha’s attention.

Entrance 1882

Tiffany’s jewel like vision was not to be long lived. The delicate red, white, and blue opalescent splendor  was not suitably American for Teddy and his Big Stick. Soon enough, that Big Stick would send crashing to the ground all that Aesthetic prettiness.

ca. 1889

either the Cleveland or Harrison administration.

ca. 1893

Cleveland administration.

The skeleton of the Walter’s screen very visible.

I like the eagle motif between the arches.

ca. 1894

Cleveland administration.

I particularly like the ungodly overmantle decoration. not sure if its Tiffany’s doing. Seems a bit un-Aesthetic, but is typical of my preference for the vulgar.

The Roosevelt Big Stick has entered the room!

ca.1902

The 26th President,Theodore Roosevelt’s

the McKim, Mead, & White renovation full steam ahead.

A tragic and beautiful image, reminiscent of Pompeii.

ca. 1903

Almost completed and ready for its close up.

As I mentioned Tiffany was in charge of the Red, Blue, Dining, and East Room, I will present a few glimpses.

Red Room

ca. 1883

Tiffany’s dreamy vision

ca. 1888

Mrs. Cleveland tainted the Aesthetic purity with conventional touches, the Asian vases selected by Tiffany, replaced with the following commonplace urns.

(do like the lampshade.)

The Blue Room

I’ve discussed this room before, but it’s worth revisiting.

ca. 1882

Note the patriotic shields in the ceiling decoration, proving  Aestheticism can indeed be red blooded American.

ca. 188g

digital reconstruction by Nest magazine.

The East Room

ca. 1883

I was unable to find any images of the State dining Room attributed to Tiffany, the following is dated the 1880′s. It may have been from the Garfield administration. It’s pretty conventional, so that is most likely.

ca. 1880′s

I’ll bet you a nickel it ISN’T Lewis Comfort’s work.

As I said this Eastern Splendor was short-lived.

The magnificent glass screen which had cost $15,000.00 to fashion, was auctioned off in 1902  for $275.00. The screen ultimately met its sad end when its new home the Belvedere Hotel in Chesepeake Maryland burnt to the ground. For more information concerning the ill-fated screen follow this link

As in all things, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Have a great week.


Louis Lingg, The Hottest Anarchist Ever

Posted in 19th cent., Anarchists, Louis Lingg, Recquiscat in Pace, Walter Crane on September 15, 2010 by babylonbaroque

It’s pretty sad when you have a crush on a man who has been dead for 123 years, not to mention that he is/was an Anarchist, and you a dilettantish Monarchist.

Look at this  photograph and all will be explained. Click on image to enlarge.

Louis Lingg

b. Sept. 9th 1864

Mannheim Germany

d. Nov. 10th 1887

Cook County Jail

Chicago,Illinois

U.S.A.

The youngest of those arrested in the aftermath of the  bloody, event known as the Haymarket Riot .

On May 3rd 1886, Chicago police violently interrupted an altercation between striking workers at the McCormick Reaper plant and strike-breakers. The police fired, killing and wounding several men.

Tensions were high within the Labor movement, May 1st 1886 ( May Day) had just witnessed a national demonstration advocating an 8 hour work day.

The violence at the Mc Cormick plant prompted a rally the next day, to be held in Haymarket Square, the purpose of the rally was to denounce  the police brutality and once again push for a reasonable work day. Multiple trade unions were present. This handsome banner  (of the era) for the Painters-Decorators Union of course charmed the hell out of me.

Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators, Local 194

ca. 1890

painted silk, metallic fringe

70 ½ by 47½ inches

Chicago Historical Society

In what was to be a day of peaceful Labor demonstration, full of fraternité and inspirational speechmaking , turned  quite bloody. An unidentified figure thew a bomb into the crowd of gathered police. Shots were fired, certainly by the police, some sources say from within the crowd. Whatever truly happened within the chaos remains a mystery, but at days end 7 police officers and  4 workers were found dead, plus 60 wounded. A bloody awful day.

Public reaction was of course over-reaction, a Red Scare ensued.

Desperate to find a culprit, eight prominent Chicago Anarchists were arrested, charged, and sentenced with “conspiracy to murder”

They were all but one, sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until he is dead”.

This is astonishing as most of the men accused were not even in attendance. The “logic” of the sentencing was that their political writings, which were quite radical, incited the violence. Was Freedom of Speech an unknown concept in ’86?

Of the eight accused, Judge Jos. E Gary spared Oscar Neebe  death, but sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.

The others were not to  be spared the noose.

On Nov. 10th 1887, a day before he is to climb the scaffold, Louis Lingg places a blasting cap in his mouth, lights it, and blows off his lower jaw, and much of his (beautiful) face. This at the hour of 9 o’clock in the forenoon, he finally after many hours of agony, dies at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

A contemporary image illustrating the ugly event.

Another image, a less “noble ” Lingg committing the act on his cell cot.

Recquiscat in Pace Louis Lingg

Nov. 11th 1887, Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engels, and Adolph Fischer are hanged.

Albert Parsons

August Spies

George Engel

Adolph Fischer

The only cemetery  willing to take the five bodies  was the German Waldheim cemetery.

Six years later, on June 25th 1893, a monument was dedicated to the Haymarket  Martyrs as they were beginning to be called.

Haymarket Martyr’s Monument

Liberty placing a laurel wreath upon a Fallen Worker.

designed by Albert Weinert

German Waldheim Cemetary

Relying upon this wonderful image by the great Walter Crane , public perception concerning this outrage of justice, must have been shifting, at least within progressive circles.

The Anarchists of Chicago

by Walter Crane

Ultimately the Reform movement and the struggles endured, received positive results. The National Eight Hour Law was passed and signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on May 19th 1869. I am perplexed by this as the Eight Hour Workday was still an issue at the time of the Haymarket Riot. The 1869 proclamation reads: “I, U.S. grant, President of the United States, do hereby direct that from this date no reduction shall be made in the wages paid by the government by the day, to such laborers, workers, & mechanics on account of such reduction of the hours of labor. In testimony whereof &c, done at the City of Washington, this 19th Day of May, the year of our Lord, 1869 & of the Independence of the United States”.

From my reading the issue of Eight Work Day would have been mute, but I guess not. I am certainly not a legal scholar.

Finally, in 1938 The Fair Labor Standard Act made eight hours a legal days work in the U.S.

In 1893, at the expense of his political career, Gov. John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining accused, Folden, Schwab, and Neebe.

This cartoon dated July 15th 1893 expresses some of the outrage at the Governor’s decision. The Monument in the background is a monument honoring the fallen police officers. Click on the image for greater detail, check out the dog collars.

“The Friend of Mad Dogs. Gov. Altgeld of illinois in freeing the Anarchists bitterly denounced Judge Gary and the Jury that convicted them.”

by Judge Publishing Company

Not all sentiment was against Altgeld, this commemorative plaque attests to enough support for the decision to warrant his quote to be cast in bronze. I particularly admire the severed chains.

If interested in further information concerning the Haymarket Riot, I suggest you visit the Chicago Historical Society Collection .

Have a great eight hour work day, and remember to thank the handsome Mr. Lingg and his seven comrades.

In closingI feel compelled to include the ONLY Dolly ditty that I truly cannot stand, but it IS thematic.

The Sun King By Way of Cathay;the chinoiserie tapestries of Beauvais

Posted in 17th century, Beauvais tapestries, Bourbon monarchy, Chinoiserie, Francois Boucher, Jean Berain, Louis XIV, peacocks on September 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My friend Eleanor Schapa recently posted a commemoration of the Sun King’s birthday (Sept 5th) on her Face Book page; I am ashamed to say I had forgotten.

I will attempt to make amends.

(Young Louis in possibly the gayest costume ever!)

Louis XIV , aged 14, in the role of Apollo, the Celestial Sovereign.

A role young Louis would cultivate throughout his lifetime.

In celebrating the Sun King’s birth, my friend Eleanor, a maven of the decorative arts, listed many of Louis’s attributes. Amongst the many contributions she made mention of the Gobelins tapestries, in particular the Chinoiserie series. Ordinarily Eleanor and I are in complete agreement, but she found them to be unattractive.

I felt a need to re-examine them.

I am NOT a maven concerning anything frankly. I have a broad range of interest and have been familiar with “The Emperor of China” series for some time. From my brief research they seemed to have been of Beauvais manufacture, Gobelins being solely royal production. I’m guessing they were part of Louis frenzied effort to sell the Franco “brand”.

I must say, I still find them exciting and quite beautiful, sorry Eleanor.

“Emperor Sailing”

from the “The Story of the Emperor of China”

after design by Guy-Louis Vernansel

1648-1279

wool, silk, gilt

Art Institute of Chicago

I have always admired the decidedly Western dragons, indifferent to Chinese conventions.

Another example from the “Historie du Roi de Chine “series, further explores the mystery of Cathay.

le Astronomes

from “il historie du roi de Chine”

after designs by Jean -Baptiste Belin de Fontenay

1653-1715

Manufactured by Beauvais 18th cent.

silk

How the hell do you not love that peacock?

Again that very Western dragon, like Brighton Pavilion.

Of course you can’t speak of Louis’s patronage without mention of the great Jean Bérain; his seemingly  inexhaustible imagination created some of the most enchanting grotesquerie ever.

Devotion to  Pan

design by Jean Bérain the Elder

1638-1711

Louis XIV achieved his goal in creating a seemingly eternal desire for French goods.

This tapestry, ca. 1770, is as desirable as it was in the century in which it was designed, as in the century when it was manufactured (1770), and today.

Fashion that is truly timeless.

“Summer”

from the “Portieries of the Gods”

(love that name, as if Olympus had a private decorator)

after designs by Claude Audran le Jeun

1658-1734

ca. 1770 Gobelins

silk

Of course my friend Eleanor had a point, when it comes to Chinoiserie; at it’s most graceful, few could compete with Boucher.

first in the series (of six)

Le Tenture Chinois

(Chinois Wall Hangings)

after designs by Francois Boucher

1703-1770

Louis XV’s Beauvais , 1758

wool,silk

All in all, I think Louis XIV’s take on Chinoiserie is typical of most of the Baroque under his direction. It all appears to be reflect his own splendor, the Chinois series merely a way for Louis to play act the role of an Absolute Mandarin.

Louis did  narcissism well.

Happy Birthday your Majesty!

b. September 5th 1638

d. September 1st 1715

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi!


Recquiscat in Pace Princesse de Lamballe

Posted in 18th century, Bourbon monarchy, Marie Antoinette, Princesse de Lamballe, Sans-culotte on September 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

How the hell I let the 3rd pass without honoring Marie Antoinette’s greatest friend, I haven’t a clue.

But today is that great lady’s birthday, so she must be honored, happy 218th birthday sweet Princesse.

On September 3rd 1792 Princesse de Lamballe was brutally murdered and mutilated by roving mobs of madmen, primarily the sans culottes, hungry for “liberty” and blood.  Please refer to sidebar for more info on the Sans Culottes.

Princess Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy -Carignan, Princess of Lamballe

b. September 8th 1749

d. September 3rd 1792

Her end, part of a wave of horror known as the September Massacres, was a violent bloody affair. God knows her final thoughts , loyal to the end to her great friends, Marie and Louis,  she was separated from Marie earlier in “92. A pity for both women to have lost the companionship of one another when it was needed most urgently.

The evil crowds blaspheming her in name and ultimately in body , placed her head upon a pike. A grisly gift they thought fit for a Divine Sovereign.

Recquiscat in Pace dear Princesse.

It is also appropriate to remember the others martyred defending the Faith : the 24 True priests, massacred on route to the prison/Abbe of Saint Germain, the  150 other priests brutally murdered in a Carmelite sanctuary, the brave-hearted Swiss Guard, the average common Catholic, loyal to his King and his God.

Pax Vobiscum

Feeling Blue in the White House; the Blue Room and it’s various incarnations.

Posted in 18th century, 19th cent., 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, architecture, bergere, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on September 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have read that blue is the color favored by most folks, men in particular. After having been critical of President Obama’s timid attempts at redecoration , I thought it fair to show examples of color.

Beginning with the beautiful Blue Room seemed appropriate.

An early depiction, ca. President Pierce , in office 1853-1857

Old Abe didn’t do much with the place, perhaps the fancy bed Mary bought had created enough outrage.

Lincoln reception in the Blue Room.

Lincoln presidency

March 1861- April 15th 1865

Recquiscat in Pace President Lincoln

As I am now engaged in study concerning Reconstruction, President Andrew Johnson is of interest to me.

Apparently a stubborn , willful man, and a racist to boot. His decorating, left to the hand of his daughter,seems a bit rigid for my taste.

Blue Room during the Johnson administration, 1865-1869

President Andrew Johnson

Note: Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. President to be impeached.

Good old  Ulysses does a bit of redecorating. He was responsible for the new carpet, the sconces , and the impressive gasolier.

Blue Room, ca. 1874

Ulysses S. Grant administration 1869-1877

Swell guy.

My favorite Dandy President, “Elegant Arthur”, made the greatest impact. In a future post I will explore his tastes more thoroughly, but for now I will focus on the Blue Room. “Chet”, a man of fashion and style wisely chose the forward thinking Louis Comfort Tiffany to redecorate his new digs.

Blue Room refurbished by Tiffany for President Arthur, administration 1881-1885

Note the Aesthetic paper, the wild Starburst sconces.

Perfection.

Official White House portrait

President Chester (Chet) Arthur

We mustn’t forget to thank the always fabulous Louis Comfort.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

ca. 1880′s

1848-1933

Note: for years I dated a madly wonderful fellow, direct descendent of  L.C. Tiffany; the physical resemblance striking.

The collaboration truly dazzled as this coloured reconstruction demonstrates.

via Nest magazine

Recquiscat in Pace Nest magazine.

The following, another coloured depiction , ca. 1887, shows that President Cleveland made few if any changes.

Blue Room during President Grover Cleveland’s administration, 1885-1889

President Benjamin Harrison seems to have made a few patriotic changes. Do I detect a Federal crest on the ceiling?

Out with that pansy Aesthetic stuff.

What will they think, that we’re England!!

Blue Room , ca. Harrison administration 1889-1893

Another coloured view , ca. 1898, William Mc Kinley’s administration.

Blue Room, Mc Kinley administration 1897-1901

I love Teddy Roosevelt, our only self admitted Imperialist President. I love how he brashly swept away the  fusty Victoriana, bringing in his own bold ,taxidermic splendour.

The following is what he inherited.

ca. 1901

And the following to suit his own distinct taste. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my…

Blue Room Splendor

Theodore Roosevelt Administration 1901-1909

I love the Imperial lambrequin.

The room seems to undergo few interesting changes ,

at least according to my own humble opinion.

Truman tarts it up a bit in ’52.

Blue Room

Administration of Harry S. Truman

1945-1953

Re-using Teddy’s window treatment.

It isn’t until Her Majesty Jackie ascends the throne that the magic returns.

We haven’t seen such beauty since the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration.

Drawing inspiration from the James Madison administration ( 1709-1717), a stunning room is revealed.

Blue Room

Kennedy Administration

1961-1963

Thank you Mrs. Kennedy

Perfection

I find it of interest that President Nixon felt it necessary to redecorate such a perfect room.

I do admire the chutzpah of the Napoleonic candelabra, a room should reflect it’s occupant.

Blue Room

ca. administration of President Richard Nixon

1969-1974

(As in the Nixon Oval Office, I admire the grandeur and color of the window dressings.)

Apparently the room needed further freshening up.

Here we have  Hillary acting as Decorator-in Charge.

I don’t know why I find this so amusing. She doesn’t look terribly comfortable in the role.

In closing , a detail of a Blue Room bergère, upholstered in Scalamandre silk.

Blue Room bergére

ca. 1815

Pierre-Antoine Bellange

L’Shanah Tovah my friends!

A Fresh Coat of Bland, the Oval Office Redecoration.

Posted in architecture, Oval Office, White House on September 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I was reading this morning’s New York Times I was greeted with the news that our President had redecorated the  nation’s Seat of Power, the Oval Office.

I was left deeply unimpressed, how did we become so Beige!

The rooms flaxen decor reminds me of any expensive hotel eager to cocoon you in it’s monochromatic safety. The room gave me no indication of Mr. Obama’s real interests, although the new oval carpet included several quotes he is said to treasure. But aside from that personal detail the room is yet again another example of his decorator Michael Smith’s rarefied yet sterile aesthetic (I assume Smith was in charge).

It is a celebration of blandness with a chorus of wheat, oatmeal, and putty. No wonder Mr. Obama’s detractors criticize his apparent lack of emotion. No- Drama- Obama has gone  way too far in his pursuit of understatement.

Obama Redecoration of the Oval Office.

Subtle or boring as hell?

sourced from NYTimes

Apparently the decoration of the Oval Office has not been a pressing priority for most of the presidents. Eisenhower and Carter didn’t even bother, but most have at least switched out the rugs and window furnishings.

The Oval Office is a relatively new room. Our Decorator In Chief, the house mad Jefferson complained about the presidential palace being too cramped for domesticity and national function. In 1885 what is now the West Wing was a series of glass conservatories in which the White House’s floral needs were met. As you can see by this post card, they needed a heck of a lot of flowers.

ca. 1885

It seems Big Stick Teddy decided to take matters into his own hands and tore down those sissy flower cradles. Wisely hiring McKim, Mead, & White to handle the extensive project. This image of the entrance hall is an example of their skill and taste.

ca. 1902

Of course Teddy’s bravado was not immune to criticism , this 1902 cartoon lambasts Roosevelt’s manly excesses. I wish I could find a actual image of the room, I would probably love it.

I particularly like the human trophies in the ceiling dome, nice little touch.

Although the renovation was extensive, the Oval Office still did not exist. Roosevelt used what is now the Roosevelt Room as his West Wing Office.

ca. 1904

Charming in it’s modesty, yet still personal.

President Taft as part of the expansion of the West Wing, created the Oval Office.

William Howard Taft’s Oval Office

ca. 1909

I like the choice of olive green,masculine, powerful, dignified.

Refreshingly not red-white-0r-blue.

ca. 1909

Detail of valance decoration, they were used through F.D. Roosevelt’s presidency. A wise move, easily the most handsome window furnishings we will see, window treatments became increasingly more pretentious.

Truman ultimately retires them, an unfortunate decision.

Oval Office ca. 1923

The black crepe is in honor of President Harding,having suffered a fatal heart attack that year.

His vice president Calvin Coolidge now occupied the Oval Office.

ca. 1925

I have a ridiculous fondness for early electrical fixtures, this clunky Neo-Georgian with ungainly bulbs is particularly charming.

In 1929, on Christmas Eve, a fire destroyed what is now known as the Original Oval Office.

Fire damage ca. 1929

The room is rebuilt by  Herbert Hoover according to the original plans. It is unclear to me but apparently F.D.R. , after further expansion and remodeling moves the Oval Office to the southeast corner of the West Wing.

F.D. Roosevelt’s office, ca. 1945

Note the hint of  the still handsome valance, soon doomed  for retirement under Truman.

I really like this room , rich in WASPy clutter.

Truman’s newly “improved” office

ca. 1947

Eisenhower’s take on the Oval Office

ca. 1956

Did Mamie choose the little soldiers on the mantle piece?

Under Her Majesty Jackie and her Franco decorator ,Stéphane Boudin, the White House underwent many improvements.

But for some time the Kennedy Oval Office was a rag tag collection of Truman and Eisenhower leftovers and frankly kitsch.

ca. 1961

PLEASE explain the illuminated globe/spinning wheel thingie.

JFK seems comfy.

Perhaps the most tragic example of redecoration  is the Kennedy Oval Office, as Kennedy was being assassinated the decorations were being installed.

Recquiscat in Pace President Kennedy.

The ill fated Kennedy Oval Office

ca. 1963

Dismantled soon after the assassination.

For a time L.B. Johnson uses the red carpet and window furnishings.

ca. 1964

Note the ever popular “Resolute ” desk is not in use. Perhaps the happy memories of John-John playing in his father’s office was too recent for dignity.

I leave tragedy behind and jump forward to more recent incarnations, some surprisingly colorful.

President Ford

ca. 1974

re-using Nixon’s imperial yellow decor.

Ronald Reagan’s last day in office

ca. 1989

George H. W. Bush

ca. 1991

Handsome window furnishings.

Clinton

ca. 1996

George W. Bush

source New York Times

In closing I show a detail of the carpet chosen by Mr. Obama, I’m happy that it continues the tradition of repeating the ceiling ornament.

In memory of JFK, I include this always delightful clip of Jackie’s tour, we have all heard it of course, but her patrician lisp is always a delight.

God love her.

Good Night

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