Archive for April, 2010

Shabbos “Pouf”/week 11

Posted in 19th cent., Centennial Exhibition, overfussy tastes, Philadelphia with tags on April 30, 2010 by babylonbaroque

First off if anyone knows what this type of furniture is actually called please let me know. I will describe the following as a circular leather bench, but my friends Jaime Rummerfield and Ron Woodson of Woodson & Rummerfield describe it as a pouf which I love.

This pouf loves THIS pouf.

Leather upholstered circular bench with bronze candelabrum.



approx. 1876

This magnificent pience of ostentation was shown at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.

One of the many marvel, I plan to explore the Centennial Exhibition in more depth, but for now…

Good Shabbos

Another Gown for Grace, Lanvin 1939

Posted in 20th century, Fashion-art, Gracie's gowns, House of Lanvin on April 28, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Worn by the Comtesse Jean de Polignac, this dress had been debuted in New York in 1940 for the charity event “Le Colis de Trianon-Versailles”, it hadn’t been seen again in NY until the Met exhibit “Blithe Spirit:The Windsor Set” 2002-2003. It is a stunner, well worth the long wait.

Evening Dress

House of Lanvin

(French 1867-1946)


Silk,spangles,100% magic.

Well, I hope my niece likes this as much as I do.

Night, night Grace

Always Room for Dresser

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Dresser on April 26, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As it is Monday evening, and I ought to be studying, I have instead decided to post about the Eternal Dresser.

Always a wonder, so just a few images:

Vase 1880

Painted floral decoration in imitation of cloisonne

Old Hall Earthenware Co.

14″ high

A favorite for quite some time, these oddball designs Dresser came up with, to amuse and dazzle. always tickled by demon handles, can never have enough.

Vase 1888

I need this color, EVERYWHERE.

hallstand 1867

I love how well Dresser adapted to the needs of the Industrial Revolution. He seemed content mass producing his designs, even something as wonderfully banal as a coat-tree.

The man, the genius,

Christopher Dresser


Modern Gothic corner chair, week 10

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, chair, Dresser, Eastlake, Modern Gothic on April 23, 2010 by babylonbaroque

This corner chair is a very good example of the Reformers influence on manufacturers and the products they peddled. The chair was produced by Kimbel & Cabus of New York.The Brooklyn Museum describes  the chair as in the Modern Gothic style. The references to the Aesthetic movement are apparent. Dresser an obvious influence as it is ebonized, but I see a closer link to Eastlake, the squat square construction, the decorative incising . What I find most interesting is the “tile” decoration. From what I can gather they are printed on paper. A charming, inexpensive way of adding visual interest. I plan to steal that idea.

Corner Chair

Kimbel & Cabus, 1863-1882

New York, New York

Ebonized wood, gilt-incised decoration, modern upholstery

approx. dimensions 28x19x19

Brooklyn Museum

One of the” tiles”, wee little mice,

the other, little birds, the Dresser reference very apparent.

So widespread was the Eastlake mania, many manufacturers created “Eastlake ” furniture. This advertisement from 1880, offers a Eastlake chair for 25 cents. The manufacturer Adams & Bishop Comp. of New York.

Good Shabbos

A Gown for Gracie, Mauvine and the power of Aniline dyes.

Posted in 19th cent., aniline dyes, Fashion-art on April 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I will continue spoiling my little niece with pretty dresses.

This week I would like to present a none too subtle stunner, a product of the Industrial Revolution. A color unlike the vegetable based dyes favored by the Reformers, Morris would have cringed in horror, my niece will  squeal  with delight.


United Kingdom 1870-73

Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone.

Victoria&Albert Museum

I have long been fascinated and perplexed by the Aniline dyes of the 19th cent., understanding how they stood in sharp contrast to the aesthetics of the Reform movements, I was still drawn to their brazen beauty. Magenta I understood to be a color that was wholly 19th century. As curious as I was I never explored the topic until this evening. In 1856 A British chemist, William Perkins accidently discovered Mauvine, the first of many brilliant aniline colors.

William Henry Perkin


A scrap of  Mauvine dyed silk, with a letter from Perkin’s son.

As I mentioned, other brassy colors would follow, magenta, chrome yellows, pink and blue, but Mauvine was the first.The Queen started a fashion for the color when she wore it to the Royal Exhibition. So if it is good for her Majesty it is most certainly good enough for my niece Grace.


I have much to learn about aniline dyes, the impact they had on the Industrial Revolution, “good” taste, “bad”taste etc.

But until then I plan to purchase the marvelous 1995 film, “Angels and Insects”, directed by Plilip Haas. There are many splendid examples of aniline colored ball gowns, I am eager to relive those moments.

still from “Angels and Insects” 1995

Southern Romanticism and Cold Realities

Posted in 19th cent., American South, architecture on April 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I am currently enrolled in a U.S. history course, and it is fascinating to revisit a subject I foolishly yawned through as a boy. For history to hold my boyhood interest, absolute monarchs needed to decapitate other monarchs,  and Holy Fathers needed to commission great art and vanquish heathens .U.S. history bored me to tears with its Puritan roots and quest for democracy, liberty, and freedom.

Fortunately I am not that silly boy .

We are now tackling the Kingdom of Cotton and it’s legacy. Having spent much time in the American South, Virginia in particular, I am familiar with richness of it’s land and the beauty of it’s architecture. The enclosed imagery is from the controversial exhibit “Back of the Big House” Library of Congress, 1995.

The photographs, mostly taken in the 30’s are beautiful, romantic, and haunting.

Barn at Bremo Plantation, Fluvanna County, Virginia

This barn is a stunner, I love the dressed stone Doric columns, the classical bays, the modestly grand clock tower. Perfection.


Bermuda Plantation


Charm, modesty, sweetness.

Chicken House

Blakely Plantation


Seemingly out of Downing’s pattern book “The Architecture of Country Houses”. It modestly expresses the American agrarian ideal.



Even today, this is familiar landscape.


Middleburg Plantation

South Carolina

This is familiar land, the fields, the structures, happy memories.

Slave Quarters

Hermitage Plantation

Chatham County, Georgia

Hauntingly romantic, such sad little houses.

Slave Chapel

Mansfield Plantation

South Carolina

It seems a happy place, the bell, the tidy yard, one hopes the Sabbath offered some relief from misery.

The cold hard reality.

Fannie Moore

former slave

South carolina

photographed ca 1938

This handsome, dignified woman is a chilling reminder of what I love about the South was at her expense.

When does beauty become sinister?

Good Shabbos Chair- the HoHo Bird

Posted in 19th cent., chair, Chippendale, Ho-Ho birds, Rococo Revival on April 16, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My love affair with all things Chinoiserie, particularly Thos. Chippendale’s spin on the fashion, and my unflagging passion for 19th century revival styles is fulfilled in this wildly inventive chair.

In the “Modern French style”, what we call Rococo Revival, this chair is reminiscent certainly of Belter and his odd foliate carvings, but it has a very apparent lineage to Chippendale.

Unmistakably Victorian, heavy, a little clunky, the C-scrolls  lack 18th cent. Rococo finesse, but the charm is apparent. Another successful 19th century play on period styles.

The magical HoHo bird proudly centered.

Side Chair

made in U.S.,possibly N.Y. or Philadelphia


maker unknown


approximate dimensions 46x18x24

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The HoHo has been a source of fascination for me since boyhood. He livened what I thought were essentially dull mirror designs. The Chippendale designs, available for my  boyhood viewing in the Philadelphia region seemed to be pretty chaste affairs. The really whimsical, wacky stuff didn’t seem to cross the Atlantic. The occasional HoHo bird tickled my fancy.

gilt mirror detail

HoHo console decoration

My own curiosity led me to understand the origin of this funny little bird. Most likely he is a phoenix, stylized of course for Western eyes; more like a long plumed swallow then the flaming raptor of immortality. In my research I discovered that the Japanese word for the bird,  he was imported from China, is Ho-o or Hou-ou. I am certainly not a scholar, but I would guess that to be the origin of the bird’s whimsical name.

Phoenix, image from Imari Porcelain ware

Nihom Toji Taikei magazine, vol. 19

One of a pair

Heian Era, 11 cent.

Amida Hall, Kyoto

typically a male and female face one another, this is often true of Chipprndale designs, as the bed below illustrates.

This is the fanciful design I would have loved seeing as a boy. That chilly Philadelphian Chippendale did not inspire.

My tastes have evolved, but I love the theatricality of this type of design.

I close with my own modest example of the ho-ho bird. I painted this on a Beverly Hills dining ceiling. It is a charming dining room for a charming lady who also shares my love of Ho-Ho birds, I painted as many as I could fit into the design.

Have a great weekend and good shabbos.

Gracie you up? a gown for Grace

Posted in 19th cent., Fashion-art, Gracie's gowns on April 14, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Putting off my homework assignment for the upteenth time, I stumbled upon this extravaganza. Any 3  and a half year old should love this architectural wonder.

Evening Dress



who knows


Metropolitan Museum of Art

I am so eager to return home and rush over to the Met, Grace in tow. She will flip for the finery, until then pretty pictures must suffice.

Hell,when I was her age, crappy art books , with teeny black and white images of Boucher, Botticelli, and sexy Greek vases, delighted my eye and groomed my taste .

I think this heavily upholstered sofa, I mean dress, will tickle dear Grace, I hope so.

So she has an idea of how something like this was worn, I include an under-structure, different type of construction, but the same perverse contraption of wire, cane, and whalebone.

Good night Grace

Gracie’s Gowns

Posted in 19th cent., Chas. F. Worth, Fashion-art on April 13, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My little niece Grace at three and a half is mad for fashion. She is determined that her ensemble be complete before leaving the house and shames her mother, my beloved sister Kat, into improving upon her own outfits. Schlubby doesn’t cut it in Graceland.

Grace loves gowns, unfortunately Philadelphia doesn’t have many options for gown gazing aside from the horrors offered at David’s Bridal and the even more horrifying Disney franchise. With the intention of tickling my niece’s fancy I want to try to present a few gowns now and again.

I can think of no man more gifted at gown making then Charles Frederick Worth, the man responsible for dressing Empress Eugenie and fashionable Second Empire society.

Although the first gown is actually from the House of Worth, after his death,it reflects the spirit of the age and appeals to the modern eye.

House of Worth

made 1898-1900

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Master

Charles Frederick Worth


Keeping with a strong graphic theme, this striped dress is particularly handsome.

Charles Frederick Worth

House of Worth


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Empress Eugenie 1855

Loads of pretty gowns to satisfy any little girl (or boy).

love, Uncle Len

Good Gothic Revival Shabbos,( a little late), week 8

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, chair, Gothic Revival, Uncategorized on April 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Crazy hectic schedule and tax time to boot!

My mania for all things Gothic Revival inspires this weeks offering.

Both revival chairs are from the holdings of my hometown museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, both spins on the Gothic, both wonderful.

Gothic Revival Chair

Robert Venturi, born 1925

designed 1979-84,made in U.S. 1984

Bent laminated wood and painted plastic laminate

approx. 41x20x23

This chair in it’s cheery camouflage has been a favorite of mine since youth, it is made by Knoll, and may be one of the few chairs I present that I have an actual chance of owning.

Side Chair

Maker Unknown 1850-70

possibly Philadelphia or New York

Rosewood, rosewood veneer, ash, yellow poplar,cherrywood;brass approx. 46x18x23

A complicated composition in lumber for a pretty conventional side chair. I of course love it, crave it, would upholster it in Venturi pink, but it is a bit dull. I understand the Bloomsbury reaction to all of that stuffy furniture. But again, I wish I had inherited a stash of this horse haired stuff!

Have a great weekend