Archive for June, 2010

False Principles of Design, a reaction to the Great Exhibition

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, False Principles of Design/1853, Henry Cole, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, wallpaper on June 30, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As well intentioned as the Great Exhibition of 1851 may have been, vulgarity always reins supreme.

I happen to love vulgarity, particularly if it has gathered dust and crackled varnish over the last 160 years.

Poor Mr. Cole was having a fit at the “False Principles” being peddled as “Design” at his wonderful showcase, the Great Exhibition. He was so peeved that he organized another exhibition in 1853 , the “False Principles of Design”, held at the Museum of Ornamental Art.

The following must have been particularly galling to Mr. Cole.

False Principle #28

Perspective Representation of the Crystal Palace

Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith

1853-1855

V&A

I imagine seeing his beloved Crystal Palace, exploited in such a shameless fashion was a great irritant; that it went against his Reform principles, just added insult. How marvelous that he was able to stage an exhibit to showcase his indignation. How often I have wished for such an opportunity.

False Principle #28 follows, I love  how scientific that sounds, we’re talking about wallpaper, not an airborne disease!

False Principle # 27

Potters of Darwen

1853

V&A

Apparently what really rubbed Mr. Cole the wrong way was the illusion of three dimensions. Eastlake, Morris, Dresser, all felt the same. I believe it is a “false principle” simply because it is so ugly. I have difficulty understanding railroad stations as an ornamental motif. To toss aside realistic representation in the ornamental arts seems unrealistic, narrow minded, and ignorant of design history. The 18th century is rich in fully rendered ornament, carpets, wall panels, and porcelain, just a small example.I understand the Reformers rejected much of 18th century art and design, I just don’t understand why, had the beauty not been apparent?

Wallpaper

David Walker, manufacturer

1895

Although not an example of a False Principle as the late date will show, but clearly the false principles flourished. The dimensional allusion is apparent, I imagine it was a popular paper, it is pretty in it’s fussy dark way.

wallpaper commemorating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

F. Scott & Son

1887

V&A

I feel strongly that this would have been deemed a False Principle, patriotism and love of your Queen aside.

I love it, can’t imagine the repeat,but I love it.

I’m always a sucker for allegory, in this instance allegories of Australia, India, Canada, and the Cape Colonies.

wallpaper

Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith

1870-1880

V&A

Again, not part of the exhibit, but the same manufacturer of False Principle # 28, was up to the same illusionary tricks.

Now, this is just ugly.

I’m with Messrs Cole, Morris, Dresser, Eastlake, et al. Ugly , butch crap.

The following isn’t ugly, it’s also a bit effete.

Wallpaper frieze

Color chiaroscuro print from wood blocks with machine printed background.

Jeffrey & Company

1851

This was NOT in the False Principals exhibit. It IS equestrian,, and it is beautiful. It is also ‘trompe l’oeil’, and it appears that it was shown at the Great Exhibition , with no evident criticism from Cole . I guess because it is attempting to capture the grandeur of the Elgin Marbles , Mr. Cole felt it passed muster.

Love the yellow.

Back to ugly:

Wallcovering

late 19th century

unknown

machine printed on laminated paper

I think it is safe to say that Mr. Cole would not approve.

I don’t approve, particularly given the fact that “nudie-girl’ paper needs to be on washable laminated paper. The insinution so apparent, so awful, so unsanitary.

Must confess to lusting after a similar reproduction paper in the 70’s of my youth, Mother said no.

All in all we owe a note of thanks to both Henry Cole and the Prince.

Thank you boys.

BTW, we also owe Mr. Cole a thanks for the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, 1840,

and the first Christmas card, 1843

You just have to love the fellow.

So worried about our aesthetic welfare.

Good night.

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The Great Exhibition 1851

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., Crystal Palace, furniture, Henry Cole, Prince Albert, Pugin, Queen Victoria on June 24, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Last weeks post featured a really magnificent sideboard that had been presented at the Great Exhibition of 1851, I felt the Exhibition itself was worth exploring.

This title plate from the souvenir folio “Recollections of the Great Exhibition, 1850, London, Lloyd Bros. & Comp., Sept 1st 1851”, expresses the international participation that Prince Albert had hoped for when planning the exhibition with Henry Cole and  fellow reformers.

(The dome is from Coalbrookdale, the statue of Wm. Shakespeare by John Bell.)

The influence of the Great Exhibition was significant, setting off a chain of similar design exhibits. This focus on design, with it’s lofty intentions of raising aesthetic standards, is so rare in our present society, the focus being profit. The luxury of building the Crystal Palace to showcase goods, often as banal as fire grates, is almost  incomprehensible .

As much as I may admire the intention, their were contemporary  critics who felt differently, Pugin called the Crystal Palace a “glass monster”, Carlyle derided it as a “big glass bubble”; and the influential Ruskin dismissed it as a “conservatory”. The above plate of this controversial structure was by G. Baxter

The following plates are from the “Recollections” folio.

Plate 10, Furniture Court #1 (by Wilson)

Ecclesiastical and Civil

Plate #12

Part of the Birmingham Court (by H.C.Pidgeon)

Plate # 15

Part of the China Court (by J. Absolon)

Plate #20

Turkish Hall

It would be ridiculous not to include some of the fancy goods set out to entice and bewitch a design hungry crowd. Some lovely, some vulgar, all from my perspective, beguiling.

Sideboard by Gutta Percha Company

I love the over florid “naturalistic” ornament, seems unlikely that they were able to carve so many tendrils, I imagine it was flattened in construction.

Viennese Flower Vase by Johan Gaster

Gothic metal stove

by Augustus Welby Pugin, manufacturer John Hardmon & Comp.

I guess Pugin  got over his disgust and decided to peddle his wares in the “glass monster’ after all.

Heating Stove in the form of a suit of armor.

Really it doesn’t get better then this.

This is the reason critics lampoon the 19th century, and why anachronistic old farts like myself adore it.

Another bit of Great Exhibition ephemera, “Lane’s Telescopic View of the Ceremony of Her Majesty Opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations”, designed by Rawlins, London, August 15th 1851

With that , thank you your Majesty.

Queen Victoria

ca. 1842

by Franz Xavier Winterhalter

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Bal Costume of May 12th 1842

1842

dressed as Edward III (1315-1377) and Queen Philippa (1314-13690)

Good night

by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer ( 1802-1873, London)

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to St. Francis of Assisi

Posted in Daisy, St. Francis of Assisi on June 22, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Our beloved pug dog Daisy has been quite unwell.We began to fear the most dire of situatuions.

Just received word that she seems to be on the mend. a great sigh of relief.

Thank you blessed Francis.

A Novena is in order.

Sleep well sweet Daisy.

Teutonic Splendor, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, and the Great Exhibition of 1851

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., chair, George Greig, Gothic Revival, Memento Mori, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, sideboards on June 18, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In continuing my mania for all things Teutonic, prompted by my Ring experience, I present this architectural wonder.

Last week I showcased a Gothic Revival chair, part of a set shown at the Great Exhibition of ’51. the set included a sideboard, the sideboard follows.Sideboard or buffet

ca. 1851

designer, Ferdinand Rothbart

makers, Thomas Hoffmeister and Thomas Behrens

carved oak and brown plush

place of origin, Coburg

acquired by the V&A in 1967

In addition to last weeks chair,shown below, and in last weeks post,

the sideboard was commissioned by the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg, Albert’s neck of the woods. As I mentioned last week the chairs and this splendid sideboard,  described as “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages”, were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

by G. Baxter

from Lane’s telescopic view of the ceremony of Her majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations,

designed by Rawlins, London, August 15th 1851

It would have been difficult for the dashing and reform minded prince to resist the pieces. Aside from their great beauty and craftsmanship, his ties as a member of the house of Saxe-Coburg, and a childhood raised in Coburg , would have made the set irresistible. Typical of so much that I love about these ponderous 19th century sideboards, more like an entire Gothic city block, is that they are overwrought with a particular theme. In this case Germanic “Gothick”, and the ever present love the Germans have for the forest. Forest dwellers such as deer, boars, and a bear frolic about, unaware of the huntsmen with bugle and spears in hand. I’ve mentioned before my love of hunt themed sideboards, this one combined with a motif of rose windows, gothic arcades, a central shield and accented in brown plush, is just too wonderful to resist.

Good purchase your Majesty.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha

ca. 1842

b. 26th August 1819

d. 14th December 1861

by Franz Xavier Winterhalter

(He was a handsome devil.)

Initially intended for Balmoral, it and the chairs ended up as I mentioned last week in the Evening Drawing Room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.

The sideboard and chairs, two of which are shown, are illustrated in a watercolor by George Greig  ca. 1863.

George Miller Grieg

artist to the Queen

The image is especially poignant as it is most likely a memento of the Queen’s loss. The Prince had just died and the two female figures are in deep mourning dresses.

The image is small but the sideboard and chairs are visible if you look closely.

On that happy note, Happy Father’s Day dear Prince.

Have a great weekend.

BTW, the watercolor, ” Palace of Holyroodhouse: the presence Chamber or Evening Drawing Room”, by George Greig, 1863, is part of the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wouldn’t want to offend the Queen.

Siegfried, a slow conversion

Posted in 19th cent., 21st Century, Achim Freyer, Arthur Rackham, L.A. Opera, The Ring Cycle on June 14, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My aesthetic journey continues.

I have complained rather ceaselessly about Achim Freyer’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

I might be experiencing a change of heart.

Perhaps it was because the Beloved was able to accompany me to this performance, his optimism is infectious. Perhaps it was the very engaging lecture by Katheryn Syer, professor of musicology, University of Illinois, held this past saturday at LACMA’s Bing auditorium. Perhaps I’m just opening myself to his vision.

John Treleaven as Siegfried

I still have my hesitations, yellow haired, blue skinned anime-esque action figure? Probably not what Wagner had in mind.

But the performance was stirring.

Images taken from the first Ring , 1876

Siegfried front and centre.

I am better able to understand and appreciate Freyer’s vision. It is complete, and at times deeply moving and wondrous.

At times, silly, I cannot fully grasp Fafner as a teeny elfin dragon. My understanding of the dragon slaying scene goes back to childhood with this image.

ca. 1914

With that prejudice in mind,   I am eager to see the final installment, Gotterdammerung.

Until then a few images of Siegfried more in keeping with my usual taste.

A very creepy image by Rackham of the perverse step-dad Mime offering grub to the toddler Siegfried.

A wonderfully romantic image of the handsome Siegfried awakening the beautiful Brunnhilde with a kiss.

ca. 1892

Otto Donner van Richter 1828- 1911

Dear Mad Ludwig would have been truly mad for this, a great scheme for a mural at Neuschwanstein.

So much the sort of image I grew up with. Siegfried discovering his voice.

Same pose.

The Dutch , Jacques Urlus (1887-1935) ca. 1913

Just another typical image, I’ve always been a fan of helmets with dragon/Fafner motifs.

Just a closing image with the original Brunnhilde, Amalie Materna.

Please note that Grane is from Ludwig’s stable.

Such devotion to the cause.

Good Night


Ring Cycle Seating week 14

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., Achim Freyer, Arthur Rackham, Eastlake, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Gothic Revival, Placido Domingo, The Ring Cycle, Wagner with tags on June 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In the throes of my Teutonic frenzy, Ring Cycle in high gear,I thought this weeks chair should be one suitable for the Maestro Wagner.Chair

ca. 1850 , Coburg

Ferdinand Rothbart, designer, Thom. Hoffmeister and Thom. Behrens , makers

Oak and pine, with original plush upholstery, wool tassels, and brass nail

V&A

NOW this is my kind of chair, although it does indeed appear to be a throne, it is was intended to impress upon the world German craftsmanship and taste. Initially shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, this chair, part of a set including a sideboard, were well received. Raves included praise for work “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages”. So well  received ,that her Majesty used the set to furnish the Evening Drawing Room at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.

Multiple Drawing Rooms, Morning, Noon, Evening, different castles, ain’t monarchy just grand!

To make this chair more lust worthy, the tassels were initially bright pink, now faded to this sober tasteful coloring,a bit mud like.

I am fully entrenched in Master Wagner’s masterpiece, his Der Ring Des Nibelungen, last evening being Die Walkure. As I mentioned before I have my reservation concerning Achim Freyer’s production. From my nose bleed seats I feel as if I were the one viewing from Valhalla.

The production from this distance makes much more sense, Fricka’s ridiculously attenuated arms are less comical ; although her appearance onstage elicited loud guffaws from rubes in the audience, my sympathies to the fine soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk.

Fricka in background, Wotan foreground.

I hesitate to identify who is performing, but this is the costume scheme for the characters.

The first act of Die Walkure has a most tender and intimate quality to it. Never has incest been so romantic, so lovely, so enviable. Siegmund and Sieglinde have truly found their other half. This production seems to great to great lengths to distance itself from that intimacy, the Black and White Cookie costumes aside.

I am well aware of my conservative, at times pedantic taste. I  value Mr. Freyer’s vision, at times I am swept up in it. But so often I am left with the feeling that it is best as a conceptual rendering, the actual, very expensive, production often feels distracting.

With that said ,back to dear Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), Rackham captured the intimacy of this young attractive couple perfectly in sepia line drawings.

A smokin’ hot Stranger Man receives refreshment from a nubile Sieglinde.

Grumpy hubby Hunding not pleased with above mentioned smokin’ hot Stranger Man sharing a meal with them.

Wise and lovely Sieglinde pulls a sleep aid for grumpy husband from a very attractive Eastlake cupboard.

Sieglende explains to Stranger Man/ Siegmund the tale of the Sword, Notung,while hubby snoozes.

She tells how Wotan (pictured) disguised as a wedding guest to celebrate her arranged marriage to Hunding, plunges said Sword (Freudian subtlety) into The Tree. A sword Siegmund must remove to protect himself against Hunding.No man thus far has been able to do so.

This image “Sigmund’s Schwert” 1889 by Johannes Gehrts

Post pulling out the ever so subtle “Sword”,the smokin’ hot Siegmund declares his  incestuous  passion for Sieglinde .

The music climaxes,  passions explode (Siegfried next act)and they run off together.

The less smokin’ hot Placido Domingo as Siegmunde aids the exhausted Sieglinde, Anja Kampe, ’08-’09 production.

Battle between Hunding and Siegmund. Sieglinde once again feels faint.

Outcome, go see the Ring.

Image unknown to me.

Wotan’s faithful/faithless beloved daughter Brunnhilde, yet another aspect of this complicated tale of love, family, and passion.

I will close with the Maestro himself, thank you Richard.

Wagner at Luzern, 1868

I do like this  chair as well.

Have a great weekend.

On Bunker Hill

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Los Angeles Noir on June 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Such excitement , downtown L.A. is proving itself more and more stimulating to this Aesthetes eye.

My newest treasure is the blog, OnBunkerHill, please follow at http://www.onbunkerhill.org .

It’s a true marvel, an on-line museum of what L.A. has lost. The following, a true Mystery House, is a small example of what you will discover.

Indo-Moorish-Aesthetic Marvel

L.A.

sourced from OnBunkerHill

Check it out!