Archive for July, 2010

Gems of the Centennial Exhibition, part I

Posted in 19th cent., Allen & Bros., Centennial Exhibition, furniture, Gothic Revival, Minton, Neo Grec, Philadelphia, Renaissance Revival, Tiffany & Comp. on July 29, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I am always keen on the topics of Design Exhibitions and my beloved Philadelphia, I was very pleased when the exhibition catalog “Gems of the Centennial Exhibition” became available.

I have been aware of miscellaneous objects created for our Exhibition, but to tap into contemporary criticism is a great privilege.

If you wish to take a peek, follow this link,Gems of the Centennial Exhibition .

Part of the  fun is to be able to find clues as to why certain design decisions were made. I can think of no other time in which peculiar little quirks drive me mad. Other centuries seem to have allowed reason and conventional notions of beauty  to influence aesthetic decisions. The 19th century, in it’s mad dash quest for novelty, progress, and historicism , produced many perplexing details.

Once such example is this Neo Grec  centre table.

Centre Table
Messrs. Allen & Brother
Philadelphia, Pennsyslvania
ca. 1875
Cherry with opaque white paint, marble.
approx. dimensions 32x45x30
Brooklyn Museum
Although this particular piece was not exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, Messrs. Allen & Bros. did exhibit two equally peculiar cabinets.
I admire the Neo Grec treatment of ivory paint, the incised decoration being gilded, the attempt at restraint.. Although aspiring for Classical refinement. I find the legs with their scrolling vine work to be in the Neo Gothick style of the Audsley Bros. From my perspective, this centre table is a hybrid Neo Greco-Neo Gothick.
But I digress, back to peculiar design decisions.
The curtain rod rings, why? Was fabric to be hung? That would conceal the handsome palmette on the brace. If it had been a folio cabinet containing  light sensitive watercolours  and engravings, perhaps a hanging would make sense, but this is a centre table. Perhaps a decorative lambrequin-like hanging was employed. It is puzzling.
I was unable to find an answer, just another peculiar example in the “Gems of the Centennial…”
Pardon the quality, I scanned it myself, rather poorly.
What is apparent on this cabinet are the rings. Once again employed as a decorative motif, once again making no apparent sense,although this time they appear fixed, merely a conventional treatment. This particular image is on page 145.
Not a great mystery, just one of those little peculiarities that fascinates and piques  the interest of this Victoriana Nerd.

On to other objects listed in the “Gems”.

This great beauty by Tiffany has been making the rounds of the more exuberant blogs, It is certainly a treasure.
Fruit Dish in Silver, by Messrs. Tiffany & Co., New York
And here it is , page 15,
A great favorite of mine is this circular settee.
by Marchand?
The text does not attribute the maker, although the photo seems to say by Marchand.
The text of “Gems…” goes on to describe this marvel of the up-holster’s art as being 14 feet high, 10 feet in diameter. It is in the Renaissance style, and covered in green satin. I would have thought charcoal from the image.This bit of fantasy is topped with a functioning fountain of red marble and bronze, lovely with the green satin.To finish off the confection”the whole is gracefully surmounted by a chandelier of fifty burners.” I love the purple prose, I love the setee.
A lovely Aesthetic Movement chimney piece follows.
Love the lady casually reading, oblivious to the maddening crowd.
and now, pg. 97
This fascination with contemporary images and responses may appear silly, it most likely is. But it helps to answer a few of the oddball questions I have whenever I gaze upon a 19th century room;particularly one before the Reform Movement had great influence. With the endless draping of mantle pieces, jardinieres, “artistic” easels, and Turkish Corners, I am often puzzled . The “Gems of the Centennial Exhibition” puts the period in context.
I end with a few gems that had exhibited at the Exhibition.
“Monumental Centerpiece”
made for “76 Exhibition
27″w x 24″d x 33 1/2″h
Wilson Sewing Machine
LOVE the Herter Bros. influence on so modest a piece of “furniture”.
Burdett Organ
trade card
the proper title of the catalog is as follows:
Gems of the Centennial Exhibition:Consisting of Illustrated Descriptions of Objects of an Artistic Character, in the Exhibits of the United States, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Japan, China
Perhaps the most exuberant title ever.
The poor dears were really trying to prove their legitimacy.
Good Night

A Little Birthday Ditty

Posted in Me, Rime of the Ancient Marinere, The Tiger Lilies on July 24, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I have thus far not included music into my posts, I thought it time to do so.

To celebrate my birthday I have enclose this uplifting little ditty from the Tiger Lilies, based on the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, “Living Hell”.

It does NOT reflect my mood, honestly!

I do love this interpretation of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Marinere,

Of course I also love Dore’s spin on the tale,

I love the redemptive aspects of the tale, this man so out of touch, burdened by guilt and bitterness, he ultimately is indeed redeemed and is aware of the beauty about him.

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”
I love the memory of Church, peacefulness, and optimism that the phrase evokes; “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, a childhood favorite.
Well, thanks for the indulgence, have agreat weekend.

Me, Me, Me, shameless self promotion

Posted in 21st Century, Fauxology/ Regina Garay on July 23, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In a fit of shameless self promotion, I provide this link to a recent interview of yours truly:

recent interview

Regina Garay ,of the wonderfully informative blog Fauxology, for some unfathomable reason wanted to interview me, my work, and my opinions.

Always self sacrificing and eager to please my public, I agreed, the link is the result.

Thank you Regina!

As tomorrow is my birthday, a lovely gift.

Nutt’s Folly on True Blood

Posted in 19th cent., American South, Bulbiform, Civil War, Nutt's Folly, Orientalist, Samuel Sloan, True Blood on July 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At last I am able to combine my fondness for True Blood with my truest passion, 19th century architecture.

The Beloved and I were spending our usual Sunday evening mesmerized by our only real vice, True Blood. In between shots of porn worthy bodies, there is a plot. This plot contains a King. A Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, played foppishly by Denis O’Hare. This Undead Monarch is of course very rich, and has (of course )a very handsome, younger ( for a Vampire) boyfriend. the two share an amazing home ( of course),” beautifully”/pretentiously  appointed by the above mentioned “younger” boyfriend.

Generally we are allowed only interior shots, they are undead after all, not many opportunities for day shooting.

So far, I have seen two glimpses of the King’s Mansion, generally involving very hot naked werewolves. I recognized the house immediately,  it was Longwood!, ( I know, unfortunate name) but better known as Nutt’s Folly.


Natchez Mississippi

known as Nutt’s Folly

designed by Samuel Sloan,1859

As you can see by the date the world was about to end. The Civil War ( April 1861-last shot, June 1865) was looming upon society, extravagant  wonders like Longwood were doomed.

Samual Sloan (1815-1884), Philadelphia based, designed  Longwood in 1859 for Haller Nutt, a cotton planter of apparent wealth and prestige.

In the land of impressive plantations, Longwood must have stopped traffic. Longwood is the largest octagonal house in the U.S.. It’s finial alone is 24 feet. It Moorish architecture a strange and lovely marvel.

Sloan wrote of his creation “Fancy dictated that the dome should be bulbiform-a remembrancer of Eastern magnificence which few will judge misplaced as it looms up against the mellowed azure of a Southern sky’.

I love the word bulbiform, not used often enough.

A romantic passage for a romantic house.

Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a happy story. The terrible war broke, the Northern workmen fled, leaving much of the house unfinished. Poor Mr. Nutt died of pneumonia in ’64. The happiness anticipated destroyed by a bloody war.

The unfinished house became known as Nutt’s Folly.



Note the missing finial.

One of the minor casualties of the war was the furniture Sloan intended for Longwood. Rail shipments of course ceased between the North and the South, the furniture, illustrated in Sloan’s “Homestead Architecture”,ended up at a Yankee estate in Pennsylvania.

from “Homestead Architecture”

My buddy , the talented designer Patrick Ediger, was interested in the floor plan.

Next, you will find the layout of the principal floor.

from”Homestead Architecture”

As I mentioned the spire alone is 24 feet tall , replaced by a fiberglass replica , the original resides in the marvelously dusty attic of Longwood.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly has had a long and  challenging history, but aside from the indignities of being the star of a television show, it has gained the respect it deserves. It is now on the Historic Register, safe from developers, vulgarians, and Civil War.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly

140 Lower Woodville Road

Natchez, Mississippi

Good Night

Post Script

In case you are interested I have come across more images from “Sloan’s Homestead Architecture containing forty designs for villas, cottages, and farmhouses, with essays on style, construction, landscape, gardening, furniture, etc.etc.” 355pgs.

Published by J.B.Lippincott, Philadelphia ,PA, 1861

You have to love the verbosity, in our world  of text-brevity, I find the long winded titles touching.

Title Page

Oriental Villa/ Longwood

Terra Cotta

Drawing Room Furniture

Parlor Furniture

Library Furniture

Library Furniture

Plantation Residence

Love the palm trees.

Anglo-French (?) Villa, #2

Good Night

A Boucher Kind of Day

Posted in 18th century, Francois Boucher, Madame de Pompadour, Think Pink on July 19, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As the always marvelous Chateau Thombeau, (link on my blog roll) kindly supplied the Think Pink clip from the delightful “Funny Face”, I was inspired to indeed Think Pink. When I think pink I think Boucher, when I of think Boucher  I  think of  joy.

Joy is in order.

Just one of those days of benign irritations and disappointments, Boucher always makes me smile.

Madame de Pompadour

ca. 1756

b. Dec. 29th 1721

d. Apr. 15th 1764

I thought it fitting to start with his great patroness, the ever lovely Pompadour

Now on to some Olympian lovemaking.

The Rape of Europa

ca. 1734

The Wallace Collection

Detail of the adorable bull.

Leda and the Swan

National Museum

Stockholm, Sweden

I have always loved this swan, such strength.

On to some images of dear Venus.

Vulcan presenting Venus with the Arms of Aeneas

ca. 1757


A pretty hot Vulcan for a god who is supposed to be both lame and ungainly.

Venus Consoling  Love

ca. 1751

National Gallery of Art

I have always admired the chubby doves.

Now for some Christian piety.

St. John the Baptist

ca. 1755

Evidently intended as a private devotional painting for the Pompadour. Again, pretty hot looking Blessed Saint John, cousin of our Lord and Savior.

I have always been drawn to the way Boucher renders fir boughs, they appear almost chinois.

Onto my eternal favorite, Chinoiserie.

Chinese Hunting

ca. 1742

Musee des Beaux-Arts

From Chinese Hunting, to plain old Anglo hunting.

The Crocodile Hunt

ca. 1739

Musee de Picardie

I  particularly love the dragon -like crocodile.

I am not an expert on Boucher (or frankly anything else), but I am pretty certain this is Boucher. Picked it up from another source it prompted my thinking of Boucher.

As a draughtsman, he held his own.

ca. 1770

I understand folks, particularly “Art” folks, dismiss Boucher.

Fragonard is recognized as legitimate, even with his Rococo roots, but Boucher is often not treated with great respect. I find that peculiar, I have always loved his work, a master of color and  the graceful line. The delightful and distinct red of the lips, the pink blush of the buttocks, the rumpled hair of the putti. What isn’t there to love and admire?

portrait of Boucher by Gustav Lundberg

ca. 1741

b. Sept. 29th 1703

d. May 30th 1770

Good Night

Man of Mystery, Donn P. Crane

Posted in 20th century, Donn P. Crane, My Book House, Walter Crane on July 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My background was very modest, little thought was given to music, art, or culture. Survival sucked up most of my parents energy and attention. With my parents so very distracted, I withdrew into my own world, my greatest solace, the source of so much that I love to this day, was an enchanting set of books called “My Book House”. They were arranged from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I inhaled every volume, Shakespeare, Wagner, Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, tales of chivalry, enchanting world after enchanting world. My particular set was published in 1937 and edited by Olive Beaupre Miller.

I was particularly taken with the numerous images accompanying every tale, poem, or light history. Many of the illustrations were by a fellow named Donn P. Crane.

This particular image was produced in 1920, I haven’t researched the twelve volumes  in a while, so I am unsure as to which tale he is illustrating. As you can see his composition is flawless, simple lines evoke so much depth and charm. I was delighted as a boy, and I find myself still delighted.

Many of the illustrations were black and white, his line work compensated for the lack of coloring.


Isn’t the leprechaun adorable?

Many of the illustrations were of a very limited palette , orange and turquoise. As a boy I did not like this palette, it felt limiting, cold, and alienating. If it hadn’t been for Mr.Crane’s magic, I wouldn’t have been able to endure the Howard Johnson’s color-way. I now of course love the combination, the use of opposites is powerful, it allows nuance and subtlety, and I imagine satisfied either budget or printing restrictions.

What I have always wondered about was if there was a connection to Walter Crane and Donn P. Crane. I see stylistic similarities, I have long fantasized that Donn was a son. I have lazily researched this topic and come up short. If anyone has a clue to Mr. Donn P. Crane’s history I would be delighted to know. Mr. Crane shaped my childhood, my taste was cultivated by his work and I still find myself inspired by the fantasy he created.

Thank you Mr. Crane

The set of “My Book House” that I grew up with is most like the bottom selection, a handsome dark navy. My mother, who was the first owner of the set remembers a fanciful bookshelf shaped like a little house. So very charming, but lost to time.

Another remnant of my mother’s childhood that enhanced my own rather bleak one, was a set of Victorian bookends, heavy ,ponderous and pretentious,shaped like a Regency bookshelf,they charmingly quote Shakespeare with “My library was Dukedom large enough”; with Crane and “My Book House” it certainly was.

The Palace, a Los Angeles treasure

Posted in 20th century, architecture, Broadway. Los Angeles, Los Angeles Noir, Palace Theatre, Renaissance Revival on July 15, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Everyday, whether it is going to class or the gym, I drive down old Vaudeville on Broadway.

The Beloved accuses me of masochism, the teeming masses of base humanity, the squalor, the general degradation, all place a dark cloud on one’s soul.

But my eyes look upward, to the movie palaces, the LosAngeles, the Million Dollar,, the imposing Tower,and  the enchanting decrepit Pantages with it’s ungainly griffins.But none capture my imagination like the Palace.

630 S.Broadway

Los Angeles

Opening as a Vaudeville theatre on June 26th 1911, it was initially the Orpheum (a much lovelier name);traces of the word Orpheum are visible on the southern entrance, thievery?”renovation”? a loss. Orpheum is also pride of place over the entrance.

What is most enchanting about the Palace, built in the Renaissance Revival fashion, is it’s poly-chromed facade, most specifically the four allegorical panels.

I am making the assumption the panels represent aspects of vaudeville and not film.

The Muse of Comedy?, Vaudeville? Buffoonery?

Muse of Song?, this particular figure always calls to mind Sarah Bernhardt.

the lovely spirit of Dance?


The panels were created by Domingo Mora, apparently his son was responsible for the equally fantastic ornament of the Million Dollar down the street.

The color and detail of the facade is dazzling, I am amazed I have not rear ended another vehicle with my gawking. It is the most wonderful frosting in town.

I have been particularly enchanted with the light fixtures, they are surmounted with the most wonderful, almost cartoon-like butterflies. Why were they chosen? I do know butterflies are an emblem of the Soul, Art=Soul?

Haven’t a clue, they are a treasure, and fortunately out of reach of thugs and scrap thieves.

I love the sherbet colouring.

I so love this building, that I was inspired to put pastel to paper, I had hoped to capture some of the spirit. This modest offering is the Muse of Vaudeville.

Good Night