Archive for the Rococo Revival Category

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.

The Great Exhibition-design reform and bias

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., furniture, Rococo Revival with tags on March 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

The Great Exhibition, or it’s really cumbersome proper name, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Continents ( you really just have to  admire 19th grandiosity) ran from May 1st through Octobere 1851. Conceived by the dashing Prince Albert (of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in case you forgot) to set an example of what the Industrial Revolution was capable of.

Very fine intentions.

Of course the never happy reformers tore it to bits, so many objections, lack of “honesty”, naturalistic floral designs for carpets and fabrics, putti scampering up and down,revival styles such as Modern French, Rococo Revival ( see the lovely Belter,previous post), many grave sins for the public to adore.

Poor Morris, Eastlake, Ruskin, Dresser et al ,it must have been painful. I sympathize, truly.  I love and respect their principle. I love what they produced.

But I also sincerely adore what they despised.

The following were entries that must have spun their rarefied heads :

Monumental pieces such as sideboards seem to have been a designer and/or manufactures favored way of promoting their virtuosity. Love the eagles.

Never afraid to shy away from narrative, decorative figures from a work by Sir Walter Scott.

As a vegetarian, I am crazy for hunt allegories in the dining room. It’s the perfect addition to my 900 sq.ft. W Hollywood condo.

Every lady requires a “rustic” little secretary.

Not to mention a place to do ‘lady-work”.

The screen with it’s ridiculous base would have drove Eastlake bonkers with it’s lack of “integrity”; I understand what he is saying, but how do you resist such delightful fluff?

Perhaps a modest little State chair, for the Lord and Master.

I’m a sucker for lion-headed anything.

Striving for cultural sophistication was an accepted norm, grand housing for your library, essential.

Mock Elizabethan?

In my world  Gothic Revival is a neutral.

A little “sweetness and light”.

At days end…this can not be beat.

A fantastic closing view,

for now.

good shabbos chair/ week 1

Posted in 19th cent., Belter, furniture, Rococo Revival on February 26, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As the Lord seems intent on our taking a day of rest; I have decided to highlight one fantastic chair per week. If we must rest, the chair better be beautiful.

For my first chair, I have chosen a slipper chair by John H. Belter, it is part of the Met’s collection. I have had ambivalence concerning Belter for most of my life. Perhaps because most of Belter’s designs were in the Rococo Revival style,and my love of “true” Rococo prevented my appreciating what a novel and  truly wonderful aesthetic he created.

Slipper chair, 1850-60

John H. Belter (American, born Germany, 1804-1863; firm active New york City, 1844-66)

Rosewood, ash

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

I no longer have any hesitation at all, I have fully embraced “the modern French style”; so complete is my conversion that I dream of finding a piece at some obscure auction. That of course is ridiculous, price is always ‘upon request” when Belter shows up. Perhaps some forlorn knockoff will appear at Bonhams.

This is indeed a beauty, the shallow carvings are a writhing mass of foliate excess, no hint of French origin. This is German, German, German, with a layover to say hello to the Pompadour.

My family has a apocryphal tale that my Nana’s family, German Jews who came over mid-19th century were fine cabinet makers. I have found no proof of Whittenborn/burg glory, yet I still hold on to this tale. It explains  to me my fascination with German fastidiousness and finesse; which can  truly border on the vulgar, nonetheless  I am wild for it.

This chair, just creeps to the edge of extreme, I am struck by the proportions, the height 44 “, with a relatively low seat, it IS of course a slipper chair.

The fine blue silk is a happy nod to the House of David.

Good Shabbos.