Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chinoiserie, Chic! Chic! Chic!

Classical Exoticism: Antiques, Art, Jewels, Textiles and Exceptional Style at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, October 28 through October 31

The annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show is one of my favorite glittering events every October.

It’s a beloved only-in-San Francisco event. It’s on a pier in the bay, with sea air, the sound of seagulls, glinting views, and noble antiques and jewels.

Each year it attracts a rarified world of top dealers and avid collectors.

I always spy designer Ann Getty there, very early and very private. Danielle Steel, who lives just up the hill from the show, usually comes early (wrapped in sables against the cold) and departs just when everyone starts to arrive. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver bought some silk pillows one year. Designer Michael Smith buys, and so do all the top decorators and curators.

Princess Michael of Kent, Bunny Williams and Adam Lewis, all with new books to promote, will be on hand this year.

San Francisco architect Andrew Skurman, steeped in classical and historic knowledge of design, is the creative director who creates the dramatic entry décor and design, and directs the design of the special exhibit.

And if you cannot attend, come with me for a special insight into Chinoiserie and its place in design. I know you will find it fascinating, and the images are glorious and inspiring.

Chinese painted wallpapers, detail

A rare set of Chinese painted wallpapers, formerly  hung in colonial Williamsburg. Chinese for the European Market. Second Half of the  Eighteenth Century
The crowded preview party (caviar, Champagne, vodka, Dan McCall’s famous lamb chops) is always a smashing success and no-one wants to leave. I see all my friends looking fabulous, chat with my favorite antique and art dealers, and over the next four days feast on a series of stimulating and insightful lectures. I buy rare books from Hayden & Fandetta, swoon over Kathleen Taylor’s textiles, spend time with my pals at Therien and Steinitz, and all is well with the world.

The theme of this year’s show is Chinoiserie. Dazzling international retinues of leading dealers along with director Lisa Podos have gone all out to celebrate and illuminate this fascinating concept.

“We decided on Chinoiserie as a theme, at first inspired by the endless interest in Chinese art and design—and Shanghai,” said the divine Lisa Podos, the strategic and creative consultant for the antiques show, who spearheads all creative efforts. “Shanghai is San Francisco’s sister city. For centuries, we have had a fascination with the East, and we’ve always admired and copied China’s ceramics and lacquer, textiles and arts. It’s an on-going obsession, and very relevant today. The refinement of Chinese arts still resonate.”

France, 19th century, circa 1870
Chased and gilded bronze, glass       

Lantern (detail)
France, 19th century, circa 1870
Chased and gilded bronze, glass       

Pair of cache-pots
 China, beginning of the 18th century
Mounts: France, circa 1730
Enamels from Canton, chased and gilded bronze                                

Impressive Fireplace by Gabriel Viardot
France, 19th century, circa 1870
Carved wood 

Impressive Fireplace by Gabriel Viardot (detail)
France, 19th century, circa 1870
Carved wood                                

Paris antique dealer Bernard Steinitz has always specialized in fantasy worlds of Chinoisierie and his magical stand at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show is one of my great obsessions. Find me there!

“Chinoiserie has for centuries been of profound interest to the antiques world and the arts. It was so rich in vivid imagery, so refined, so exotic, with its gold-shimmered lacquer and craftsmanship,” said Bob Garcia, a partner in forty-year-old Therien & Co., the venerable antiques company based in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The company is a stalwart of the show, always in the same centrally located stand.

A rare and unusual rosewood and hardstone mounted cabinet on stand in the chinoiserie taste. Probably Dresden. Circa 1750.

Cabinet in the chinoiserie taste, detail of side

English (Spitalfields) yellow watered silk with a damask pattern in white of \"Chinoiserie\" style buildings in landscape and floraglish l vines with vertical stripes. c. 1760 

Detail of English (Spitalfields) yellow watered silk with a damask pattern in white of \"Chinoiserie\" style buildings in landscape and floraglish l vines with vertical stripes. c. 1760 

One panel of late 18th century (c. 1770\'s)(kalamkari) painted cotton (chintz) from the Coromandel Coast, India, decorated with a flowering tree motif with squirrels and small birds, on a vermicilli ground. Also know as palampore. Provenance: Parham Park, Pulborough, England.

“Chinoiserie in the decorative arts is always in fashion,” noted Garcia. “It’s a classic element in décor, and Chinoiserie translates perfectly to textiles, a lacquered coffee table, the silhouette of a chair, or to a Coromandel screen or a desk-top box or tray. You can have a lot—and a little is equally delightful.”

Chinoiserie has been a continuous motif in French design. Bob Garcia also notes that the French, especially the French, have always embraced the unusual and exotic in culture and design.

French craftsmen and architects and designers have been drawn to the exotic with a vigor not to be seen elsewhere in Europe and they adore Chinoiserie,” he said. 

“Africa and China and Japan have held a fascination for French designers a have almost all foreign and primitive cultures.”

 Nouveau, Impressionism, Cubism, Japanese (as seen in lacquer work).

“I believe what we're seeing today is not a re-emergence of "Exoticism" but a continuation of it,” said Garcia. “There is a design restlessness today in all art forms, even fashion and art and interiors. that we have not seen since that last eruption in 1900.”

A pair of exceptional Genoese chandeliers with Chinoiserie influences, from Therien.

Bob Garcia’s notes on the Genoese chandeliers he is displaying at the antiques show:

“This pair of chandeliers is extremely rare because of the Chinese influence as seen in their 'pagoda parasol' upper crown and the rather exotic cascade of crystal that is almost fountain-like,” said Garcia. “Genoa was the richest city state in Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries, surpassing Venice, Rome and Florence. 

“This was primarily due to the overseas trade and shipping that they monopolized on the Italian peninsula,” said Garcia. “I believe that as in Genoese painted furniture these chandeliers show the international confluence of design elements that trade fostered in Genoa. As with furniture, the basic form is classic Italian with the overlay of fantasized Chinese motifs. Cross-currents of design motifs, as exemplified in Chinoiserie throughout Europe, remind us, especially today, of how our romanticized perceptions of foreign cultures can charm us even in face of contradicting facts.”

Additional items pictured above are from Therien & Co.

Welcome Liz O’Brien
I’m so happy Liz O’Brien, the great New York connoisseur and dealer of twentieth-century furniture and decorative arts, is going to be showing in San Francisco for the first time. Below are images of her new Manhattan gallery, and a selection of pieces that typify her style.

Max Kuehne; Three Panel folding screen in gold leaf and lacquer with incised and painted decoration of monkeys. Signed. American, c. 1935.

John Vesey; Folding x-bench in chrome with black lacquered wood armrests. American, c. 1950.

Also among the dealers to watch--see a selection of their special wares below--are Carlton Hobbs from New York, Paris-based Bernard Steinitz, the great book dealers Hayden & Fandetta (located on the east and west coasts), along with Lotus Collection, Daniel Stein and Epoca, all in San Francisco.

Bureau plat by Jacques Dubois (1694 – 1763, maître in 1742)
Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1745-1750.
Oak frame; kingwood and rosewood veneer; gilded bronze; leather.

The Lecture Series: Chinoiserie Chic

Chinoiserie and Japonisme in European Ceramics
Christina Prescott Walker
Thursday, October 28, 11:00 a.m.

China and World Fashion Today
John S. Major
Thursday, October 28, 2:30 p.m

Chinoiserie at Court

Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent
Friday, October 29, 11:00 a.m.

Chinoiserie in Britain, 1650-1820

David Beevers
Friday, October 29, 2:30 p.m.

Billy Baldwin: America's King Cotton Decorator
Adam Lewis
Saturday, October 30, 11:00 a.m.

Bringing the Past to Present and Beyond
Bunny Williams
Saturday, October 30, 2:30 p.m.

An English japanned two part cabinet, the curved upper stage decorated with birds, flowers and a horse and carriage, the lower stage with a single drawer and straight legs ending in block feet, circa 1800.

The Chinoiserie Exhibit
From Rococo to Eco
Curator: Maria Santangelo
Co-Curator: Holland Lynch

Western art and decorative arts and furniture that incorporate or imitate Eastern design elements and techniques have been a popular artistic conceit across numerous styles of the last 400 years.

Asian motifs real and totally and even fancifully imagined, such as pagodas, parasols, flowers, and birds, have adorned all manner of architecture, interiors, furniture, jewelry, decorative and fine arts.

From the 17th century onward, increased trade between Europe and China fueled enthusiasm for all things exotic, loosely termed Chinoiserie. Continuing through the 18th-century English country house taste, 20th-century Art Deco, and modern interpretations, the examples displayed in the exhibit, drawn from private and public collections and participating dealers, illustrate the craftsmanship, whimsy and charm of this appealing aesthetic.

Chinoiserie by Dawn Jacobson.
Hayden & Fandetta Rare Books will have this title as well as other out-of-print books on Chinoiserie available for purchase in their booth at this years San Francisco Fall Antiques Show. The firm specializes in books about the fine and decorative arts, first editions with illustrated dust-jackets, gardens and interiors, and childrens books.   

The San Francisco Fall Antiques Show: Essential Information
October 27–31, 2010

This fabulous show, now in its third decade, is a benefit for Enterprise for High School Students, a wonderful charity that trains students for jobs and careers, so that they can learn skills and gain real-world and social experience. A brilliant mission.

THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL ANTIQUES SHOW is the oldest continuously operating international antiques show on the West Coast. The Show features approximately seventy dealers from across the United States and Europe, offering for sale an extraordinary range of fine and decorative arts representing all styles and periods including American, English, Continental, and Asian furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, jewelry, rugs, textiles, paintings, prints, and photographs.

THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL ANTIQUES SHOW is vetted in cooperation with the Antiques Dealers Association of California to ensure the highest quality merchandise.

THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL ANTIQUES SHOW is held at Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center. Fort Mason Center is located in the Marina district, between Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge on San Francisco Bay.

Preview Party Gala Benefit

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
7 to 9 p.m.

2010 Show Dates / Hours

October 28 to October 31, 2010
Thursday - Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m.


You may order tickets via 
Phone: (415) 989-9019
Website: www.sffas.org
Fax: (415) 392-7611
Email: sffas@ehss.org

General Admission tickets are generally no problem to purchase at the door. Tickets to the Preview Party Gala and Lectures can be purchased at the door, but it is possible that they may sell out, so it is best to buy your tickets in advance.

See you there!

Pair of Chinese figures
Figures: China, 17th century
Mounts: Europe, circa 1730
Lacquered wood, chased and gilded bronze 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Design and Travel Inspiration: Architectural Heritage Unseen

Glorious Rundale Palace in Latvia

Travel with a purpose gives you a jolt, and stimulates and expands the mind and the imagination.

Setting off on a trip with a focus to study architecture and design always digs up new ideas and rich histories.

Voyaging with an itinerary of new art or architecture or antique exhibits, emerging New York neighborhoods, restored castles, rediscovered architectural gems, writers’ residences, centuries-old wineries, or former royal palaces offers a vivid experience and connection with the ‘out-of-the-ordinary’.

As you well know from my last year of blog features, I love to travel to see Indian palaces, French chateaus, artists’ studios, Paris pavilions, Antwerp gardens, and Venetian palazzi. 

For those like me who are passionate about design and style and architecture, viewing great buildings and wandering through historic interiors gives a deep sense of discovery. 

Immersing in ancient culture or edgy art and experimental new buildings jams a tingling sensation into the brain, and throws electrical jolts to the retina. I love to stimulate the dendrites of my brain. Bzzzzzz. That’s why I travel.

Sometimes our travel is vicarious. This week we’re visiting Rundale Palace in Latvia, newly restored to former glory. I can’t wait to go there.

This summer, New York-based photographer Christopher Flach discovered this world-heritage Latvian palace, Rundale. I had been aware of this baroque treasure, and knew it was undergoing major restoration. Chris was there just at the right moment.

Rundale, built between 1736 and 1740, is important because it paints a vivid portrait of the period from 1730 to around 1812. Rundale graphically embodies the world of an international coterie of eighteenth-century architects and craftsmen who traveled from one job-site to the next in Europe. These talents worked on palaces and museums for the Russian and Swedish and Latvian kings and czars and queens and empresses and nobles in the late eighteenth century. 

Rundale Palace is one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art in the Baltic region.

Like many other grand palaces around the Baltic Sea, in Stockholm for example, Rundale was influenced by the fashion for French and Italian high design, and especially the ultra-baroque of Louis XIV and Louis XV, the height of expressions of regal architecture of the time.

Rundale, despite years of Russian occupation and fires and neglect, is a beautiful phoenix. The palace has undergone decades (perhaps centuries) of repair and rebuilding and restoration, and now it’s ready to excite and thrill architects and designers alike. A visitor arrives 'sight unseen'. Like an explorer, he or she can experience the thrill of ‘beginner’s mind’, seeing things for the first time.

Come with me for a light-filled visit. Enjoy Christopher Flach’s glorious images. And connect the design, art and architecture history dots. The palace was inspired by Versailles, the splendors of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg, palaces of Sweden. Latvia built on a much smaller budget and Rundale’s artists and architects and craftspeople were country folk. Still, it is glorious.

We don’t usually think of Latvia as a major architecture travel destination, but the historic convergences in Rundale Palace (as well as Art Déco architecture in Riga) make this a must-go to add to your travel plans next summer.

Rundāle Palace (Latvian, Rundāles pils) is one of the two major baroque palaces built in the 18th century for the Dukes of Courland in what is now Latvia.

It is situated at Pilsrundāle, an hour’s drive from the capital, Riga.

It was constructed in the 1730s--1760s to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a summer residence of Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland. Following Biron's fall from grace, the palace stood empty until the 1760s, when Rastrelli returned to complete its interior decoration. Rastrelli is famous for the grand staircase, called the Rastrelli Staircase, in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.

I’ll be your tour guide as we wander through fascinating Latvian history.

After Courland was absorbed by the Russian Empire in 1795, Catherine the Great presented the palace to her lover, Prince Zubov, who spent his declining years there. His young widow, Thekla Walentinowicz, a local landowner's daughter, remarried Count Shuvalov, thus bringing the palace to the Shuvalov family.

It remained in the family until the German occupation in World War I when the German army established a hospital and a commandant's office there. The palace suffered serious damage in 1919 during the Latvian War of Independence. In 1920, parts of the premises were occupied by the local school. In 1933, Rundāle Palace was taken over by the State History Museum of Latvia. It was dealt a serious blow after the World War II, when a grain storehouse was set up in the premises and later; the former duke's dining room was transformed into the school's gymnasium.

Only in 1972 did the palace gain respect once more, as the permanent Rundāle Palace Museum was established.

The palace is one of the major tourist destinations in Latvia. It is also used for the accommodation of notable guests, such as leaders of foreign nations.

The palace’s central building includes the Duke's former living quarters. The Duchess' apartments are situated in the western wing of the Palace. The parade rooms are situated in the eastern wing of the Palace- the Gold Hall (Throne room), the White Hall (Ball room), the Grand Gallery (Banqueting room) and five small rooms, where the collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain is displayed.

The state staircase is of great significance as it is the only interior that has survived completely intact from the earliest period of Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s activities.

The stucco decorations of the ceiling and walls were originally executed by a team of eighteen craftsmen and were completed by 30 October 1739. Masks, capitals and other details were made by an unknown German sculptor according to Rastrelli’s design.

The stairs were executed by Russian carpenters, whereas woodcarvings were done by woodcarvers from St. Petersburg.

In 1768, in the second period of construction works, the stucco vases, made by Johann Michael Graff, were placed on pedestals of the stairs; however, only one unbroken vase and several fragments of others have survived. Plate glass windows were made during the restoration. Restoration of the stucco decorations was started in 1974 and completed in 1979.

Restoration of the staircase was finished in 1981. The 18th century marble sculpture of Aesculapius, the God of Medicine, is placed in the niche. 

The antechamber served as a waiting room during court receptions held in the throne room.

A copy of the original stove was made in the Scientific Restoration Workshop in Leningrad and installed in 1978. Brocatel wall coverings, made of silk and linen, were produced in Moscow according to the 18th century pattern. The secret door leads to the attic. Wall panels were made anew during the restoration according to the pattern of the original panels. The restoration of the room was finished in 1981. 

The Grand Gallery was made in the second stage of construction by transforming five smaller rooms into a thirty-meter-long banquet hall. The baroque ceiling painting depicts the God of the Sun, Apollo, and the Goddess of Dawn, Aurora.

During the restoration, from 1971—1991, the original wall paintings were also found beneath layers of industrial paint. The wall painting depicts illusory niches with flower vases and figures of putti.

Like many royal residences, Rundale suffered gruesome damage. The walls were overpainted during the repair of war damage in 1813 when they were covered by a grey coat of paint, and the upper part of the walls was decorated with painted friezes.

The lower part of the wall was once covered with wooden panels. The parquet has been preserved from the 1760s.
The room is adorned with two partially restored and reconstructed Courland glass chandeliers from the 18th century.

The Oval Porcelain Cabinet
In the first construction period the stairs leading to the chapel were built in the oval room. When the idea of the church was abandoned, the stairs, intended for peasants so that they could attend a service in the chapel, were no longer needed. In place of the stairs, the Oval Porcelain Cabinet was made. It features forty-five rocaille brackets supporting Chinese and Japanese porcelain vases. The restoration of the room was carried out by a team of restorers from Leningrad between 1978 and 1980.

The Duke’s former library.

The Blue Salon: The room was used as a refreshment room during the court’s receptions when tables were laid in the Grand Gallery. The ceiling décor was executed by Johann Michael Graff’s team of craftsmen in the 1760s. The blue silk damask wall hangings, wall panels and the stove have been made anew. The room was arranged as a salon during the restoration and was finished in 1984. Work throughout the palace is on-going.

A guest room, with a collection of eighteenth-century portraits.

In a guest room of the palace, blue and white tiles (likely from Delft) adorn the walls.

The mirror, which takes elements from several design traditions, is typical of the mid-eighteenth century in this region.

The Stables

I hope you might travel in the Baltic next summer, with a stop in Riga. From there, it’s just one hour’s drive to Rundale Palace. Restoration continues.

Or, head for St. Petersburg (you must, if you have not yet, go there) and add Latvia to your trip.

Photo credit:

Photography by Christopher Flach, exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE.

Contact Chris Flach at: chris@flachphotography.com

Note: find more travels with Christopher in the archive of THE STYLE SALONISTE.
There Chris's elegant black and white images of Paris gardens and Paris scenes, along with a trip to a Swedish palace, Gunnebo.

Rundale Palace:
The palace is open every day, throughout the year.
For information on excursions from Riga, and new seasonal exhibits: www.rundale.net

'The Grand Tour': essential for world travelers and architects
The best inspiration--and information--for those planning architecture and design excursions is the superbly illustrated guide book, The Grand Tour: Traveling the World with an Architect's Eye by Australian architect, Harry Seidler.
It was published by Taschen in 2004 and is findable through amazon.com
Harry Seidler, Australia's ground-breaking modernist architect (I interviewed him when I was an editor for Vogue Living, in Sydney)--spent much of his life traveling to one great architecture capital after another (Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, Vienna, for starters). With his trusty Leica camera and Kodachrome film, he documented the world's great architecture and design treasures.
Forty countries--starting with the pyramids in Egypt, Greek temples, houses in Kyoto, Italy's Palladian villas, modernist marvels in Finland, temples in Cambodia, mosques in Turkey and Persia, and palaces of Portugal and Brazil--and every important style and village and canal-side dwelling are here.
This is a must for any serious collector of architectural reference books--and inspiration for architectural travels.
Travel well, travel safe, be inspired.

And be sure to tune in next week. More surprises.