Monday, September 30, 2013

The Grand Gesture: All Hale Anthony Hail

The Sale of the Estate of San Francisco Interior Designer Anthony Hail, at Christies, October 8

A passionate collector, a moment in time, a style and a focus—and inspiring interviews with a legendary tastemaker. I featured his Russian Hill apartment in my first book, ‘San Francisco A Certain Style’ and wrote about him often and with great pleasure.

Christies, New York, Rockefeller Plaza, 8 October 2013

The estate of Anthony Hail, who died in 2006, is one of the great treasure troves of antiques, art, sculpture and rare curiosities to come up for auction in recent years. It’s the in a sense, the definition of Hail’s life’s work, finding, editing, possessing and enjoying his worldly goods, now up for bid through Christie’s. 

Hail, who grew up in Tennessee and Texas and later on a Danish island, lived and worked in San Francisco for four decades. And while he was always overshadowed by the freshness and power of Michael Taylor, and the genius and invention of John Dickinson, Hail had a long-lasting influence on San Francisco designers Steven Volpe, Gary Hutton, Stephen Weaver, Craig Leavitt and many others.

“My taste runs to furniture of the late eighteenth century,” he told me. “I don’t have a stick of furniture, not one decorative object, that is new. Living and working with antiques is my whole life, the focus of everything I do.”

A Danish Cherry, Mahogany And Marquetry Architect's Desk Late 18th Century
Estimate: $7,000-10,000

A Large Louis Vuitton Travelling Trunk 20th Century
With painted monogram and HAIL to each side
Estimate: 2,000-3,000

A Louis Vuitton Leather Picnic Set Suitcase 
Second Quarter 20th Century 
With Applied Plate Engraved Anthony Hail 
Estimate: $2,000 - 3,000

A Louis XIV Ormolu-Mounted Engraved Brass And Tortoiseshell Traveling Box
Possibly German, Circa 1720
Estimate: $20,000-30,000
A Louis XVI Grey-Painted Fauteuil
By Philippe-Joseph Pluvinet, Circa 1780
Estimate: $1,500-2,500
A Pair Of Danish Walnut Klismos Chairs
First Half 19th Century
With later close-nailed red leather upholstery
Estimate: $3,000 - 5,000

A Set of Twelve Hermes Silver Place Card Holders 20th Century In the Form of Entwined Hunting Horns, In a Fitted Case
Estimate: $1,000 - 1,500
I wrote about Anthony Hail (Tony to his friends and clients) many times, and visited his residences on Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and finally in a quiet avenue Foch-like corner of Pacific Heights.

Surrounded by his Isfahan carpets, Russian chandeliers, Swedish gilded tables, English etchings, hand-woven Italian silks, late Louis Seize chairs, Chinese porcelains, and a certain Edith Wharton-like air, he was of another era, a time when good manners were everything, and a man could be judged by the fine antiques he collected. 

Images of Anthony Hail San Francisco townhouse above and below are from 'San Francisco Interiors' by Diane Dorrans Saeks, with exclusive photography by Alan Weintraub, published by Chronicle Books.

Alert readers who compare these images with those taken by Christie's for the upcoming sale with note that in the decade interim--some chairs were sold, a few objects were moved, but for Tony Hail, the pieces and furniture he loved were kept close.

San Francisco interior designer Steven Volpe, who worked as an assistant to Hail in the eighties, pays tribute to Hail's classical training, his superb eye for beautiful antiques, and his influence on generations of San Francisco designers.

"Tony Hail was a designer's designer, the best of the best," said Volpe, himself highly successful and in demand. "He kept only the best examples of art, antique carpets, porcelain, hard-stone objects, books (many of them signed by the author), and furniture. He enjoyed them every day, and lived with memories of golden years, a rich and well-lived life."

Even on a Friday afternoon visit, or a photo shoot, he was imperiously opinionated, throwing out witticisms and mottos with his practiced lockjaw, and an accent somewhere between Tennessee, a Danish manor house, and tinged with years of bridge clubs and dinner party conversation in the salons of Paris, London, New York and Copenhagen.

Hail was insightful and followed the likes of David Hicks (a close friend) and Paris aristocrats in making a grand gesture of the appearance of lack of pretension (which is in itself a form of extreme pretension). But the antiques were for pleasure, not mere viewing.

“You must always live with your antiques. None of my house is for display,” he said. “I sit in my Louis XVI chairs, I bring out my best china every day.”

Hail, adored by his long-time old-money San Francisco clients could be acid-tongued, but he was highly knowledgeable and effortlessly informative in the area of his interests and expertise.

His partner, Charles Posey, died earlier this year and now the contents of their townhouse are all in the Christie’s sale.

An Empire Ormolu-Mounted Leather And Gilt-Metal Campaign Bed from the early 19th century (3 photos)
Estimate: $10,000-15,000 

Hail, who retired after a highly distinguished 50-year career working for the creme-de-la-creme of society in California (one surprising client was actor James Garner) and in New York, always made a point of custom designing rooms specifically for each client. He never had a “look” or a “signature” that were applied to each new commission.

“I disdain the concept of instant decorating or theme design,” said Hail to me in a personal interview.” I never like a house to look decorated. It should appear to have happened over time. Interiors should look fresh, not too opulent, with meticulous workmanship, impeccable provenance, rich silks and linen, nothing fussy. I keep curtains simple. Overdone curtains are tiresome.”

Hail, who studied architecture at Harvard under Walter Gropius, modestly gives all the credit for his long career span and his loyal clientele to good timing.

“I arrived in San Francisco in 1955, a golden time,” said Hail, who initially worked on projects with New York designer Billy Baldwin, a mentor. “Soon after I arrived, I started work for Mrs. Henry Carter Russell, then for Whitney Warren, and two years later Eleanor de Guigne, a woman of great taste and style, found me and she single-handedly made my career.”

Exclusive to The Style Saloniste: From the Personal Photograph Album of Anthony Hail

Capturing golden years of travel, meetings with famous and infamous, and living surrounded by beauty. 

Tony Hail, in the eighties, at the Majorca residence of Michael and Diandra Douglas.

Tony Hail with Denise Hale, photographed in the spring, seventies, at HE Ranch, Cloverdale, California. 
Tony Hail in Venice in the days before mass tourism, when men wore suits to travel. 

Tony Hail and friends in Rome. Unknown year. Suit and tie, de rigueur.
Anthony Hail at the Deia, Majorca, residence of Diandra and Michael Douglas, where he spend vacations for many summers. 

Hail’s Scandinavian childhood and his exposure to manor houses in Denmark, grand apartments in Paris, Versailles and European Grand Tours, is evident in the collections in the Christie’s sale.

“I lived in a handsome manor house, and was surrounded by the most beautiful country houses in the world, impeccably run,” said the fastidious Hail.

One favorite was Valdemar Slott, a 17th-century baroque castle near Troense in the southern Funen archipelago of Denmark. This country house by the sea has a romantic tea pavilion near the water. It’s still privately owned by the Juel family, and open to the public. It’s opulent, with twelve glittering crystal chandeliers in the entry hall. Much of the furniture is Louis XVI.

The influence of Denmark on Hail’s design concepts and his collections in the sale cannot be overstated. 

David Hockney 
Gregory, Arizona Biltmore 
ink on paper, Drawn in 1976 
Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 

Five Italian Champagne Bottle-Form Silver Mounted Glass Decanters
20th Century
Estimate: $3,000 - 5,000

A gift from Billy Baldwin, 1963
A Pair of Chinese Black Glazed And Gilt-Decorated Faceted Vases 20th Century, Mounted As Lamps
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Library of Works Relating to Design, Art,
Decorative Arts, and Architecture
Together 95 works in 98 volumes
Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500

The family moved to France where his design education continued.

“We lived in a townhouse just near the gates of Versailles for a magical time when I was a boy. It was the best education. I played in the King’s potager, ran in Le Notre’s gardens, and saw all of the palace interiors.”

In Paris, he feasted his eye on historic interiors.

“I have always been influenced by legendary Hotel Lambert, one of the most beautiful, historic private residences in Paris, overlooking the Seine,” he commented. “The staircases and rooms were all superbly proportioned, gracious and very formal. The sumptuous 17th-century architecture is by Louis le Vau, who designed Versailles and worked on the Louvre.”

Hail traveled and created interiors for clients in Paris, London, New York, Boston, Charleston, Los Angeles, and worked in Santa Barbara.

“I make an attractive background for a refined and comfortable and sociable life,” he said. 

A gracious life and elegant decor were intertwined for Hail.

“My interiors don’t rely on pattern or bold color or opulence for effect. I always hold back a little,” said Anthony Hail. “I like rooms that feel rich, but that sense of luxury is created by things like superbly detailed but understated draperies, impeccable upholstery, leather with the patina of age, the best old Oriental rugs, bookcases full of books and albums with wonderful bindings, antique Chinese porcelain collections, beautiful light.” 

Hail treasures his lifelong connections with Scandinavia.

“Danish and Swedish interiors are distinguished by a wonderful purity of line and a restraint in detail,” he said. “Their “less is more” approach was a great lesson to me. It has informed all of my work.”

In his townhouse, Hail was surrounded by Swedish antiques, many of which are highlights of the sale.

“Scandinavian antiques have been my lifelong obsession,” he said. My albums are full of Danish and Swedish antiques. The craftsmanship is superb. It has an edge. It’s not pompous or gilded or rococo like French or Italian antiques. I love fine French antiques, but I love the charm, understatement, and unexpected character of Danish and Swedish more.” 

All images courtesy of Christies, which gave express permission for their use.

Exclusive images from Anthony Hail’s photography albums: private collection. Presented here with express permission.

Steven Volpe Design, San Francisco:
550 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 772-5550

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bravo Bulgari!

Bellisimo Bulgari: The Glittering History of Bulgari and Its Fabulous Jewels Is Revealed at the New de Young Museum Exhibit in San Francisco 

Monica Vitti, wearing the Bulgari “Seven Wonders” necklace of platinum, emeralds, and diamonds, 1963. Photo: © Karen Radkai

Necklace, 1961
Platinum with emeralds and diamonds
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Bravissimo Bulgari

This week at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco opens The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond 1950 – 1990, an exclusive exhibition of approximately 150 pieces created by the renowned Italian jeweler over four decades.

This exclusive exhibition will highlight jewelry that defined a pivotal period in Italian design, and will include many pieces from the personal collection of Elizabeth Taylor, as well as custom pieces from the collection of actress Jennifer Tilly, Ellen Barkin, and the private collections of Dede Wilsey, the president of the board of trustees of the museum

The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950 – 1990 will be on display at the de Young Museum from September 21, 2013 through February 17, 2014.

“I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” – Andy Warhol

Works in the exhibition also include those from the 1970s and 80s, a particularly innovative period for the jeweler and one influenced by Pop Art and other contemporary trends. 

“In the 1980s the Parentesi collection had a smoother, modular, almost architectural presence; both show how the jeweler could lead in new directions with a strong sense of design,” said Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

Elizabeth Taylor and Bulgari 

Bulgari’s notably ‘dressed’ with jewels and adorned such prominent patrons and movie stars as Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and most notably, Elizabeth Taylor, who has long been a key aspect of the jeweler’s reputation. Bulgari recently acquired many extraordinary styles from Taylor’s collection, now part of the Bulgari heritage collection. 

“The BULGARI store on via dei Condotti (the official name) began to draw more visitors from the States during the 1960s, when many film stars were in Rome making films at Cinecittà—the principal Italian movie studio. Elizabeth Taylor was a great fan of the jewelry house, frequenting it on breaks from filming Cleopatra in 1961–1962 and continuing her patronage long after the production finished. Such was her fervor for the jeweler that her husband Richard Burton said, “The only word that Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari.” For their engagement he gave her a substantial emerald brooch from Bulgari and followed it up on their wedding day in 1964 with an enormous matching necklace.” – Martin Chapman, curator of the show, in the exhibit catalog. 

Eddie Fisher adjusting Elizabeth Taylor's Bulgari tremblant brooch, Rome, 1961. Photo: © Bettmann/CORBIS.

Tremblant brooch, 1962 
Platinum with yellow and 
white diamonds 
Bulgari Heritage Collection
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

Tremblant brooch, 1958 
Platinum with diamonds 
Bulgari Heritage Collection
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

Tremblant brooch, 1960 
Platinum with yellow and 
white diamonds
Bulgari Heritage Collection
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

The brooch was probably given to Elizabeth Taylor by Eddie Fischer, her husband at the time and was worn both as a brooch and hair ornament. On the “tremblant”pieces, flowerheads are mounted on spring settings, which allow them to flicker at every movement, thus marvelously radiating their light. Since the 18th century, realistic floral motifs had been a constant theme in French jewellery.

In the early 1960s, Bulgari rivalled the finest Parisian jewellers in creating these asymmetrical sprays. 

Necklace, 1962, with pendant/brooch, 1958
Platinum with emeralds and diamonds
Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Elizabeth Taylor became rather obsessed (or at least extremely and deliriously and permanently delighted) with Bulgari when she was in Rome to make ‘Cleopatra’. The subsequent moments of her love affair with Richard Burton were marked with Bulgari sapphire, emeralds and diamonds.

I encountered many of these dramatic pieces at Bulgari’s display at the Biennale des Antiquaires at the Grand Palais in Paris last fall, and most of them are in the exhibit at the de Young. One of Taylor’s sapphires was 50 carats. There were stones of extreme voluptuousness and rarity. Now this is jewellry. 

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra, wearing her Bulgari snake bracelet-watch, 1962. Photo: AP Images/La Presse/Umberto Salvemini

Snake bracelet-watch, ca. 1967 
Gold with yellow and red 
enamel and rubies
Bulgari Heritage Collection
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

Italian actress Virna Lisi, in front of the Bulgari shop on via dei Condotti, Rome, 1971. Photo: Alfredo Agomeri

A Happy Memory of Bulgari in Rome

I discovered Bulgari on my first visit to Rome, as a student. I was studying art and classical architecture—and my goal was to see every Caravaggio painting in Rome, all eight (one questionable), as well as every baroque church, and the collections at the Doria Pamphilj palazzo. 

One very warm hazy golden afternoon, with an hour free, I ventured alone down swoony via Condotti. My eye was suddenly captured by the most mesmerizing colorful jewels in the window of Bulgari. I stepped closer. The colors seemed...planetary or solar and too intense for this world. These were substantial pieces—think Sophia Loren—with large cabochon sapphires, tourmalines, citrines, spinels, aquamarines and turquoise stones. The modern, colorful, exuberant and superbly crafted designs made every faceted jewel in other windows seem fussy and dated.

Brooch, ca. 1969 
Platinum with turquoise 
and diamonds 
Collection of Jennifer Tilly 
Photograph by Zale Richard Rubins

Ring, ca. 1969 
Platinum with turquoise 
and diamonds 
Collection of Jennifer Tilly 
Photograph by Zale Richard Rubins

In the intense summer heat, I was neatly dressed (nice white linen blouse, black skirt, Capri-style sandals, a neat little black cross-body) so I rang the door buzzer and was discreetly ushered inside. I’d studied Latin for years, so I improvised Italian, and I asked if I might possibly look, per favore, if they would be so kind, si prega di... at some of the jewels on display.

I was offered a leather-cushioned Klismos-style chair, a glass of chilled water on a little square silver tray with a hemstitched linen napkin, even an espresso.

Clearly, as a romantic student I was there to ‘view’. They were charming. I was made extremely welcome, rings were brought out, and I was introduced to the elegant, hospitable, and private world of Bulgari. It was joyful, serious, very Roman and very classic Italian bella figura. I left, thirty minutes later, and stepped into the intense, sun-struck afternoon.

Bravissimo, Bulgari 

“Tubogas” choker, 1974
Two-color gold with Greek silver coins
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Mirror, 1962 
Gold with turquoise 
Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor 
Bulgari Heritage Collection
Photograph by Antonio Barrella, Studio Orizzonte Roma

Snake bracelet-watch, ca. 1962 
Gold with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds 
Private collection 
Photograph by Zale Richard Rubins

I’m so excited that Bulgari, now a great international name, has come to San Francisco, and everyone can discover the rare beauty and consistent point of view.

I hope you’ll see the show. In the meantime, the big opening party is on September 18, and Nicola Bulgari, the grandson of the founder of modern Bulgari (the company, however, is now officially 125 years old) will pay us a visit. I will spend moments in reverie. Memories of the via Condotti and a charming Bulgari welcome. 

Denise Hale’s Legendary Diamond Bracelet

Bracelet, ca. 1950
Platinum with diamonds
Private collection
Photo: © Randy Dodson

Denise Hale has a noted collection of fine jewelry, including museum-worthy Bulgari pieces. She wears all of her favorites as a ‘second skin’ and never goes out (or dresses) without her famous Bulgari gold and diamond necklaces and bracelets, her David Webb diamond pin, or perhaps a Taffin sea anemone pin, sapphire earrings, a Boucheron chameleon diamond pin, as well as a spectacular and glittering diamond and white gold choker she acquired in Buenos Aires recently.

But the piece I admire the most is a multi-dimensional Bulgari diamond bracelet she was given in Rome on her 19th birthday, by the international businessman who had become her first husband. 

The bracelet, which Hale has lent to the Bulgari exhibit, generally whiles away the hours in a special locked box in a very secret bank vault with her other precious pieces.

Occasionally she will wear it to a very special occasion—a private dinner, a birthday, a gathering among dear friends in San Francisco.

This is a most remarkable creation, admired even by the likes of Nicola Bulgari, whose grandfather, founder of modern Bulgari in Rome, presided over its design. When occasionally Mr. Bulgari visits San Francisco, he takes time with this bracelet, gazing at it appreciatively and almost, it seems, reconnecting with his grandfather’s art and exquisite aesthetic.

Arriving or departing a soirée, the bracelet is concealed beneath a long silk or cashmere sleeve.

Denise (see more about the remarkable Hale in THE STYLE SALONISTE archive) recalls the afternoon when her husband took her to Bulgari on via Condotti to select her birthday gift.

“I was shown twenty different diamond bracelets, all of them beautiful,” she said to me recently. “They were all beautiful. Each one, so finely hand-crafted. The elegance of each was evident. But there was one—very dimensional, with exceptional baguette-cut diamonds inset on the sides—that caught my eye from the start. The design is complex but it’s very light. I always found it exceptionally beautiful, and enjoy it to this day. It’s always fun to wear it.”

Bulgari fans who look closely with find two other pieces from Hale’s collection, including sapphire earrings made by Bulgari using Hale’s grandmother’s sapphires, which are of exceptionally deep and rich hue.

Bracelet, 1960 
Gold with sapphires and diamonds 
Bulgari Heritage Collection,
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

Daisy brooch, 1969 
Platinum with emerald and yellow and white diamonds
Bulgari Heritage Collection,
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

The Stars That Shine

“Although Elizabeth Taylor was one of the last actresses of old-school Hollywood to wear her own jewelry on the set, American celebrities would continue to turn to Bulgari to adorn themselves for the red carpet throughout the 1980s and up to the present day. They were also enlisted by Bulgari to wear its jewelry to promote the brand. In the 1970s Cher wore part of the Star-Spangled Banner collection (also known as the Stars-and-Stripes collection) for a publicity shoot in conjunction with the opening of the first Bulgari boutique in the United States, the New York shop in the Pierre Hotel, in 1972.” – Martin Chapman, Curator, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Necklace and pendant earrings, 1967 
Gold with sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds 
Formerly in the collection of Mayrink Veiga 
Bulgari Heritage Collection
© Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

“Parentesi” parure, ca. 1982
Gold with diamonds
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Sautoir, ca. 1973
Three-color gold with British silver coins and diamonds
Formerly in the di Portanova Collection
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Pop Goes the Bulgari

“Pop artist Andy Warhol was a collector of Bulgari jewelry and in 1979 stated, “I always visit Bulgari, because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” His magazine Interview featured actress Jessica Lange on its cover in 1979, wearing a pair of geometric Bulgari Art Deco–style earrings set with emeralds and yellow diamonds. The following year, in an interview with Nicola Bulgari, Warhol stated, “Well I think your jewelry is the 1980s. Everybody’s trying to copy this look.” – Curator Martin Chapman, from the Bulgari volume that accompanies the exhibit


de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive San Francisco, CA 94118

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West. 

Snake bracelet-watch, 1967 
Gold with polychrome enamel and emeralds 
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

About Bulgari
Today part of the LVMH Group, Bulgari was founded in Rome in 1884 as a silver and jewelry shop. Its magnificent jewelry creations were emblems of Italian excellence. In addition to fine jewelry at many price points, Bulgari includes a portfolio of products and services ranging from jewels and watches to accessories, perfumes and hotels. 

Tremblant brooch, 1962 Detail 
Platinum with yellow and white diamonds 
Bulgari Heritage Collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte Roma

All photography courtesy Bulgari and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, used with express permission.