Monday, August 29, 2016

Musical Rapture

San Francisco Opera opens its dynamic 2016/ 2017 season September 9 and 10 with two galas—and a dazzling series of six operas through December.
This week I’ve put together a tip sheet with insider information and images to inspire you.

I love San Francisco Opera. It’s one of the greatest opera companies in the world, and many decades of vivid artistic relationships with all the top opera houses. I’m especially excited about this 94th season with a fantastic series of six operas over three months.

My top picks are the classical ‘Andrea Chenier’ (love and lust and the French Revolution), and the world premiere of ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ (Neo-Orientalist costumes, classical Chinese inspiration, and sets by Tim Yip). ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ has a fantastic creative team—and the opera world is buzzing about the talent and grand concept.

And I can’t wait to see the new production of ‘Aida’, with artistic direction by RETNA. It is directed by the great Francesca Zambello. This is going to be dramatic and definitely the one for designers, art lovers and architects to attend. For pathos there’s ‘Madame Butterfly’, and for wit there’s ‘Don Pasquale’. 

San Francisco Opera’s 2016–17 Season opens Friday, September 9 with a gala performance of Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier in a new production by Sir David McVicar.

For Andrea Chenier, company music director Nicola Luisotti leads a stellar cast, including three international stars making their San Francisco Opera debuts in the demanding lead roles: South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee in the title role, Italian soprano Anna Pirozzi as Maddalena di Coigny and Georgian baritone George Gagnidze as Carlo Gérard.

The opera opening night festivities are distinguished by San Francisco Opera Guild’s glamorous Opera Ball 2016: La Révolution et L’Amour.

The company’s 94th Season also marks Matthew Shilvock’s inaugural year as San Francisco Opera’s new general director, succeeding his mentor and internationally respected impresario, David Gockley, who will stepped down in July. You’ll learn more about Matthew Shilvock below.

Dream of the Red Chamber, the world premiere, opens with a gala on September 10.

Dream of the Red Chamber

I’m so excited to be attending the opening night of ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ a fantastic new San Francisco Opera production, with a highly talented team of creators.

The production is based on the legendary 6-volume novel, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ by 18th-century Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin. The opera depicts a mythical love triangle played out by a rich young nobleman and two women from noble families, who may be incarnations of heavenly creatures. 

This new adaptation of the surreal epic was created by an international team including composer, Bright Sheng, librettist David Henry Hwang, and director Stan Lai.

Costume designer Tim Yip spent six months studying the original pages and immersing himself in art, costumes and the rich culture of the period. Regal, bold, and elegant, the costume designs include ‘new orientalist’ crimson gowns, diaphanous green robes, and multi-layered golden gowns for the women.

All of the costumes, accessories, armor, footwear, and elaborate jeweled robes and headpieces were created in the San Francisco Opera’s costume department.

His colors include crimson and emerald for the lead characters, infused with transparency and lightness to enhance the mood. Yip dreamed up bold armor and graphic costumes for the men.

“For ‘Dream of the Red Chamber, I worked with the idea of updating historical references and having respect for18th century styles but I added contemporary simplicity,” said Yip. “ I kept traditional ideas as a base, and extended that to the level of a dream. So it is half historical, half imagined, said Tim Yip. “I am deeply devoted to the idealized feminine beauty of classical China. It is full of imagination, poetry and sadness and that’s very inspiring for my design approach.”

Don Pasquale ©Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Don Pasquale ©Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale by Donizetti offers a light-hearted opera with a charming surreal rotating set, vivid costumes and a fresh production design.

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case 

The Makropulos Case has music and libretto by Leoš Janáček. It’s a dynamic production. Sung in Czech.




The new production of Aida is going to be extremely exciting.

Bold graffiti-esque sets and the inventive concepts by urban artist RETNA, inspired by hieroglyphics, will be unlike anything audiences have seen at the War Memorial.

This will be Leah Crocetto’s role debut as Aida and the opera will be directed by the great Francesca Zambello (Zambello’s production of the Ring cycle will return to San Francisco Opera in Summer 2018).


About the creative director of this new Aida production

Artistic Designer for Aida, contemporary artist RETNA was introduced to the Los Angeles mural scene at an early age, and has lead one of the largest graffiti art collectives in the city since he was in high school. Born Marquis Lewis in 1979, he took the name RETNA from a from a Wu-Tang Clan lyric.


Through the appropriation of Gothic scripts, calligraphy, and fashion photography, RETNA reinvents them with intricate line work, complex layering, and a powerful range of color.

Incorporating elements of fine art and graffiti into his varied compositions, RETNA combines visual linguistics, urban poetics, and a unique power, exploring an eclectic range of media.

I’ve attended London and La Scala in Milan, and the Met…all very traditional and grand. This new ‘graffiti’ production is going to be fantastic.

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly 

Madame Butterfly has been re-invented with costumes and design by Jun Kaneko.

Matthew Shilvock  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Introducing Matthew Shilvock, the New General Director of San Francisco Opera

The transition from David Gockley’s popular tenure, to the new director now brings Matthew Shilvock into the bright lights. He has been David’s close associate since 2003.

Matthew Shilvock has devoted his career to executive management in the performing arts. After early work with New Chamber Opera in Oxford, England, and PORTopera in Portland, Maine, he became a 2002 Fellow with OPERA America, the national service organization for opera companies in North America.

In 2003, he joined Houston Grand Opera as the General Director’s Liaison for David Gockley, who served as General Director for that company from 1972– 2005. Shilvock came to San Francisco Opera in 2005 as part of Gockley’s transition team, serving as General Director’s Associate (2005–2007). He was promoted to Director of New Initiatives (2007–08), Assistant General Director (2008–2010) and in 2010, Associate General Director. In his positions at San Francisco Opera, Shilvock has worked closely with David Gockley on all aspects of managing this institution and nurturing innovative new projects and initiatives.

Matthew Shilvock was born in 1976 in Kidderminster, England. He studied music performance and history, reading music at Christ Church, Oxford University. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a specialization in nonprofit administration. Shilvock resides in Marin County with his wife Kate and their two children. 

More News: ‘Dream of the Red Chamber” will travel on to Hong Kong in 2017

San Francisco Opera’a world premiere of Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, with a libretto by the composer and David Henry Hwang, in six performances from September 10–29, 2016.

Based on one of the quintessential works of world literature, Sheng and Hwang’s opera will be a vivid musical and theatrical experience.

Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, the work is a co-production with the Hong Kong Arts Festival and will be performed March 17–18, 2017 at the Grand Theatre in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre as part of its 45th annual festival.

San Francisco Opera partners with cultural and educational institutions throughout the Bay Area to present events for audiences to further explore Dream of the Red Chamber. A calendar of ancillary events and for further information,

Free Online Course

Learn more about the story behind the opera with Dream of the Red Chamber: Afterlives, a free course and collection of exhibits by the University of Minnesota. For more information,

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by Cesar Rubio for San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera:  Location and Dining

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, San Francisco.

The neighborhood has many excellent restaurants and guests enjoy drinks of a light supper before the performance. I like Jardiniere, Absinthe, the Hayes Street Grill, and Cala, which are all within a block of the opera house. 

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

New Opera Archive Exhibition Opens
San Francisco Opera recently announced the opening of the installation of a permanent photography exhibition, Looking Through the Lens: The Glory of San Francisco Opera, Past and Present.

Located in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera (corner Van Ness Avenue and McAllister St.), the exhibition features 135 photos drawn from the newly formalized Edward Paul Braby San Francisco Opera Archive collections. Many of the photographs in the exhibition have never before been published, displayed or seen by anyone outside of the Company staff and archive volunteers. The retrospective marks the beginning of the Company’s public celebration of San Francisco Opera’s Centennial in 2022.

The exhibition was curated and assembled by San Francisco Opera Director of Communications and Public Affairs Jon Finck.

Highlights of the David Gockley Gallery include striking black and white images of Italian diva Claudia Muzio as Tosca in the 1932 performance that opened the War Memorial Opera House, the Company's spectacular first production of Turandot in 1927 with Hungarian soprano Anne Roselle in the title role and legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad and tenor Lauritz Melchior on stage in a 1935 performance of Die Walküre.

Images of opera greats include the company's spectacular first production of Turandot in 1927 with Hungarian soprano Anne Roselle in the title role and legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad and tenor Lauritz Melchior on stage in a 1935 performance of Die Walküre. Portraits of the American baritone Lawrence Tibbet as Baron Scarpia in Tosca, American soprano Leontyne Price in her Company debut as Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, in her United States debut.

A unique gem from the collection—and the centerpiece of the Gockley Gallery—shows the entire company at the Civic Auditorium after the October 6, 1923 performance of Andrea Chénier during the Company’s inaugural season. 

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

All photography and art renderings here courtesy of SF Opera.

For more information, subscriptions and tickets:

San Francisco Opera
War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, corner Grove Street, San Francisco. It’s opposite City Hall.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Jeweler I Love: Pamela Love

I’ve been watching the evolution and exploration of Pamela Love’s jewelry designs since she founded her company in 2007 in Manhattan. Her first handcrafted designs were inspired by traditional folkloric traditions, and were crafted in gold and in silver with decorative materials like rare shells, fossils, mine-cut quartz, and poetic gems and unusually compelling stones. Her newest designs are sleek, sensual, timeless and compelling.

In her new book, MUSES AND MANIFESTATIONS: Pamela Love Jewelry (Rizzoli), she invites us into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspirations behind her highly collectible designs. Oh, and did I say, Beyonce is a fan.

I’m inspired by Pamela’s revelations of her varied and worldly inspirations. The book is in effect a scrapbook divided thematically. Chapters are based on different sources of wide-ranging inspiration—Santa Fe, Georgia O’Keeffe, Indian weaving, Tarot cards, desert landscapes, flea-market paintings, sculptural skulls, modern architecture, Frida Kahlo. She takes us inside her creative process, giving an up-close sense of the mind of a dreamer and designer.

One aspect of her designs is magic and the occult. Her popular necklaces and pendants and rings are inspired by astronomy and astrology and the study of the heavens. New Mexico and Mexico.

She riffs on Morocco and the idea of journeying to exotic parts of the world, and desert regions set her imagination on fire. She loves the American Southwest and nature. A recent translation of a classic design includes ring designs in 14k yellow gold plate over sterling silver with lapis and white topaz. The sleek and very sculptural ring is also in 14k rose gold plate over sterling silver with bronze calcite and white topaz ($210 on her website,

Love’s creations are deeply spiritual and intuitive, influenced by astrology, alchemy, botany, and she alludes to traditional and tribal patterns from North Africa. She leaps from Mexican folk art to medieval European iconography. Referencing elements of her home in New York City, she arrives at her own immediately recognizable aura of modern, yet mystical inspired jewelry.

“Pamela Loves jewels are not sentimental, decorative illustrations, complements of a pleasant and mindless daily life. They continue, in innovative ways, the age-old traditions of talismans.”  – Francesco Clemente

About Pamela Love

Pamela Love began making jewelry in her Brooklyn apartment in 2007 and went on to launch her namesake brand, building a full production facility and design studio in Manhattan’s garment district. She quickly proved her talent among the fashion community and was recognized for her designs by the Council of Fashion Designers of America or the CFDA, winning the prestigious CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. She earned the position as runner up in the competitive program, the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund.

In MUSES AND MANIFESTATIONS: Pamela Love Jewelry, she invites us into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspirations behind her ultra-personal designs.

Pamela Love prides herself on her brand’s sustainability and localized production. Love was born in New York and resides in the city now.

How to Find Pamela:

On the website, find all stores and online sites that sell Pamela Love jewelry. Her seasonal collections are available at Bergdorf Goodman and in many smaller chic boutiques throughout the US. Colette in Paris is one of her stockists. 
And link to her excellent and highly informative blog through her website. 

Follow Pamela Love on Facebook. Pamela’s newest designs for AW16 are presented with verve on her Facebook pages.

She also presents sleek new designs for pre-order. New directions and new ideas are inspiring—and show the trajectory of her creative mind.

Follow Pamela Love on Instagram: @pamelalove


Rizzoli New York /

Muses and Manifestations: Pamela Love Jewelry 
By Pamela Love
Foreword by Ray Siegel, with text by Francesco Clemente
Rizzoli New York

Images from Muses and Manifestations: Pamela Love Jewelry published here with permission.

* * * * *

See you next week with news of the fantastic San Francisco Opera 2016 fall season.


Monday, August 15, 2016

The Great Antonio: In San Francisco’s historic Mission district, interior designer Antonio Martins creates a dynamic refuge with a modern edge and cool Italian vibe for a tech innovator

Antonio Martins is one of the most versatile and original designers in California today. You’ve seen his work on THE STYLE SALONISTE over recent years—including his showcase tribute to Portuguese design, with its superb blue and white color scheme, and his ultra-modern artist’s gallery on Telegraph Hill recently.

This week we are taking an exclusive up-close look at Antonio’s newest work—the superbly planned interiors of a dramatic loft/ apartment by Kennerly Architecture and Planning.

Mission accomplished.

Antonio Martins was first contacted by his client in late 2015, when the building was being completed.

Antonio recalled:

“The young, energetic and adventurous owner wanted something different. He was born in Italy but later moved to the US and trained to be a pilot. This led him to a career in the movie business, with periods of time working in Africa. After years of adventure, he decided to settle in SF and started working for a tech company in the Silicon Valley. He found this great new architecture in the Mission.”

The new house by Kennerly Architecture and Planning includes three bedrooms and 3 bathrooms divided on 5 different levels. To balance the crisp planes of the architecture, the client wanted an interior with history. “A bit of this, a bit of that”, he said. He wanted it to reflect his international interests in art, and a life of traveling around the world.

In the lively heart of the Mission, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, he is also within walking distance of Tartine, Bi-Rite grocery, and individually created places of style and taste like Craftsman & Wolves, Dandelion Chocolate, Bar Tartine, Locanda, and a thriving art and design and cultural scene. 

Antonio recalls:

“The interview process took a month. He wanted to be sure we had a connection and understanding. I believe he made up his mind after the second meeting when we met in my office and he was able to see the mix of styles in the space. Our office is a loft in the SOMA design district and combines an architectural brick warehouse with an eclectic mix of antiques and modern art. The fact that I had also lived all over the world, including in Italy also played a big part in his decision. He had a feeling that the spaces would be less “decorated” and more “lived”. 

Antonio recalls:

“Once I had a clear understanding and a good feeling for his aesthetics, I suggested a strategy: why don’t we look for vintage and antique items in auctions all around the country? This would be a way to get great and fast results and “build” a hundred-year story. He loved the idea and we quickly started. I searched all the auction houses in the US with coming auctions and we made our selections.

I would send him the list of items coming up for auction during the upcoming weekend, detailed the low and high estimates given by the auction house and suggested our bids. Depending on “how much we wanted a piece”, we would then decide the absentee bid. It was an exciting process and we got 99% of the pieces we bid on.”

Interior Designer Antonio Martins

Antonio recalls:

“The strategy paid off and after two weeks of shipping, we received all pieces that were theN refinished, reupholstered or simply touched up. I would show him the piece and pointed some nicks or dents and his answered was often “what do you think?” or “why touch it up? After all, it is antique or vintage, right?”. ‘It is not every day that you find a client with such sensibility and understanding.

The final steps were to find the missing pieces and accessories. Our inventory was a clear target and together with additional finds in local markets, antique stores and design stores in SF, we were ready.

“The install happened in a day. Our great client left for work at 7 am and we were at his door, ready. Good Moves, the drapery installer, and art installers worked together from 7 am to 7 pm to get it ready. Throughout the day, I would send him a text or email asking “can we do A or B?” and his answer was always the same: It is your house, do whatever you want.

He called at 7 pm asked if we were ready and if he could come back home. He loves it. Mission accomplished.”

Hall chair (used as side table): George III Mahogany hall chair

Design Credits

Living Room

· Sofa: Vintage Chesterfield Sofa
· Coffee table: HD Buttercup

· Deco chairs: Vintage Pair of French Art Deco chairs upholstered in green mohair
· Chrome chairs: Vintage Nicos Zagraphos chairs upholstered in faux suede
· Pair of stools: A pair of Continental Neoclassical style painted benches with animal legs upholstered in Mongolian lamb

· Side table: Vintage art déco table. Coil Lamp: vintage gear coil lamp with burlap lampshade

· Side table: Italian mid-century modern chrome and burled wood side table
· Gallery Wall: Vintage and new art

· Floor lamp between living room and dining room: Paul Evans (attributed) Cityscape Floor lamp
· Rug: HD Buttercup

· Pendants: Vintage propellers 

Dining Room:

· Dining table: Vintage Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin

· Dining chairs: Vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca

· Chandelier: Birdie chandelier by Ingo Maurer

· Portrait: 19th century Portrait of a Gentleman holding a newspaper, unsigned, oil on canvas
· Pair of photographs: Diptick Viswakarma Blues by Drew Kelly framed on steel custom frame

· Side chair by window: Vintage Portuguese Dining chair
· Sculpture by window: “Land Ahoy” by Antonio Martins, created for the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase

· Rug: Vintage HD Buttercup

Entryway / Staircase

· Vintage Black and white Photographs

· Frames: White frame by City Picture Frame

Powder Room:

Mirror: Continental giltwood carved mirror in the rococo taste

Wallpaper: Nuvolette wallpaper by Cole & Son

An International Design Education: The Life of Antonio Martins

“My family is originally from Portugal but moved to Brazil in the late 1800s.

The entire family kept moving between Portugal and Brazil and my mother was born in Brazil but moved back to Portugal when she was 12.

In Portugal, my family had farms and land in the north. When my grandfather moved to Brazil he had a coffee and corn processing plant.

I was born in Portugal and move to Brazil in 1975 at the age of six. We lived in Rio and my father had several businesses but his main passion was a coffee farm in the state of Minas Gerais.

After graduating high school, in 1988, I moved to Switzerland to study hotel management - Centre Internationale de Glion. After graduation, I was hired by Hyatt international, and moved to Hong Kong where I lived for about 10 years, and working in Germany, Italy, Bangkok, and throughout Southeast Asia.

I moved in 2000 to Chicago to work at the head office of Hyatt International and worked in development projects in Paris, Sao Paulo, Chicago, and Argentina.

I resigned from Hyatt in 2001 and moved to San Francisco to join the Academy of Art University where I taught…and then I opened my own design studios in San Francisco and in Lisbon. It has been a great, great pleasure to work for my clients around the world.”

Details, details — Collection of locks: Collection of antique and vintage locks on acrylic cubes.


Showplace Square West
550 15th Street, Suite 32
San Francisco, CA 94103

Kennerly Architecture and Planning
375 Alabama St #440
San Francisco, CA 94110
Special thanks to Drew Kelly. 
Photography used with permission.

Drew Kelly is a photographer based in California. When not on assignment, he enjoys tending campfires, listening to A’s games on the radio and being outdoors with his family.


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Pleasures of Portraiture: A fantastically inspiring new book, ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel, At the Origins of Art Deco’ by Stephanie-Jacques Addade (Flammarion) celebrates a forgotten French artist and fine portraitist

Come with me this week to discover this superbly illustrated and highly collectible new volume about Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881-1949), the chic portraitist, who in the twenties, thirties and forties, in Paris and New York and Palm Beach, captured the likenesses of café society.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was the portraitist of great beauties, their husbands, and their pretty children. Names and clans like Vanderbilt, Frick, Elsie de Wolfe, Millicent Rogers, Astor, Whitney, French nobles, the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, and du Pont all posed in his studios.

Now, with a highly successful recent Sotheby’s sale, and the publication of the superbly detailed new book, Bernard Boutet de Monvel is rediscovered.

This is one of my favorite recent books—and an essential reference book for designers, artists, photographers and everyone drawn to this alluring and glamorous era. The text is detailed and informative. Images of his interiors and locations capture the elegant era with perfection.

I first discovered the elusive Bernard Boutet de Monvel (that’s his portrait on the book cover, above) in the window of an art gallery along the quai Voltaire. I was heading to Sennelier to buy some watercolor paints when a gold-framed portrait of a woman in a white dress caught my eye.

Static, motionless, timeless, the woman (his Chilean wife, Delfina, whom he painted many times) gazed out, perfection captured. I walked into the gallery and asked about it. ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel’ the dealer said. 

Lady Plunkett (Aileen Guinness) in a gown by Cristóbal Balenciaga, oil on canvas, 92.5 x 42 cm, 1949. Private collection.© Sotheby's / Art Digital Studio, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Some years later, in a museum exhibit in London, I discovered Boutet de Monvel’s fantastic portrait of the Maharaja of Indore painted in 1933. Seated on a white ‘throne’ and resplendent in white cotton robes with just a dash of orange and gold handwoven silk, he is wearing the Indore pear-shaped diamonds, each 46 carats. It’s one of the great contemporary portraits, serene and subtle, and elegant.

In April 2016 ,in Sotheby’s dramatic Paris sale of the artist’s estate—the stunning portrait of the Maharajah of Indore soared to €2.5 million ($2.9 million). 

Portrait of Boutet de Monvel, courtesy of Sotheby’s.

About the Portrait

Bernard Boutet de Monvel often painted himself from 1908 onward. In 1932, he painted two self-portraits for an exhibition at the Reinhardt Galleries in New York including Autoportrait, place Vendôme.

In this strikingly elegant picture, reminiscent of the great Italian Renaissance portraits he admired so much, he presents himself as a genuine dandy in a room at the Ritz, where he often had lunch. Seated on a desk, the artist is holding his cane, cream gloves and hat, with the inevitable white daisy in his buttonhole. Through the window, it is possible to see the place Vendôme. 

Mrs. Millicent H. Rogers in a gown by Charles James, oil on canvas, 85 x 69 cm, 1949. Private collection.© Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Sotheby’s sale, April 5 and 6 in Paris this year, offered over 300 lots—of portraits, drawings, illustrations, prints, and furniture from the estate of Boutet de Monvel who died in 1949.

“A star is reborn," said Sotheby’s. The sale restored the fabulous French artist to a prominent place among curators and galleries and international collectors.

Coveted portraits, such as those of the artist’s wife and daughter (see below) drove the overall total of the sale to €9.3 million / $10.6 million (est. €1.8-2.8 million).

This new book was published by Flammarion at the time of the sale. It is a fantastic and definitive illustration of a glamorous era before omnipresent iPhone portraiture, and a stylish record of interiors, décor and accomplished people of the period.

Delfina Wearing a Feathered Toque by Jeanne Lanvin, oil on canvas and pencil, 35 x 32 cm, c. 1922. Private collection. © Sotheby's / Art Digital Studio, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Sylvie Boutet de Monvel, oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm, October 1928. Private collection. © Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016).

ABOVE: At Sotheby’s: Among exceptional portraits in the sale were intimate family paintings of Boutet de Monvel’s beautiful Anglo-Chilean wife, Delfina Edwards Bello and of their daughter, Sylvie. A portrait of Delfina wearing an ensemble by Pierre Piguet fetched €363,000 ($414,473), nine times the pre-sale low estimate (est. € 40,000 - 60,000). 

Mrs. John A. Vietor (Eleanor Emily Woodward), oil on canvas, 86.5 x 71.5 cm, 1937. Private collection. © Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

The Story of Bernard Boutet de Monvel

A painter, engraver, sculptor, decorator, as well as an illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Boutet de Monvel was one of the most celebrated portraitists of his day, as well as a master of Art Deco and American Precisionism.

His models included Prince Sixte de Bourbon-Parme, William Kissan Vanderbilt, Lady Plunkett, Frick, Whitney and Astor. With his unrivalled aesthetic sense, he featured them in a style close to hyperrealism, with a heightened attention for detail and technical perfection.

He was described as "the handsomest man in Europe" by the American press. He turned beauty into a lifestyle, seeking perfection from his servants' uniforms to his young daughter's fringe of hair. He influenced a numerous artists after him, ranging from Andy Warhol to Robert Mapplethorpe.

Rediscovered: The Significance of the Sotheby’s Sale

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was highly admired in France and across the Atlantic during his lifetime. Yet until the publication of the large-format new Flammarion book and the Sotheby’s sale, his oeuvre and his life, worthy of a Fitzgerald novel, were little known.

In Sotheby’s sale, eight works by the artist were acquired by French museums, including the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orléans, the Musée de Poitiers and the Musée franco-américain du Château de Blérancourt.

Commenting on the sale, Pascale Pavageau, head of 19th century paintings and drawings, Sotheby’s Paris, said: “This landmark sale pays tribute to the immense talent and extraordinary personality of Bernard Boutet de Monvel. The remarkable results achieved place him as one of the most important French artists of the early-20th century.”

Pierre Mothes, Vice-Chairman, Sotheby’s France said: “We are grateful to the family of the artist to have entrusted us with the sale of this iconic collection which was kept secret for so many years”. 

The Maharajah of Indore (a state of India located to the west of Mumbai) painted by Bernard Boutet de Monvel in 1933.

Among my favorite works by Boutet de Monvel are a series of portraits he painted of the young Maharaja of Indore in 1933.

The maharaja and his wife were living in Paris and surrounded artists and architects and fashion designers of the period.

Boutet first painted the couple in evening dress. These paintings are now in a private collection.

Portrait of the Maharani of Indore by Boutet de Monvel

Those of you who follow THE STYLE SALONISTE may wish to link back to a story I wrote several years ago about a meeting with the son of the last Maharaja of Indore, Prince Richard Holkar. Richard Holkar, who graduated from Stanford, is the owner/director of Ahilya Fort hotel in Maheswar. He is also now directing Ahilya-by-the-Sea hotel in Goa. LINK HERE:

My post details the story of the Maharajah and his son. Fascinating.

A Famous Portrait, the Indore Diamonds, a Notable Indian Prince

The Maharaja of Indore was influential in Indore's incorporation into India in 1948 and was a noted spokesman for the United Nations. He also loved European life and luxury. 

After his studies in England as a young man, he travelled to France with his wife. Keen admirers of modern art, the couple befriended Henri-Pierre Roché, who was deeply involved with the artistic avant-garde in Paris and who was friends with artists like Brancusi, Man Ray and Picabia.

In 1929, when the Maharaja wanted to decorate one of the rooms in his palace at Indore, Roché recommended Bernard Boutet de Monvel, who set to work on his portrait. Pleased with this first commission, in 1933 the Maharajah asked for a second portrait in ceremonial dress, with a pendant portrait of his wife in traditional dress. The two paintings were exhibited in the Wildenstein Gallery in New York in January 1934, where they were so successful that Boutet de Monvel made a replica of the Maharajah's portrait in 1934: the one Sotheby’s offered in the recent sale. It sold for several million euros. The Maharaja is wearing the ‘Indore pears’ — diamonds weighing almost 47 carats each, especially mounted on a pearl necklace by Chaumet for this portrait. 

Majestically seated on his throne, wearing his traditional turban, his silhouette seems to float in space. A few refined touches of color – the deep red carpet, the multi-colored material of the saber's sheath and the delicately crumpled, richly colored fabric – subtly highlight the clean lines of the painting. 

Images above from ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel At the Origins of Art Deco’ by Stéphanie-Jacques Addade (Flammarion 2016). Published here with express permission of the publisher.

Images/portraits from the catalog of the Sotheby’s sale, April 2016, from the estate of Bernard Boutet de Monvel, used here with permission from Sotheby’s.