Friday, August 31, 2012

Mr. Vanderbilt's HOUSE and COLLECTION - Drawing-Room

***Click HERE to view the introduction to this book.*** 
***Photos and text from Mr. Vanderbilt's House and Collection, described by Edward Strahan pseudo Earl Shinn - the Holland Edition published in 1883.*** 



DRAWING-ROOM
WITH VISTA THROUGH THE ATRIUM AND PICTURE-GALLERY TO THE CONSERVATORY
PHOTOGAVURE  
THE CHASE—MOTIF FROM DRAWING-ROOM   PLAFOND BY P. V. GALLAND.      DESIGNED BY CH. DAVID.






ONYX LAMP-POST.
DESIGNED BY GOUTZWILLER.








TRODUCING the Drawing-Room, as we enter from the  central Hall, is another of the portieres belonging to the Lille series, described in the chapter on the Anteroom and Library; these specimens of Lille haute-lisse manufacture, it will be remembered, belong to the period of Louis XIV., and were formerly in the possession of that monarch's grandson, the Due du Maine; they represent classical subjects, treated in the style of Le Brun or Rubens; they are valuable for their undimmed preservation, and for having their original borders.   The specimen introduced into the present chapter, like that in the former one, represents the Seizure of the Sabine wives. The stout soldiers of Romulus are seen bearing aloft their ample armfuls, among the valleys of the Seven Hills.


In the Drawing-Room we find a more frank indulgence in color, a more pronounced love of ornament for its own sake, than in any portion of the house. The walls are stretched with red velvet, profusely embroidered, and studded with cut crystals of every shade; these variegated flashes of jewelry are introduced in the figures of butterflies applied to the stuff, and seemingly attracted to the profuse bowers of embroidered blossoms, which cluster in arches just under the cornice, leaving the centre-spaces of the panels bare in their crimson breadths.



CORNER, WITH LIGHTS AND REFLECTORS.
 DESIGNED BY L. LIBONIS.
The artistic attraction here is the ceiling by P. V. Galland. The painters scheme is admirably decorative, and comports with architectural probability in a greater degree than is usual     with ceilingpieces. The central space being flat, and supported by coves which round up to it on every side, the artist takes the opportunity to  represent a  light trellis  in the middle, sustained upon carved timbers  which rise here  and  there from the cornice.   The human figures which crowd   the   composition   occupy  the coves, and   can   be   seen   without   straining the eye.    They represent knights at the tournament,   with    the    fair   ladies   who watch them, hunting-scenes, vintages, harvests. Every posture is a study of elegance and originality, and the tranquil, sunny impression of the whole leaves upon the eye that sense of flattered repletion which is the aim of decorative art in its lighter aspect. M. Galland, the author of the pageant, owing to his constant addiction to the more sumptuous forms of art, is less widely known as a painter than many an inferior knight of the palette. Though he produces easel-pictures, in his scanty intervals of leisure, they do not form part of the picture-dealer's stock; his appreciators are, accordingly, not the usual shop-window students, but the favored individuals here and there whom fortune allows to receive exceptional advantages 










PORTION OF THE "FETE"
PAINTED BY GALLAND DRAWN BY THURWANGER.
PRINTED BY LEMERCIER

of culture, and also to inherit the wealth with which palaces are built. M. Gallands ample compositions are to be found in the establishments of Baron Rothschild, at London


TABLE, IN GOLD AND PEARL.     DESIGNED BY R. M. LANCELOT.

of Prince Nariskine, at St. Petersburg, of Mme. de Cassin, at Paris, and in the royal palace at Stuttgard; he has recently finished one of the great wall-paintings for the Pantheon, at Paris, where he comes into well-sustained competition with Puvis de Chavannes and Cabanel; this serious and elevated composition represents the Preaching of St. Denis; and he has also just terminated a design for tapestry representing Henri IV., destined to take the place of the likeness of Napoleon III. in the Apollo Gallery of the Louvre, where it will form the pendant to that of Louis XIV. M. Galland, in fact, with Baudry and Puvis, is one of the four or five great decorative artists now living.   


PORTION OF  LINTEL AT WINDOW.     DESIGNED BY R.  M. LANCELOT.








 


His government has shown a sincere appreciation by invoking his aid at all the national establishments where his qualities can be made useful: thus he is professor of decorative composition  at the Beaux-Arts School, director of the works at the Gobelins manufacture of tapestry, government commissioner at the porcelain factory of Sevres, and, of course, an officer of the Legion of Honor. An artist of such importance should be better known in America, where it is a matter of pride to keep well abreast of the catalogue of contemporary renown; yet, save in this and in one other private mansion of New York, it would be impossible to point to one of his works in the new world. The ceiling-composition in this residence is in the artist's best style; it shows his ready mastery of every device of the charmer, the abundance of his invention, his facility and elegance, and his ability to be forcible without overloading a plafond-subject with unseemly vigors. The never-ending frieze of personages whose procession winds around the coves is in no part sombre; it is successfully lifted into the full air and sunshine of its imaginary elevation among the clouds; it is not too deeply modelled, but every form is an agreeable silhouette, neither flat like a Greek vase-painting, nor projected like a Rembrandt portrait; in addition, what the decorator has no right to lose sight of for a moment, every figure is a shape of beauty. The festive catholicity of the subject allows the artist to introduce almost any form of the picturesque, and in so doing he always keeps to the level of the subject; among the round arms of the vintage-maidens, posing on their heads the flat corbeilles***baskets***, he is familiar and jocund; among the veneurs***hunters*** bringing in the boar, he is hearty and Rabelaisian; among the knights going to the jousts, he is gallant, noble and sedate; and he rises to the height of medieval purity and distinction among the lovely dames, each fit for the queen of a love-parliament, over whose delicate heads is lifted the standard, "Plus que valeur, beaute triomphe."*** more than value, beauty triumph***


WEST CORNER OF DRAWING-ROOM
WITH PORTIONS OF GALLAND'S FETE
DRAWN BY ESQUIRON. PRINTED BY AUBRY

The carvings and furniture in this room deserve special attention.   Most of the latter was designed and made in New York, but there is a pair of cabinets by Barbedienne of Paris, flanking the west entrance, inlaid with mother-of-pearl in a framework of gold, and bearing five Limoges enamels by Serre.   The elegant device for the frame enclosing these enamels is shown on page 55***below***.


A SUNNY NOOK IN THE DRAWING-ROOM.
DESIGNED BY GOUTZWILLER
Another meuble, also by Barbedienne, is really a tour de force and a curiosity.    It is a cloisonne enamel cabinet, with double doors and shelving, standing on
an elegant table of fire-gilt bronze or or-moulu,  by the  same maker. The  manufacture  of  cloisonne   enamel,  by  the   method  employed in China and Japan,  has never been  understood  in   Europe; but Barbedienne has  several  times  accomplished  the  same  result by sheer power and wilfulness, merely doing without the labor-saving secret which saves the Oriental half his work - repudiating that, because nobody in the West knows the use of the gum with which the Eastern workman attaches his cloisons to the bronze. Barbedienne's stupendous traceries in enamel look rather like champleve than cloisonni, on a very close inspection; rather as if the space between the colors was dug out, leaving the delicate divisions standing- like a honeycomb of gold; but, however his wizard familiar permits him to do it, the Paris bronze-founder turns out a cabinet that is the perfection of taste; for the designs of his doors and plaques are Persian architectural designs, and they apply themselves to the doors and surfaces in great sheets of enamel, whose figures enter into the structure architecturally, which Chinese designs would never do. This singular casket, in which ivories and lacquers are kept, is one of the greatest triumphs of headstrong and unnecessary ingenuity which French cleverness has effected. Mother-of-pearl, very freely used in both the architecture and the furniture of this saloon, strikes the highest key in the octave of colors in the decoration, of which the lowest is the crimson of the walls and carpet, while a middle value is attained by a very lavish use of gold. The rounded corners are colorless, however, by a singular caprice; these cold intervals being an elaborate arrangement of mirrors and silver statues, nearly life-size; these singular niches, among all  the glow and color, come upon the eye almost like ice-grottoes.


FORTUNE, STATUETTEBY A. MOREAU-VAUTHIER. 
ANTIQUE CHATELAINE, WITH LADY'S WATCH BY LE ROY ET FILS.
DESIGNED BY R. M. LANCELOT.











             
                                                                                                       

















The mother-of-pearl, seen everywhere seen, carries off, however, the high note of the silver and the reflectors with ingenuity and elegance. Its use here suggests for what unexpected effects it may be depended  upon, even  in architecture.    Thus, in the broad cornice which unites the walls to the coves, the panelled woodwork design is covered with pale metallic-green gilding on a ground of mother-of-pearl. Mother-of-pearl, inlaid with invisible joinings, sheets the gold tables; and mother-of-pearl, bending over the rounded angles of the Barbedienne cabinets, catches the light like the shields in a trophy, and strikes a changeable decorative note which repeats itself from ceiling to floor of the apartment.
CORNER IN THE DRAWING-ROOM
WITH CLOISONNE CABINET
DRAWN BY M. GAULARD PRINTED BY LEMERCIER



BRONZE FIRE-GILT TABLE, WITH CLOISONNE ENAMEL CABINET
BY BARBEDIENNE.DESIGNED BY CH. GOUTZWILLBR.
The massive frames of the three doorways are elaborately carved and incrusted with gold. Flying genii, similar to those seen in museums on Roman sarcophagi of the later periods, hover at the upper corners. At either side of each door-post is placed a pillar, of the material familiarly called "onyx," and showing the most   beautiful   markings  of spar or alabaster;  this  stone  is   brought from Africa, and is not to be  confounded with the less rich "Mexican onyx."   The pillars are hung with gold chains set with colored cut crystals, and bear gold cages in which dance the lights for receptions or balls.    The arrangement for lighting the   apartment   depends,   however, less upon the candelabra on  the onyx pillars than upon the singular device in each of the corners, just glanced at in the previous paragraph.   Here we find, one for each recess, silver light-bearing statues; the figures, somewhat smaller than life, are very elegant, in a bygone style suggesting Pradier and the epoch of Louis-Philippe; the silver surface perfectly harmonizes with the purity of their lines and the weighty strenuousness of their draperies.   These nymphs each bear up an arched branch of lights, and the rounded niche behind reflects the illumination from its lining of little square bevelled mirrors.    The effect at night, it need not be said, is simply feerique***magical or fairy-like***

Among the rarities of which the saloon is full, it is impossible to overlook the two statuettes carved out of solid ivory; they are both by Augustin Moreau-Vauthier, superintendent of plastic ceramics at the Sevres factory. No living sculptor, except perhaps Cordier, has studied more than this artist the infinite applications of sculpture to decorative ends. Of these two figures, the Cupid, with a pedestal of trifling height, measures an altitude of nineteen inches; and it is hard to detect a joining in the ivory; the Fortune, a somewhat larger figure, poises on a globe of turquoise blue, with various supporting figures and attributes; the latter statue was exhibited life-size, in bronze, at the Triennial Exhibition in Paris in 1883. Both are completely adapted for parlor admiration; they are thoroughly elegant, refined and artistic, without deep mythological meanings to disturb the equipoise of the evening caller. Cupid, balancing one of his arrows in the guise of a dart, is a peculiarly living, elastic figure.



ONE OF THE SILVER LAMP-BEARING STATUES.
DESIGNED BY CH. DAVID.

The elaborate tables in the Drawing-Room, all of which are experiments in design that at any rate have not failed from any restriction of cost, support plate-glass  cases, as transparent  as possible,  in  which are protected a host of  costly  trifles,  besides   the   ivories above-mentioned.    The worth of these rarities is usually in  inverse ratio to their size.    Yonder  little red cup  and  saucer,  for  instance, are pointed  out as having cost three hundred and fifty dollars. The large vases and dishes in rock-crystal are delicious studies for the lover of bric-i-brac.   These curiosities are the personal  choice and selection of the proprietor, picked up in scant hours of leisure among the curiosity-shops of European  cities.    A  few of them  are   represented   in  the  photogravure plates and in the designs accompanying the text.



Represented  in  the  photogravure  plates are found the following: Plate containing a group of five objects. In the centre is a curious ivory watch. It is of English manufacture, having on the back the national St. George with the dragon. The movement, which of course is not ivory, is signed "Bushman." - The gold-mounted snuff-box above it is marked with the maker's initials, "F. J.;" it is of the Napoleon epoch, and the enamel on the lid, representing an enamored pair running to the Fountain of Loves, is a favorite subject of Prud'hon's which the Paris goldsmith still loves to repeat on  his fine  opera-glasses and card-receivers. The other snuffbox, below, fairly copies the shape of a Dutch boat, and looks like Dutch manufacture; the hold, supposed to be charged with the finest tobacco, is approached by a comparatively small hatchway in the middle of the deck. Landscapes like  those  on  the  Dutch tiles, canal-views and castles, a human figure twice as tall as the buildings, constitute the ornament of this quaint old object. 


STATUETTE OF CUPID IN IVORY
SCULPTURED  BY MOREAU-VAUTHIER
PHOTOGRAVURE







The metal is completely covered with  enamel  on all sides, and the piece must have been a difficult one to fire successfully, owing to the risk of unequal heating, and of the enamel flying from one side or the other; the edges and hinges are gold. At the sides are two vinaigrettes; one, attached to a finger-ring, is of porcelain, painted with a maiden pursued  by Loves,  in  the taste of Greuze;  the other is enclosed in a perfect ivy-tod of gold, with Cupid looking out from among the leaves; this difficult piece of goldsmith's open-work imprisons the scent-bottle, in rock crystal. 



FRAME FOR AN ENAMEL IN ONE OF THE PEARL CABINETS.
DESIGNED BY LAMBERT.
Plate representing a Necklace and Miniature. The miniature is by the celebrated R. Cosway, and represents the Hon. Mrs. Duff, daughter of the first Earl of Fife. It is mounted in brilliants representing a bow of ribbon suspending the case or frame; this wealth of strass gems is characteristic of the buckles and clasps of the eighteenth century, especially when, as here, a portrait  is to be turned into a brooch. The necklace is a setting, in old-fashioned gold chains, of a row of eleven stone intagli, of classical subjects though not necessarily ancient; it is well for the beginner in collectorship to remember that elaborate subjects like these, too large for the finger-seal, are hardly ever real antiques; they are far more likely to be studies in Greek art by Rega, the fine Neapolitan artist of the beginning of this century, or by "Cnaeas," who signed the ablest of the Poniatowsky imitations

Plate with Snuff-Box and Double Miniature. The snuff-box is of the date 1630, and the enamel is of dark lapis-lazuli blue, in which is set a round miniature; the latter may represent Anacreon, receiving Cupid and the Graces. The unusual size of this piece, with its antiquity and destination, make it peculiarly interesting. The makers mark is " L. F. T." An inscription in Russian letters is found inside, thus interpreted: " His Excellency Alexis-Theodore Lechovechu, 30 March, 1630" The twin miniature representing the children of Lady Lake, two fine boys set face to face in a double case, is signed "H. E." The frame is gold, enclosing on the back a pretty Wedgwood cameo in the blue-and-white, representing a nymph pouring libations on a flaming altar, encircled with a ring of lapis enamel;  a half-effaced inscription, of which the last word is doubtful, seems to perpetuate the sadness of a widow's or bereaved mother's heart: "Le triste Souvenir est pour LAme tin Bien"***The blade is sad remembrance Although tin***, plus precieux que les Heures qui Brillen"***Hours precious than that Shine***.  The urchins, looking like Eton boys of the period of Shelley and Canning, are painted with great elegance.

Represented in the design on page 52***above*** is an antique chatelaine of gold, to which are hung a variety of quaint toys, including a gold watch the size of a finger-ring. The timepiece, hardly large enough for Titania, is of old French manufacture, of an epoch when Robespierre had not yet swept away the kings; it is signed "Le Roy et Fils, Horlogers du Roi, a Paris, No. 19,734."


Snuff box of his Excellency A. T. Lechovechu; and miniatures of  Lady Lake's children.


A CORNER IN THE DRAWING-ROOM
PHOTOGRAVURE

PORTION OF FRIEZE AND CEILING
 A FETE
PAINTED BY P. G. GALLAND
DRAWING-ROOM
 DRAWN BY THURWANGER.       PRINTED BY LEMERCIER

PORTION OF THE "FETE"
FRIEZE IN THE DRAWING-ROOM BY P. V. GALLAND
PHOTOGARVURE

7 comments:

  1. The painted ceiling with its figurative scenes behind the balustrade had to be an incredible sight. Reminds me very much of Palladios Villa Maser, aka Villa Barbaro in Italy where all sorts of figures peer down from painted balconies or peek around corners from the famous frescoes installed there. That and of course the ivory, silver, cut crystals, mirrors, gold chains and mother-of-pearl used in the interior design of the drawing room itself, aside from all the opulent furnishings, had to make for a dazzling ostentatious display of Victorian wealth, but in an oh so very good way. Cant believe it was all carted off during the streamlining renovation by Trumbauer. Simply madness.

    Archibuff

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  2. "Feerique" using Earl Shinn's quote best describes the room. Can't you just imagine guests arriving in the PNP mood walking into to this "magical" space with the gas lights reflecting off the metals, and crystals - combined with the finery and jewels the ladies were wearing - "fairy-like" indeed!

    I'don't think the room lasted tens years before being altered. The upkeep must have been tremendous to keep the sparkle. The days of cheap labor allowed it - today practically impossible.

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  3. HPHS- I have read that these rooms were "dust catchers" from the start and that imperfect housekeeping is even apparent in early photographs. Have you seen any evidence of this? I've looked carefully and don't see it. I'm beginning to think that it may be one of those falsehoods you see so often in descriptions of old houses- stated by one author once, then repeated like Gospel. Not that those rooms weren't maintenance nightmares, But with the huge staff that Vanderbilt employed, it's hard to believe that they were anything but pristine.

    And Archibuff- I think that these interiors are a cautionary tale in executing something in the highest style of the moment- nothing seems to age as badly and as rapidly. I am reminded of this every time I open one of the "shelter" magazines.

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  4. Magnus my understanding the decor was a bit shabby when Grace had the place gutted. Before that point I know nothing.

    The whole effort seems wasted on WVanderbilt. He died shortly after, his wife wasn't around that long and son George had his Biltmore.

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  5. Ah yes Magnus, the glass tile backsplashes and stainless steel of today will soon become the avocado refrigerator of yesterday. Just wish when these interiors were deemed hopelessly old fashioned they could have been preserved lock stock and barrel, like the Rockefeller rooms from their midtown brownstone or similar museum period rooms. Such an exotic assembly of high end bric-a-brac, interior decor, finishes and furnishings would be astonishing to see. The gut renovation which created a french chateau interior and removed all the incredible stone carvings on the exterior was inevitable as tastes changed, but only lasting 10 years? Seems like such a waste.

    Archibuff

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