Thursday, December 23, 2010
Christmas at Carlton Hobbs
Detail of a giltwood mirror made in Cairo, 1820.
Darlings, you might remember that Carolyne Roehm hosted her book party at Carlton Hobbs, the antiques dealer who is housed in a former Vanderbilt mansion on East 93rd Street. I decided that as a Christmas present to myself, I would return for a visit with Carlton himself to get a closer look at the house and his antiques.
The manse was built in 1930 by Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt. Here she is in a portrait by Boldini:
When she built the house she was already divorced from Mr. William Kissam Vanderbilt II:
Together they had a son William III who died in a car accident, and two daughters, Consuelo and Muriel Vanderbilt:
Mrs. Vanderbilt herself was independently wealthy, as her father, James Fair Graham, an Irish immigrant, made a fortune from one of the richest silver finds in history in Nevada. She and her sister Theresa Fair built several grand houses. For her Manhattan home she enlisted one of the most famous architects of the day, John Russell Pope, to construct a limestone neoclassical French style mansion which would be happily at home in Paris.
In 2002, London-based antiques dealer Carlton Hobbs bought the building and spent four years, with the help of his managing director Stefanie Rinza, perfectly restoring it.
Let's ring the bell.
Inside, Carlton and Stefanie give me a tour through the riches. Carlton is known for his unusual British and European antiques and art mainly from the 17th - 19th centuries. Here is the entrance hall, spotted with treasures.
Mrs. Vanderbilt's dining room was completely lined in marble and had big double doors for large crowds. It's now beautifully refurbished, and there one finds this carved wood table from Italy gilded in pure gold leaf. From around 1770, the fine carving evokes the glory of imperial Rome.
The second floor offers more galleries so up Mrs. Vanderbilt's staircase we go.
The view from the stairs:
Here is Carlton's current piece de resistance: it's an entire room from an 18th century French mansion, including paneling, bookcases and chimney piece. This library from the Hotel Gaulin in Dijon, France, was built in 1775. Can't you just picture Marie Antoinette wandering through?
It was most recently owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which divested of it. The handcarvings of lime wood and pear are poetic, and the white tinted glaze has faded to a dreamy beige.
The tops of the book shelves are decorated with free standing vases carved in three different designs.
Carlton says he has a number of suitors interested in the room. Price: $3,800.000.
In the adjoining room hangs this gold and silver gilt mirror from 1820. It was made for the palace in Cairo and bears the arms of Pasha Mohammad Ali, the creator of modern Egypt. Carlton, pictured in the mirror's reflection, likes how it incorporates both Middle Eastern and European design elements.
The opposite gallery is the largest room in the house, and Carlton reports that it was Mrs. Vanderbilt's ballroom. Here is the view out to 93rd Street.
The gallery includes this really unusual German object from 1790. It's cork facade is painted to evoke decay and rotting and the passage of time. But these cork doors swing back to reveal inside
the most luxurious mahogany and gilded bronze secretaire. The glossy richness hidden within the humble exterior was breathtaking. Price: $1,450,000.
I loved this bureau, one of a pair, made of ebony and decorated with gilt brass and tortoiseshell. Designed for Carlton House, the home of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, it's furniture as jewelry: sparkling, festive, and ornate.
In the center hall sat this couch of gold gilded over lime. It reminded me of the couch we sat on in Carolyne Roehm's living room.
This English couch from 1805 is finished with individual tassels swinging at the bottom like fringe on a dress.
Then Carlton took me up to the third floor of the house which was Mrs. Vanderbilt's living quarters. Though the public spaces are quite grand, her private quarters, including her sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom, were smaller and more intimate. The rooms are now filled with more of Carlton's treasures, and as dusk fell it was like wandering through the most enchanting forgotten rooms. It left me with visions of days gone by dancing in my head. The tour really was a holiday treat.
I hope you enjoyed it too, and I am wishing you the very best for this holiday season and the coming new year!