Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays From NYC

A fantasy tropical garden in the window at Bergdorf Goodman
Recently after dinner with friends TD and walked over 57th Street to Fifth Avenue. Trees covered with white lights glittered in front of 9 East 57th Street where I did some work this year at the Chanel corporate headquarters. Down near 5th Avenue we reached Bergdorf Goodman and their spectacular holiday windows which are particularly exciting at night.
Starting in the 57th Street windows, the theme was a circus. Next to a grey merry-go-round horse was a pale pink gown encrusted with jewels at the waist by CD Greene (click on photos to enlarge).

We turned the corner at Van Cleef & Arpel and continued on to the big Bergdorf Goodman windows along Fifth Avenue – the main event – where the theme is "Carnival of Animals."
"The Brass Menagerie" (also pictured at the top of this post) shows a chanteuse in a fantasy recording studio made of gold, brass and copper. The floor is layered with shiny pennies and the heroine wears a special dress created by Naeem Khan.

In a frosty setting of white and blue, polar bears, a moose, a seal, and more attend an arctic party in "Breaking the Ice." The hostess has donned a dress and one-of-a-kind cape by J. Mendel.

A figure in a white Alexander McQueen seashell dress floats through the sea in "Testing the Waters." The blue mosaic sea creatures swimming past sparkle with iridescence. This dreamy window was my favorite. Bergdorf Goodman told me that this window was ten months in the making and is the most labor-intensive window display in its history.

This small window pictures a pastel gem garden complete with dragon flies and spiders. Jewels by Iradj Moini.

In "Teacher's Pets" a life-size paper zebra and other black and white beasts gather around the teacher who is glamorously dressed in a black and white lace Marchesa gown.

And at the corner of 5th and 58th is "Artists and Models," a complex collection of wood and leather folk art animals assembled together with the sculptor dressed in a hat, beads and fur. It's a sophisticated scene but at the same time it evokes the innocence of a boy's toy chest.

The Bergdorf Goodman windows are a crowd-stopper along Fifth Avenue.

They really are a gift to the city and the people who visit it – a dazzling display of elegant imagination and creativity.
I am wishing you dear reader a dazzling holiday season of light and warmth. Enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Personal Style of Oberto Gili

Just in time for the holidays came a party last week for photographer Oberto Gili's new book Home Sweet Home, published by Rizzoli. I hadn't met Oberto Gili before but was familiar with his evocative interiors photography published in magazines including the sadly now defunct Vogue Living. This book is subtitled Sumptuous and Bohemian Interiors, and it celebrates Gili's personal take on style. He writes in the book, "Decor serves as an expression of personality, fantasy, personal taste, culture and history." So the interiors photographed here are not designer showcases but instead signature homes created by people with great style.

Speaking of. At the front door of the party I ran into my friend Mary Randolph Carter. The party, held at the gallery of antiques dealer Liz O'Brien, was warm and welcoming on a cold and rainy night. Carter and I became friends when I worked at Polo Ralph Lauren and she was in charge of advertising there. Now she works on Ralph Lauren advertising, books and collections, and has written several books herself, including the recent A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life, also published by Rizzoli. Carter's country-in-the-city approach to style has had a big influence on me.
Her apartment on the Upper East Side is photographed in Oberto Gili's book. Carter's mix of art, antiques, comfortable furniture, and books illustrates a wonderful way to live. (Click on photos to enlarge; photos courtesy of Rizzoli)

I had the pleasure of meeting Oberto Gili at the party and I asked him more about his book of interior photographs. He said, "The interiors are all quicky, intellectual, romantic." "Decoration is like fashion," he continued. "You can copy a fashion picture or you can mix and create your own style. In the same way you can hire a decorator and you will have a very pretty room but it is never yours. You want to feel a love of your place. Then it's a great success. Otherwise it's just showing off."
Here is the romantic, simple bedroom of Alvaro Bravo in Marrakech.

The library of Laura di Collobiano and Moreno Petrini in Tuscany.

The last section of the book is devoted to Gili's own home in Piedmont, Italy. This cozy room has a mix of art and antiques and textiles, and a blazing fire. I love the industrial metal hanging lamp shades.

Style continues outdoors into the garden.

These are timeless settings that don't go out of fashion. This book inspires the reader to mix all different kinds of things together that he or she loves, and it attests to the power of the individual to create something personal and unique.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor Collection at Christie's

Blinded by diamonds and emeralds. (Click on photos to enlarge)
I had the good fortune this week to attend a preview of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection of jewelry, haute couture, art and decorative art which will be auctioned at Christie's this month. The live auctions will be held Dec. 13-16 in New York and the art work will be sold in January and February in New York and London. The online auction is on now, Dec. 3 through the 17th, so go bid on a bauble. See all the details at
Before the great movie star and humanitarian died this past March, she had amassed an extraordinary jewelry collection which is explored at in a very interesting slideshow by writer and editor Ruth Peltason who collaborated with the star on her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry. The Christie's exhibition wonderfully displays the astounding jewelry collection as well as the star's clothing and art. The exhibition is really great fun to see, and visitors can buy tickets online for $30; proceeds go to fund AIDS research and which Elizabeth famously supported even early on when it was a brave and lonely thing to do.
In the gallery I approached a set of ruby jewelry and I said to a woman at Christie's, "Is this the ruby jewelry that Mike Todd gave her?" And the woman said, "I don't know, there is so much ruby jewelry!" We found the Mike Todd suite together, below. When he, her third husband, gave Taylor this jewelry, she famously put it on and went swimming in the pool, so comfortable was she, at the age of twenty five, with this level of luxury.

The most famous piece of jewelry in the collection is this necklace featuring a large pear-shaped sixteenth century pearl that was once owned by the Spanish crown. It was a gift from Richard Burton, and Cartier fashioned it into a pearl and diamond necklace.

The piece above the large pearl is also a detachable brooch, which you can see from the side, so that Taylor could wear it separately. Clever.

Yellow diamonds piled on top of white diamonds – breathtaking.

Richard Burton gave Taylor this gold and diamond Schlumberger brooch when they were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when he was filming The Night of the Iguana. You might remember that we had a wonderful family trip to Puerto Vallarta, and on a boat ride, the captain pointed out the villa where the Burtons lived.

I thought one of the most magnificent sets was a diamond and emerald group from Bulgari in Rome. Burton gave Taylor this glorious diamond and emerald brooch as an engagement present. It was one of her favorite pieces.

Here she wears it as a tiara in the movie The VIPs, which also starred Burton. For a wedding present, he added the amazing emerald and diamond necklace at the top this post, emerald drop earrings, two rings and a bracelet.

Here, Taylor wears the brooch in her hair and the necklace. That necklace rivals anything the czars wore.

Also on exhibition here is a selection of noteworthy fashion. This is Taylor's sweet sunflower yellow wedding dress when she married Burton in 1964, husband number five.

And the wedding dress she wore when she married him again, in Africa in 1975.

Pretty pastel shades –

An ivory Christian Dior evening gown and a canary yellow wrap trimmed with feathers. Behind it are cases and cases of diamond jewelry.

Upstairs was a huge gallery lined on all sides by fashion. A woman walked by and said to no one in particular, "She must have kept building houses just for this."

Caftans! And estimated at only $600-$800 each. One potential shopper said to another, "I wish we could feel the fabric."

A collection of Louis Vuitton luggage, because really, everyone should travel like this.

There were even more rooms of her paintings including, yes, a Pissaro and a Van Gogh, and a gallery of decorative arts, furniture, and memorabilia including three golden Oscars.
But we close with the Elizabeth Taylor diamond, formerly known as the Krupp diamond. At a staggering 33.19 carats, it was a gift from Richard Burton, and she wore it every day of her life. Click on the photo to see it better.

What a woman. And what a life.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors

I am enjoying right now a new book I received published by The Vendome Press which explores the elaborate style of Orientalism. Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors by Emmanuelle Gaillard is a big, gorgeous tome which illustrates how the art and style of the East affected the decorating, architecture, and fashion of the West. The book inspires the reader to reach beyond what is familiar with exotic elements.
I have never been to Asia, though I would love to go. Some day, I hope. I love Asian things. My mother gave me a tall, brown, glossy Asian vase, probably in 1982, which I cherish. As I have said here on the blog before, my great aunt Milly lived in the Philippines and brought back a lot of Asian objects to 611 so they have always appealed to me and felt like home to me.
In the eighteenth century, this book says, European designers and architects turned away from the rigors of classicism which was popular at the time in search of something more romantic, sensual and pleasurable. As a yearning for the exotic grew in Europe, Chinese salons, Turkish boudoirs and Persian bedchambers appeared in interiors. What is interesting to see in this book is how Europeans interpreted Asian styles for their own use.
At the Chateau de Haroue in Lorraine, France, artist Jean Pillement painted birds, insects, animals and pagodas on chinoiserie panels in an elegant composition of pale colors. It's Marie Antoinette meets the Empress Dowager.

(Photos courtesy of The Vendome Press)
Similar pale tones show up in England at the Royal Pavilion, residence of George, Prince of Wales, in Brighton. The Long Gallery designed by Frederick Grace is decorated in shades of blue, pink and red. It's a dreamy palette.

A stronger contrast of blue and red is apparent in the blue lacquer desk owned by Madame de Pompadour in front of a red panel at the Musee des Arts Decortifs in Paris. Gold is the common denominator here.

This torchere designed by the firm Christolfe in 1874 is made of cloisonne enamel and gilt and patinated bronze. What fantastic detail.

From 1800, this pair of carved wood chairs with a mother-of-pearl inlay is attributed to Gabriel Viardot. Such an unusual, imaginative shape.

The Eastern style influenced fashion too. Here are Monseiur Levett and Mademoiselle Giavan in Turkish Costume, painted by Jean-Etienne Liotard in 1740. The low bed is covered in a pretty pale floral fabric. Why does this painting make me think of Diana Vreeland?

Kashmiri shawls woven from the woolly fleece of Tibetan goats became popular in Europe, and soon Scottish mills produced imitations of the imported shawls. The Scottish mill town of Paisley created exact replicas of Kashmiri shawls, and gave its name to the classic pattern.

This long cashmere paisley shawl is from 1870-75.

I like having paisley around me, whether in a challis wool Etro scarf or pillow covers in the living room. Paisley adds a romantic, timeless element. I recently got some paisley cocktail napkins inspired by a print by William Morris, and I love what they add to the table. Exotic Taste encourages the reader to consider the beauty of Asia and bring some of it home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Trip to the Morgan Library & Museum

Charles Dickens at 200 to the left, Drawings from the Louvre to the right.
Last Sunday afternoon TD and I made a trip to The Morgan Library and Museum, a wonderful place to visit here in New York City, at Madison Avenue and 36th Street. Beginning in 1890, financier Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) began assembling a collection of illuminated, historical, and literary manuscripts, early printed books, and old master paintings and prints. Like Henry Clay Frick who was collecting artwork uptown on Fifth Avenue for the Frick Collection, Pierpont Morgan was a voracious collector who bought at an astonishing rate. Mr. Morgan's library was built adjacent to his residence between 1902-1916 by the renowned architectural firm McKim, Meade and White. After Pierpont Morgan died, his son J.P. Morgan Jr. transformed the library into a public institution that visitors could enjoy.
I had in mind specifically enjoying the current exhibition that is up on Charles Dickens. Dickens was born in 1812 so this exhibition of handwritten manuscripts and penned letters and portraits celebrates the writer's 200th birthday.
We passed under this metal grille ceiling into the show.

The accompanying text reported that Dickens wrote with a goose quill pen from 9am to 2pm each day, cranking out six to twelve pages a day. At shows like this I always enjoy learning about the writer and looking at the clothes. This is a caricature of Dickens by Alfred Bryan; I like the black jacket with grey vest and grey pants.

This photograph portrait of Dickens was taken by Jeremiah Gurney in New York City in 1867. The text said that the sitting took so long that Dickens never again submitted for a portrait, and that this is the last photograph of him. I admired the velvet vest and the velvet lapels on the coat, plus that leather and wood chair. I would love to find a chair like that.

Then we crossed over into the exhibition of drawings from the Louvre between 1789 - 1848. This is an 1844 portrait of poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine by Theodore-Chasseriau. The long, lean, vertical lines are flattering.
Whilst poking around the internet, I found another portrait of de Lamartine, this one from 1844 by Francois Gerard. Elegant guy.

This is a double self portrait. What is that you ask? These brothers, Hippolyte and Paul Flandrin, were both artists so Hippolyte drew his own self portrait and Paul drew his, get it? Their clothes look graceful and fluid.
After that, we found Mr. Morgan's original study and library which we have seen before but are always worth a return visit. Looking into Mr. Morgan's study:
Looking into Mr. Morgan's library:
No picture-taking allowed, but you should definitely see it for yourself – a couple of extraordinary New York City rooms.
By then we were hungry so we sat down for a hamburger and a beer in the cafe in the glass and steel atrium which is part of the library's 2006 renovation and expansion designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. It was a very civilized Sunday afternoon.