Friday, January 21, 2011
Marbles and Champagne
B.B with antiques dealer extraordinaire Carlton Hobbs (photo by Ann Watt)
It's sixteen degrees today in New York, so it's a good time to update the blog. This past Wednesday night I had the pleasure of being invited to Carlton Hobbs for a talk and a reception. You remember Carlton – I visited his gallery, a former Vanderbilt mansion, in December after Carolyne Roehm's book party was held there. The event the other night was in honor of the opening of his new antiques show called "Inspired by Antiquity," which is composed of eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture and objects that were inspired by classical Greece and Rome. The exhibition is up until February 18th, weekdays 10am-5pm, and by appointment on weekends, at 60 East 93rd Street.
Before the opening reception on Wednesday night, guests were invited to attend a special lecture given by Tim Knox, the Director of Sir John Soane's Museum in London. Have you been there? TD and I have been to London twice, and missed this museum which I regret. Next time!
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was an English architect who specialized in the Neo-classical style.
Soane bought a house at 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields in London in 1792 and filled it with his collections of antiquities.
Before he died he bequeathed the house and its collections to the British nation to be made into a museum of architecture, and so the house museum is unchanged today. On the first Tuesday of every month, it's lit for visitors only by candlelight. That would be heavenly.
Soane's collection of sculpture is renowned. He famously piled it all in for a dramatic effect.
Which brings us to the subject of Tim Knox's lecture, "In Marble Halls." Rows of black chairs were set up in an upstairs gallery and guests squeezed in.
The entertaining lecture chronicled English "marble mania" in the eighteenth century when the wealthy amassed huge collections of Graeco-Roman marble sculptures. This breezy slide-show tour through the great country houses of England featured pictures of long, long halls or galleries with niches in the walls where sculptures stood over which were hung old master paintings. Kind of dreamy.
Tim Knox showed this painting by Johann Zoffany which illustrates collector Charles Townley seated and surrounded by an imaginary arrangement of his sculptures. It's such an unfamiliar idea to us in the United States, but such a romantic premise.
The lecture covered the eighteenth century so it didn't even reach the nineteenth century when the Devonshires were collecting sculpture at Chatsworth.
I am still reading the Duchess of Devonshire's autobiography and still loving it (my favorite new part is her recollection of attending John F. Kennedy's inauguration).
The sculpture gallery at Chatsworth was featured in the Pride & Prejudice movie, standing in for Mr. Darcy's home called Pemberley. Krya Knightley as Lizzie Bennet absorbs the wonder of the classical sculptures.
Her pale cotton dress matches the glowing marbles. Her eyes grow wide in amazement. It's a beautiful scene.
When the lecture was over, Tim Knox invited guests to stay for Ruinart champagne which was Sir John Soane's favorite, and first made in 1729. Guests rushed down Mrs. Vanderbilt's staircase to the reception below.
A woman came up to me and said, "Are you Carlton Hobbs? I was told to look for the tallest man in the room." I met Tim Knox and said hello to some friends including Robert Rufino from Architectural Digest and David Patrick Columbia from New York Social Diary.com – read his report here. Back upstairs I found Carlton who encouraged me to pick up an exhibition catalogue.
It turned out to be a beautiful hard cover book
which describes the treasures of the show, many of which I wrote about in December.
It's a lovely read on a cold winter day.