Barbara Palvin, the 'doe eye', 1950

Barbara Palvin, the ‘doe eye’, 1950


A show called Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941–1960 held at Somerset House until September 1 focuses on Berlin-born photographer Erwin Blumenfeld (1897–1969), one of the most internationally sought-after portrait and fashion photographers in the 1940s and 1950s. America’s leading magazines including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar hired him for his imaginative and highly individual shots. 

Around 100 colour photographs and originals of Erwin Blumenfeld’s works in fashion magazines provide insights into this key artistic phase in the life of the artist from his photography studio at 222 Central Park South in New York.

Self-Portrait, 1961

Self-Portrait, 1961

Next time you are by the Strand, make sure you pop in to have a glimpse at the dazzling world of this little known but iconic photographer.

Lilian Marcusson for Vogue, January 1951

Lilian Marcusson for Vogue, January 1951


Evelyn Tripp in Dior, 1949


Nancy Berg, Cadillac, 1954

Nancy Berg, Cadillac, 1954




Grace Kelly, 1955

Grace Kelly for Cosmopolitan, 1955


Decollete, 1952

Decollete, 1952


City Lights, 1946

City Lights, 1946


Ruth Knowles for Vogue, May 1949

Ruth Knowles for Vogue, May 1949


Vogue, 1953

Untitled, 1947

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, 1952

Untitled, 1950


3 Profiles, 1952

3 Profiles, 1952


Untitled, 1944

Untitled, 1944


Girl with Gloves, May 1949

Girl with Gloves, May 1949


Erwin Blumenfeld by Gordon parks, July 1950

Erwin Blumenfeld by Gordon parks, July 1950


Tonight at 8pm on Channel 4 starts a brand new series on interior design, Hollywood Me, starring the fantastic Martyn Lawrence Bullard, “interior designer to the stars” (Cher, Sharon Osbourne, Elton John, Tamara Mellon, etc), who will jet unsuspecting Brits to Los Angeles for a surprise makeover, while secretly giving their home the Hollywood treatment.

I met the flamboyant designer a couple of times at Tissus d’Hélène a few years ago where he has his delicious collections of fabrics; not only is Bullard extremely talented and his interiors joyous but he is also a formidable character.

We should be in for a treat!



Today’s post is the perfect example to demonstrate how A-Gent of Style’s editing skills can be thoroughly challenged.

How can one possibly select the best, or the most representative or even the most characteristic pieces from such a prolific genius as Line Vautrin??

Once you enter the world of the ‘poetess of metal’ (so named by American Vogue in 1948), you’ll find that you’ve opened a tantalising Pandora’s box of sheer artistry and pulchritude. A-Gent of Style is weak at the knees everytime he sees any objet  by the late French artisan.

Last week in Paris’ Carré Rive Gauche, I discovered two small dealers who had rare mirrors and decorative objets by the late Parisian artisan. Divinely serendipitous.

But the very first time I encountered Line Vautrin’s work (pronounce “Leen”) was through her glitzy mirrors a few years ago when I was sourcing for clients. I was also lucky enough to attend Artcurial’s auction last month in Paris where the ‘Alouettes’ mirror sold for just under 20,000 euros.

In the last 8 years or so, Line Vautrin has had a resurgence on the antiques market and her highly coveted collectibles are worth considerable prices these days. You’d be hard-pressed to find an item that doesn’t command thousands of £,$ or €. To think The Guardian wrote on her death in 1997 that working with such humble materials [metals] was “something hitherto unheard of, and considered provocative, bad taste”!

Made largely in the 1940s and 1950s and mainly in bronze at a time when it was used only industrially and jewelry in bronze was simply not done, démodé or bad taste, Line Vautrin eventually made the metal fashionable. Her inventiveness and experimentations delighted post-war Parisiennes desperate for fantasy and ornament. The tireless Vautrin and her frenzied imagination certainly delivered.

63, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Pairs, 1946 (Vautrin is on the far right)

63, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Pairs, 1946 (Vautrin is on the far right)

Her widespread acclaim reached a fervent and devoted clientèle that included Brigitte Bardot, Christian Lacroix, Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brenner, Diego Giacometti  (they used the same foundry) and Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Le Cantique des Colonnes

Le Cantique des Colonnes

Her work even influenced Yves Saint Laurent when he designed the packaging for one of his perfumes.

Yves Saint Laurent's Cinema

Cinema by YSL

 What I found most beguiling and alluring about Line Vautrin is the joie de vivre, wit and humour that you find in her work be it her boxes, compacts or other decorative items such as buttons, clips, brooches and bracelets.

Their embellished covers reveal a variety of inspirations mostly from her childhood but also mythological figures, poetry by Rimbaud and Dante for instance or even declarations of love often concealed in symbolic word puzzles known as rebuses.

Vautrin’s whimsical objets seem to share the same repeated motifs, patterns and elements recalling ancient inscribed tablets, hieroglyphics and pictographs.

Each piece is incomparable with its unique marking and secret message, double entendre, pun or riddle.

Let’s take an example…

Je t'Aime en Silence

Je t’Aime en Silence

This box is called “Je t’Aime en Silence”, “I am silently in love with you”. This is a typical rebus by Vautrin where each image or letter, when said aloud, communicates a phrase. The first image is toy/game: “jeu”, then letter T: “T-eu” in French, then magnet: “aiman[t]”, saw: “scie”, and spear: “lance”.
If you add all the words/syllables together “jeu-t-aimant-scie-lance” and say them outloud, you’ll get: “je t’aime en silence”. Clever!

Through her art, Vautrin created her own idiosyncratic, pictorial language with its own coded meaning. She did say after all “a message in a minimum of lines—that’s my discipline.”

New York gallery Maison Gérard has brought together 100 silvered and gilt bronze decorative objets – mainly boxes but also necklaces, bracelets and earrings – created by the self-taught sculptress between 1942 and 1950 and amassed by a single collector over four decades.

If I could, I would make the trip to New York especially for this exhibition.

Here’s A-Gent of Style‘s tribute to a pioneering and formidable artist and her timeless, distinctive and dazzling metal containers.

Aren’t they just DIVINE!

Marchand de Ballons

Marchand de Ballons / Balloon Seller
Les Roseaux

Les Roseaux / The Reed

Qui s'y Frotte S'y Pique

Qui s’y Frotte S’y Pique (Ki scie frotte six piques) / If You Go Looking for Trouble, You’ll Find It

Tu es l'Amant de mes Pensees

Tu es l’Amant de mes Pensees (tu haies l’amant deux mets pensees) / You are the Lover of my Thoughts

Sait-on jamais

Sait-on Jamais…

Les Filles de Zeus

Les Filles de Zeus / Zeus’ Daughters

Jeux de Carte

Jeux de Carte / Card Game




Feuille / Leaf

Je T'aime Beaucoup

Je T’aime Beaucoup (jeu t’M beau coup / I love You Very Much

Cigare case

Au fil des Tracasseries

Au fil des Tracasseries…

Laissez Couler…

amour, roi de ton coeur

Amour, Roi de ton Coeur / Love, King of your Heart

La Mer / The Sea

Arbre de Vie

Arbre de Vie / Tree of Life

La Grace est Divine / Grace is Divine

L'Anemome et L'Ancolie

L’Anemone et L’Ancolie / Sea Anemone and Columbine

la Parole est d'Argent et le Silence est d'Or

la Parole est d’Argent et le Silence est d’Or (la pas ro l haie d’argent haie le si lance haie d’or) / Speech is Silver, Silence is Gold

L'Amour Soutient

L’Amour Soutient…

Je T'Aime en Silence

Je T’Aime en Silence

Feuilles de Lauriers Entrelaces

Feuilles de Lauriers Entrelaces / Interwoven bay leaves


Empreinte /Fingerprint


Coffre / Safety Box

De la Poudre

De la Poudre / Powder

Boite Coeur / Heart Box

Le Langage des Signes

Le Langage des Signes / Sign Language

Trianon / Les Pavés du Roi

Trianon- Les Pavés du Roi / Trianon – The King’s Cobblestones


Cordages / Ropes


Plume / Feather

Love Makes Time Fly

L’Amour Fait Passer le Temps / Love Makes Time Fly

Tout ou Rien

Tout ou Rien / All or Nothing. My favourite rebus: Toutou” is an informal word for a dog; this dog is named “Rien” (Nothing) as shown on his collar. “Toutou Rien”!


Aquarium /

M'inspira le Retour Vers Toi

M’inspira le Retour Vers Toi / It Inspired Me to Return to You

Des milliards de Fois s'en Vint puis s'Envola lAmour (:Des milliard 2 fois 100 20 puits 100-vola l'amour) / Billions of times love came and then flew away

Des milliards de Fois s’en Vint puis s’Envola l’Amour (Des milliard 2 fois 100 20 puits 100-vola l’amour) / Billions of Times Love Came and then Flew Away

La Source Murmure...Sans Fin Même Ton Amour

La Source Murmure…Sans Fin Même Ton Amour (La sous-r-c-e mur-mur cent fin m thon amour) / The Soothing Sound of the River Flows Endlessly like Love

The Sun and the Moon

Le Soleil et la Lune / The Sun and the Moon (the Moon is inside the box, at the back of the Sun)


Ophelie / Ophelia (inspired by Arthur Rimbaud’s poem of the same title)

Le Defricheur de la Foret Vierge / The Deforester of the Jungle

Je T’Aime Aujourd’hui Plus qu’Hier et Moins que Demain (Jeux t’M O-Joue-R-D’U-I plus KI-R haie moins queue deux-mains)/ I Love You More than Yesterday and Not as much as Tomorrow

La Foule / The Crowd. A single smiling individual stands out from the masses. Can you spot him?

La reconnaissance est la mémoire du Coeur / Gratitude is the Memory of the Heart

La reconnaissance est la mémoire du Coeur / Gratitude is the Memory of the Heart


Icare / Icarus


Mauresque / Mooresque

Toi Mon Amour (YOu, My love), poem from Jacques Prevert

Toi Mon Amour / You, My love (poem by Jacques Prevert)

Last but not least, here are the two pieces A-Gent of Style saw, touched, held, caressed,  in Paris last week. SIGH…

Visages Etoilees

Visages Etoilees. Superb




For further information, visit the marvellous Line Vautrin website created by her daughter Marie-Laure Bonnaud-Vautrin and also the brilliantly informative blog Decoration – Ancient & Modern by American Interior Designer who reviewed Vautrin’s boxes last month.



“Illusion comes into being as part of the pleasure”

 Renzo Mongiardino (1916-1998), Roomscapes

The American designer Mark Hampton described once Renzo Mongiardino as “an alchemist, a transformer of common materials into noble ones, a brilliant manipulator of emotion through design”.

Hampton couldn’t have captured in a more brilliant and concise way the essence of the Italian set designer, architect and interior designer who was often referred to as the greatest designer of the 20th C but who was never a household name – not even in his native Italy.

Mongiardino's study

Mongiardino’s study


I must admit I wasn’t quite familiar with Renzo Mondigiarno and his work until a few months ago when I read that the fabulous Hollywood decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard cited Renzo Mongiardino as one of his inspirations, which prompted me to look into his work.

Music room in London house of Drue (Mrs. Henry) Heinz.

Music room in the London house of Drue (Mrs. Henry) Heinz.

Eventhough they might look a bit passé to some of us, there is a lot to be learnt from Mongiardino’s rich legacy. I instantly fell for the way he decorated rooms with either his incredible trompe-l-oeil on the walls, the floor or the ceiling, or the way he enveloped them with different layers of fabrics and textures culminating sometimes in his iconic ‘tent’-like rooms.

Mongiardino certainly wasn’t a minimalist. If he believed in the adage ‘more is more’, he would probably be called a ‘maximalist’ these days and one with oozes of taste.

Being first and foremost a set designer using stage trickery, Mongiardino favoured “atmosphere, not authenticity” and his style can be epitomised by his extravagant trompe l’oeil but also his tent-like interiors, sumptuous brocades, faux marble and intarsia, neoclassical stucco work and neo-mannerist frescoes which were the building blocks of his stately visions.


To achieve that, he used for his interiors the same painters, carpenters, gilders and model makers who manufactured his sets for stage and screen work.

Renzo Mongiardino rejected minimalism and modernism (so that’s Art Deco out – oh dear) in favour of opulent spaces with architectural features borrowed from ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sources to the work of the Renaissance and baroque masters like Michelangelo, Palladio and Bernini, using antique fabrics, like Fortuny, carpets, and objets d’art.

Glorious deep blue silk damask on the walls



His aesthetic suggested a more theatrical, highly emotional cousin of the “humble elegance” espoused by his English contemporary John Fowler.


Japanned bedroom in Paris townhouse

Japanned bedroom in Paris townhouse. Great braids on the walls


Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino

Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino


Rendering by mark Hampton

Rendering by Mark Hampton


Triangular house in Turin


Renzo Mongiardino's detail study for painted wall panels

Renzo Mongiardino’s detail study for painted wall panels

Franco Zeffirelli’s house in Positano. Great ‘tent’ effect


Mongiardino’s bathroom. Fab mosaic and trompe l’oeil on the walls. So clever


Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino


Having worked on many operas, he brought his operatic vision to his prestigious clientèle who was described in his obituary “to resemble a kidnapper’s wish-list”: the Agnellis, couturier Valentino, Aristotle Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Rudolf Nureyev, Princess Firyal of Jordan and Franco Zeffirelli.

 So here is A-Gent’s of Style’s way to (re-) discover one of the greatest design talents of the last century and his romantic dreamscapes:

 Simply divine!

Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild

Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild


Hotel Lambert, Ile St Louis, Paris in the mid-1970s for Guy and Marie-Helene de Rothschild


Hotel Lambert

Boudoir of Baroness Rothschild, Hotel Lambert

Contessa Brando Brandolini d'Adda

Contessa Brando Brandolini d’Adda


Contessa's Brandolini 17th-century Roman palazzo

Contessa’s Brandolini 17th C Roman palazzo


Villa Vistorta, the Brandolini-family estate in Italy’s Veneto

Villa Vistorta, the Brandolini family estate in Italy’s Veneto. The doors are covered in green felt and gold paint. Green and blue! Sublime


Living room of Contessa Brandolini

Living room of Contessa Brandolini


Contessa Cristiana Brandolini

Contessa Cristiana Brandolini’s green lace boudoir


The Brandolini estate, Vistorta

The Brandolini estate, Vistorta



Princess Firyal of Jordan

Princess Firyal of Jordan


The palette of Princess Firyal of Jordan’s Grand Salon in London, designed in the mid-1980s, was inspired by Indian watercolors

The palette of Princess Firyal of Jordan’s Grand Salon in London, designed in the mid-1980s, was inspired by Indian watercolors. Great scheme


Different schemes for the walls of Princess Firyal's London home

Different schemes for the walls of Princess Firyal’s London home. Fantastic keepsake


Princess Firyal Grand Salon, London

Princess Firyal’s Grand Salon, London


Princes Firyal’s Dining Room


Princess Firyal's Tent Salon, London

Princess Firyal’s Tent Salon, London. I love the way the decor wraps the painting which looks like a window onto another world. Trickery at its best


Princess Firyal Grand Salon, London



Lee radziwill her daughter Anna in her Turkisk Room at Buckingham Place, London

Lee Radziwill her daughter Anna in her Turkish Room at Buckingham Place, London. Probably my favourite photograph. Divine


Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house. And leopard prints!


Lee Radizill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house


Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house. And a bit Hicks-esque too!


Lee Radziwill's country bedroom in Buckinghamshire Rendering by Mark Hampton.

Lee Radziwill’s country bedroom in Buckinghamshire. Rendering by Mark Hampton. Notice the pattern on the floor. Lee Radziwill is so fond of it she will re-use it in most of the houses she has lived in over the past decades!


Stanislas and Lee Radziwill’s house in Oxfordshire, England, 1960s. Silk scarves were placed on the walks and then delicately enriched with floral overpainting

Stanislas and Lee Radziwill’s house in Oxfordshire, England, 1960s. The room was dressed in colourful Sicilian silk scarves which were then delicately enriched with floral overpainting. Genius!


Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s NYC penthouse






Valentino's villa in Via Appia Antica, Roma

Valentino’s villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome


Valentino's sunroom

Valentino’s sunroom at his villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome


Detail at  Valentino's villa on Via Appia Antica

Detail at Valentino’s villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome


Valentino's villa in Via Appia Antica, Roma

Valentino’s villa in Via Appia Antica, Rome


Valentino’s Via Appia villa, Rome


Valentino's villa near Sienna, Tuscany

Valentino’s villa near Sienna, Tuscany. Love the friezes and the green


Valentino's villa near Sienna, Tuscany

Valentino’s villa near Sienna, Tuscany



Nureyev in his apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Nureyev in his apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris


Nureyev’s Paris Apartment Quai Voltaire

Nureyev’s Paris apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris


Nureyev’s dining room on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Nureyev’s dining room on Quai Voltaire, Paris



Rudolph Nureyev’s apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Rudolph Nureyev’s apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris


Rudolf Nureyev Paris apartment

Rudolf Nureyev Paris apartment on Quai, Voltaire


Finally, Mongiardino authored the incredible book Roomscapes which would be the perfect addition on your coffee table




Now in its fourth year and following its huge success last year, Connaught Village, with the organisers of  The Hyde Park Estate, will be celebrating another Summer Festival street party this Wednesday afternoon.
The excitement is already mounting. From his balcony, A-Gent of Style can see the banners, posters and flyers going round, new window displays appearing every day and the bright yellow ‘Warning’ parking restrictions going up.

From 2.30pm until 8pm, head down to one of Central London’s hidden treasures  which will be transformed into a traditional village fête to celebrate the quintessentially mercurial British summer during an afternoon of family-friendly merriment, community spirit and fun for all ages.
No doubt that The Summer Festival will delight everyone with its live music, food demonstrations with top chefs, street food, art shows, fairground rides, street performers, children’s entertainment, craft workshops and flower arranging.

Connaught Village Summer Festival 2013

Connaught Village Summer Festival 2012

The ever popular Hyde Park Dog Show will also be returning from 4pm for another installment of, ahem, ‘paw-dropping’ canine cuteness amongst a red carpet, a white picket fence and parading pooches.

Connaught Village Summer Festival 2013

Connaught Village Summer Festival 2012

Amongst the Village’s triangle of shopping streets – Connaught Street, Porchester Place and Kendal Street will all be closed to traffic – the mix of fashionable retailers, art galleries and restaurants will be open late during The Summer Festival to showcase their latest collections, offers and complimentary drinks.

Nestled away in Bayswater between Marble Arch and Paddington, this charming enclave north of Hyde Park is made up of beautiful and exclusive Georgian terrace houses, which have attracted the likes of Tony and Cherie Blair, TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, DJ Paul Oakenfold and GQ editor Dylan Jones to name but a few, but also independent and specialist boutiques such as the delectable artisan bakery Cocomaya, the Haute Coiffure salon Daniel Mikhael or the Horiyoshi III boutique (where Tilda Swinton buys her oversized tatoo-printed scarves) and an array of cosmopolitan restaurants which have all given Connaught Village a soul and an identity amongst the too many faceless suburbs of London.

So come and celebrate with us on Wednesday!

And here is a list of the Village’s traders:


  • Atelier Mayer: vintage womenswear
  • De Roemer: womenswear
  • The Dresser: second-hand designer clothes
  • Sylvie Quentin: womenswear
  • ME & EM: womenswear
  • Horiyoshi III: clothing by Japan’s foremost tattoo artist
  • Kashket and Partners: ceremonial, military, civilian tailors
  • Viola: vintage designer shop
  • Chrysaliss: second-hand shop
  • Ritva Westenius: bridal couture designer
  • Bianca Furs: furrier

Independent retailers:

  • William Mansell: horologist and jeweller
  • Bourlet: Fine art framer
  • Connaught Jewellers
  • Prewett Miller: florist
  • Daniel Mikhael: haute coiffure
  • Hair & Beauty @17
  • Medicetics: beauty salon
  • Hair of Connaught Village
  • Fe: hair and beauty salon
  • Spirited Wines of Connaught Street
  • Wallers: newsagent
  • Crispins: supermarket
  • Hyde Park Veterinary Centre
  • Pharmacy
  • Griffin House Hotel
  • Connaught Village Dentists
  • Elegant Drycleaners
  • Jeeves of Belgravia
  • Nancy Drycleaners
  • Skola Travel Agents


  • The Duke of Kendal: pub
  • Cocomaya: fine chocolatier and artisan baker
  • Assal Patisserie
  • Pardis: Persian cuisine
  • Colbeh: Persian cuisine
  • Le Chef Masgouf: Persian cuisine
  • Casa Malevo: Argentinean cuisine
  • Stuzzico: Italian cuisine
  • Dolce: Italian cuisine
  • Bombay Palace: Indian cuisine
  • Le Pain Quotidien: bakery and European food
  • Markus Coffee: cafe
  • Connaught Coffee Shop: cafe

Art Galleries:

  • Barbara Stanley Irish Art & Fiumano Fine Art
  • Park Gallery
  • Indar Pastricha
  • Light Gallery
  • Mark Gallery

Interior Design:

  • Savannah: interior design studio
  • Connaught Kitchens: kitchen designers
  • Connaught Carpets: carpets and rugs
  • Connaught Interiors: interior design studio
  • Clarke & Reilly: creative studio
  • Rosewood Gallery; oriental carpets and rugs
  • Trevi Interiors: design studio



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