Joséphine Bonaparte was actually born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pager. Try that as an Instagram handle! But in today’s world, the once French Empress would probably be known on social media and in celebrity magazines as JoBo.
The Martinique-born lover and first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte, Rose de Beauharnais (she was married first to the aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais) was renamed “Josephine” by the French emperor. Her style and elegance were emulated across Europe and her influence as an avid art collector and decorator was considerable. Idolised as a style icon and celebrated as a modern woman and trendsetter, it is no wonder she has become today the fantasised inspiration behind a new boutique hotel in Paris.
JoBo came to A-Gent of Style‘s attention only after coming back from Paris Déco Off last month. Little did he know at the time that its charismatic and talented interior decorator was herself too part of the Déco Off’s jury and that they spent the first day together judging the showrooms!
The Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte, in its full designation or simply JoBo to those in the know, opened last summer steps away from La Place des Vosges in Le Marais, the multi-faceted part of old Paris. The once 17th Century convent’s new decor was entirely inspired by and dedicated to Joséphine Bonaparte. The 24 bedrooms and public areas are a riot of colours and bold patterns, and an ode to all things JoBo came to symbolise and love, first and foremost her passion of roses – she had, at the time, the greatest and largest rose collection in the world that was made up of about 250 species and varieties at Malmaison. The flower can be found all around the hotel, either as a wallpaper, a chintz and the carpets throughout the hotel which have been designed by the decorator herself.
Enters Bambi Sloan. A-Gent of Style was mesmerised by all of the images of the hotel he found online as soon as he delved into her creation. Sloan’s approach is studied and intelligent but also frivolous and gay. The hotel captures the insouciance but also the refinement of the post-French revolution era as well as the eponymous heroine’s character. Sloan playfully throws bold patterns and colours together referencing to the Directoire style with a gentle nod to Madeleine Castaing too (the leopard-print carpet, the turquoise colour, the gauze curtains…). Walls and upholstery are adorned in either plush velvets, Toiles de Jouy, striped tricolour cockade, leopard-print or swirling swags of roses, some of which come from the archives of the iconic Le Manach at Pierre Frey. The explosion of hot pinks and reds of the Adelphi Paper Hangings wallpapers and friezes as well as the flower power carpet give the corridor a sophisticated and glowing Red Lights district-esque atmosphere. The trompe-l-oeil marquetry parquet and the ebonised and brass detailed furniture anchor the rooms whilst the bathrooms have a more neutral yet impactful palette of black, silver and white marble mosaics. As for the entrance to the hotel, the colourful, flowery, chintzy tented courtyard certainly sets the tone for the rest of the hotel.
Last but not least, thumbs up to the owners of the hotel for having a whole section dedicated to the interior decoration. Not only do they credit the decorator (I always find it puzzling that, online or in some magazines, the creators of what makes the whole venue are hardly ever credited; surely, without them, it wouldn’t be what it is so why ignore them!?) but also they describe the feel and design of the rooms as well as mentioning the names of some of the fabrics or wallpapers and their manufacturers. I like that. A lot.
This wacky but witty rock ‘n’ roll luxurious boudoir has undoubtedly a lot of character and is not for the faint-hearted nor the taupe brigade! It is eccentric, zany, and imbued with history and cheekiness. A-Gent of Style knows exactly where he will be heading first next time he is in ze French capital. The main dilemma will be then: which type of bedroom to stay in?…
And if you want to delve a bit more into Jobo’s life, read the feature Josephine, Imperial Tastemaker I wrote after I reviewed in 2014 an exhibition at the Musee du Luxembourg celebrating the legend.
Hamish Bowles needs little introduction. Especially if you read this blog. Most of you are now familiar with A-Gent of Style’s fascination (understand obsession/crush on his persona and also homes) with Vogue‘s international editor at large, also ultimate modern dandy, tastemaker and style arbiter (you can see my past features on Bowles here).
The World of Interiors is spoiling us once again with the November issue which this time reveals the new and magnificent Manhattan apartment of Monsieur Bowles, not only a treat but also an assault on the eyes, courtesy of Studio Peregalli, makers extraordinaire of history-imbued interiors (the book of their work evocatively titled “The Invention of the Past” is a must by the way).
Bowles The Dapper entrusted the Milan-based design and architecture firm composed of Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini, for their notorious, uncanny skills to capture the historical styles and sensibility, beauty and romance of past eras. In these visually intense interiors, the classicist duo have mixed the British, French and Russian styles treasured by their discerning client, that are evocative somehow of Marcel Proust, Madeleine Castaing and also a bit of Henry James and Luchino Visconti for good measure.
The beauty and magic of using makers and dreamers of interiors such as Peregalli with the impecccable taste and wonderfully eclectic antiques and objets of a globe-trotting acquisitor such as Bowles, is that this project already looks and feel centuries old, timeless and timeworn. And already a favourite of your A-Gent of Style. You wouldn’t believe at first glimpse that a huge overhaul had been needed – until you read the article penned by Bowles himself – when you see this grand, stately home. The result is quite staggering: great proportions, double-height windows, custom-dyed fabrics, ravishing chintzes such as the Lee Jofa and of course the soon-to-be iconic antique lilac print that envelops the master bedroom (for those who are not in the know, lilac is Bowles’s favourite colour; his Instagram account is ‘hamishinlilac’), bespoke joinery, wood-panelling, boiseries, pediments, Palladian arches, paintings and artefacts, and of course illusional tricks such as trompe-l-oeil, typical of Renzo Mongiardino, legendary decorator who took Peregalli and Sartori Rimini as his protégés (see my special features on the Italian master of visual trickery here).
Thanks to superb artistry and craftmanship, the duo, who would “strive for the atmosphere of a Vermeer painting”, have created layered, textured, patterned mises-en-scène with an intoxicating sense of theatricality (names like Tony Duquette and Oliver Messel come to mind) that capture the essence of the jet-setter and also the ‘Englishman in New York’ who has stayed true to some beloved English decorating traditions and sensibilities such as the seemingly mismatched, cluttered, piled-on but also cosy, bold and studied look, fearless of any trends, types and conventions.
In Bowles (and Peregalli) We Trust.
– Imagery from The World of Interiors –
Today’s post, the first of a few exciting projects and events
A-Gent of Style will be involved in at the beginning of this year, is about Art Deco. The French Art Deco. The high-end kind of Art Deco. The iconic kind of Art Deco.
So, as some of you might have surmised by now, working on this topic has sent A-Gent of Style, a self-confessed Art Deco fan-atic, in a state of stratospheric exaltation and elation in the last few days. Actually, it all started around a month ago, back in December last year, when the January issue of World of Interiors came through the door. The tantalising cover was the promising sign its readers were in for something very special – if you like Art Deco, of course.
The distinguished British interior design magazine featured over eight delectable pages the spectacular interiors of a home replete with some of the most iconic and sought-after masterpieces of 20th C Decorative Arts, mostly Art Deco, collected by one single man over his life and remarkable career.
Sotheby’s, in association with Artcurial, has the privilege to present and sell the private collection of the illustrious French dealer, expert valuer, art historian,
Art Nouveau and Art Deco pioneer Félix Marcilhac which will be go under the hammer on 11 and 12 March 2014 at Sotheby’s Paris. This spectacular sale,
Félix Marcilhac Collection Privée, with its accompanying exhibition, represents therefore the distillation of this highly respected connoisseur‘s personal and museum-quality collection he and his family lived with over a few decades in the very same house featured in The World of Interiors.
To complement what will most probably be a seminal sale in the history of
20th C Decorative Arts, a visiting exhibition of selected but important pieces has been touring the world, first in New York and then Hong Kong at the end of last year, and has now arrived in London at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, running
until 21 January before it reaches its final destination in Paris, first at Artcurial and then at Sotheby, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The entire collection – more than
300 lots dating back to 1900 up to 1935 – will be on show there 3-11 March culminating on the much-anticipated auction on 11-12 March.
A-Gent of style is privileged and ecstatic to have collaborated with the wonderfully helpful and passionate team at Sotheby’s London on reviewing and publicising the beautifully curated exhibition and actual sale, and to have been given a private tour of the collection on Tuesday morning as the exhibition opened to the public.
This unique collection, amassed over the course of more than forty years, features a series of Art Deco masterpieces not seen in public for decades boasting a provenance of illustrious names such as Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin, Paul Cocteau and Jean-Michel Frank. The ensemble regroups pieces from illustrious artists such as Frank himself, Pierre Legrain,
Pierre Chareau, Jean Dunand, Jean Goulden, Paul Iribe, Marcel Coard, Emile Gallé, Gustave Miklos, Edouard-Marcel Sandoz, Josef Csaky,
Ossip Zadkine, François-Louis Schmied and Jacques Majorelle – which altogether sounds like calling illustrious 20th C designers on the red carpet – all of whom worked with luxurious materials such as parchment, vellum, shagreen, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, rosewood, bronze and eggshell.
Félix Marcilhac has enjoyed an exceptional career and has gained a worldwide reputation as one of the world’s top dealers and experts in the field of
20th C Decorative Arts and, having devoted much of his activity to writing and research, stands out for his academic background and art historian’s approach.
He has written a host of authoritative reference works on inter-war painters, sculptors and architect-decorators including René Lalique, Edouard Sandoz,
Chana Orloff, Joseph Csaky, Gustave Miklos, Jean Dunand, Paul Jouve,
Jacques Majorelle, André Groult and the design firm Dominique, which monographs contributed to the rediscovery of many of them.
Marcilhac’s passion for 20 th C Decorative Arts began when he bought a sculpture by Gustave Miklos in Paris in 1967. Two years later he opened his namesake gallery at 8 rue Bonaparte in Paris now run by his son, Félix-Félix Marcilhac. He has worked as an advisor to the most important collectors of the genre and also organised the sales of a number of high-profile private collections, including those of Karl Lagerfeld in 1975, Marcel Tessier (devoted to Art Nouveau) in 1978, Madeleine Vionnet in 1985 and Nouran Manoukian in 1993. His clients have included Hélène Rochas,
Yves Saint-Laurent, Pierre Bergé, Andy Warhol, Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon along with prominent French public figures and many private clients.
Now, 71, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur Marcilhac, is retiring to Marrakesh and, eager to downsize, has “decided that he would sell his treasures during his lifetime in order that he could share the passion which has motivated him throughout his life and also to pay homage to the people and the time which has so captivated him” explains Cécile Verdier, Senior Director Europe and Head of Department
20th C Decorative Arts & Design. Discover the highlights of the exhibition here in a video with Madame Verdier.
The World of Interiors special feature was therefore the last time these masterpieces were seen together in situ before the dissipation of the sale.
A lacquered and eggshell desk by Jean Dunand and Jean Goulden with a rock crystal and obsidian sculpture ‘Paon’ by Joseph Csaky (€60-80,000) next to a unique cubic armchair ‘Fauteuil Cubique’ (c.1920) in rosewood, vellum and mother-of-pearl by Marcel Coard (€200-250,000) and ‘Chaizch Endormi’,
a painting by François-Louis Schmied (1937) (€40-50,000).
A gold leaf and brown painted plaster sculpture ‘Jeune Fille à la Colombe’ (1928) by Ossip Zadkine (€150-200,000) and on the table in the middle of the room a statue, ‘Femme’ (1926) by Gustave Miklos that belonged to Jeanne Lanvin. This very objet played a central role and became a benchmark in the collection as this was the first important piece Marcilhac bought which inspired him to become a collector and subsequently a dealer. In front of the pair of curved, lacquered doors with two oriental women, possibly by Jean Dunand, that lead onto the private study, you can just about see the Pierre Legrain console table (c.1924) in perforated nickel and plated brass with a glass top (€100-120,000).
Two iconic armchairs (c.1928) by Jean-Michel Frank upholstered in shagreen and made of oak with seats covered in a vibrant green velvet (€250-300,000),
an Orientalist painting by Marcelle Ackhein from around 1935, a serpentine fire surround by Eugène Gaillard, a sculpture by Etienne Béothy on top of the plinth and a unique black and gilt patinated bronze ‘Lampadaire Deux Serpents’ floor lamp (1931) by Edouard-Marcel Sandoz (€100-120,000).
Clockwise from top left: a gypsum chest of drawers by Jean-Michel Frank,
a Rose Adler notebook on top of a drawing by Christian Bérard and a music sheet by Francis Poulenc, a table by Marcel Coard with a parchment top above an
Ernest Boiceau carpet, and finally a drawing by Etienne Béothy, photos of interiors by Jean-Michel Frank and a shagreen notebook.
The study’s rosewood bookcase was designed by Jacques Grange. The geometric rug in wool (1927) is by Jean Dunand (€40-60,000) and the desk by Pierre Chareau dating from the seminal 1925 ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ in Paris. The lacquered doors, leading to the aforementioned study, with the stylised landscape is probably too by Dunand .
A beautiful collection of perfume bottles (some with stoppers) by Maurice Marinot from 1928 in various shapes and colours, made of clear glass and internally decorated, some with bubbling (€6-10,000).
The timeless Paul Iribe ‘Nautile’ tub-shaped armchair from 1913 with oversized carved scrolls, a low seat and a high back in walnut covered in a leopard print fabric reminiscent of Madeleine Castaing (€150-200,000). And an Orientalist painting
‘Le Vanneur’ (1936) by François Louis Schmied (€60-80,000).
Bought in 1980 in Boulogne-Billancourt, the chic Art Deco district in west Paris,
this private repository was only accessible to Marcilhac family’s and close relations, and was designed over the years by his long-standing friend, the renowned
French interior decorator Jacques Grange. To think that Marcilhac and his family lived in a house surrounded by exceptional pieces of furniture is almost beyond belief especially when you imagine his children running around such valuable – and for some of them – fragile objects.
He explains in the World of Interiors (January 2014) “…but on top of being highly refined, these objects were made to be used. So you live with them, you put water in the vases, you walk on the rugs, you put things in the chest of drawers, you sit in the armchairs. In short you make them ordinary by daily use. One day my children were dazzled by a Csaky sculpture in a museum. They hadn’t realised that there was one at home and that they lived amongst works of art. It was so much a part of their daily experience that they didn’t realise how unusual and how wonderful the objects were”. Envious doesn’t even start to cover it.
Needless to say it was an unbelievable experience for A-Gent of Style to be allowed to scrutinise up close, touch, open, pull and even sit on some of those pieces of the exhibition and to engage in fascinating conversations with a specialist of 20th C Design. However, the ophidiophobic A-Gent did stand the furthest he possibly could from all the snakes on show – a popular symbol in Art Deco representation –
so please show your appreciation when you get to the close-up shots of the objects represented with snakes (the things you’d do for love!). And since you ask, yes, the iconic Jean-Michel Frank’s fauteuil upholstered in shagreen is very comfortable.
What was revelatory and astonishing was that most of these pieces – eighty to one hundred years old – look incredibly modern and contemporary and showed no age of ageing or being passé. On the contrary, they have stood the test of time and, like a good old wine, have grown old gracefully and even developed over one century a patina and vintage look that are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Pulchritudinous and timeless are the two qualifiers that came to mind when A-Gent of Style walked through the three rooms of the exhibition and saw for the first time the 50-odd gems in real life. The anticipation for and buzz around the entire collection in Paris and sale which will regroup more than another 250 objects – undoubtedly a monumental feat to put together for Sotheby’s – are simply thrilling.
Whether you are an art collector, a discerning aesthete or simply an Art Deco enthusiast, Félix Marcilhac Collection Privée is a must-see. You have until
21 January in the evening to visit Sotheby’s in London for a taster, or
amuse-bouche, of the sale, or see the crème-de-la-crème ensemble in Paris mid-March. And if you would like getting your hands on a piece of history, why not bid! The lowest estimate for the sale has been set at 8 million euros. Going, going…gone!
The catalogue, with a contribution from Karl Lagerfeld, of this exceptional sale will be available early February and will be accompanied by an art book
by Jean-Louis Gaillemin (published by Editions Le Passage) charting
Félix Marcilhac’s career and taste, and containing interviews with
Monsieur Marcilhac himself and key figures from the worlds of fashion and decoration who count among his friends and clients.
But for now, follow A-Gent of Style in this decorative odyssey.
Hallway & Second Room:
And finally, if all of this hasn’t satiated your appetite for Art Deco, have a look at the post A-Gent of Style published last summer about the collection of books, ‘Bibliothèque Félix Marcilhac’, belonging to Marcilhac himself, with dazzling Art-Deco bound covers which was auctioned in December 2012
by Binoche et Giquello. You can view it here.
– Photos by The World of Interiors, Sotheby’s (plus video), Gallery Marcilhac,
The National Portrait Gallery and A-Gent of Style –