Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Adieu Mon Fleur De Lis

(photo taken in formal dining room)

Although the Iris isn't at the very top of my list of favorite flowers, I still appreciate and enjoy it's unique beauty. It's no wonder the French monarchy ordained this flower as their national symbol. Because of the city of New Orleans historical connection to France, it adopted the Fleur De Lis as the city's emblem. The rich deep blue and purple and bright bold yellow center band gives this flower it's undeniable place next to royalty. For me, they are a beautiful reminder of summer's end.

For more detailed facts about the Iris, you can visit

Here are some quick interesting facts about the Iris from flowerexpert.com

Irises come in many forms, shapes, colors and sizes and the sword-like foliage is attractive when the plant is not in bloom.

Iris are among the best-known and loved among garden plants. Iris are hardy herbaceous perennials.

The genus Iris is a large genus of bulbous and rhizomatous perennials.

The Iris was named after the Goddess of the rainbow because of it's many colours.

A flower on the Sphinx is considered to be an Iris, and another appears on a bas-relief of the time of the 18th Egyptian dynasty.

Pliny also knew the Iris and praised its medicinal virtues.

The Iris was also a favourite flower of the Moslems, who took it to Spain after their conquest in the 8th century.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Neighborhood's Annual Art Fair

Over the weekend, our neighborhood held its 2nd annual art fair in our park which is directly across from our home. There were over 40 vendors that participated this year ranging from sculptural artists,photographers,painters to folk singers and face painting. Hundreds attended in support of the local artists which was great to see. I was extremely impressed with many of the participating artist's work. I was not able to attend last year's event so did not know what to expect. I ASSumed it would be filled with tie-dyed t-shirts,souvenir jewelry and many of the same items I've seen in other neighborhood or small fairs. That was not the case(at least for this year). Many of the artists works had the quality and were as beautiful as any I had seen in professional art galleries. In fact, many also had works in our city's most popular galleries. Best of all, they were offering their works at the fair for nearly half price. I managed to take some photos of the event while taking Rococco for her daily stroll around the park. I will definitely be prepared to go shopping at next year's event.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fresh Cut Hydrangeas Always Bring Life To A Room

(photos taken in work and family room)
I made several centerpieces for a client's birthday celebration this past Saturday(details on the events blog)which was a lot of fun. Luckily, the couple offered me one of those centerpieces to take home after the event. It's always great to have fresh cut flowers. I read in the August 2008 Vanity Fair when Bette Midler was asked what was her greatest extravagance. For her, it was fresh flowers. I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gustav Causes Havoc In The Beaux Mondes Household

Well, my parlor chairs were finally returned to me yesterday and this is the final result. I think they look wonderful in the photos. However, in truth, it was a design faux pas on my part. A $680.00 refinishing job that is beautiful but does not work in the area where the pieces were intended. An expensive lesson learned.

When I purchased the chairs, I really like the original finish which was a deep dark brown. I immediately recognized the fact that it complimented the old buffet cupboard adjacent to the fireplace(see photos).

Yet, my stubborness and determination to infuse my newly found admiration for Swedish Gustavian clouded my judgement. I simply wanted to believe it was going to work perfectly.

Even though, every time I tried to visualize the chairs in the room, I could not. It was a situation where I just kept my fingers crossed hoping that it would work.
To make matters worse, the finish has a semi gloss shine which I specifically told the gentleman I did not want because of my observation that gustavian finish had an aged patina to it that did not shine.

I could have taken them back but I don't think it would matter.

The fabric choice was perfect. The trellis pattern with the floral medallion accent is very elegant and works with the other fabrics and textures in the room.
But the bold wood finish just cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately,my partner Dan says no way is he going to allow me to pay another $680 to return them to their original finish. He wants me to live with them for a while as a daily reminder of my costly design blunder.

Yes, I'm being sent to embellishor's purgatory. Hopefully, I can find another location in the house where they would look fitting.

Oh well, I hope you at least like the photos. I'm off to look for a day job before I screw up another design :-). I also included other photos of the room's view toward the family room in the back.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mara Getz performs "Memory" from the musical Cats

This is one of my favorite female vocal performances which I was lucky enough to find on Youtube. I agree she is no Betty Buckley or Ellen Page, but there is no denying this woman's powerful vocal talent. I remember standing up and cheering the day I saw this performance on television back in 1985.

A Day At Versailles

Below are some old photos I found from our trip to Versailles in the summer of 2004. In my opinion, this was the most beautiful palace of all the ones that I had seen throughout Europe, until I visited the Peterhof palace in Saint Petersburg,Russia. I will post those images once I locate them. Nevertheless, if you only get a chance to visit Versailles, it will definitely satiate your love for the finest in classic objets d' decoration. Unfortunately, the hall of mirrors room was undergoing some maintenance so there were quite a few scaffolding obstructing certain views in the room which was a personal disappointment. I was told this room is a visual feast. I believe that's a good enough reason to revisit soon.

The Little Gentleman

(photo taken on Easter 2008 in family room)

A photo of baby Daniel dressed for his first Easter Sunday brunch.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Adolf Schonbek & Daniel Swarovski, Two Of Bohemia's Great Contribution To Objets d' Arts

We celebrated our 15 year anniversary in Salzburg & Vienna Austria in February 2005. Both city's were covered with beautiful icy blue snow that glistened in the winter sun like Austrian crystal. Salzburg is truly a magical town. We spent 5 days there. We visited the home where Mozart grew up as a child.

Of course, we could not leave the city without taking the Sound of Music tour. It was great to visit the site of one of our childhood favorite musicals. From Salzburg, we took the Euro-rail through the Austrian countryside, out of the Alps and through hills and the Vienna Woods that border the city. We could almost hear Strause as the forests cleared and we entered the train station. We spent 9 days in the city of Vienna staying at the beautiful Imperial Palace Hotel. It was a former residence to the Royals of Austria. The Habsburg splendor did not disappoint. Located on the Ringstrasse which is a circular boulevard situated on the site where part of the original wall stood that surrounded medieval Vienna. The hotel's Imperial restaurant is where we had our best dinner. The food and service was superb. Austria's past wealth and power was evident in the spectacular monuments that surrounded the old city. In the Schoenbrunn and the Hofburg palaces the glitter of Bohemian crystal was everywhere. It was magnificent. It is what comes to mind the most for me when I remember that special holiday with the Viennese.

Below are 2 notable men that were instrumental in bringing the glistening sparkle of crystal into the world of Decorative arts.

Adolf Schonbek
(from schonbek.com)

In Bohemia, classic source of the world’s finest crystal, a young man named Adolf Schonbek walked away from the family glassworks to start his own business. The year was 1870. Soon Adolf was manufacturing complete glass chandeliers.

It was the height of the last great era of romance and candlelight. People of means throughout Europe lived opulently in homes richly furnished and lighted by ornate crystal chandeliers. Not surprisingly, Adolf’s business flourished.

In London the Queen’s agent ordered Schonbek crystal for Buckingham Palace. In America Schonbek crystal found its way into the White House.

The Hapsburg emperor Francis Joseph I awarded the patent of nobility to a Schonbek ancestor, but the Schonbeks were destined to become citizens of a world beyond emperors.

Adolf Schonbek began a dynasty of light that extends to the present day. With each succeeding generation we Schonbeks have made the study of the crystal chandelier in all its forms our life’s work.

World wars and trade wars came and went, and Arnold Schonbek, Adolf’s grandson, lost his factories first to the Nazis, then to the Communists. After escaping from a tumultuous Europe, Arnold re-established his company in Montreal and eventually moved the headquarters to the United States.

The craft of chandelier design remains a living art at Schonbek today. We draw on our rich heritage to revitalize the great styles of the past, and we are constantly reinventing crystal, as well, to be perfectly at home in contemporary rooms.
As a result, Schonbek designs are probably the most-imitated chandeliers in the world.

In 2007 Schonbek was acquired by Swarovski.
Swarovski is the world leader in the production of fine cut crystal, just as Schonbek is the leader worldwide in the design and manufacturing of crystal chandeliers. Together they bring a potent new mix of creativity to the world of home fashion.

Daniel Swarovski

(from swarovski.com,
wikipedia & schonbek.com)

Born to a glass cutter in North Bohemia, today a part of the Czech Republic, young Daniel Swarovski I completed a two-year apprenticeship in his father’s small factory. Here, he gain expertise in cutting glass. In 1892, he registered his invention of a machine that went on to revolutionize the crystal cutting process. In 1895 Swarovski, financier Armand Kosman and Franz Weis founded the Swarovski company, originally known as A. Kosmann, Daniel Swarovski & Co, which was later shortened to K.S. & Co. The company established a crystal cutting factory in Wattens,Tyrol to take advantage of local hydroelectricity for the energy-intensive grinding processes which Daniel Swarovski had patented.
Today, the company, still based in Wattens, family-owned and run by 4th and 5th generation family members, has a global reach, with some 20,000 employees, a presence in over 120 countries and a turnover in 2006 of 2.37 billion Euros. Swarovski comprises two major divisions, one producing and selling loose crystals to the industry and the other creating design-driven finished products.

Swarovski crystal components, known by their product brand names CRYSTALLIZED™ – Swarovski Elements for fashion and STRASS® Swarovski® Crystal for architecture and light, have become an essential ingredient of international design. Showing the creativity that lies at the heart of the company, Swarovski’s own-brand lines of accessories, jewelry and home décor are sold through more than 1150 Swarovski stores and concessions in all major fashion capitals, while the exclusive Daniel Swarovski accessories collection has become the company’s Couture signature.

The Swarovski Crystal Society has close to 400,000 members worldwide, keen collectors of the celebrated crystal figurines. And in Wattens, Crystal Worlds, the multi-media crystal museum, has attracted over 7 million visitors since it was opened in 1995 as a celebration of Swarovski’s universe of innovation and of crystal as the ultimate creative material.

The Swarovski corporation also includes four industrial brands, Tyrolit®, manufacturing grinding tools, Swareflex, for road safety reflectors, Optik, producing precision optical instruments and Signity, Swarovski’s brand for genuine and created gemstones.

A Brief History Of Mirrors

A Brief History of Mirrors
From Encyclopedia Britanica:

The typical mirror is a sheet of glass that is coated on its back with aluminum or silver that produces images by reflection. The mirrors used in Greco-Roman antiquity and throughout the European Middle Ages were simply slightly convex disks of metal, either bronze, tin, or silver, that reflected light off their highly polished surfaces. A method of backing a plate of flat glass with a thin sheet of reflecting metal came into widespread production in Venice during the 16th century; an amalgam of tin and mercury was the metal used. The chemical process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver was discovered by Justus von Liebig in 1835, and this advance inaugurated the modern techniques of mirror making. Present-day mirrors are made by sputtering a thin layer of molten aluminum or silver onto the back of a plate of glass in a vacuum. In mirrors used in telescopes and other optical instruments, the aluminum is evaporated onto the front surface of the glass rather than on the back, in order to eliminate faint reflections from the glass itself.

When light falls on a body some of the light may be reflected, some absorbed, and some transmitted through the body. In order for a smooth surface to act as a mirror, it must reflect as much of the light as possible and must transmit and absorb as little as possible. In order to reflect light rays without scattering or diffusing them, a mirror's surface must be perfectly smooth or its irregularities must be smaller than the wavelength of the light being reflected. (The wavelengths of visible light are on the order of 5 10-5 cm.) Mirrors may have plane or curved surfaces. A curved mirror is concave or convex depending on whether the reflecting surface faces toward the centre of curvature or away from it. Curved mirrors in ordinary usage have surfaces that are spherical, cylindrical, paraboloidal, ellipsoidal, and hyperboloidal. Spherical mirrors produce images that are magnified or reduced--exemplified, respectively, by mirrors for applying facial makeup and by rearview mirrors for automobiles. Cylindrical mirrors focus a parallel beam of light to a line focus. A paraboloidal mirror may be used to focus parallel rays to a real focus, as in a telescope mirror, or to produce a parallel beam from a source at its focus, as in a searchlight. An ellipsoidal mirror will reflect light from one of its two focal points to the other, and an object situated at the focus of a hyperboloidal mirror will have a virtual image.

Mirrors have a long history of use both as household objects and as objects of decoration. The earliest mirrors were hand mirrors; those large enough to reflect the whole body did not appear until the 1st century AD. Hand mirrors were adopted by the Celts from the Romans and by the end of the Middle Ages had become quite common throughout Europe, usually being made of silver, though sometimes of polished bronze. (See decorative art.)

The use of glass with a metallic backing commenced in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, and, by the time of the Renaissance, Nürnberg and Venice had established outstanding reputations as centres of mirror production. The mirrors produced in Venice were famous for their high quality. Despite the strictures of the doges, Venetian workmen succumbed to the temptation to carry the secrets of their craft to other cities, and, by the middle of the 17th century, mirror making was practiced extensively in London and Paris. Generally, mirrors were extremely expensive--especially the larger variety--and the wonderment created at the time by the royal palace at Versailles was due in part to the profusion of mirrors that adorned the state rooms.

From the late 17th century onward, mirrors--and their frames--played an increasingly important part in the decoration of rooms. The early frames were usually of ivory, silver, ebony, or tortoiseshell or were veneered with marquetry of walnut, olive, and laburnum. Needlework and bead frames were also to be found. Craftsmen such as Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) often produced elaborately carved mirror frames to match a complete decorative ensemble. The tradition soon became established of incorporating a mirror into the space over the mantelpiece: many of the early versions of these mirrors, usually known as overmantels, were enclosed in glass frames. The architectural structure of which these mirrors formed a part became progressively more elaborate; designers such as the English brothers Robert and James Adam created fireplace units stretching from the hearth to the ceiling and depending largely for their effect on mirrors. On the whole, mirror frames reflected the general taste of the time and were often changed to accommodate alterations in taste, frames usually being cheaper and hence more easily replaced than the mirror itself. (See interior design, Adam, Robert.)

By the end of the 18th century, painted decoration largely supplanted carving on mirrors, the frames being decorated with floral patterns or classical ornaments. At the same time, the French started producing circular mirrors, usually surrounded by a Neoclassical gilt frame that sometimes supported candlesticks, which enjoyed great popularity well into the 19th century. Improved skill in mirror making also made possible the introduction of the cheval glass, a freestanding full-length mirror, supported on a frame with four feet. These were mainly used for dressing purposes, though occasionally they had a decorative function.

New, cheaper techniques of mirror production in the 19th century led to a great proliferation in their use. Not only were they incorporated into pieces of furniture, such as wardrobes and sideboards, but they were also used extensively in decorative schemes for public places.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Honoring The American Dream

Today marks the 7 year anniversary since the tragedy in New York city. Something my family will never forget. My goal going forward is to honor this date by celebrating the things that help continue to make America the land of dreams and opportunity throughout the world. I created a slideshow of the Men's fall fashion for 2008 from some our country's most talented and world famous fashion designers. Just another example of our contribution to the world of design.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Musical "Notre Dame De Paris"

A video clip of the live performance of "Belle" from the musical Notre Dame De Paris. One of my favorite scenes.

In the summer of 2000, we vacationed in London,England and managed to see a few musicals in London's West End theatre district. Mama Mia,The Lion King and Notre Dame De Paris. Although, the Lion King was visually entertaining, it was our least favorite of the 3. Dan's favorite was Mama Mia. My favorite was Notre Dame De Paris. The english production. The music and lyrics were moving. The entire cast's performance was outstanding. I usually leave a show with one or two character favorites, however, in this case, there were several. This was the first musical in my opinion where the male vocalists were equally strong and in 2 cases, stronger. The 2 male vocalists were Steve Balsamo, a British musican-singer who played the role of Phoebus, Captain of the Kings archers and Bruno Pelletier who played Gringoire the poet. In fact, the audience that evening agreed with me. Both men received standing ovations after their solos during the show. The stage sets weren't elaborate but effective. The choreography was amazing. Many of the production's dancers also performed for the Cirque du Soleil. Acrobats were dazzling. I purchased both the music CD soundtrack and the DVD of a live on stage performance in the original language French. This musical debuted briefly in Las Vegas at the Paris Hotel around the same time. Unfortunately, it did not have a successful reception. However,in Canada,Europe and parts of Asia, the show was a smash hit. I personally don't think Las Vegas was the appropriate venue for this show. It did not have a lot of the stage set glitz and glamour most people go to see when in Las Vegas. This was a musical that focused more on the story and music as oppose to the special effects. I believe had the shows producer opened in New York or Chicago, the response would have been positive. Sadly, at this time, there are no talks of the production returning to the U.S. I hope that changes.

You can purchase the live musical on DVD by clicking here:
Notre Dame De Paris Musical DVD

From Wikipedia:
Notre Dame de Paris is a French-Canadian musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel Notre Dame de Paris by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Riccardo Cocciante (also known as Richard Cocciante) and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.

Since its debut, it has played throughout France, South Korea, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. A shorter version in English was performed in 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA) and a full-length London production, also in English, ran for a seventeen months. The show has also been translated into Italian, Korean, Russian, Catalan, German, Czech, Spanish and Belarusian. It has also been translated independently into (but never performed in) Swedish and Armenian.

“Notre Dame de Paris”, according to the Guinness Book of Records, had the most successful first year of any musical ever. The score has been recorded at least seven times to date (2007): the original French concept album, which featured Israeli singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) as Esmeralda was followed by a live, complete recording of the original Paris cast. A complete recording of the score in Italian was made, along with a single disc of excerpts in Spanish from the Madrid production. The original London cast album featured several of the original Paris stars, but only preserved a fraction of the score in English. The orchestral group I Fiamminghi recorded a CD of melodies from the score. A complete set of instrumental backing tracks has also been released.

London Cast:

Tina Arena : Esméralda

Garou : Quasimodo

Daniel Lavoie : Frollo

Bruno Pelletier : Gringoire

Steve Balsamo : Phoebus

Luck Mervil : Clopin

Natasha St-Pier : Fleur-de-Lys

The original story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame written by Victor Hugo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1831
Original title: Notre-Dame de Paris

Hugo started working on The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1829. He had a contract with the publisher Gosselin, stating that it should be finished that same year. But other projects came in between and Hugo was granted respites again and again until Gosselin in the summer of 1830 finally demanded the novel to be completed in February the following year. Hugo bought ink, a grey woolen robe and stuck to his desk, refusing to go out - with the exception of nightly visits to Notre-Dame - and forbidding any disturbance.

The set of the story was the church Notre-Dame on the Île de la Cité. Hugo had studied it well, spending hours examining its spiral staircases, hidden chambers and inscriptions. He had also read old writings, records and law texts. Although he laid stress on the importance of the plot, he was determined to make its framework historically correct.

He stuck by his desk for six months and by the beginning of January, it was finished - just within the time limit set by Gosselin. It was Hugo's first full-length novel and on 16 March it appeared in the bookshops.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was an instant success and it soon made Hugo the most famous living writer in Europe. Spread and translated across the continent, another effect of the novel was evident; the old, neglected and into disrepair fallen church of Notre-Dame started to attract thousands of tourists, who of course were disappointed when the impressing Gothic Lady Hugo had described turned out to be a manhandled old woman, tossed away in the corner of Île de la Cité. But the fame Hugo brought her made the City of Paris realize that something had to be done and in 1845 a much-needed restoration that would take 19 years began.

The novel also had an effect on French architecture; pre-renaissance buildings that had been considered vulgar, were suddenly revered and a committee for the preservation of historic monuments was founded. Hugo started a revolution in the field of aesthetics. He had always seen the front structure of the church as the capital H of his last name - now the world was beginning to see it too. In 1837, when the newly arrived queen-to-be Duchess of Orléans met Hugo, she told him: "I have visited your Notre-Dame".

Today, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is regarded as a standard classic and it must be one of the most adapted stories for cinema and television. In addition, the bell ringer, Quasimodo, has become a horror classic - although anyone that reads the novel realizes that Frollo represents the horror. And perhaps the English title - which Hugo himself hated - is to blame for putting too much emphasis on the hunchback.

Information on Victor Hugo visit:
The Life and Work of Victor Hugo


Just thought I'd post this for those friends and family members who,like myself,grew up dining at a table where the setting only consisted of a plate,fork,the ocassional knife and drinking cup. Bon Apetite!

Dinner Table Etiquette - the 10 Do's!
1. Once seated, unfold your napkin and use it for occasionally wiping your lips or fingers. At the end of dinner, leave the napkin tidily on the place setting.
2. It is good dinner table etiquette to serve the lady sitting to the right of the host first, then the other ladies in a clockwise direction, and lastly the gentlemen.
3. Hold the knife and fork with the handles in the palm of the hand, forefinger on top, and thumb underneath.
4. Whilst eating, you may if you wish rest the knife and fork on either side of the plate between mouthfuls. When you have finished eating, place them side by side in the center of the plate.
5. If the food presented to you is not to your liking, it is polite to at least make some attempt to eat a small amount of it. Or at the very least, cut it up a little, and move it around the plate!
6. It is quite acceptable to leave some food to one side of your plate if you feel as though you have eaten enough. On the other hand, don't attempt to leave your plate so clean that it looks as though you haven't eaten in days!
7. Desserts may be eaten with both a spoon and fork, or alternatively a fork alone if it is a cake or pastry style sweet.
8. Should a lady wish to be excused for the bathroom, it is polite for the gentlemen to stand up as she leaves the table, sit down again, and then stand once more when she returns.
9. Always make a point of thanking the host and hostess for their hospitality before leaving.
10. It is good dinner table etiquette to send a personal thank you note to the host and hostess shortly afterwards.

Dinner Table Etiquette - the 10 Don'ts!

1. NEVER start eating before a signal from the host to do so.
2. Forks should not be turned over unless being used for eating peas, sweetcorn kernels, rice or other similar foods. In which case, it should be transferred to the right hand. However, at a casual buffet, or barbecue, it is quite acceptable to eat with just a fork.
3. It is not generally regarded as good dinner table etiquette to use one's bread for dipping into soups or mopping up sauces.
4. Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite. The number one sin of dinner table etiquette!
5. Talking with one's mouth full. is not only unpleasant to watch, but could also lead to choking! Definitely not a good idea!
6. Don't stretch across the table crossing other guests to reach food, wine or condiments. Instead ask a guest sitting close to pass the item to you.
7. Good dinner table etiquette sometimes involves a degree of diplomacy when it comes to the host's choice of food and wine! Even if you feel that you can do better, don't ever offer your criticism. If you feel unable to pay any compliments, at least remain silent on the subject.
8. Picking teeth (unless toothpicks are provided) or licking fingers are very unattractive! The only exception to the latter is when eating meat or poultry on the bone (such as chicken legs or ribs). In which case, a finger bowl should be provided.
9. Drinking too much wine can be very embarrassing! Where a different wine is served with each course, it is quite acceptable to not finish each glass.
10. Don't forget to make polite conversation with those guests around you. Dinner parties are not just about the food, they are intended to be a sociable occasion!

The Basic Tips & Rules of
Table Setting Etiquette

For many people, being confronted by an array of cutlery and glassware at the dinner table can be daunting! All that you need to avoid any social embarrassment is to understand the basics of proper Table Setting Etiquette.
• The golden rule is ALWAYS work from the OUTSIDE, IN. Use the outside knife and fork for the first course (entrée), and then simply work inwards for each subsequent course.
• Knives are always to the right, and forks are always to the left.
• The soup spoon, if required, will always be on the extreme right if being served as a first course, or second in from the right if being served as a second course.
• Dessert cutlery will always be at the top of the place setting with the fork facing right and the spoon positioned above this with the bowl facing left.

Depending on how many different wines are being served, they will normally be positioned above the knives. They should be placed with the water glass to the extreme left, and then follow in the order for which they will be used, working from left to right. For example:
Water - Champagne - White Wine- Red Wine - Dessert Wine

• It is common practice to find a place plate (or base plate) positioned in the center of the cutlery setting. This will often have the napkin folded and resting upon it. Alternatively, the first course (or entrée) may already be served upon this plate, in which case, the napkin will be positioned to the left of the forks.
• The side plate (or butter plate) will be positioned to the left of the forks
• with a side knife (or butter knife) laid across it. If space is a little limited, it is quite acceptable to position the napkin across this plate too.

Acceptable eating styles vary from Continent to Continent. But regardless of location, the only proper way to cut and eat one's food is to hold the knife and fork in a relaxed, natural manner.....never with clenched fists spearing food like a hunter!
In American society, it is perfectly acceptable to cut one's food using the knife and fork as usual, and then transfer the fork to the right hand to then "spear" it before eating. In Continental Europe, this would however be frowned upon. Here, food is only ever transferred to the mouth with the fork in the left hand with the prongs still facing downwards - a very delicate act indeed if one's host is inconsiderate enough to serve garden peas as a vegetable!

• When seated, unfold the napkin and place it across the lap.
• If bread rolls are served, break the bread between your fingers rather than cut it.
• When eating soup, always move the soup spoon away from you to the other side of the dish and "sip" the soup (quietly!) from it.
• In some circumstances it may be appropriate for a finger bowl to be served, for example where ribs have been served. In which case, one should gently clean the fingers in the warm scented water and dry them on one's napkin.
• When finished eating, position the knife and fork (or other cutlery used) side by side pointing into the centre of the plate.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Peter Carl Faberge

Wouldn't we all love to own an original Faberge egg? I know I would. I will never understand those that say "money can't buy you happiness". Yes, I can imagine being depressed and feeling unloved as I wake up in my silk armani pajamas and look out my estate villa bedroom french doors that overlook Lake Como as I curse the heavens for this life.

(from PBS "Treasures of the world")

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the Orthodox faith in Russia... After the devout church services, families gather to exchange gifts of decorated eggs, symbols of renewed life and hope. The Easter of 1885 also marks the twentieth anniversary of Czar Alexander III and Czarina Maria Fedorovna, and the Czar needs an exceptional gift for his wife.
So he places an order with a young jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé, whose beautiful creations have recently caught Maria's eye.

On Easter morning, Fabergé delivers to the palace what appears to be a simple enameled egg. But to the delight of the Empress, inside is a golden yolk; within the yolk is a golden hen; and concealed within the hen is a diamond miniature of the royal crown and a tiny ruby egg – both now lost to history.

His wife's delight is all theCzar needs to reward
Fabergé with a commissionfor an Easter egg every year. The requirements are straightforward: each egg must be unique, and each must contain a suitable surprise for the Empress. With consummate craftsmanship and an inventive spirit, Fabergé repeatedly meets the challenge, borrowing inspiration from the gilded lives of the Czar and Czarina.

In October of 1894 the Czar's health fails. He dies suddenly in the prime of life, and his son, Nicholas II, unwillingly ascends the throne. "My God! The Lord has called our deeply beloved Papa to him. My head is spinning. What is going to happen to me? To Russia? I am not prepared to be a Czar. I never wanted to become one." (from the letters of Nicholas II, October 20, 1894.) "So to make sure that he didn't make any mistakes," explains author Lynette Proler, "he decided that the easiest course for him was to continue everything that his father had done."

Untrained in the business of ruling one-eighth of the world's population and purposely cut off from progressive thinking by his parents, Nicholas embraces the limited ideals of order, service and tradition: "I shall maintain the principle of autocracy just as firmly and unflinchingly as my unforgettable late father."

Nicholas' rigid adherence to convention applies as deliberately to the established customs within the court and family as to the affairs of state. "And of course, the Easter eggs was a tradition that was started by his father, and Nicholas decided to carry it on," adds Proler. Czar Nicholas orders the continuation of the annual commission of a Fabergé Easter egg for his mother and adds a second order to be delivered to his new wife, Czarina Alexandra Fedorovna.

So imaginatively conceived and opulently executed, Fabergé's work elevates jewelry to a decorative art unequaled since the Renaissance. At the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, the Imperial eggs are shown in public for the first time. They astound the jury, which showers him with honors, and Fabergé's fame spreads throughout Europe. The novelty of combining artistic excellence with functional value – and a touch of whimsy – so captures the imagination of the aristocracy that the Fabergé workshops are flooded with commissions, transforming an ordinary goldsmith shop into the famous "House of Fabergé." But though aristocrats, barons of industry, kings and queens alike all cross his threshold seeking gifts, Fabergé's first duty is always to the Czar.

Nicholas loves the pomp and ritual of military life and Imperial ceremony, which require him only to look good and say little. But he shows little aptitude for ruling, vacillating on most important issues, coming across as weak and contradictory, though he firmly opposes any much-needed political or social reforms. Over the years, the royal couple increasingly insulate themselves from politics and the intrigues of the court, preferring instead the comfortable sphere of family and life's less complicated decisions. So Fabergé makes a point of learning something of the interests and achievements of the Romanovs, fashioning the memorable moments of their lives into Easter gifts to delight and surprise them.

Year by year, Fabergé's Imperial Easter eggs reach new heights of invention and extravagance, expressions in miniature of the life of imperial privilege. According to author and Fabergé expert, Géza von Habsburg, "They are the absolute summit of craftsmanship. They are unbelievably made. They were the sort of apogee of what Fabergé was able to do, and he lavished everything he could on them." Ultimately, these eggs would become painful reminders of the tragic events to come.

All the elements of the Romanov story come together most elegantly in the Fifteenth Anniversary egg (1911), a family album just over five-inches-tall. Exquisitely detailed paintings depict the most notable events of the reign of Nicholas II and each of the family members. "Not only is it a staggering tour-de-force of the jeweler's art," says Forbes, "but probably more than any other egg, it is the one most intimately associated with the whole tragedy of Nicholas and Alexandra and that incredibly beautiful family. There are these five children – all these sort of glamorous events surrounding their lives – and there they are looking out at us happily unknowing what was going to happen to them just a few years later."

During the first months of Russia's involvement in World War I, the simmering discontent of the troubled nation is cooled by patriotic unity in defense of the motherland. But the Russia's dismal economic conditions make it impossible for Nicholas to sustain the war effort against powerful, industrialized Germany. By 1917, famine threatens the country. Riots and strikes demanding bread are commonplace in Moscow and St. Petersburg. When the Imperial troops join the demonstrators, the government collapses to the revolution. On March 15th, with neither the support of the people nor the aristocracy, Nicholas is forced to abdicate.

The next day, a decree is passed ordering the arrest of Nicholas II and all other members of the Romanov family. The Czar and his family are eventually removed to Siberia where they are held captive for over a year. In the chilly pre-dawn hours of July 17th, 1918, Nicholas and Alexandra, with their five children – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei – are herded into a basement and executed.

Of the immediate family, only Nicholas' mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna, escapes the assassin's bullet. As she makes a hasty departure from her homeland, she brings with her the Order of St. George egg, the last Fabergé Imperial Easter egg she will ever receive from her son Nicholas, once Czar of all the Russias.

In the harsh light of historical hindsight, the Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs can be seen as nothing more than the frivolous indulgences of a decadent monarchy. But stripped of revolutionary ideology, they endure simply as fragile mementos of the doomed Russian dynasty, each not only an artistic masterpiece, but a remarkable reflection of the joys and achievements of a family at the crossroads of history

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Antique French Parlor Side Chairs

My latest shopping find. A set of four beautiful French parlor side chairs I purchased from an antiques auction. The only information I have on these chairs is that they were made in 1880 in Maubeuge,France which is a small city in the Northern part of the country. I had the chairs reupholstered in a creme-ivory striped fabric with the polka dot fabric in the same color as an accent on the back. The patina is really what sold me. It's aged look is beautiful. 2 of the chairs will go in the bay window of the office/library area of the house which has a 48" round mahogany table. The other 2 will go in the master bedroom. I can't wait to host a small dinner party for 4 or 6 at the bay window.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Capodimonte Porcelain

(A pair of Capodimonte plates I purchased at an ebay auction)

This is my latest objets D' art discovery.
I was introduced to Capodimonte porcelain for the first time when browsing through Ebay's antique auction vendors. I was very attracted to the 2 decorative plates shown above. I was impressed with the details and colors. However, prior to purchasing the 2 pieces, I had no knowledge of Capodimonte. Naturally, because of the price for these 2 plates, I had to google "capodimonte" and was pleasantly surprise what I learned. I provided a brief history below on the evolution of this beautiful porcelain.

The History Of Capodimonte
Capodimonte porcelain, sometimes written as Capo di Monte porcelain or Capo-di-Monte porcelain, was named for the factory location in the Capodimonte Woods near Naples.The Italian translates "Mount head" or perhaps "top of the mountain".

Capodimonte porcelain evolved as yet another expression of the thirst of European nobility for this material, first successfully copied from the original Chinese in the early eighteenth century at Meissen in Saxony (now Germany). This hard-paste porcelain required an abundant supply of kaolin, first discovered near Meissen, and later near Sevres in France, and near Fuscaldo and Paola in the Province of Catanzaro in Naples (Sicily).

As was the case outside Saxony, Capodimonte porcelain originally was made from soft-paste porcelain. The location of Capodimonte porcelain production moved around throughout the 18th Century as a result of the history of intermarriage of European royalty. Charles de Bourbon was the son of Philip V of Spain, yet he ascended to the Neapolitan throne as Charles VII in 1734. Charles married the granddaughter of Saxon ruler Augustus II, under whose patronage the original porcelain works at Meissen were built. Charles had good reason to be inspired to produce Capodimonte porcelain on the island of Sicily, where he took up residence in Naples. Thus, Capodimonte porcelain came into production, thanks in part to the work of Giovanni Caselli and Livio Schepers, whom the king recruited from the Naples Mint. The king commissioned the well-known Capodimonte Mark.
As musical thrones would have it, Charles later succeeded to the Spanish throne and became Charles III of Spain. As a part of the transition, Charles saw to it that all aspects of Capodimonte porcelain production were moved to a new factory Buen Retiro near Madrid. All aspects remaining in Naples were diligently destroyed so as not to leave any encouragement for copycats to perpetuate the Sicilian production.

In another historic irony, Charles's son, Ferdinand, returned to Naples in 1759 as Ferdinand IV, King of Naples. Sharing his father's passion for porcelain, he built a new Capodimonte porcelain factory in the royal villa at Portici. The Capodimonte porcelain name again became Italian-based.

Perhaps in a spirit of competitiveness, Ferdinand assembled master craftsmen who would produce lavish works as gifts for his father back in Spain. Extraordinary dinner services were also presented to such other monarchs as George III of England in 1785.

At the close of the 18th century, Naples shared the fate of most of Europe in coming under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite the king's flight to other regions, Director Domenico Venuti tried to preserve the Capodimonte works in the face of the French invasion. Alas, his efforts were mostly unsuccessful.

With the lessening of Napoleonic influence, Ferdinand was again able to return, making attempts to restore Capodimonte porcelain to its former glory. However, by 1816 the Capodimonte porcelain works had declined to the point where elements of production were sold off and otherwise dissipated. Most historians mark this point as the effective end of more than 60 years of Capodimonte porcelain production. Such masters as Tagliolini and others had created enduringly famous products during that period.

The Capodimonte porcelain name, being so popular and associated with such great works, not surprisingly has been resurrected in subsequent years. Again as a result of closely related European nobility, Capodimonte is now primarily marketed by a British company, stating that the works are still Italian in origin "...from leading Italian porcelain manufacturers."