Sunday, 24 May 2015

Ballroom Hotel de Wendel, Musee Carnavalet

Art Deco is not this blogger's delight, but this piece of architectural salvage was certainly worth saving. In 1925 the  Catalan artist Jose-Maria Sert y Badia (1876-1945) was commissioned to paint the walls and ceiling of the Ballroom of the Hotel de Wendel on Avenue New York. He produced a fabulous depiction of the voyage of the Queen of Sheba headed for her mythic rendez-vous with King Solomon.

The decor owes its special effect to the silver leaf used as the ground.  An Art Deco tour de force inspired by Baroque painting.

The ballroom was installed at the Musee Carnavalet in 1989.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Hercules Garden, Blair Castle

At nine acres, the Hercules Garden at Blair Castle is said to the largest walled garden in Scotland.

The garden takes its name from the statue of Hercules placed in 1743 on top of a small hill just outside the south wall, from where there is a splendid view down into the garden below.

The Hercules garden was laid out by James Murray, the 2nd Duke of Atholl (1690-1764). He had the bottom of the small boggy valley turned into a series of ponds.

The ponds are dotted with islands, one with a miniature plantation of trees, several with duck houses, another known as the melon ground is actually a herb garden,

A 'Chinese' style bridge crosses one of the ponds.

The slopes on either side of the ponds are planted with widely spaced vertical lines of fruit trees, known locally as 'breaks'. The garden also incorporates herbaceous borders and a vegetable plot.

In the west wall is a small stone building known as the Apple House, furnished with a covetable 'country made' chair.

In the 1888's a gazebo known as MacGregor's Folly,named after a friend of the Duchess was included at the east end of the garden.

In 1924 elaborate gates were hung to celebrate the silver wedding of the 8th Duke and his wife.

But by the end of the Second World War the garden had fallen into decline and all the greenhouses were in a state of dilapidation. It was the late 10th Duke of Atholl (1931-1996), known as 'Wee Iain' who initiated the restoration. He died in 1996, the year the restored garden was opened to the public, and is commemorated in an inscribed stone as well as in the statues of a shepherd and a shepherdess beside MacGregor's Folly.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Gods in Colour, Ashmolean Museum

The travelling exhibition Gods in Colour at the Ashmolean comes as a real shock. 'Shock of the Ancient'. It demolishes preconceptions of  pure white marble antique sculpture.

Lion, From Loutraki near Corinth, c 550BC
(Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen)

The exhibition is mounted in collaboration with German archeologists Vincenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann based on Brinkmann's research into ancient poly-chromy. He proved (scientifically) that ancient statues were far more colourful than we had ever imagined. And not just any colour, not pastel colour, no  vibrant, bright, brilliant, colour.

Head of Warrior. From east pediment of temple of  Aphaia, c 490 BC
(Gylptothek, Munich)

To illustrate this the plaster casts are painted with authentic pigments that matched the traces found on the originals.

Trojan archer and shield with eagle and snake,
from the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on Aigina

More than twenty of these painted casts are shown alongside casts from the Ashmolean's own collection.

Armoured torso from Athenian Acropolis c 470 BC
(New Acropolis Museum)

The exhibition shows us that this is how the Greeks and the Romans saw their sculptures. Brilliant.

Theseus and Antiopie From the west temple of  Apollo Daphenephorus, 
Eretria, c490 BC (Archeological Museum, Eretria)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Musee de la Vie Romantique, Paris

The Musee de la Vie Romantique (Museum of the Romantic Life) is located in the 9th arondissement of Paris at the foot of Montmarte hill in an area known as the "Nouvelles Athens." It occupies a hotel particulier built in 1830 that was owned by the Dutch painter Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). Opposite the house is a small courtyard and two studios,  beside it a greenhouse and a small garden. 

Here Ary Scheffer and his daughter hosted Friday salons  attended by  a  who's  who of 19th century artists and intelllectuals. George Sand  came with Frederick Chopin. They would meet Delacroix, Lizt, Ingres, Lamartine, Viardot and Rossini. Later in the century Dickens and Turgeniev also found their way there.

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)
Pauline Viardot en sainte Cecile, 1851

Ary Scheffer, La Princesse de Joinville, 1844
nee Dona Francisca da Braganca, princesse de Brazil,
fils de Emperor Pedro 1er

Francois-Hippolyte Debon (1807-1872)
Un justicier  1835 (self portrait)

 Charming; impossible to find, if one did not know it was there. A peaceful place.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bontemps Patisserie, Paris

Bontemps Patisserie, 57 rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris is exquisite.  Fresh, feminine and utterly charming.

If the pastries and cakes tasted only half as good as they look, then Bontemps Patisserie is a gourmand's heaven. It makes one feel fabulous just to see visit; there can be no prettier patisserie in Paris.

So stylish;  posies of flowers, a blue cabinet of found, pretty mis-matched china that has found the perfect home, displaying exquisite cakes.

The cakes and pastries are made by Fiona Leluc and her assistant Charlotte. Fiona's sister Fatina greets the customers upstairs with a gorgeous smile.

The specialty of the house are mini cream filled shortbreads,  flavoured with all sorts of wonderful flavours;  vanilla, orange blossom, bergamot, Menton lemon and  tonka-bean among others.

For those lucky people  with someone special to share, there are larger heart shaped shortbreads, to be divided down the middle.

For the perfect tea party there are shortbread flowers where the flower petals could be tailored with flavours to suit each persons taste.

And then there are the tarts.....  Bourdaloue made from Comice pears and an almond cream!

A wonderful experience, if I lived in Paris I would have an account there............