The Wallace Collection, London. Wow! …and Manolo Blanik too.

 

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If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I rarely post images of the decorative arts.  I am typically not a fan of fussy porcelains or fine cabinetry.  I just don’t seem to have the gene that lets me appreciate that stuff.

But, today in London, I visited the Wallace Collection and it knocked my socks off.  I mean, this place is crazy!  The former mansion of the Wallace family was gifted to the country of Britain in the last years of the 19th century, and is still set up in a similar manner to the way in which the family lived.

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As you might know, I’ve been to a few museums and house museums in my day, but this place is more opulent than any other.

All I can say is WOW!  And then show you some (a lot, probably too many) pictures of this amazing place.

Oh, and p.s….Manolo Blanik shoes were also on display.  I’ve never owned a pair and never will.  But, to see the shoes interspersed with the collections added an element I’d not thought of before.  My guide at the Wallace Collection told me that Blanik was an Anglophile and was particularly interested in the Wallace Collection.  This is a new point of approach for me, and I could dig it!

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Let’s go!

The first thing I heard in the excellent tour I joined, is that when this Japanese chest (and its matching partner) arrived in Europe, it absolutely blew the minds of connoisseurs.  They were obsessed with the black lacquer and wanted to emulate it.  They couldn’t, it turned out, because the plant that produces the lacquer did’t grow in the west.

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Here’s my guide, standing in front of the Japanese chest.

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That didn’t daunt them.  The king of France set up a artisanal workshop, patronizing the best of the artistic producers known to France, and they experimented and experimented, trying to produce–if not lacquer itself–at least something that looked very close to it.

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Above, King Louis XV, the king who developed the French fine arts.

This is the time period in which France is lifted by the decorative arts.  France would no longer import fine luxury goods–they would produce them.  It started then and is still going strong today.

The wardrobe below was produced in this workshop.

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Before having a gander at the million photos I took today, introduce yourself to the Wallace Collection here with the director:

 

 

Now, please join me as I wander through the collection:

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Can you say “opulence?”

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Also, the Wallace Collection has a lovely restaurant!

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And then, on to the armor!

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And to a Gothic crown.  Because, why not?

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Check out the line of matching armor head pieces and shields.

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Below: a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, commissioned by herself.  My guide told the fascinating story of this woman and her involvement with the French king, and discussed the fascinating iconography of this portrait.  Please note her tiny shoe peeking out from under her “Pompadour pink” gown, for which she set the fashion of the day.  This is the type of detail by which Blanik was inspired.  Looking at his shoes today, I could see it.

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And, then there is this Jean-Honoré Fragonard masterwork: The Swing (1767).

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Londontown

Let’s get it straight from the get go. When in Britain, ya gotta look both ways! And I mean this metaphorically as well as literally!

Here are just a few teaser photographs from my first few days!

London showers bring London flowers!

 

The wee ones go on field trips.

 

The buskers perform feats of magic.  I cannot understand how they manage this one!

 

And the famous hats are easy to find.  Oh, if only I had a place to wear one…hmmm!

Busatti, it’s got what it takes

There’s a revered business association in Italy called the UISI, or the Unione Imprese Storiche Italiane, which in English means: the association of Italian Historical Businesses.

In order to become a member of this august group, a company must have been in business for over 150 years and owned by the same family that started the business originally.  This association was begun in Florence and only includes as members businesses that represent the great tradition and history for which Italy is known.

I only recently learned of this association when I visited a great textile store in the Oltrarno section of Florence.  There are no signs announcing this shop; you must be in the know to find it.

It isn’t hidden, au contraire, it is located smack dab between a very famous little artistic studio of the street artist, Clet, and the ancient church of San Nicola.

Check it out online and visit it if you are in the market for some fine Italian textiles: towels, sheets, draperies, and some ceramics.