What is Art?

Above, Liz Lemon takes on Little Edie Beale via Drew Barrymore:

And the musical:

It's incredible how much these ladies have inspired. More music (though with quite a bit of Thomas Mann added to the mix):

Though honestly, doesn't Tina Fey do it best?


Scottish Agate Brooches

Oh, how I love them! They remind me of those marvelous Renaissance specimen tables in pietra dura, with collections of rare agates and antique marbles from ruins. All of these are from one collection, and are for sale (I have no affiliation with the seller) -- I wish I could buy all of them, but for Pete's sake, what use are they to me? How lovely they are:

This one looks like marbles I played with as a child that originally belonged to my grandmother:

This one fascinates me -- the stone is called a moss agate, and the naturally occurring pattern resembles a bird in flight over a knarled tree:

And I love how the holes in the stone were patched with gold, adding to the composition:

But this is my favorite, with its subtle facets on the principle agate, beading on the setting and open backing:


Blogger input, PLEASE!

I'm absolutely at my wits end -- and this little blog is not worth the stress if I can't work this kink out.

Out of nowhere, all of the sudden, blogger won't allow me to post date blog posts, or alter the post dates on previously saved drafts. It will only allow to publish at whatever date and time I began working on the post. It doesn't seem to record any posting information permanently, except the initial time that the post was started.

I've read the message boards and found them completely useless. I'm aware that if I want a post dated blogger post to run I need to "publish" the post -- as I have been doing for over a year.

I restart my Firefox once a day, and there is no improvement after restarting.

What is most FRUSTRATING about this is that I'm doing exactly what I've been doing the entire time I've had this blog, and it continues to FAIL. It has been dysfunctional for the last 2 weeks, and I'm about ready to throw my laptop out the window.

Help, please! What, my brilliant readers, is going on here?

A prize to the person who can solve this first.


Ladies, a Tip

... bustles.

You really ought to get one, don't you agree?


The World is One Great Garden

No one is quite sure who painted these magnificent watercolors of the flora and fauna of South Carolina, but I can tell you one thing: whomever it was loved everything in sight.

These have to look of a carress, how lovingly the artist renders each vein or feather in brilliant detail ...

"The Ethelind Pope Brown Collection of South Carolina Natural History at the University of South Carolina consists of thirty two watercolour sketches of flora and fauna from the South East United States, produced between about 1765 and 1775."

discovered here.


Ben Nicholson

Early painting of a jug:

And his studio (er, bedroom), late 1920s:


Tokens of Affection: Rouben & Azadia Mamoulian

I've been organizing my books and ran into something I bought years ago and promptly forgot: Dorothy Rodgers' book on the domestic arts, My Favorite Things. It's actually remarkably good, with sensible ideas and anecdotes from her life, all decently written. The dust jacket bio notes that she held several patents for inventions, though I couldn't find anything on these -- there's nothing online about this fascinating woman. I guess it's hard to get out from under the shadow of Richard Rodgers.

Dorothy Rodgers writes quite a bit about the showbiz and artistic (largely Jewish, seemingly) milieu she and her husband enjoyed, and used stories of friends' homes to illustrate points -- this, under Uniquely Personal Touches / The Fun of Your Own Creating: "One of the most memorable things about the Rouben Mamoulians' sensational contemporary home in Hollywood is the trompe l'oeil Pompeian wall Azedia has painted for the living room; Rouben's delightful contribution is a group of fascinating portraits of Azadia made from shells, from pressed flowers, from semi precious stones; there is even a decoupage one that incorporates luggage stickers and postcards from a South American trip they once took."

Who are these delightful Mamoulians, and where are these tokens of affection?

Mr. Mamoulian, maker of miniature portrait collages, also made

Not bad. Here he is with Garbo:

And Flyn:

I could only find one picture of Azadia, painting a portrait of Carole Lombard; statuesque though Lombard may be, my eye immediately flies to Azadia:

Sadly, these "portraits of Azadia made from shells, from pressed flowers, from semi precious stones" have faded into the ether, or been shredded by cats:

Apparently they had a pet problem. How ridiculous is it that these were the only pictures I could find showing the interior?


Denton Welch and His Fine Georgian House

I have been under the attack of a terrible Denton Welch fever, ripping through every scrap of his writing that I can find, and I recently remembered a WOI article from a couple of years ago about Welch that had this photo of him seated before his arresting Georgian house:

Here it is, in the collection of the museum of childhood, which is part of the V&A in London:

He restored the house after finding it in the basement of a friend's family estate, and managed to determine its provenance and date, 1783. He was a great junk hound, and managed to find a pair of these 17th century angels, if memory serves, in some wildly modest place, like a car repair garage:

We were so clearly meant to be friends. I rail against our separate fates.

Apologies for the rough images -- there isn't very much material available relating to Welch.


I Should Live Here: Low House -- McKim, Mead & White, Bristol, RI, 1886

As some of you may know, I've been looking for a house to live in. And I've found the perfect one: Low House, of Bristol, RI, by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1886. Observe:

Admit it. You were underwhelmed. What can he be thinking, you ask? It's homely, an absurdly long ranch house-y thing with little to recommend it. But then you turn, just a bit, and see the sea. Hey, this isn't all bad.

Let's walk around the house and see the rest of it, shall we?

Circling around to the street facade:

Opposite side of the street facade:

And the sea facade, opposite from the first image:

It's not an easy sell. It's weird and low, Low, and long -- 140 feet, with little articulation. Simple in the extreme: slate roof, chimneys without any ornament, shingles covering everything else. But I'm not sure that Prairie style could exist without this house, and I'm from Chicago. It's sacrilege for me to say it.

Let's look at the interior. If entering from the sea side, you would see this:

Your view, indicated on the first floor plan in red:

You're probably standing in the doorway from the drawing room to the hall, looking past the fireplace to a row of doors. All of these are service doors: hall to the kitchen, servant's hall and cloakroom. They are mirrored on the opposite wall of the hall, by the door to an ante chamber, and the two legs of the stair. 1, 2, 3. Balance, balance, balance -- and startlingly, fascinatingly, that stair is utterly mitigated -- of a grand scale, but buried, with no grand view, no place to be viewed artfully descending. No grand window or chandelier, only light filtering through an overhead skylight. The view from the landing:

Clean lines and flawlessly executed details -- not even the top of a newel post protrudes above the banister! Imagine the pleasure of running one's hand up the entire thing, uninterrupted.

Don't make the mistake of associating this austerity with a low budget -- this was a very, very expensive house, designed by one of the most prominent, costly firms in the country, busy slapping up the most excessive houses being built in the world, just across the bay in Newport.

This is minimalism before minimalism. If Donald Judd were a Victorian, this is the house he would own.

The upstairs hall:

Your view of the hall indicated in red:

The hall changes orientation on the second story, and the bedroom (there aren't really that many by current suburban standards, 5 not counting servants) take on the architecture of the roofline, with wonderful diagonals and rather odd angles in plan -- I would want the lower right bedroom, with a view of the water and the chopped bay window. I love it.

What I'm trying to get at, and what makes me love this house so, is that it's not designed to be looked at, but to be lived in. The plan is perfection, with a certain slant symmetry -- like but slightly unlike parts are paired, as in the servant's doors to the stairs in the first floor hall -- the calm and balance of symmetry, but without the fuss and weight.

The detailing is almost too much to handle, with a level of simplicity that must have seemed heretical for a house of this scale.

This is not easy, slap it down work -- and it shows the hand of a master. Or several.

Sadly, sadly, sadly I cannot have this house, even if I could afford it. It no longer exists. The photographers of these rooms were the last to see them before it was demolished. It was destroyed in 1962.

Ours is a backward glance -- let's look once more:

One more thought. This is where it stood (I think) in red:

Just next door is Blithewold, a very pretty but wholly pedestrian Edwardian mish-mash of English country, continental Medieval and Colonial Revival. It's meticulously preserved as it has been for the last 100 years, and a fun place to go for an afternoon. The grounds are beyond reproach, but the the house itself is little other than pretty. It is in no way important, and it's loud, flashy, money writ large:

It proposes an American idea of how the rich in other places lived, rather than proposing a new way to live, a distinctly American way to live. I'm no patriot, but Low House was exceptional where Blithewold is not. The doctor cut off the wrong foot.

If Low House would rise from the ashes, I would gleefully raise a torch to Blithewold.


My Romantic Boyfriend

... has kindly given me a cockroach for Valentine's Day:

How sweet is that! Our own little hissing cockroach. And I'm so pleased she's happily living in a hollowed out tree log, instead of with us.

Yes, our little Castinetta is one of these:


The Stolen Heart

Steven is great, but I can't take any more saccharine stuff this time of year.

And without further ado ... I bring you Aztec heart sacrifices:

And the necessary garb for a proper heart-breaking:

Happy Valentine's Day!

All images from the Codex Magliabecchi.


The Broken Heart

He is stark mad, whoever says,
That he hath been in love an hour,
Yet not that love so soon decays,
But that it can ten in less space devour ;
Who will believe me, if I swear
That I have had the plague a year?
Who would not laugh at me, if I should say
I saw a flash of powder burn a day?

Ah, what a trifle is a heart,
If once into love's hands it come !
All other griefs allow a part
To other griefs, and ask themselves but some ;
They come to us, but us love draws ;
He swallows us and never chaws ;
By him, as by chain'd shot, whole ranks do die ;
He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry.

If 'twere not so, what did become
Of my heart when I first saw thee?
I brought a heart into the room,
But from the room I carried none with me.
If it had gone to thee, I know
Mine would have taught thine heart to show
More pity unto me ; but Love, alas !
At one first blow did shiver it as glass.

Yet nothing can to nothing fall,
Nor any place be empty quite ;
Therefore I think my breast hath all
Those pieces still, though they be not unite ;
And now, as broken glasses show
A hundred lesser faces, so
My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,
But after one such love, can love no more.

--John Donne.


SAVE ME: 65,000 Dollar House of Great Charm

OH, dear readers -- I made the mistake of looking at a remarkable little house a few days ago that has me utterly smitten:

Built between 1805 and 1815, the house retains many charming features -- two original fireplaces, wainscoting throughout, etc. Its scale is beyond sweet -- the entire thing reads like the cabin in a ship, with ceiling just over 6'6" in height and nooks and winding stairs throughout.

The kitchen wing, with 5 windows on three sides overlooking trees:

Living room, with paneling and original fireplace:

One of the bedrooms:

And 2 inch-thick treads to the basement, bearing two centuries of use:

Overall, it's one of the brightest houses I've ever been in, with multiple large windows in each room -- of course, it needs absolutely everything, except a new furnace, which is new. The electrical system is terrifying.

Sadly, this post may well be a eulogy -- in the past day, the listing has disappeared, and I fear it has been bought. It was being marketed as a tear-down, which makes me want to scream. Yes, it needs a great deal of work, but once completed, it would be about as perfect a house as humanly possible. At least for someone of my slight stature -- I have always preferred spaces that cuddle with you.

It's one irreversible flaw is that it suffers from "first house syndrome" -- a term I've coined to describe excellent buildings that predate their newer, lesser neighbors -- but all in all, the neighborhood is pretty palatable. Nothing completely offensive.

Except, of course, whatever piece of crap the new owner puts in its place. Fudge -- this shouldn't be legal. Even here, in our ancient state, it's not as though we have an endless supply of untouched 200 year old houses.
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