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Gilded Age Art Deco Screen

Much like the maligned mobile, you don’t see many screens as an element of decor in many homes these days, but I’m not really sure why they ever fell out of favor.  For one, they’re often a beautiful way to divide up a room; whether it’s to hide a cluttered desk, a wet bar, or serve another cozy purpose.  I think you can also take a bolder risk with a screen than you would with drapery or wallpaper.  It’s not quite as permanent and overpowering because of it’s smaller footprint in a room, and the fact that it’s so easily moved.

So while this particular art deco screen employs the ultra-luxe materials of weathered gilt and black lacquer, it’s not the sort of thing that pushes a room into a tacky, bachelor pad territory.  In fact, I find it quite elegant in the way it has such a hard, flat surface balanced with very organic and playful imagery.  You might say this Art Deco screen couldn’t quite leave Art Nouveau behind, but is a piece in transition.  It has just enough of that touch of whimsy to be fun, even though it looks quite regal and serious on first glace.  It reminds me of the mashup of spirals and geometric shapes in Gustav Klimpt’s masterpiece mosaic, the Tree of Life, which sadly resides in the completely stunning yet closed-to-the-public – or shall I say, withheld from the public – Palais Stoclet in Brussels.

With luck, we’ll see the sage room screen make a return to glory – it sure seems like a category ripe for innovation.  Screens are about as simple as you can get from a construction point of view, so they are a perfect canvas for designers and artists to showcase their work without having to get the specialized skills of a carpenter or upholsterer.

Gilded Art Deco Screen

 

 

Available at Galleria d’Epoca in Miami

Friday, January 10th, 2014

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Sheaf of Wheat French Antique Lamp

An icon of the luxe side of midcentury design, the gilt sheaf of wheat is one of my favorite visual elements for home decor.  There are plenty of examples out there, and you have to be careful to walk the line between gaudy and flimsy, which I think this particular example does nicely.  The individual stalks of the sheaf of wheat are pleasingly wide, varied in size as to seem more realistic, and sweetly curled like a ribbon as they struggle under the burdensome weight of the heads of grain. There’s a lifelike tautness about the design, as if the lamp would fall apart if you untied the detailed, finely threaded string in the center.  As a whole, this an expertly proportioned piece from the small, beaded base to the bulbous neck below the bulb.  And half a century on in its life, there’s a spectacular burnished patina that provides visual depth and additional drama to the piece.

gilt sheaf of wheat lamp

As symbols go, the sheaf of wheat has been around for centuries, but rose to prominence in furniture during the 1940s and 50s when Parisian fashion designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Sant Laurent made it a staple in their own homes.  Ever since, their popularity has grown, with high points in Italy during the 60s, and Hollywood during the 70s.  You’ll often find sheaf of wheat pieces in the states made from metal, and with more of a dull color; the finest items are made from gilt wood and naturally tend to be earlier works.

Available at Glo in Miami, Florida.

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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19th Century French Wrought Iron Gates

Any room or residence looking to make a statement, seek no further than these enormous and imposing French wrought iron gates.  At nearly nine feet high, and having already lasted well over a century, this is a piece fit to guard your fortress or palace with impunity and grace.  The gently rusted patina gives them a sort of mysterious and experienced element that would suit the entrance to a grand, manicured lawn on an old estate.  Decked out with classic, wrought iron acanthus leaves, a rectangular lock detailed with clamshell finnials, and other regal embellishments, these heavy gauge gates have a rich soul without being gaudy.

Wrought iron denotes the decorative and high quality aspect of this piece, specifically that the details are hand worked as opposed to being cast in a mold.  Today this type of piece would almost certainly be entirely cast, and look cheap by comparison.  You can often tell when pieces are cast because they exhibit rough edges where two halves of a detail are welded or screwed together.  For example, the acanthus leaves and clamshells would be cast in two halves, and you’d be able to see an edge in the center.  As this piece is wrought of solid iron instead of cast though, all the details are crisp and clean, ready to withstand the next century of wear and tear.

 

wrought iron gates

The French styling is apparent through its relative minimalism for the times.  These gates may seem quite detailed in these days, but if these were Italian from the same era, there would likely be far more embellishment, and every corner would be festooned with some kind of sculptural detail.  The Italians were also more likely to use literal imagery, for example mythical figures, or characters than the French, which tend toward the abstract leaves, and scrolls.

Available at Le Louvre French Antiques in Dallas.

Monday, October 8th, 2012

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Pair of Louis XVI Painted and Carved Armchairs

Available as Lot 200 Important French Furniture, Sculptures, and Works of Art Auction until April 14th Sotheby’s Paris.

Louis XVI Painted Armchairs

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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French Bronze Bouillotte Lamp

Available as Lot 230 in the Important French Furniture, Sculptures, and Works of Art Auction until April 14th Sotheby’s Paris.

French Bronze Bouillotte Lamp

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

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