Marie Antoinette's Turkish Treasures at The Frick

On a balmy Tuesday afternoon, Lesley Blume and I swaggered over to The Frick to have a private tour of the newest exhibit, Turkish Taste at the Court of Marie-Antoinette.
Exoticism and my favorite Queen all in one exhibit? S’il vous plait!

We met our favorite flapper Heidi Rosenau in the vestibule of the museum (wearing a very nautical 1930’s look) and she escorted us to the tiny room where the treasures are being shown. At first I was disappointed that it wasn’t a full floor of objects but once we began discussing each of the six objects my head was already swimming in a Turkish bath of beauty.

Heidi gave us the rundown of each piece and later, my new neighbor Charlotte Vignon, who is Associate Curator of Decorative Arts at The Frick provided much of the background of the curious and short-lived trend.

France had a love affair with anything exotic and when in 1721 Mehmed Efendi visited Louis XV the royal court was sent into an Arab frenzy. But it was when Marie Antoinette became Queen in 1774 that the trend really took off.

Boudoirs Turcs became all the rage with royals and were always small, personal rooms for close friends (opposed to state rooms), which were mirrored and full of the highest quality furniture and objects. Although the Queen had one created at Versailles and Fontainebleau, the one at the latter is the only one still in existence. It is not open to the public because of it’s size and location but Charlotte being who she is got access and showed us pictures of this amazing little chamber which I hope one day will be open to the plebes like me!

Sadly, the Turkish trend fizzled when Marie Antoinette and the Ancien Regime were carted off to the guillotine. But lucky for us there are a few pieces that survived that can transport us back to those decadent, debaucherous days.

Below are images from the show and my notes on each. Hop on your magic carpet and check out this magical little nook of delicious, dreamy works of art. On view till September 11th.

Pair of Firedogs with a Seated Dromedary
from Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir at the Château de Fontainebleau, 1777

These dandified dromedaries were all the rage in the Queens court.
Crafted by good ole Pierre Gouthière, the greatest bronze-maker, chaser, and gilder of his time I can only imagine a little fire roaring behind them as M.A. giggled over court gossip. I wasn’t really aware there are camels in Turkey but on further investigation they do indeed reside there and they are known for their wrestling!

Attributed to Jean-Siméon Rousseau de la Rottière (1747–1820) and Jules-Hugues Rousseau (1743–1806)
Pair of Panels from the comte d’Artois’s Turkish Room at Versailles, 1781

In truth I can’t give M.A. all the credit for the Turkish delights. The comte d’Artois, Louis the XVI younger brother actually started the trend around the same time and created his own room in Versailles. These panels come from that room which he used as a library. There are six in existence and the rest are in Paris. The cherubs in turbans give me the major creeps but Lesley and I both gasped at the beauty and the sensuality of the interlocking mermaids on the bottom of the panels.

Pair of Small Console Tables, c. 1780 Gilded and painted beech and walnut with marble tabletop

Although the early history of these tables is unknown their exceptional quality suggest they were once in royal hands. These are the inspiration for the exhibit since they are in the Frick collection.
From mermaids to Blackamoor mermen, Lesley and I nearly had to go outside for some fresh air we got so excited. The crossed crescents at the tops of the tables also evoke the Turkish trend.
Charlotte explained that the Blackamoors and central garlands are all carved out of one solid piece of wood. Impressive. The tables are displayed one at eye level and one, as it would stand on the floor. Charlotte told us they did that so we could see the detail of the tables up close but also when you look down at the lower table one of the mermen is staring directly back at you. We went gaga over his silver earrings and his turban, which was originally gilded in platinum.

To make these tables even more divine, Mr. Frick bought them on suggestion from the legendary Elsie de Wolfe. Cant you imagine her saying, “Henwy those Toikish toibles with toibins are a must!”

Meeting the Duchess of Devonshire

This happened way back in November and I'm just getting around to posting it. I just finished Debo Devonshire's latest book, Wait for me! and it is now one of my top favorites.

Back on November 10th, the Duchess was in NYC promoting this new book and had a do at The Frick called, Fizz and Sparkle: The Effervescent Life of Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

I had this event in my calendar for ages. I have been a huge fan of hers for years. One because she adores chickens and two because she lived in and restored Chatsworth, one of England's greatest houses. Of course since she is a Mitford sister that helped too.
                                                                 Chatsworth House

Going through piles of books a week before Rod found a book entitled, The Duchess of Devonshire's Ball, a book about a grand ball given by a former Duchess of Devonshire for Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897. It was a DOOZY. I tucked it into my Filson and read it all over town and frankly forgot I even had it with my that day.

When the lecture was over I was dashing out the door and noticed the Duchess quietly sitting in the winter garden at a table waiting to sign books. But all these neds were so fixated on the free wine they didn't notice her. I pondered buying the book ( I already had it on Kindle) but then realized I had the Ball book. Hark!

I moseyed over to her table and pulled it out for her to sign.
"Good Heavens Charlotte! Look what this dear boy brought us," the Duchess exclaimed.
"Whatever is it?" Charlotte asked busily.
"Oh my well it's my daughter Sophie's book she wrote ages ago! Oh dear you do have a rare book on your hands." She said at me with a smile, peering over her glasses that were so thick they could fry an ant in China.

With that she signed it and bid me adieu. By then the line was snaking around marble busts, ferns and fountains but I was merrily finished.

I have gotten ahead of myself. The whole point of this post was supposed to be what I learned from the Duchess' lecture.
Here we go:

  • First off it was pointed out by Colin (from the Frick who introduced the ladies) that the chairs they would be sitting in were actually bought by Henry Frick from the 9th Duke of Devonshire so they had come full circle.
  • The Kennedy's were great friends of hers and when they arrived in London in 1938 with nine kids they caused a sensation
  • Rose Kennedy had the best body in London!
  • Catherine 'Kick' Kennedy was her closest friend and married her husbands older brother who was supposed to be the next Duke but was killed in WW II.
  • There is a secret door in the library at Chatsworth and the only way you know it's there is by the names of the fake books adorning it such as E. Motion, A study of Feelings, D. Motion, The Study of War and Nik Nak by Patty Wak.
  • In Tearing Haste, is how she signed off many a letter
  • On a visit to the Royal Family at Sandringham she noticed a hoof of a prize winning horse on her bedside table. She turned it over to see if it had a golden shoe and red inked spilled all over the carpet. Luckily it was removed when she came back from dinner.
  • Her sister Nancy Mitford was quite the embroider to say the least, but she portrayed their father perfectly.
  • What does she look forward most now that she is 90? An empty appointment book!
 Taken with my Blackberry, but here is Charlotte Mosely (Debo's niece) and the Dowager   Duchess in conversation in those chairs.

And here is a dreamy interview with the Dowager Duchess reflecting on her fizzy life.

The Frick Garden Party

A couple of weeks ago Rod and I met Lucy and the ladies at The Frick for a swelegant garden party. Guess what- we all behaved! Nobody got too tipsy, nobody tripped in heels and neary a friend fell into a rose bush. So alas I dont really have too much to report.
But we all looked damn good! Bill Cunningham thought so too- he finally threw a pic of me, Lucy and Rod in the Times. Hoorah.
The big band was really marvelous- Thanks Heidi!
And instead of a big dinner out apres Rod, Lucy and I hightailed it home for pizza and a bottle.
How amazing does Lucy look in Rod's aunt's hat?
One thing was missing- Mama! She was the bell of the ball last year. We will make it happen next.

The Frick Spring Fling

Last Monday was my first trip to the Frick's members only black tie ball. What a blast! It was a beautiful spring evening and the garden was open complete with jazz singer installed under a tree and a bar on the terrace. Inside the Winter Garden was in it's usual splendor and a big band was swinging in the ballroom.
What a civil affair. I realized that this whole craze for DJ's at society events is really the pits!
We heard DJ's every night and do you really want to hear Snoop Dog in Mr. Frick's home? There were some incredible dancers and we all gave it a whirl on the dance floor with lots of dips, spins and sways.
When the party wound down Linnea, Megan, Shawn and I headed to the Carlyle for a nightcap. Like we really needed one but the chips and snacks were a life saver. The poor waiter brought three trays.
Thank you Mr. Frick for building such a lovely collection and home!

Oh and was that Dolly Parton and Blossom Dearie in attendance?

Frick Garden party

Mama swept into town yesterday afternoon just in time to change into her Daisy Fellows garden attire and head to the Frick with some other 'Young Fellows'.
(Mother no slip?! Very Princess Di of you in that silhouette!)

Mint juleps were sipped, hats admired and an amusing garden tour was taken where we discovered there is a four story vault underneath the Koi pond built to shelter the art in case of war!

Dinner was lovely as the sun set over the pond at the Central Park boat house. And in true Sparks/Lang fashion, a sing along was conducted in the cab with our amused driver.

Wish yall were there!