Chambre Bleu painting

A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne

  The narrow sidewalks push their black iron batons up out of the ground to protect the buildings hemming them; the rain turns the cobblestones to muted mirrors of damp light—I’m visiting her again on the anniversary of her 155th birthday, and it dawns on me that I’ve never seen the statuesque green door with […]

Henry VIII swathed in cloth

Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth

A trip to Frankfurt to attend Heimtextil a week from today has inspired me to share one of my favorite anecdotes about Henry VIII and his court, as it describes how the Tudor King doted on textiles. I came across the depictions of his wanderlusting ways in Nicola Shulman’s book Graven with Diamonds: The Many […]

Peace Bringing Back Abundance

Vigée Le Brun’s Passion for Painting

  A Passion for Painting Billowing ruched fabric, pointy toes of dainty shoes visible from beneath flounced skirts hemmed in gold fringes and ornate trims. A bejeweled crown on a pillow festooned with gold fleurs-de-lis; and a red velvet tablecloth flowing downward, its gold trim cascading onto a floral rug. Sumptuousness at every turn. Painting in […]

Reception at Malmaison in 1802 François Flameng

Transitory Spaces

  The beginning of one of Napoléon Bonaparte’s earliest letters to Joséphine de Beauharnais simply oozes sensuality: “Seven in the morning. I awaken full of you…the memory of yesterday’s intoxicating evening has left no rest to my senses…Sweet and incomparable Joséphine, I draw from your lips, from your heart, a flame which consumes me…A thousand […]

The gardens at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte

Heaven Shall Be Here

  In the film A Little Chaos, Alan Rickman, who plays an unlikely Louis XIV, declares, “Heaven shall be here.” He’s speaking of a ballroom he has commissioned for the gardens at Versailles, which will be realized by one of the most visionary landscape architects during the 17th-century, André le Nôtre (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), […]

Whitehall Palace with the Banqueting House

The Built Legacy of Henry VIII

  The 2016 Academy Awards are handed out this coming Sunday so I’m celebrating a film that showcases the built legacy of Henry VIII to delve back into the subject I began here on February 2nd. The movie that showcases Henry VIII’s architectural heritage so beautifully is A Man for All Seasons, which swept the Oscars in […]

Allington Castle in modern times

Renovating During the Tudor Era

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Looking back to the Tudor Era from this great distance, it’s easy to see how barbaric a sport jousting was. But before you feel all modern and lofty, consider America’s devotion to football, even after the discovery of its deadly occurrence of brain trauma. If you can’t imagine our country […]

Three children painted in the Elizabethan style.

Narratives That Illuminate Design

  Narratives That Illuminate Design If you believe that design-centric coffee table books contain nothing more than visual surveys of portfolios, I am out to change your mind today by presenting my choices for narratives that illuminate design. What has prompted this quest? Two intelligently written books in Rizzoli’s holiday catalog—both of which were published […]