Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency, Paris

The principal elevation of the mansion known as the
hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image:  private collection.
The previous post of The Devoted Classicist was a presentation of the last Paris apartment of the late Beatriz Patino, a pied-a-terre overlooking Parc Monceau.  Mention was made of the previous residences that she and her husband Antenor, the oldest son of the Bolivian "Tin King," shared in Paris.  Their previous mansion on the rue d'Andigné became the Iraqi Embassy.  The hotel particuleur on the stylish avenue Foch is believed to now be residence of the ambassador to France from the United Arab Emirates (according to Parisian public records).

The hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency
at 34 avenue Foch, Paris.
Image:  Wikipedia.
A few years ago, the house, also known as Palais Montmorency, was offered for sale by Christie's International Realty for Euro 100 million (about U.S.$136 million).  The listing has since been removed from the Christie's site, but it had been mentioned on most of the real estate blogs as the second most expensive residential property in the world for sale at the time.  Some photos can still be seen on the blog, Homes of the Rich. 

The secondary elevation of the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency
along rue Le Sueur.
Image:  private collection.
There were only a few photos still available to view despite the highly publicized real estate offering.  But a great cache of images came just minutes after an inquiry to one of my Devoted Readers, T.B., and I am happy to share these now.

The Ground Floor Plan
of the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image:  private collection.
Completed in 1900 to plans by architect Henri Paul Nénot, these early twentieth-century houses are not as appreciated today as their surviving eighteenth-century counterparts.  But there is a lot to be said of these scholarly Louis XVI Revival residences.  (See the earlier post on the Camondo, now a decorative arts museum).  Although over one hundred years old, there is still a validity in the formal reception spaces for functions today, and the classical proportions of the architecture and logical layout of the floor plans make such a house suitable for adaptation for modern use.

The convenient porte-cochere is
labeled descente a couvert on the plan.
Image:  Christie's International Realty.
The architect Nénot worked for various architects in Paris including Charles Garnier before opening his own practice.  Although he is best known for his design for the new Sorbonne, he was also the architect of a number of well-regarded public buildings and residences.

The ground floor Vestibule of the former home of
Beatriz and Antenor Patino, hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image:  private collection.
The concept behind avenue Foch was conceived by Baron Haussmann during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III to connect Place de l'Étoile (the junction of avenues in star form at the Arc de Triomphe now called the Place Charles de Gaulle) with the Bois de Boulogne, a new public park.  Jean-Charles Alphand enlarged upon the original design to make the avenue 120 meters wide, the widest in Paris.  Lined with chestnut trees and flanked with sidewalks and horse paths, there were ornamental lawns and flower beds, creating an extension of the Bois de Boulogne which Alphand also designed, along with Parc Monceau and the other Napoleon III parks.

The plan of the principal floor,
known as the first floor in France.
Image:  private collection.
When it opened in 1854, it was named avenue de l'Impératrice after Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III.  After the reign ended, the name changed in 1870 to avenue du Général-Uhrich and in 1875, to avenue du Bois de Boulogne.  In 1929, the name was changed again to avenue Foch, after the Marechal Ferdinand Foch, a World War I hero who died that year.  During the Nazi Occupation, the Gestapo and the counter-intelligence branch of the SS commandeered some of the mansions for office use.  But the name avenue Foch in the twentieth-century was generally synonymous with great wealth style, and culture.

The Stair Hall of the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image:  private collection.
Ferdinand Blumenthal was the first owner of the house with his wife Cecilia, of the socially prominent New York City Ulman family.  Blumenthal had come to the U.S. from his native Frankfurt-am-Main around 1875 to establish a New York City office of his family business, F. Blumenthal & Co., leather merchants.  He retired early and maintained his home at 19 Spruce Street in NYC as well as his showplace at 34 avenue du Bois de Boulogne. 

The Gallery of the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image: private collection.
Famous as a collector of art and antiques, the Paris mansion was filled with paintings of the Barbizon School, including a number by Carot.  Blumenthal was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for his contributions to French art.  He died in 1914 aboard a steamship from Naples to New York City, leaving Cecilia a widow at age 51. 

One of several salons at the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image:  private collection.
Three years after her husband's death, Cecilia Blumenthal married Louis, 2nd Duc de Montmorency, aged 48.  The wagging tongues of Paris then referred to her as the "Duchess of Montmorenthal."  Today, three Corots and one Delacroix from the Blumenthal collection are now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The ceiling of the Dining Room of the hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency
was reputedly painted by Henri Rousseau.
Image:  Christie's International Realty.
Beatriz and Antenor Patino were great collectors of art and antiques as well, with this hotel particuleur undoubtedly being a splendid base in Paris for their opulent lifestyle.  The Patinos were often referred to as major donors to the restoration of the Palace of Versailles.  A 1986 article in the New York Times at the time of Mme Patino's selling a number antiques in preparation for the move to the relatively small apartment presented in the previous post stated, "A room at Versailles is furnished with seven of their finest pieces - a pair of armchairs, a pair of corner cabinets, a commode, a chaise and an armoire."

The Second Floor Plan of the
hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image: private collection.
The Third Floor of the
hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.
Image: private collection.
Thanks again to T.B. for the rare, vintage images of hotel Blumenthal-Montmorency.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Notable Homes: Beatriz Patino, Plaine Monceau

The Living Room of the Plaine Monceau apartment
of Madame Antenor Patino as decorated by Francois Catroux.
Photo by Marina Faust for Architectural Digest.
The series of posts of The Devoted Classicist under the heading of Notable Homes showcases the furnishings and architecture of residences whose former owners had a particularly strong interest in classically inspired decorative arts.  Although this pied-à-terre in the neighborhood of Paris known as the Plaine Monceau was not without architectural details, printed fabric was used to play a significant role in the décor and create a cohesive theme.  Fabric from the French firm Bracquenié (sold in the U.S. through Pierre Frey) was used extensively, but not mentioned in the Architectural Digest article that was the source of these photos by Marina Faust;  perhaps it was because the fabric company did not advertise in the magazine. After the owner Beatriz Patino's death in 2009, many of the furnishings were sold in an auction by Sotheby's Paris on September 22, 2010;  photos and information from the sale catalog appear here to provide more insight into the decoration of the apartment.

The giltwood mirror above the chimneypiece is one
of a pair, Italian, mid-18th century.
Note that Sotheby's shows it reversed.
Sold:  $152,919.
All prices are the hammer price plus buyer's premium.
The two female Chinese porcelain figures are 37 2/3 inches high
and date from the Qing dynasty, 19th century.
Sold:  $39,379.
A pair of giltwood brackets in the Louis XV style.
Sold:  $3,332.
A pair of tables of ebony, Boulle marquetry, and bronze doré
Louis XVI style, first half of the 19th century.
Sold:  $52,173.
A pair of gilt bronze candelabra in the form of a
satyr and a nymph, after Van Clere,
1st half of the 19th century.  Now mounted as lamps.
Sold:  $15,825.
Hercules and the Centaur bronze group, Italian,
after the models by Giamolonga and Ferdinando Tacca,
19th century.  26 in. high, 20 in. wide.
Sold:  $28,185.
Pair of gilt bronze wall lights with three arms
from the crown of a satyr's mask.  Louis XIV.
Sold:  $48,974.
The area was farmland around the village of Monceau until the late 19th century when it began to be developed with mansions and upscale apartment houses, so it was decided that this apartment in a landmark building overlooking Parc Monceau would be decorated to show an influence of the Belle Epoque.
Another view of the Living Room.
The bookcase cabinet, purchased for the apartment,
 once belonged to Lord Nelson; 
moldings are carved to look like ship's riggings.
Photo by Marina Faust,
published in Architectural Digest, 1989.
Beatriz Patino, was the widow of art collector Antenor Patino.  (The eldest son of "the King of Tin," the Bolivian tycoon Antenor Patino might be best known to the general public as the developer of the Mexican resort Las Hadas which was used as a location in the Bo Derek film "10").  The previous Patino residences on the avenue Foch (to be featured in the following post) and the rue d'Andigné were decorated in a sumptuous eighteenth century manner.  But interior designer Francois Catroux, who had worked on several other Patino residences, projected that the furniture from Versailles and other palatial-scaled pieces would appear out of place in the new apartment; he sent the historic furnishings to be auctioned at Sotheby's and kept only the "slighter" pieces.

A pair of overdoor panels by Jacques-Charles Oudry,
each depicting a hunting scene, oil on canvas.
Sold:  $272,854.
In the January, 1989, issue of Architectural Digest, Mme. Patino admitted, "I'd become accustomed to the eighteenth century, which was a somewhat tyrannical era in interior decoration.  The Victorian period is fairly new to me, but I like it very much.  I picked up a few pretty English pieces, but I also kept my 'old things,' the things I love best:  a very handsome eighteenth-century bronze, the large vases I like so much, some beautiful corner cabinets and the overdoor panels that were painted by Oudry."

Circular table of mahogany and giltwood, early 19th century. 
Restorations.  35 in. dia, 29.5 in. high.
Sold:  $9,995.
Portrait of a lady wearing a blue dress,
attributed to Jean-Francois Garneray.
Sold:  $58,569.
A pair of rare Consulat chairs, 1798,
with legs in the form of lion legs,
stamped C. Sene.
Sold:  $45,776.

A view of the Living Room
as it appeared in the Sotheby's catalog.
By the time of the photography for the 2010 auction catalog, the off-white wall-to-wall carpeting that had covered the floors as a foundation for antique rugs had been replaced by a multi-colored patterned carpet.  In addition, the primary upholstery in the Living Room had also been replaced, not just recovered but new seating models.  The 8.5 ft long, curved sofa in raspberry cotton was estimated at the equivalent of $3,998 to $5,331, and sold for $26,586.  (All the prices reflect an conversion from Euros to U.S. Dollars).

The Dining Room of the Patino apartment.
Photo by Marina Faust for Architectural Digest.
A patinated and giltwood chandelier, probably Italian
or Austrian, in the neoclassical taste, late 18th or
early 19th century.  Re-gilded.  37.75 in. dia.
Sold:  $36,181.
A suite of eight chairs, ebonized and giltwood, Italy.
Six from the late 18th century, two of a later date.
Sold:  $36,181.
Mme. Patino was quoted to also say, "I still have a small painting that I gave to the Louvre but which they're letting me keep for a while.  And the floral still lifes I already had go so well with the fabric Francois chose for the dining room that the décor seems to have happened all by itself."  Devoted Readers will appreciate the decorative attention given the dining room bookcases with the shelves covered in the same damask as the walls and the lower cabinets with concealed doors faced with false book spines.

The Library of the Patino apartment.
Photo by Marina Faust for Architectural Digest.
A pair of stoneware vases, French,
now mounted as table lamps.
Sold:  $4,998.
A gilt bronze wall light, Italian, late 18th century,
after a drawing by Giocondo Albertolli,
with a copy of a later date.
Estimate:  $26,653 to $39,979.
Sold:  $200,895.
The Library as it appeared in the Sotheby's catalog
with the wallcovering and carpeting replaced.
The 19th century, red and gold lacquer low table
sold for $2, 499.
The Catroux-designed daybed and two chairs
upholstered in Bracquenié fabric
sold for $6,350.
The portrait of a seated woman with the signature
F. Gerard 1809
sold for $19,990.
An engraved silver box with the lid fitted with a
watercolor by Catherine Sérébriakoff dated 1969,
Sold:  $34,582.
"I don't immerse myself in flowered fabrics for every occasion," continues Mme. Patino.  "My New York apartment, except for my bedroom, is done completely differently.  It's as though the vocation of the Paris apartment is to be a place apart, with a particular style that befits the building it's in.  I find it very attractive.  I don't hold big parties there, but I often give small dinners, two tables for ten at most.  It's a style of entertaining that goes well with the intimate character of the rooms."
The Master Bedroom of the Patino apartment.
Photo by Marina Faust for Architectural Digest.
The bed with hangings as shown
sold for $10,828.
"Make no mistake," Francois Catroux warned.  "More premeditation and complexity go into a décor like this than go into planning a period apartment.  Each detail has to be worked out with all the others to create an impression.  As in painting, you have to proceed stroke by stroke.  I wanted to avoid pomposity and give Mme. Patino a feeling of comfort and delicacy.  Just because pretentiousness is absent doesn't mean discipline is absent too."
Interior designer Francois Catroux in the Patino apartment.
Photo by Marina Faust for Architectural Digest.
The Sotheby's catalog also showed another room that appears to be a spacious Entrance Hall.  Although there is the same multi-colored carpet that was used as a replacement in the adjacent Living Room, the other furnishings would appear to date from the original Catroux decorating scheme.

The modern banquette upholstered in raspberry cotton
sold for $7,996.
The pair of giltwood guéridons porte-torchéres in the Louis XV style
sold for $8,329.
The swags/jabots and Austrian shade
sold for $500.
A giltwood center table, Régence.
Sold:  $36,181.
A Régence giltwood mirror, altered.
Sold:  $7,996.
A hanging lantern of cut green glass,
probably Swedish, 19th century.
Sold:  $31,384.
The Patino apartment is an interesting example of "down-sizing," illustrating that the term is relative.

Other essays in the Notable Homes series have featured Cragwood, the residence of Jane and Charles Engelhard decorated by Parish-Hadley, here and here; La Fiorentina, the residence of Mary and Harding Lawrence decorated by Billy Baldwin, here, here, and here; the apartment at 2 East 67th Street, New York City, of Mildred and Charles Allen, Jr., decorated by Stephane Boudin of Maison Jansen, here and here; and Mercer House, the Savannah, Georgia, residence of infamous antiques dealer Jim Williams, here and here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace from the southeast.
The wing containing Apartment No. 1A
overlooks a private garden to the south.
With the anticipation of the birth of an heir to the British throne, an up-grade in accommodations at Kensington Palace was granted William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  Soon improvements will be complete on the largest of the private apartments at Kensington Palace, No. 1A.  This is a reversal of policy from a few years a go that royal residency at Kensington Palace would be phased out.  No. 1A was last occupied by Princess Margaret who died in 2002.

An aerial view of Kensington Palace
This is a near repeat of about fifty years ago when the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 and received a relatively minor apartment in Kensington Palace.  But when Margaret informed the Queen of her pregnancy, No. 1A was assigned to the young family.  The apartment occupies a section of the clock tower wing designed by Sir Christopher Wren for King William and Queen Mary in the 17th century.  It had been occupied by Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, until her death in 1939, then by Victoria's grandson, the Marquess of Carisbrooke. 

Apartment No. 1A is to the right (south)
of the Clock Court.

No. 1A is essentially a four-story attached house, what would be called a terrace house in England.  Most sources cite it as having 20 rooms but others list it as having 57 rooms, which seems to be counting the service rooms such as the linen storeroom, the luggage room, a drying room, a pantry just for crystal, and a photographic studio.

The entrance to the Clock Court in the 1920s.
An 18 month renovation for the Snowdons was provided through an allotment of GBP 85,000 plus a matching amount (largely used for furnishings) from their private income, minus a gift of GBP 20,000 provided by the Queen. 

A vintage view of the Entrance Hall of No. 1A.
Photo via Royal Dish blog.
The main reception rooms are on the ground floor with the Entrance Hall acting as a spine along the inner courtyard, running the entire length of the wing.  There's an elegant Drawing Room, a Dining Room, a Study used by Lord Snowdon, a Conservatory, and a Guest Cloak Room (which we would call a Powder Room).

Princess Margaret in her Drawing Room, circa 1981,
Apartment No. 1A, Kensington Palace.
Photo via Easy Branches blog.
Lord Snowdon's uncle, Oliver Messel, advised on the décor, as did Snowdon's lifelong friend, Carl Toms, a set designer.  The Regency Style Drawing Room had walls of kingfisher blue with a custom made neo-classical rug designed by Toms.

The Dining Room, in a photo believed to be taken for
a function after Princess Margaret's occupation.
Photo via Royal Dish blog.
During their courtship, Tony would prepare meals for just the two of them in his rented room and she would clean up afterwards.  So the concept of a Family Kitchen was an important feature and the first for a royal palace. 

The Snowdons' Kitchen.
Photo via Royal Dish blog.
The Kitchen was 350 square feet with modern cabinets of white and teak-patterned plastic laminate with stainless steel countertops and a sculptural exhaust hood.  In addition to a 100 square foot larder, it contained all the modern conveniences of the time: a large refrigerator, a deep freezer, and a garbage disposal.

Princess Margaret in her wedding tiara
in a photo by Lord Snowdon.
Image via
As customary, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon each had their own bedroom and bathroom.  Hers was fitted with white marble and, as her specific request, an orchid-color sink.  But a departure from tradition was having the rooms for Viscount Linley on the same floor as his parents.  The baby had a night nursery and a day nursery, plus his own kitchen and bathroom.  Additionally, there were three more principal bedrooms and dressing rooms, nine staff bedrooms, four staff bathrooms, two staff kitchens, and two staff sittings rooms.  (Apparently the distinction between the staff rooms was due to a hierarchy among the servants).  Lord Snowdon, who had studied architecture before becoming a popular photographer, insisted on some modern features such as flush doors and what we in the US would call Danish Modern detailing for his Study;  in addition, he wanted some electric devices that did not meet the approval of the Ministry of Works, according to sources.  What may or may not have been a coincidence, a fire delayed the Snowdons moving in.

The Third Floor of Kensington Palace.
Image via Royal Dish blog.
In this color-coded floor plan, the pink rooms are the State Apartment maintained by Historic Royal Palaces that may be visited as a museum.  The violet rooms are one of four floors of Apt No. 1A.  The tan rooms are Apt 1, now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (Prince Richard);  formerly it was the home of his mother, Princess Alice, and the home of Princess Marina before that.  The green rooms are Apt 8/9, formerly the apartment of Diana, Princess of Wales;  part (or all) of it is now used as The Prince's Drawing School.  The golden rooms are the apartment of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

A proposal to improve the public entrance,
with the architectural changes not realized.
Image via Historic Royal Palaces.
The current renovation of No. 1A underway for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is reportedly costing approximately $1.52 million.  Some news sources are guessing that the interior design is being carried out by antiques dealer & designer Annabel Elliot, the sister of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, William's stepmother.  However, the media had seen Catherine shopping at up-scale speciality retail shops for nursery items and there has been speculation that Kelly Hoppen has contributed to that room at least.

An alternate new public entrance to Kensington Palace.
This design, with a few changes, was built.
Image by John Simpson Architects via London Evening Standard.
Kensington Palace has also been in the news for the GBP 12 million refurbishment in honor of the Queen's Jubilee.  It is unique that it is the only British royal palace where the general public can visit the garden and the ground floor of the State Apartments wing free of charge.  John Simpson Architects, one of Prince Charles' favorites, designed the new ticket court and the new public entrance, the latter being controversial for its design.  (After the first design for the entrance was rejected, an alternate that was lower and not attached to the building was submitted as a compromise).  A new garden approach was designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan.  A previous post of The Devoted Classicist about Todd and his work at Kensington Palace may be read here.  A post on Todd's London home, Malplaquet House, may be read here.

Landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
at the base of the statue of Queen Victoria
in the garden he designed at Kensington Palace.
Photo via