Saturday, April 27, 2013


A design for a wall light
for Chanel, 1940.
Image:  1stDibs.
My friend and sometimes collaborator Hector Alexander recently snagged a drop-dead low table during the opening minutes of an estate sale that had been produced by the elite firm Maison Baguès.  Still in business and noted for its distinctive (and often copied) light fixtures, the atelier once also produced a line of accessory tables.

A bronze low table
with a lacquer top.
Image:  Elle Décor.
Either a palm frond or bamboo motif were popular leg forms for these tables.  Hector's low table in the form as shown above has a clear glass top, but the same model with the original smoky antique mirror top was offered in 2002 by Malmaison Antiques in NYC for $20,000.

A small tripod table
in the bamboo motif
with a marble top.
Image:  1stDibs.
Noël Baguès started a firm in Paris around 1860 that produced bronze candlesticks and other items used in Christian worship services.

An advertisement for Eugene Baguès.
Image:  eBay.
Eugene Baguès in his New York office.
Image:  Elle Décor.
His son Eugene introduced bronze light fixtures in 1880.  In turn, Eugene's sons Victor and Robert expanded the lighting collection in the 1920s and added gilded iron fixtures as well.  At one time, there were additional retail branches in New York, London, Brussels, Rome, and Cairo.

The Galleon chandelier
is one of the signature pieces of
Maison Baguès.
Although the company went under the control of bankers during The Great Depression, Victor's son Jean-Pierre was able to eventually buy back the company in 1957 and revived the collection and also made new introductions.

A sconce for seven candles in the popular
double parakeet form.  Also available
in a number of variations, this sconce
is the most copied by other makers.
Image:  Elle Décor.
When Jean-Pierre Baguès retired in 1995, his successor Mr. Souriou relocated the business to Viaduc des Arts in Paris, an area of fine metal-workers.  In 2007, a second location was added to make large chandeliers and other products.

An inventive model using the bamboo motif
in gilt and patinated bronze.
Image:  Elle Décor.
In 2011 Mr. Gesteau formed an association with the maker of decorative cabinet hardware Bronzes of France.  Some pages of a vintage Baguès catalog may be seen on the web site of Riad Kneife here, a reference for some of the dates and names associated with the firm.  The current catalog of Maison Baguès may be seen here. 

A mirror of eglomise glass
in a giltwood frame.
Image:  Elle Décor.
One of the best customers of Maison Baguès was the legendary decorating firm Maison Jansen.  Since Jansen furnishings are highly prized, vintage Baguès pieces on the market today are often advertised as "supplied by Jansen" or "Jansen Style".  Baguès items were seldom marked or labeled with the maker's name, which also leads to mis-identification.  Chic antique shops in New York City such as David Duncan Antiques, R. Louis Bofferding, and Malmaison Antiques often have Baguès light fixtures and occasional tables among their offerings.  And occasionally, the furnishings come up at Sotheby's and Christie's auctions.  Estate sales are generally less dependable as a source, but it helps to have a keen, educated eye like Hector.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pilgrimage to Holly Springs

Walter Place, Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Spires Boling, architect.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Just down the road, about 45 miles from downtown Memphis, there is a town that The Devoted Classicist has known all his life;  it is on the way to his maternal grandparents' home.  In its heyday prior to the War Between The States and changed relatively little since, the little town is full of antebellum homes, ranging from modest to grand.  Named for the natural springs that ran through the hills covered with holly trees, the town is Holly Springs, Mississippi.

The Courthouse Square
Holly Springs, Mississippi
Image via the Marshall County Website.
As a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Chickasaw ceded their land east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. Government in 1832 and were relocated to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).  The town of Holly Springs was founded in 1836 and was made County Seat the next year for the newly created Marshall County, named for the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall.  The surrounding cotton plantations supported the town as a center for law and trading which was booming by 1855 after being connected to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the first link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.

Walter Place. Holly Springs, MS
Photo by Jack Boucher. 1975.
Historic American Building Survey

During the Civil War, Yankee General Ulysses S. Grant used the town as headquarters and supply depot for the campaign to capture control of Vicksburg.  Grant's wife Julia joined her husband, first in Memphis in 1862 and then in Holly Springs when he established a degree of permanence.  Julia Grant occupied the grandest house in town, Walter Place, whose owner was away fighting for the Confederacy.  But at the time of the raid on the depot led by General Van Doren, a party was also sent to capture the general's wife at Walter Place, and it was discovered that Julia Grant and her slave, whom she called Black Julia, happened to be on a visit to nearby Oxford, Mississippi. 

After another period again in Memphis, the Grants returned to Holly Springs, this time living in a Gothic villa built to plans by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan.  Built as the in-town home for Will Henry Coxe who owned Galena Plantation, the house is known as Airliewood.  Now on 15 acres, the house had been extensively restored and added-to by the owners who reported had invested almost $5 million in the property.  Put up at auction with a minimum bid of $750,000, there were no takers.  More about the house in 2010 can be seen on The Architecturalist blog.  Although not part of the 2013 Pilgrimage, Airliewood is now owned by Rust College and is used for functions as well as open for tours.

The magnificent cast iron gates and fence
still survive at Airliewood..
Photo by Jack Boucher, 1975.
Historic American Building Survey
Walter Place was not part of the 2013 Pilgrimage, but it is open for tours as well.  The last private owners, Jorja and Michael Lynn, general manager for the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team, had seen an ad in 1983 with the house for sale.  Jorja Lynn was a native of Holly Springs and had always loved the house, so they bought it as a second home and moved there full time after Michael's retirement in 1992.  They found drawings by Theodore Link dated 1903 for a design for a 40 acre garden and used them as a basis for their landscaping.  Their tries at selling the estate, which also includes two 1830s houses, started at $15 million and dwindled to $5 million, still with no takers.  It is now maintained by the town as a civic attraction.

Oakleigh, now known as Athenia.
Holly Springs, Mississippi, built 1858.
Photo:  Library of Congress.
The house known as Oakleigh, the West Home, and now, Athenia, is near Airliewood and across the street from Montrose. 

Oakleigh, now known as Athenia,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Built in 1858, legend has it that the owner, Judge J.W. Clapp once escaped from a Yankee search by hiding in the column to the far left (west) when facing the house;  it is hollow and has access from the cellar. A private home, it was not on the pilgrimage tour this year.

Imokalea, Holly Springs,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.

Across the street from Walter Place is a raised, brick cottage known as Imokalea which means "Happy Place".  Built in 1840 (or 1844 according to some sources), the walls are 27 inches thick, and it is believed to be the second oldest brick structure still standing in Holly Springs.  The first owner was Mr. Knapp, a silversmith.  A private residence, it was not on the pilgrimage tour this year.  Located at 275 W Chulahoma Avenue, Holly Springs, it is currently listed for sale at $249,900.

Illinois Central Railroad Depot & Hotel
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo collage by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
The original depot was badly damaged by the famous Van Dorn raid during the Civil War, but the ruins were incorporated into the present building dating from 1870.  It is now a private residence and was not on the primary pilgrimage tour.  Across the street and seen to the left in the photo above is the Phillips Grocery, formerly a bar and brothel.  Now it is famous for its food with USA Today exclaiming, "One of the world's greatest burgers!"  They are good, this writer can verify, as are the homemade onion rings, made from sweet Vidalia onions.

Church of the Yellow Fever Martyrs Museum
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Built as an Episcopal Church in 1841 but sold to the Catholics in 1858, it served as a make-shift hospital with the priest, Father Oberti, and the nuns caring for victims of the Yellow Fever Epidemic until they died of the fever themselves.  It was dissembled by hand and rebuilt at this location at 305 East College Avenue to be open to the public as a museum.

The Carriage of Pilgrimage Royalty,
with Percheron  draft horses waiting on East College Avenue,
April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Although the titles "Queen" and "King" are notably avoided, each year there is 'Pilgrimage Royalty' that appear to be of high school senior age and having a family association with the Holly Springs Garden Club, sponsors of the tour festivities.

Holly Springs Pilgrimage Royalty
Wesleyann Gardner Ray, center,
and Joshua Perry Mask, right,
calling at Walthall Place, April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Walthall Place, 1848,
Holly Springs, Mississippi,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
One of Holly Springs' best known citizens is the artist Miss Kate Freeman Clark whose family built Walthall Place in 1848.  After studying under William Merit Chase in New York, Miss Clark returned in 1923 to this house, adding a studio (now removed) which was seldom used if at all.  After her death, more than 1,000 of her paintings were brought from a New York warehouse and installed in a gallery built adjacent with funds provided in her will.  The house is owned by the Kate Freeman Clark Trust and currently occupied by the grand-daughter of the original trust's administrator.  A private residence, it was open for the 2013 pilgrimage.  The gallery was the site of a luncheon during the primary tour but open to visitors afterwards.

Montrose, 1858,
Holly Springs, Mississippi,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Montrose is a grand house built of handmade bricks in 1858 by Alfred Brooks as a gift to his daughter Margaret on the occasion of her marriage to Robert McGowan.  Sadly, she died after the birth of her fifth child and there were several owners until a widow, Mrs. Minnie Wooten Johnson bought it in 1938.  Employing Memphis architect Everett Wood (well known in his own right in addition to being the step-brother of nationally-known architect Neander Montgomery Wood), relatively sensitive additions were attached to each side of the original block to provide service areas.

Montrose, 1858 plus circa 1938 additions.
The six windows on the right, upstairs and down,
are in the added service rooms.
Photo by Jack Boucher, 1975,
Historic American Building Survey.
On the death of Mrs. Johnson, the house and its contents which included some original pieces that had been returned were given to the Holly Springs Garden Club as their headquarters.  The club is the sponsor of the annual pilgrimages.

Finley Place, 1859,
Holly Springs, Mississippi.
As it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Of a form typical of so many of the two story houses in the area, Finley Place varies from the norm with its staircase position reversed and starting mid-way in the central hall.  It was designed by architect Spires Boling for Mrs. Rufus Jones.  Later, it was the lifelong residence of Miss Ruth Finley, who, along with her sister Margaret Shackleford, bequeathed the house along with land holdings at Strawberry Plains to the National Audubon Society.  The director of the state headquarters uses Finley Place as his family residence, but it was open for pilgrimage tours.

The Magnolias, 1852,
Holly Springs, Mississippi,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
A nod to the Gothic Revival is seen in The Magnolias, built in 1852 by William F. Mason as a wedding present for his daughter Elizabeth.  Containing some original furnishings, the house has been owned by the present young family for about a year.  It was used as a primary filming location for the 1999 Robert Altman film "Cookie's Fortune".  The delightful house was open for the primary pilgrimage tour as well as the Back House Tour which featured the former slave quarters of various houses in town.

Hedge Farm, 1842,
Red Banks, Mississippi,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
Located near the community of Red Banks, Hedge Farm is a handsome example of a planter's cottage with a façade of flush boards and pilasters giving a sophisticated appearance.  Built in 1842, it is a typical four room plan with a central hall plus a transverse back hall attaching two side-by-side rooms.  Ceiling heights of fourteen feet with 11 foot tall doorways with 'dog ear' Greek Revival trim give distinction to the otherwise simple rooms.  Named for the hedgerows instead of fencing that surrounds the property, 175 of the original 2,000 acres remain with the house.  The current owner, bought the property from another family member and has sensitively renovated it after many years of vacancy.  An addition, painted green on the right in the photo above, houses dressing rooms and bathrooms for the two bedrooms plus provides an attractive L-shaped porch which serves as an outdoor living room.

The back porch of Hedge Farm, circa 2008,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
A new Guest House in the form of an outbuilding was built of old bricks and contains a handsome sitting room with fireplace in the main mass with the bedroom above plus a kitchenette and bathroom in the auxiliary attached shed.

The Guest House at Hedge Farm, circa 2008,
as it appeared April 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
The garden at Hedge Farm is particularly attractive, with the design based on the creation of several outdoor rooms.

An outdoor Dining Room at Hedge Farm,
as it appeared April, 2013.
Photo by John J. Tackett, The Devoted Classicist blog.
There were also three historic churches on the primary pilgrimage tour, and there was a guided tour of Hillcrest Cemetery as a separate event.  In addition, there were luncheons, a 'true Southern supper' as "Montrose Under the Moonlight," and even a run as "Killer Kudzu 5K."  (Kudzu being an invasive vine that was planted as a Depression era work project to combat erosion).  For further information about the tour and to plan a future visit, see the website

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Orleans Lady

Julia Reed
on the porch of her First Street house
in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Julia Reed, one of the South's most celebrated contemporary writers, bought a circa 1847 Greek Revival house in New Orleans' Garden District with her husband John Pearce in 2004, a year before Hurricane Katrina.  The experience is chronicled in her popular book THE HOUSE ON FIRST STREET: MY NEW ORLEANS STORY.

Julia Reed's house is considered one of New Orleans' most beautiful and hospitable homes.  Decorated with assistance from Thomas Jayne, decorator friends Suzanne Rheinstein and Patrick Dunne also gave advice.  In an article written by Julia Reed for Elle Décor magazine, she says Thomas referred to the team as the "Committee on Taste."  The house is also featured in Thomas' acclaimed book AMERICAN DECORATION: A SENSE OF PLACE.

1236 First Street, New Orleans.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
The Entrance Hall of Julia Reed's house
looking back towards the front door.
Thomas Jayne advocated a neutral decorating
scheme to compliment the adjacent parlors.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio

The Front Parlor contains the pair of
faux bamboo settees purchased before the
house was bought in 2004.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
Looking from the Front Parlor to the Back Parlor.
The bold door and window trim is typical of the
Greek Revival period.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
The Back Parlor is also used as a Music Room.
The gilt catfish on the piano was salvaged
from a Mardi Gras float.
Thomas Jayne suggested the Claremont yellow
silk for the curtains and the chintz from Le Manach.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
The Dining Room contains a sofa from the home
of Julia Reed's grandmother in Nashville.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
The Pantry is painted in Ball Green
paint from Farrow & Ball.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor
The Kitchen contains a range for serious cooking.
Julia Reed wrote the food column for the
"New York Times" magazine for several years.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor
A Guest Bathroom is decorated with 19th century
prints of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor.
The Master Bedroom features an
Aubusson rug on top of sisal.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor
The Library was added in the 20th century.
The stained paneling was painted to resemble pine
 by Julia Reed's childhood friend, Anne McGee.
Photo:  Jayne Design Studio
The Sunroom features Bennison Crewelwork fabric.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor.
Homeowner Julia Reed in the Sunroom
of her house on First Street.
Photo by William Waldron for Elle Décor
Now the house is being offered for sale.  Additional photos may be seen on the real estate website.  Reports are that Julia and her husband are looking at the French Quarter as possibly their next home.
Julia Reed's collection of essays about other experiences can be read in her best-selling book QUEEN OF THE TURTLE DERBY AND OTHER SOUTHERN PHENOMENA.  Additional stories as well as practical advice such as how to cook for compliments are found in HAM BISCUITS, HOSTESS GOWNS, AND OTHER SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES: AN ENTERTAINING LIFE (WITH RECIPES).  Julia Reed is famous as a hostess and some of her best advice will be given in her new book to be released at the end of the month, BUT MAMA ALWAYS PUT VODKA IN HER SANGRIA!: ADVENTURES IN EATING, DRINKING, AND MAKING MERRY.
Devoted Readers in the Chicago area will want to attend a style blogger panel discussion on April 20, 2013, as part of the Antiques & Garden Fair benefiting Chicago Botanic Garden.  Jennifer Boles of The Peak of Chic, Emily Evans Eerdmans of Emily Evans Eerdmans, and Marisa Marcantonio of STYLEBEAT will comprise the panel with the moderator being no other than the always delightful Julia Reed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Duncan Phyfe Comes To Memphis

A very fine pair of Federal period,
carved mahogany side chairs,
attributed to Duncan Phyfe, circa 1815.
Lot 509, Sale NO8959, Sotheby's New York.
Not Mr. Phyfe, himself -- the remarkably successful New York furniture maker died in 1854.  But rather, it is a handsome pair of chairs, attributed to Duncan Phyfe, that has been bought at auction by Decorative Arts Trust and presented as a gift to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  Despite his fame, pieces from Phyfe's shop seldom bore a signature, stamp or label.  Therefore items without documentation such as a receipt or other written accounts are referred to as "attributed to" instead of "made by" Duncan Phyfe. 

Duncan Phyfe.
Born Duncan Fife in Scotland in 1770, at age 14 (or 16 as some sources say) he emigrated with his family to Albany, New York, and found work as a cabinetmaker's apprentice.  After moving to New York City and finding success as a joiner in the furniture trade, he changed the spelling of his name to a more classical appearance when he opened his own business in 1794. 

Shop and Warehouses of Duncan Phyfe.
Watercolor, Unknown Artist, 1816 to 1820.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Duncan Phyfe was not a furniture designer, but he greatly popularized the neo-classical style and became known as "The United States Rage."  Furniture from the shop of Duncan Phyfe was found in the homes of the rich and famous of New York, Philadelphia, and the South, with his reputation for high-quality creating a great demand for neo-classical furniture, peaking between 1805 and 1820.

by Charles Over Cornelius, 1922.
Duncan Phyfe furniture is characterized by the use of classical motifs such as cornucopias, swags & tassels, sheaves of wheat or palms tied with a ribbon, and oak leaf branches with acorns to decorate the back rails of chairs and sofas. A cross, either straight or in ogee form (such as the examples in the first image), or a double cross might used for chairs and settees.   Notably as an alternate, a lyre or harp might be used as the back splat of a chair.
Sketch attributed to Duncan Phyfe.
Collection of Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
On the sketch of the two chairs shown above, the prices are noted as follows:
Above the lyre-back chair:                 
  Cane bottoms   $22
  Cushions              3
  Stuffed              23
Above the Grecian curule-front chair: 
  Cane bottoms   $19
  Cushions Extra     3
  Stuffed bottoms 21
There are records of orders for two dozen chairs for dining rooms, so it is easy to see that this would be an expensive proposition for the time.

Side chair with a lyre back splat,
attributed to Duncan Phyfe, 1815 to 1820.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Side chair with curule legs,
attributed to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe
circa 1810.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
While curule legs are sometimes found on stools, they are unusual for other forms of seating in American furniture.  But Phyfe was committed to classicism and had access to pattern books and catalogs of the period.  Plain Grecian forms based on French Restauration models created furniture with a fresh, bold classical appearance.

Plate 6
New York Cabinetmaker's Book
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Decorative Arts Trust chairs bear similarities with two, in particular, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The hairy legs and paw feet, very desirable features, can be seen on the chair with the lyre back;  coincidently, the same green fabric covers the seat of both chairs.  However, the seat may have originally been caned as seen on the chair with curule legs;  both have the single ogee cross back.

Last year, an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art produced a handsome comprehensive catalog that covers the full chronology of Duncan Phyfe's career.  Three short videos can be seen on the exhibition webpage.

The chairs purchased by Decorative Arts Trust had an interesting provenance, having been owned by noted collectors Mr. and Mrs. Peter Terian, and before that, the curatorial master of American decorative arts, Berry B. Tracy.

The Manhattan Dining Room of Mr. & Mrs. Peter Terian.
After Peter Terian's death in 2002, the widow of the French-born co-founder of Rallye Motors, a luxury car dealership, wanted to down-size and put their homes on the market.  There was a compound of several combined properties in East Hampton with the main house formerly owned by Chevy Chase.  And an apartment at The Dakota that had been formerly owned by Leonard Bernstein.  Judging from the interiors shown in the real estate listings, these chairs probably came from the Manhattan apartment.

Floor plan of apartment unit 23,
The Dakota,
1 West 72nd Street, New York.
Berry B. Tracy, the head curator and driving force behind the 1974 to 1980 renovation of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, was a well-respected authority on American neo-classicism and period interiors.

The re-created parlor of the William C. Williams house,
from Richmond, Virginia, now in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Tracy, who died in 1984, was also largely responsible for the current presentation of the house museum, Boscobel, a reconstruction in Garrison, New York.  The furnishing schemes are representative of Berry's academic and decorative taste in historic re-creations.  The pair of Decorative Arts Trust chairs were formerly in Tracy's own home in Goshen, New York, and once part of a larger set.

Fragments of the historic house Boscobel before reconstruction.
Interestingly, blogger Reggie Darling highlighted the chairs in his post about the Sotheby's auction preview during Antiques Week.  It was classic Good News/Bad News, being glad he was so taken with the chairs but uneasy about drawing attention to them.  Estimated by Sotheby's at $5,000 to $10,000, they sold for a total $12,500, hammer price plus 25% buyer's premium.  The chairs have been admitted to the permanent collection of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and have been exhibited in a showing of recent contributions to the museum by Decorative Arts Trust.