05 February 2016

Boutet de Monvel: infinite refinement

Daughter Sylvie, wife Delfina, and Bernard Boutet de Monvel "the handsomest man in Europe"(according to the American press)

Contents from artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel’s “hotel particulier”, & his studio, in the heart of the Parisian neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is being offered for sale by Sothey's in Paris April 5th and 6th. Featured- around 300 lots, mainly paintings and drawings by the artist and his father, the famous 19th century illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850-1913)The collection, which also comprises antique furniture, Art Deco pieces and pieces of furniture designed by Boutet de Monvel himself, sheds fascinating light on the intimate world and creative genius of Bernard Boutet de Monvel. (from a Sotheby's press release)

The Boutet de Monvel house
"Oh, that poor wisteria will never grow here" Bernard to his daughter Sylvie. 
After Boutet de Monvel's first New York show he hired fashionable Art Deco architect Louis Sue to add on a new wing to his Paris house, pushing out into the gardens, including a dining room, bedroom, and boudoir.

 Bernard Boutet de Monvel with the Place Vendome in the background, Self Portrait at the Ritz, 1932

A painter, engraver, sculptor, decorator, as well as an illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Boutet de Monvel was one of the most celebrated portraitists of his day, as well as a master of Art Deco and American Precisionism. Boutet de Monvel rapidly became one of the favourite portraitists of the Café Society. His models went by the names of Prince Sixte de Bourbon-Parme, William Kissan Vanderbilt, Lady Plunkett, Frick, Whitney and Astor. With his unrivaled aesthetic sense, he was able better than anyone to feature them in a style close to hyper-realism, with a heightened attention for detail and technical perfection. (from Sotheby's)


Sylvie~ Boutet de Monvel's only child

1928, age 6



In the hall, a marble top table with iron column shape legs-designed by B. Boutet de Monvel. Coarse white linen curtains hang at the doors. The walls are white throughout the house with the exception of the Library where the walls are black. Charles X Restoration furnishings and a barometer from the same period decorate the space.

Elegant black and white marble floors, faux marble columns of green are illuminated by an octagonal glass lantern from Italy. Charles X Era appointments along with B. B. de M.'s hat rests on the bronze Empire bench.


(drawing by B de M for Harper's Bazaar, 1927)

The Boutet de Monvel dining room overlooks the garden. An octagonal table of mirror and glass was executed after a Boutet de Monvel drawing. Around the table and along the walls, black chairs in lacquer, are covered with tapestries representing a variety of vegetables. At left, there is a mirrored vitrine containing Wedgwood displayed on shelves hanging over a glamorous chain mail (camouflaged) radiator. Faux painted marble columns contrast with the white walls and simple canvas curtains in white hang alongside the columns. The chandelier is Venetian.


Napoléon III inlaid mother of pearl tables & chairs fill the room. Three  armchairs are covered in dusty pink and garnet satin.  Placed around the room are Venetian blackamoors in all attitudes. 

Over the room's black sofa hangs a painting by Bernard's father, Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, of Bernard and his brother Roger.


Delfina Edwards Bello, from the great Chilean family, a descendant of the great line of the Edwards, who had emigrated from England in the early 19th century, married Bernard Boutet de Monvel in April 1921.

Delfina wearing a hat by Jeanne Lanvin, 1922.

Bernard painted Delfina wearing Pierre Piguet, 1936. 


A Charles X sleigh bed in maple with rosewood decorative motifs, ruffled batiste curtains, and blue satin bed coverings set the warm feminine mood of Madame's bedroom, along with rosewood pieces from the same period. Armchairs are covered in floral tapestry and needlework. 

The room houses a very fine collection of blue and pink opaline displayed in mirrored vitrines and collected Bernard, who loved to browse in antique shops. Boutete de Monvel painted an array of feminine objects in the room; a hand mirror, hat, dancing shoes, slippers, fan, scarf, and neck ruff. At the center of the room- a period Charles X Restoration table is surrounded by chairs in petit point swans and shells from the same era. Suspended over the table a gilded Empire lantern of white & blue glass.


In the painter's room, white cotton cloth curtains are trimmed in light blue silk tassels with gilded stylized swans adorning the cornices. The entire room is styled in Charles X furniture of maple and rosewood and the chairs are covered in floral tapestries on a white ground. One of the many pieces in Boutet de Monvel's collection of blue opaline rests on a Charles X console.

(another view of Bernard Boutet de Monvel's room)

"All my life I'll be hearing my mother saying over and over, Mind the step." -Sylvie, about the treacherous step down into her bedroom.

As an adult Sylvie slept in her mother's room-incorporating her father's bed into the setting. Over the bed is a portrait of the young Sylvie in profile by her father with her dog, Champagne. "I asked for the dog one year for a Christmas present. He would whine for hours, but I was sure he was singing for me."

SYLVIE, 1941, age 19

The  exquisite SECOND EMPIRE library is paneled in black pearl and lacquer. The chairs are upholstered in two shades of blue silk. The decorative motifs are painted by Boutet de Monvel and represent the attributes of the painter, the compass which he loved to use in his paintings, along with the palette, and the rule.

Sylvie, age 19

Few collections illustrate an artist's genius so brilliantly. Sotheby's sale pays tribute to a man whose elegance fascinated his peers, and who was described as "the handsomest man in Europe" by the American press. He turned beauty into a lifestyle, seeking perfection from his servants' uniforms to his young daughter's fringe of hair. He influenced a numerous artists after him, ranging from Andy Warhol to Robert Mapplethorpe. (from the Sotheby's press release)

a film about the sale at Sotheby's here

29 January 2016

Valentino e Mariano

Valentino's runway in Paris this week was awash in Fortuny fabrics~
Inspired by Fortuny's rich textiles-velvet, cotton, emboss, and embellished with embroidery.

My favorites were the cotton prints in patchwork with the edges fringed- Of course.

 all photographs are from Vogue UK.

27 January 2016


February will come roaring in- no doubt- with insipid Valentine verse and the Oscars.
This dress from Giambattista Valli is truly Oscar-worthy.
Won't you be Mine?

photos from Vogue UK by Indigital here

20 January 2016

the Artist's wife...

Mme. in her Salon by Paul Cesar Helleu

Alicia Guérin, future wife of Paul Cesar Helleu was his constant model and muse.
No doubt a beauty, yet there have been many artists who used their wives as models-and many more- less beautiful. When Alice was 14 Helleu was commissioned to paint her-and the pair married two years later. They were in love & Helleu had secured a beautiful model for life.

Celebrated artist in Belle Epoque Paris, with friends like aesthete Robert de Montesquiou, painter friends Jacques Emile Blanche and Degas, Countess Greffulhe, and Proust, Helleu captured Paris's beau monde during the era. Helleu became the model for artist Elstir in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. His friend Walter Gay painted vignettes in the Helleu home, while life long friend John Singer Sargent painted Jacques and Alicia both.

Chez HELLEU~Alicia

The distingue Helleu in his salon 45, Rue Emile Menier, Paris 1890. 
Photograph by Dornac
A Helleu drypoint portrait rests on the settee


the settee...

Mme. Helleu in the Helleu Salon by Paul Helleu

Walter Gay~Chez Helleu
45, Rue Emile Menier
 Walter Gay, 1902.

Walter Gay Chez Helleu, 1909.

Mme. ~ Chez Helleu

...painting the Artist's wife

Helleu & Alicia-by JSS. Helleu is sketching Alicia

Helleu became friends with when he was just 18-and Sargent-four years old was already known as a well known portraitist. After praising Helleu's work, Helleu offered it as a gift. Sargent replied"I shall gladly accept this, Helleu, but not as a gift. I sell my own pictures, and I know what they cost me by the time they are out of my hand. I should never enjoy this pastel if I hadn't paid you a fair and honest price for it." With this he paid him a thousand-franc note.

in the punt, Violet (Sargent's sister) and Alicia, by JSS

...the artist's wife in the Salon

...the escritoire
see the escritoire in the Dornac photograph


...lounging on a chaise

...with Paulette in the Salon

Mme. Helleu appeared on the cover of Femina twice in 1906, this one of her breastfeeding baby Paulette

Hide & Seek 

Madame Helleu reading to Paulette 

Alicia with Paulette looking at Helleu's drawing boards 

Helleu retired to family life after realizing the Belle Epoque was over, but during his day he painted everyone who was anyone- the Duchess of Marlborough,(Consuelo), Madame CasatiHelena Rubenstein, Jeanne Toussaint, Madeleine Chéruit, Gladys Deacon (later another Duchess of Marlborough), Anna de Noailles, Belle Epoque beauty Liane de Pougy, and Coco Chanel. 

HELLEU today

Helleu had suggested Chanel's signature color Beige, of the Biarritz sand. His suggestion remains. Helleu's son Jean went on to be the artistic director of Parfums Chanel- as did his grandson Jacques.

 Chanel by Helleu, and Jacques Helleu of Chanel

Helleu etchings prominently displayed in the beautiful home of Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels's Manhattan apartment, from Architectural Digest, 2011. 

photographs by Roger Davies, here at AD

...my own little Helleu

Links and Sources:
Daily Telegraph here
NYSD here
Helleu.org here
Open Library here
& Pinterest here
Wiki here
Slate Magazine here


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