Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Collections at Auction : 1st in a Series Being The Pescheteau-Badin Auction of The Maurice Aicardi Estate Collection... A Truly Gentlemanly Style!

In November of 2007, The Parisian auction house Pescheteau-Badin, conducted the auction of the collections of the late Maurice Aicardi. This auction house is not as widely known outside of Europe as are Sotheby's, Christie's or even Doyle's and Phillips. But to Europeans - particularly the French collecting circles, it is known for it's very respectable offerings of fine estates of the second rank that don't have the impact that such estates as that of the late Yves Saint Laurent would have enjoyed. Yet, to informed collectors, such auctions are truly a gold mine with possibilities and the excitement of discovery and acquisition!

Maurice Aicardi's taste in arranging his home was clearly influenced by the great taste makers of his time like Charles de Beistegui, Madame Castaing, Georges Geoffroy and Maison Jansen. You see it in the patterned carpets, the leopard skin fabrics on chairs and pillows, the red walls of the chambre `a coucher, the walls covered with lovely paintings including lots of portraits of gentleman and ladies in their bewigged and powdered finery, interspersed with amazing effortlessness alongside prints and drawings in framed with delicate watercoloured mats. This is the nearly extinct easy civilized taste of a generation of European that still emerges at auction from time to time today as the last of this generation passes... And what they can teach us about l'art de vivre is invaluable!

Above all however, Aicardi was a true collector and that is something of which one cannot lose sight as one peruses the photos of his elegant Parisian residence in the Palais Royale.

The decorating seems to have just taken care of itself! This man bought quality! He clearly wanted good representational pieces ranging from the early 18th Century to the early 19th Century. But he was more interested in his acquisitions being fine rather than just accumulating trophies to impress. Like Beistegui, he had no qualms about putting a pair of Consulat chairs in a room with a Louis XVI semainier under a Regence portrait. But unlike Beistegui, he was collecting more than decorating and clearly sought good examples of good straight forward period furniture and other decorative art. Such collectors of French furniture from Louis XIV to the Restauration were more concerned with quality than labels or just stage set decorating and that breed are noticeably on the wane today. And before the last of these very seigneurial decorative ensembles and collections completely disappear, they should be recorded, photographed, studied and appreciated for the lessons they can impart to us in this hurried world where it's unlikely anything like this way of life they represented will be seen again. Helas!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

La Ville De Versailles, A Serious Series of Visits: 1st in the Series Being An Introduction with MUCH MORE TO COME!

Although I had been taken there as a child, I consider my first visit to Versailles was in 2000 to quietly celebrate my recent 40th birthday in late 1999. I recall working on a epic scale appraisal and subsequent liquidation sale of the estate of a rather prominent interior designer that summer and autumn during which time the workload was so intense that a birthday in France was unthinkable. Those same circumstances also regrettably impeded me from going to France to see the historic preview of the Sotheby's auction for the Chateau de Groussay which I have ever regretted. But duty has to come first I suppose... Anyone who knows anything about the life of an art/antiques appraiser knows it's hard work and late hours in often inclement environments. And this one was not only huge. It was gritty and ugly! The decedent had been murdered brutally and left no will. He also left behind a cornucopia of personal property as well as his stock in trade that took up his residence (where I had to record the contents amidst clear bloodstains in the master bedroom where he was murdered), a showroom in Miami's well known "Design District" which is not particularly safe at night when I would have to routinely continue working, and 2 warehouses in the poor "Little Haiti" area of Miami with NO AC in August and in which I also had to work routinely well into the night just to keep up with the work load and the deadlines. What sustained me during this epic assignment was the determination to reward myself when it was over and go spend a week in the city of Versailles about which I knew nothing by first hand experience and of which I deeply yearned to know more. To other colleagues and friends also interested in the great Chateau de Versailles, the ancien régime, and the decorative arts of the joyful 18th Century this seemed odd indeed. Invariably, the response was either "You mean you're going to Paris of course..." to "Why don't you stay in Paris and just take the train into Versailles? You'll be bored to death... What will you do when you're not in the Chateau? There is nothing there!"

Thank God I learned a long time ago to follow my instincts which were heavily reinforced by years and years of reading. And was I ever rewarded! La Ville de Versailles is glorious! Not only that, in spite of the inevitable demolition here and inexcusable alteration there, the city is home to historic buildings including homes of royal mistresses, artists, courtiers and all the old "friends" about whom any lover of the French court from the age of Louis XIV to the Revolution has read in endless histories, diaries, letters and memoires of the period. The rewards of a sojourn in early 21st Versailles are manifold! Outside of the chateau itself, there are virtually no crowds. The smaller Musée Lambinet which is a former 18 eme Hôtel Particulier converted into a museum similar in mission statement to that of the Carnavalet and which is largely devoted to the history of La Ville de Versailles is peaceful and pregnant with glorious collections including period rooms, paintings, porcelains, objets d'art and has hosted major landmark exhibitions on such masters of the 18th Century as the painter
Jean-Jacques Bachelier or the Sculptor Simon Boizot. Stay tuned for more about this subject to which I have devoted many rewarding years of study and visits. Et Vive le Roi!