Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Gothic Revival Room / Introducing Strawberry Hill

In May 1747 Horace Walpole took a lease on a small 17th-century house that was "little more than a cottage", with 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land from a Mrs. Chenevix. Horace was under familial and political pressure to establish a country seat, especially a family castle, which was a fashionable practice during the period. The following year he purchased the house which the original owner, a coachman, had named "Chopped Straw Hall". This was intolerable to Walpole, "his residence ought, he thought, to possess some distinctive appellation; of a very different character..." Finding an old lease that described his land as "Strawberry Hill Shot", Walpole adopted this new name for his soon to be "elegant villa".

In stages, Walpole rebuilt the house to his own specifications, giving it a Gothic style and expanding the property to 46 acres (190,000 m2) over the years. As Rosemary Hill notes, "Strawberry Hill was the first house without any existing medieval fabric to be [re]built from scratch in the Gothic style and the first to be based on actual historic examples, rather than an extrapolation of the Gothic vocabulary first developed by William Kent. As such it has a claim to be the starting point of the Gothic Revival."

Walpole and two friends, including the connoisseur and amateur architect, John Chute (1701–1776), and draughtsman and designer, Richard Bentley (1708–1782), called themselves a "Committee of Taste" or "Strawberry Committee"[which would modify the architecture of the building. Bentley left the group abruptly after an argument in 1761. Chute had an "eclectic but rather dry style" and was in charge of designing most of the exterior of the house and some of the interior. To Walpole, he was an "oracle of taste". Walpole often disagreed with Bentley on some of his wayward schemes, but admired his talent for illustration.

William Robinson of the Royal Office of Works contributed professional experience in overseeing construction. They looked at many examples of architecture in England and in other countries, adapting such works as the chapel at Westminster Abbey built by Henry VII for inspiration for the fan vaulting of the gallery, without any pretence at scholarship. Chimney-pieces were improvised from engravings of tombs at Westminster and Canterbury and Gothic stone fretwork blind details were reproduced by painted wallpapers, while in the Round Tower added in 1771, the chimney-piece was based on the tomb of Edward the Confessor "improved by Mr. Adam".

He incorporated many of the exterior details of cathedrals into the interior of the house. Externally there seemed to be two predominant styles 'mixed'; a style based on castles with turrets and battlements, and a style based on Gothic cathedrals with arched windows and stained glass.

The building evolved similarly to how a medieval cathedral often evolved over time, with no fixed plan from the beginning. Indeed, Michael Snodin argues, "the most striking external feature of Strawberry Hill was its irregular plan and broken picturesque silhouette". Walpole added new features over a thirty-year period, as he saw fit.

The first stage to make, in Walpole's words, a 'little Gothic castle' began in 1749 and was complete by 1753, a second stage began in 1760, and there were other modifications such as work on the great north bedchamber in 1772, and the "Beauclerk Tower" of the third phase of alterations, completed to designs of a professional architect, James Essex, in 1776. The total cost came to about £20,720.

Walpole's 'little Gothic castle' has significance as one of the most influential individual buildings of such Rococo "Gothick" architecture which prefigured the later developments of the nineteenth century Gothic revival, and for increasing the use of Gothic designs for houses. This style has variously been described as Georgian Gothic, Strawberry Hill Gothic, or Georgian Rococo.

Walpole's eccentric and unique style on the inside rooms of Strawberry Hill complemented the Gothic exterior. The house is described by Walpole as "the scene that inspired, the author of The Castle of Otranto", though Michael Snodin has observed: "it is an interesting comment on 18th-century sensibility that the melancholy interiors of The Castle of Otranto were suggested by the light, elegant, even whimsical rooms at Strawberry Hill".

 The Library

The interiors of Walpole's "little play-thing house" were intended to be "settings of Gothic 'gloomth' for Walpole's collection". His collection of curious, singular, antiquarian objects was well publicized; Walpole himself published two editions of A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill to make the "world aware of the extent of his collection".

Speaking on Walpole's collection, Clive Wainwright states that Walpole's collection "constituted an essential part of the interiors of his house". The character of the rooms at Strawberry Hill was "created and dictated" by Walpole's taste for antiquarianism. Though even without the collection present, the house "retains a fairy-tale quality".

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill Collection of several thousand items can still be viewed today. The Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University now has a database which "encompasses the entire range of art and artifacts from Walpole's collections, including all items whose location is currently known and those as yet untraced but known through a variety of historical records".

The collections

For Walpole, physical objects were doorways to the past. Most of the things at Strawberry Hill told at least one story. Walpole put great emphasis on the provenance of the objects he assembled and delighted in being able to add his name to the list of famous collectors reaching back to the 16th century.

Walpole's collection of ceramics was the largest and most varied in England. It ranged from ancient Greek pots and masterpieces of Renaissance maiolica and earthenware through to modern porcelain.

Walpole believed that his collection of enamels and miniatures was the 'largest and finest in any country'. By his death in 1797, he owned around 130 miniatures, painted in watercolour on vellum or ivory, and nearly 40 enamels. Walpole's account of miniatures and enamels in the Anecdotes of Painting established their reputation as a serious art form.

From the 1770s, Strawberry Hill became famous for 'Works of Genius … by Persons of Rank and Gentlemen not artists'. Most of these amateur artists were women, chief among them the painter and designer Lady Diana Beauclerk and the sculptor Anne Damer.

Horace Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting in England, published by the Strawberry Hill Press between 1762 and 1780, was the first history of English art. Walpole modelled it on Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists, and it still forms the basis of English art history. In its complete form the Anecdotes included sections on sculptors, architects and engravers, and an 'Essay on Modern Gardening'.

This content was originally written in association with the exhibition 'Horace Walpole & Strawberry Hill', on display at the V&A South Kensington between 6 March and 4 July 2010.

The exhibition was organised by the V&A, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, and the Yale Center for British Art.

To explore more of Walpole's original collection, visit the Lewis Walpole Library database of objects in their collection.

Following extensive restoration by the Strawberry Hill Trust, the house re-opened in 2010. To find out more, visit the Friends of Strawberry Hill website.

Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole's fantasy castle, to open its doors again

Private rooms in the pile that inspired the first Gothic novel in 1764, and a whole style of architecture, have always been off-limits to the public – until now
Strawberry Hill will reopen to the public on 1 March.

Maev Kennedy
Wednesday 25 February 2015 17.10 GMT

The collector, scholar and legendary gossip Horace Walpole woke one morning in June 1764 in the extraordinary fantasy home he had created near the Thames, west of London.

Strawberry Hill had – and now has again after years of careful restoration – roof, battlement and mantelpieces bristling with spires and gargoyles, stairs and bookcases copied from the tombs of medieval kings. Its passageways and library ceilings were embellished with imagined ancestors, and windows glitter with stained glass collected by the crate load from across Europe.

On that summer morning he had experienced a dream so vivid that he sat down in his study and began to write a book which changed the course of literary history. The Castle of Otranto is widely regarded as the first Gothic novel, and, with its knights, villains, wronged maidens, haunted corridors and things that go bump in the night, is the spiritual godfather of Frankenstein and Dracula, the creaking floorboards of Edgar Allan Poe and the shifting stairs and walking portraits of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. When the house reopens to the public on 1 March, visitors will be invited to sit down in Walpole’s study and read the book for themselves.

Many of the newly restored rooms have never been open to the public, including his bedroom and the room in which he died. Although Walpole entertained lavishly and also admitted paying visitors – sometimes retreating to a cottage across the road when overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of his public, and once evicted from his own breakfast room when a particularly grand visitor called unexpectedly – his own private rooms were always off-limits. They have now been dazzlingly restored through detective work involving scraps of original paint colour and shreds of wallpaper found on the edges of doors and fireplaces or hidden in the depths of cupboards.

Walpole himself prophesied that “my buildings, like my writings are of paper, and will blow away ten years after I am dead”, but, more than two centuries later, his house has survived – though by 2004 it appeared on the World Monument Fund’s list of the most important and endangered historic buildings in the world. It is now now leased and run by the Strawberry Hill trust and has been restored over the past decade, room by painstaking room, using grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, charities and public donations.

His house was a spectacular conjuring trick, as entertaining as its owner. It was a miniature medieval castle wrapped around a modest little country house, with papier-mache, wood and plaster moulded and painted to look like ancient carved stone.

Despite its many eccentricities, including a royal bedchamber where nobody ever slept, and hallways that were deliberately kept dark to create an atmosphere of medieval “gloomth” (Walpole’s word), the house has proved as influential as his book, setting the trend for Gothic revival architecture and giving the name Strawberry Hill still used for the style.

The décor of his own apartments cost a fortune, as has their recreation. Visitors will find his own rooms covered in brilliantly coloured wallpaper as startlingly heavily patterned as any Victorian parlour. Recreating them meant having the paper hand-made in northern Ireland, hand-dyed in the United States, and hand-flocked in England. In the grandest bedroom, a team of needleworkers is hand-quilting bed covers for the recreation of the grandest bed, inherited by Walpole from the father he worshipped – Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister whose town house was No 10 Downing Street.

Michael Snodin, chair of the trust, steps out on the landing directly outside Walpole’s bedroom door. Its features include a recreated medieval painting of jousting knights, and a wall decoration of a pyramid of arms and armour including a modern replica of a Scottish broadsword, and a genuine antique Indian shield covered with rhinoceros hide. In Walpole’s day there was also a full suit of heavily decorated and gilded armour, which he believed had once belonged to a French king, standing in an arched niche – the first recorded use of that cliché of every haunted house movie.

“Walpole said his dream was of a mailed hand on the uppermost bannister of a great staircase,” Snodin says, “and this is undoubtedly the scene of his dream. Walpole created this house, and this house created that book.”

Walpole invited the public to share the house he described as his “little plaything … the prettiest bauble you ever saw”, but the rules were strict: a surviving admission ticket warns it “will admit four persons and no more … NB The House and Garden are never shown in an Evening; and Persons are desired not to bring Children with them.”

Strawberry Hill House: blast from a Gothic past
Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole's wondrous house, has reopened. Nigel Richardson explores it.

By Nigel Richardson8:00AM BST 09 Oct 2010

Like a heroine in a Gothic novel, a piece of architectural exotica in south-west London is in the process of awakening from a long slumber.
Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham is the glorious figment of Horace Walpole's imagination made manifest, and as a £9 million restoration reaches the end of its first phase it is from this month once again greeting visitors, as it did when Walpole lived here in the second half of the 18th century.
Last month, workmen found a collection of visiting cards and letters that had slipped down the back of a chimney piece in the house. They include a note from a Mr Roffey of Kingston who "begs the favour to know if Himself and 3 more may be permitted to see Mr Warpoles [sic] House on next Wednesday at 12 o Clock…" He and many others, from royalty to clerks, came to marvel at a building that Michael Snodin, the man who has kissed Strawberry Hill back to life, describes as pioneering.
"It was the first building to be Gothic inside and outside, and to be a real house," says Snodin, who is chairman of the Strawberry Hill Trust, the body that is overseeing the restoration. "So it launched the Gothic Revival and led to buildings such as the Houses of Parliament."
Its other cultural significance is that it was here, inspired by his surroundings, that Walpole wrote what is arguably the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, which became the progenitor of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the works of Bram Stoker and so on.

From the moment he moved here in 1747, Horace Walpole – politician, writer, collector and visionary – loved the house and its locale. "Pope's ghost is just now skimming under my window in a most poetical moonlight," he wrote, in reference to the poet Alexander Pope, who had died three years before, having lived just down the road on the west bank of the Thames.
Twickenham in the 18th century was a rural retreat for London's wealthy, fashionable and artistic types. Walpole spent the winters in Arlington Street, off Piccadilly, and in the summer decamped to Strawberry Hill where, over 45 years, he created a glorious Gothic fantasy both inside and out, calling it whimsically "the castle I am building of my ancestors".
From the structure of the original, conventional country house grew pinnacles, finials, "Tudor" chimneys and "medieval" battlements, while windows sprouted Gothic arches. The exterior was painted a dazzling white, in keeping with the other grand houses of the Thames Valley such as Marble Hill House, so that it looked like a piece of confectionery.
One of the triumphs of the restoration is that after enduring years clad in a drab "cementitious render" Strawberry Hill is once again the slice of wedding cake that Walpole dreamed into being.
Inside, Snodin explains, Walpole wished to create the sense of "a picturesque journey from dark to light", from the "gloomth" of the castle-like entrance hall and stairway, down dark corridors, to the dazzling brightness of the Gallery, "his great showroom", with its ceiling of gold and white plaster and papier mâché, and walls of red damask.
Aided by his friend Robert Adam, Walpole used details from Gothic monuments and buildings – a rose window from old St Paul's, the tomb of Edward the Confessor – as inspiration for chimneypieces and ceilings, and animated the house with his own vast collection of books, paintings, furniture, artworks and objects.
The one aspect of Strawberry Hill that is beyond the scope of the restoration is this collection. Following his death in 1797, Walpole's belongings were sold at auction in 1842 and dispersed to the four winds, though the trust is trying to locate as many as possible with a view to borrowing them or even buying them back.
Walpole left Strawberry Hill to the Waldegrave family and it was sold in 1923 to St Mary's University College, a Catholic teacher training college, from which the Strawberry Hill Trust now leases the house. By the turn of the 21st century it had fallen into a state of extreme disrepair and was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world's 100 most endangered heritage sites.
Once the funds had been raised to restore it – the chief benefactor being the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave £4.9 million – recreating the original proved remarkably easy. Not only was much of the 18th-century fabric still in place, but no house had been as extensively documented as was Strawberry Hill in Walpole's meticulous, room-by-room description of 1784.
The result is that his extraordinary vision has been brought back to life (though some rooms and the grounds await completion next year). Visiting it is like walking through one man's imagination, which is what Snodin means when he describes it as a "personality house".
The reactions of Mr Roffey of Kingston, when he visited Strawberry Hill some 250 years ago, are not recorded. But you can be sure he was no less dumbstruck than you will be.
Strawberry Hill basics
Strawberry Hill House (020 8744 3124, is at 268 Waldegrave Road, London TW1 4ST, a five-minute walk from Strawberry Hill railway station (direct trains from Waterloo). The house opened last Saturday and will remain open until December 22, Saturday-Wednesday, noon until 4.30pm. Admission £8 (concessions £7), which includes audio-guide and booklet. There will be timed entries of 20 people at a time and booking is strongly advised. It reopens on April 2 2011.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Remembering the unique and unforgettable “The Grumpy Guide To Class” / BBC TWO /The Grumpy Guide To Class - Part One

Remembering the unique and unforgettable
“The Grumpy Guide To Class” / BBC TWO

“Our mission here at Grumpy HQ is to lift the lid on some of the nonsense we have to put up with in life - and this week it is on the subject of class, apart from anything else it's all got so complicated... the toffs have run out of money, the middle class run the country, footballers are royalty, and everyone claims to be working class because it's the only class with street cred.

You don't know where you are anymore with class. Except we all know that napkins are very good and serviettes are bad, loos are acceptable and toilets are unacceptable, lounges are ghastly, but living rooms are spiffing, and saying pardon is an absolute no no. One way or another the class system is alive and well.”

Remembering the unique and unforgettable “The Grumpy Guide To Class” / BBC TWO /The Grumpy Guide To Class - Part Two

Remembering the unique and unforgettable “The Grumpy Guide To Class” / BBC TWO / The Grumpy Guide To Class - Part Three

Monday, 8 February 2016

Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan

 Donna Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto was born in Florence, as member of the House of Caracciolo, of the high Italian nobility. Her father was Don Filippo Caracciolo, 8th Prince di Castagneto, 3rd Duke di Melito, and hereditary Patrician of Naples (1903–1965), from an old Neapolitan noble family. Her mother was the former Margaret Clarke (1898–1955) of Peoria, Illinois. She had two brothers, Don Carlo Caracciolo (1925–2008), who inherited their father's titles in 1965 and founded the newspaper La Repubblica, being known as the "editor prince", referring to his aristocratic birth and elegant manner;[4] and Don Nicola Caracciolo (born 1931), the holder – since 2008 – of the titles, as 10th Prince di Castagneto, 5th Duke di Melito, and hereditary Patrician of Naples.

She was married in the Church of Osthoffen to Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli on 19 November 1953; they would remain married until his death on 24 January 2003. They had two children
Agnelli, who was educated in Paris, was an assistant to Erwin Blumenfeld in New York City early in her varied career, as well as an occasional editor and photographic contributor to Vogue. In 1973, she created a textile line for Abraham-Zumsteg, for which she was awarded the Resources Council's Roscoe (the design trade's equivalent of the Oscar) in 1977.

An avid gardener, Agnelli has authored a number of books on the subject, also providing many of the photographs. Two of her books are about the Garden of Ninfa (1999) and The Agnelli Gardens at Villar Perosa (1998).

More recently, she oversaw the opening of the Renzo Piano-designed art gallery Pinacoteca Giovanni and Marella Agnelli (it:Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli), built on the roof of the former Lingotto Fiat factory in Turin, Italy. The Agnelli collection includes Picasso, Renoir, Canaletto, Matisse and Canova materpieces.

The reserved, patrician tastemaker and socialite is also known for her inclusion in Truman Capote's circle of "swans" – wealthy, stylish, and well-married women friends whose company he adored because they "had created themselves, as he had done", and "had stories to tell" According to Capote, Agnelli was "the European swan numero uno", the youngest in a group that included Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, C. Z. Guest, Slim Keith, and Pamela Harriman, among others. In her autobiography, Washington Post publisher and Capote friend Katharine Graham recounts that the author once told her that if Paley and Agnelli were "both in Tiffany's window, Marella would be more expensive"

She was portrayed in the American biographical film Infamous (2006) by Isabella Rossellini.

Fairytale of the jetset swans

Nick Foulkes looks back in rapture at the effortless glamour of the 1960s globetrotting elite


The recent death of Alan Whicker reminded me of one of my all-time favourite pieces of television – a documentary he made on Fiona Thyssen (née Campbell-Walter) in the early 1960s. She was one of the first women to make modelling socially acceptable; so socially acceptable that she caught the eye of a young baron, Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen. In his copyrighted cadences, Whicker introduces us to the glamorous baroness as if narrating a “once upon a time” jetset fairytale: “One day a rich Baron – a very rich Baron – swept down out of the mountains to claim her as his third bride and carry her off to a place at the end of the rainbow where rich people go to be happy: St Moritz.”

The best thing is that not only does she look rich and happy, she is drop-dead gorgeous in a leopardskin coat, driving her open-topped silver-blue BMW 507 at speed to the airstrip at Samedan where her husband has just landed in a light aircraft. In another scene, she is having her hair dressed while trying on a ring of 25 carats, diamond drop earrings of 25 carats a piece, and a densely set necklace with a stone the size of a hen’s egg, which she guessed is at least a further 50 carats .

I first caught this documentary late one night and was transfixed. This was the 1960s that I had longed to see ; the sleek world of the jet set, evoked by the lines of the song Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? and the 1965 film Darling. Thing was, this piece of non-fiction television topped everything. And it is this weakness for a fairytale time that was actually true that compelled me to write a book about these people, who lived on a scale that even now seems extraordinary – Gloria Guinness reportedly decorating her husband’s plane with Louis XVI furniture; the Shah asking Lanvin to design clothes for his courtiers. As for jewels, women were dressed in gems in the way that the rest of us might bedeck a Christmas tree.

What made this period in jewellery design fascinating was the arrival of the jet aircraft, which irreversibly shrank the world. Jet travel is something we now take for granted but it was not always so. For a decade and a half, jet travel was inextricably linked to glamour; a world that had moved at the sedate pace of the stately ocean liner was now soaring above the clouds at hundreds of miles an hour. Cultures and customs could be experienced, one after another, within a few hours and all sorts of places cropped up on the resort radar of the rich: Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe’s Marbella Club, Karim Aga Khan’s Costa Smeralda and Colin Tennant’s Mustique .

Style continued to be concentrated in the hands of a very few women. Beautiful, glamorous and above all international, they were married to ship owners, auto-tycoons, oil magnates and broadcasting barons; the nobility of the old world and the industrial aristocracy of the new. Truman Capote called them his “swans” – Gloria Guinness, Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Marella Agnelli, Jacqueline de Ribes and Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Lee Radziwill. In time they were joined by a generation of younger women, among them Marisa Berenson and Diane von Furstenberg.

But the “swans” did not always play nicely. One anecdote concerns the Guinnesses and Paleys, who often summered together aboard the Guinness yacht, Calypso. One year Gloria told Babe not to bother to bring any smart clothes or jewellery as it would be a low-key summer. A few hours after the Paleys had come on board, Gloria emerged from her stateroom dressed up and dripping in gems. The following summer, Babe took no chances and emptied the safe. “Really, darling, why all the jewellery?” asked Gloria, in wide-eyed astonishment at the selection of gems Babe had brought. “We’re just on the boat.” During that cruise there were no formal dinners.

Jewellery of this time was all about daring combinations of motifs and stones. The old and slightly bourgeois distinctions between precious and semi-precious stones was swept away by a tide of creativity and an appetite for colour and effect. Long, polychrome sautoirs and bright pendant earrings became the thing; a sort of hippy deluxe look captured by Van Cleef’s Alhambra. One-off pieces revelled in wildness. One of my favourite pieces was by Cartier in 1974, featuring two large tusks set in yellow gold, attached to a collar with circular links of gold and what I can only refer to as a bib made of more tusks.

Until recently I’ve been in a minority in my enthusiasm for the adornment of this time. Now a younger generation of high jewellery customer is being enticed, viewing the jetset era as an exotic epoch, not an embarrassing style lapse. Definitive proof came when, taking the polyglot and polychrome influences of the period, Van Cleef & Arpels launched its Pierres de Caractère collection, a homage to Pierre Arpels who, like the women for whom he designed, was as much at home in the Place Vendôme as he was in India seeking out the stones to create some of the most inventive and creative jewellery of the 20th century.

Arpels conjured a world of tassels and textures, where wood met diamonds on equal terms. Coral cabochons mixed with brilliant cut diamonds in Siamese-inspired bangles; Indian paisley motifs were reworked into jewellery using the dazzling palette of ruby, sapphire and emerald; rings echoing the profiles of the temples of Indochina were worn on the sun-gilded fingers of Capote’s “swans”. The bestiaries of exotic mythologies were transformed into brooches or pendants set with emeralds, amethysts, chrysoprase… colour and character was everything.

I was invited to write a short essay for the catalogue accompanying the collection and I hope that in my non-academic but genuinely enthusiastic way, I encouraged people to look again at the jetset era, when the great jewellers of the world were able to get “with it” and had the customers who could wear it.

I will end with a wonderful line from Peter Evans’s Nemesis about that totemic jetset figure Aristotle Onassis. In the book, Maria Callas is quoted as saying that the Greek ship-owner’s “total understanding of women came out of a Van Cleef & Arpels catalogue”. I’d say that one has a far better chance of understanding women by studying a fine jewellery catalogue than an Argos brochure.

Swans: Legends of the Jet Society, by Nicholas Foulkes, is published by Assouline;

The exclusive world of one of the twentieth century’s most glamorous and alluring women, as seen through her private homes and gardens. Nicknamed "The Swan" by Richard Avedon when he photographed her iconic portrait in 1953, Marella Agnelli is not only one of the great beauties of the last century, but also the most elegant and cultured of that exclusive club. Born the Neapolitan princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, she became Marella Agnelli with her marriage to Gianni Agnelli, the Fiat industrialist. However, her innate style dates back to her New York internship with photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, and she was a Vogue contributor in the 1950s and ’60s as well as appearing in its pages. One of the most photographed women of the jet-set society, she was captured by Avedon as well as Irving Penn, Henry Clarke, Horst, and Robert Doisneau, among others. Agnelli collaborated with the best artists and designers of her day, with her many residences as their palette. From Italian interior design legend Renzo Mongiardino—who worked on her New York apartment alongside a young Peter Marino—to Gae Aulenti, the important Italian architect, who built her homes in Turin and Marrakech, Agnelli created a series of extraordinary houses and gardens, full of timeless elegance, invaluable art, and groundbreaking decorating ideas. With ten residences spread throughout Turin, Rome, Milan, New York, St. Moritz, and Marrakech, ranging from regally classic villas to ultramodern apartments, her impeccable taste shines through in these gorgeous interiors and gardens. One of the famous modern fairy tales of love, glamour, and heartbreak, Marella Agnelli has become an icon of our times.

Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan
Reviewed by:
Jeffrey Felner

“Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan is a collection of rare beauty that allows us to live within her world if only while enjoying this book.”

The first thing that comes to mind is “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The life of Marella Agnelli is one of unimaginable wealth and privilege. Her homes cannot be fathomed by mere mortals. Her beauty is legendary.

Marella Agnelli The Last Swan is one of those rare books that chronicles a life within a family legacy. What you quickly find out is that this book is not so much about “the Last Swan” as it is about how she lived and what she loved and the seemingly endless resources it took to accomplish her various missions.

Upon starting the unbelievable journey of Marella Agnelli, we see her pictured within the confines of her many homes, wearing the finest of couture, and photographed by many of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. The photos and text may lead you to think that this is only about her life, which it is, but it is her life in relation to what she has built and orchestrated. Ms. Agnelli reigns over a kingdom of homes that rival any in the world. Simply stated, Marella makes Bunny Mellon look like she lived in a trailer park.

This book is an endless source of amazement as Ms. Agnelli has created “worlds” that are unknown to most of us. It is like having Central Park as your backyard or the Tuileries or the Boboli gardens as your own private spots for reflection or puttering around in the flower beds. Even those who are not botanically inclined will note that the incredible world of art she created outdoors is astounding.

As if the mind boggling gardens and grounds are not enough to keep you enthralled, there are the homes that this woman assembled in her life. They may not be to your taste but are jawdropping nonetheless. Imagine having to move so you can accommodate an art collection (think Renoir, Picasso, Balthus, Matisse) in one particular home. Imagine employing some of the greatest architects and interior designers of the 20th century to outfit all of these homes used to suit the globetrotting lifestyle of Mr. and Mrs. Agnelli. Mind boggling.

The takeaway is that if you have any curiosity about “how the other half lives” or more aptly put how one lives when one has endless finances coupled with huge esthetic powers and thirst, well then this is for you. Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan is a collection of rare beauty that allows us to live within her world if only while enjoying this book.

Lastly what must be addressed is the title or subtitle, The Last Swan. It is a bit of a misnomer as she is indeed not the last one. Some of her fellow “swans” still live—albeit not nearly as grandly as she. And for those truly unaware, the term “swan” was given to a small group of wildly socially acceptable women who at one time were dear friends to the late Truman Capote until he betrayed their confidences.

Jeffrey Felner is a dedicated participant and nimble historian in the businesses of fashion and style. Decades of experience allow him to pursue almost any topic relating to fashion and style with unique insight and unrivaled acumen.

Marella Caracciolo Chia
Marella Agnelli

Release Date:
October 14, 2014

An Enchanting Estate in Northern Italy

Style icon Marella Agnelli offers a rare look inside her family’s captivating 18th-century retreat

Posted August 31, 2014 · Magazine

One morning last spring, my aunt Marella Agnelli woke early at her home in the Northern Italian city of Turin and announced that she and I would spend the day at Villar Perosa, the Agnelli estate some 40 miles to the west. Eager to see its gardens, my father’s sister proposed that we have lunch beside the swimming pool there and return before dusk. We had been working solidly for the past week, putting the final touches on Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan, our book about her life as a style icon, photographer, textile designer, and inspired amateur decorator and gardener (to be published by Rizzoli in October), so the outing was a welcome break.

On the way she sat next to the driver, with her dogs—Chico, a Chihuahua, and a Shiba Inu called, simply enough, Shiba—on her lap, and reminisced about her first visit to Villar. It was September 1953, and the occasion was the wedding of her friend Maria Sole Agnelli to Count Ranieri Campello della Spina. That same evening my aunt (then Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto) and the bride’s eldest brother, Gianni, announced their engagement. Having recently returned to Italy after spending 18 months in New York City assisting fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, Marella was bewitched by the pre–World War I atmosphere of the Agnellis’ house. "There was this sense of being in an enchanted time warp," she said, recalling how a housemaid in an apron that nearly reached the floor brought her breakfast in bed on a silver tray. "Villar was an old family home full of charm and nostalgia."

More than six decades later, that atmosphere of timelessness still hovers over this beloved retreat, where eight generations (and counting) of Agnellis have arrived with children and dogs in tow. Within view of the French Alps, the 18th-century former hunting lodge attributed to architect Filippo Juvarra is a graceful essay in Piedmontese Baroque. According to Gianni, who inherited it in the 1940s and died in 2003, his ancestor Giuseppe Agnelli, a Napoleonic officer, acquired the estate in the early 19th century and planted mulberry trees for raising silkworms. That investment gave rise to a fortune that, in 1899, helped launch Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, a.k.a. Fiat, Italy’s largest automotive company, where Gianni served as chairman for 30 years.
By the time my aunt and Gianni married, the classical decorator Stephane Boudin had already restored a portion of the house damaged by bombing in World War II, and he continued to assist the newlyweds. Marella and the puckish Parisian collaborated with purposeful sensitivity. Gianni’s parents and grandparents had died when he was young, leaving behind rooms furnished with memories, so his bride, the daughter of a Neapolitan prince and a mother from Peoria, Illinois, was determined to tread softly.

Boudin and Marella refreshed the piano nobile’s famous gallery, where exuberant stuccowork frames 18th-century Chinese export wallpaper and garlands the ceiling. They upholstered the villa’s antique Piedmontese chairs and settees—painted in pale, pretty colors that bring to mind macarons—in bold French velvets and Italian silks, and made-to-measure sofas added modern comfort. Alongside the main dining room, they set up a cozy library for after-dinner coffee. A few guest rooms became perfect expressions of ancien régime French taste, the decorator’s specialty. Boudin’s friend Russell Page, the British garden genius, helped Marella clarify the landscape, which she described as having been "a patchwork, each area created by a different generation."
Her increasing confidence as a gardener led her back inside the house, where she began dressing some spaces in a less formal, more familial mode. (Her son, Edoardo, was born in 1954 and her daughter, Margherita, a year later.) With wicker furniture cushioned in bright patterns and finely woven straw matting on the floor, the so-called garden room marks the moment when Marella left behind Boudin’s historicism in favor of her own simpler, contemporary taste. Unlined taffeta curtains with softly ruffled hems became part of her vocabulary, as did cheerful printed fabrics—she even designed an award-winning textile collection in the ’70s.
Then, 30 years ago, the frequent presence of eight lively grandchildren prompted Marella to transform a portion of the top floor into a private sanctuary. Following the advice of an old friend, decorator Federico Forquet, she fashioned four bedrooms. Among them is her intimate, low-ceilinged suite, lavished from walls to lampshades with a peony pattern. Another is Gianni’s barrel-vaulted chamber, where she curtained the imposing canopy bed with mismatched chintzes—one a dramatic Indian-style floral, the other dappled with white roses like those that bloom outside the arched window.
Anyone who has spent time at Villar joins in the Agnelli traditions. Morning hikes in the foothills of the Alps are typically followed by chess and Scrabble in the garden room. European newspapers are stacked in strategic spots, and books in Italian, French, and English are arranged in baskets on a large table, ready for perusal. There has also been, as long as I can remember, a card table set with a 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that takes family and friends an entire month to complete. In hot weather everyone decamps to the swimming pool and the adjacent wood pavilion—as spare as a Zen temple—by architect Gae Aulenti. Landscape designer Paolo Pejrone, a Page disciple, has banked this section with purple heather punctuated by ‘Iceberg’ roses and boxwood clipped into corkscrews and spheres. It is a destination cherished by all, from oldest to youngest, a success that is proof of my aunt’s attention to detail.

"Every time I create a home or a garden, I ask myself the same questions," Marella said as we sat beside the pool, our lunch finished and the sun setting. "Where will we gather together in the daytime and in the evening? How can I preserve a few quiet, secluded spots for reading or working? Which is the coolest area in the garden for meals in the shade? Architecture and landscapes influence our lives so much—I’m always fascinated by that."

Sunday, 7 February 2016

“The Vintage Showroom – an archive of menswear” by Gunn & Luckett

 “The Vintage Showroom – an archive of menswear” by Gunn & Luckett 

Praised by Karl Lagerfeld as "the place for inspiration", The Vintage Showroom is a unique collection of men's vintage clothing, revered by collectors, fashion designers and stylists, who rent out its unique pieces as a source for new designs. plit into four chapters of Aviation & Motorsports. Tailoring and Dress Uniforms, Utility & Denim, Sportswear & Weatherwear, The Vintage Showroom provides a unique overview of the best pieces from the collection. Featuring everything from a bearskin bomber jacket and fur-lined flying trousers to the original US navy peacoat and waterproofs worn on the British Antarctic Survey, the book is a mine of ideas for designers and stylists. Lavishly illustrated with specially commissioned photography, showing the clothing details and highlighting the features that make each piece unique, this beautiful volume will be a must-have for designers and fashionistos everywhere.
Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett are co-founders of The Vintage Showroom, a definitive collection of 20th-century menswear. With over 35 plus years knowledge and experience of vintage clothing between them their collection has become a must-see destination for fashion designers from around the world.

20 Buspace Studios
Conlan Street
London, W10 5AP

14 Earlham Street
Seven Dials, Covent Garden
London, WC2H 9LN
t: +44 (0)207-836-3964

  Amazing week in Amsterdam at the ever Impressive Kingpins show in Westergasfabriek.

Friday, 5 February 2016

TWEED RUN AMSTERDAM / Sunday, May 8 at 12 PM

 These gentlemen are obviously planning beautiful things ...

Sunday, May 8at 12 PM
START : Tommy Page
Prinsenstraat 7, 1015 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands