Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

1.13.2012

Happy Birthday Edith

 [First three photos my own.]


With January 24 being Edith Wharton's 150th birthday, I decided to pull some of her books off my shelves.


The 21st-century reprint of Wharton's 1907 Italian Villas and Their Gardens  -- the book's design and its text -- could be a great source of inspiration for an event, following designer Matthew Robbins' lead. (If you looked at Monday's post, you saw how he uses visually interesting, meaningful objects as jumping off points in his work.)

[Wharton's copies of her own books. Image via The Mount.] 

Personally, I'm so drawn to the old, original editions -- books bound in solid-color cloth or leather during Wharton's own era. But contemporary books typically need to be sold with dust jackets and recent editions of her work published by The Mount Press and Rizzoli have beautiful covers that relate in some way to the earlier copies: an 18th-century Italian brocade reflecting Wharton's passion for design was used for the garden book's reissue jacket while the The Decoration of Houses now has a fab marbled cover based on the 1897 classic's end papers.
[Iron garden urn from Circa Antiques. These napkins from Jayson Home and Garden relate nicely to the cover even if they don't exactly feel Wharton-esque.]

[Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) late 12th century Korean stoneware bottle with reverse-inlaid decoration of peony leaves under celadon glaze. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.]


Using the Italian fabric as a color guide (and taking a lot of poetic license), it would be fun to hit The Cathedral Antiques Show, the NYBG Antique Garden Furniture Show and Sale, The Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, or maybe just the neighborhood GW looking for old pots and containers. I'd love to spot some sort of doppleganger for The Met's spectacular little celadon bottle, pictured above, along with big, earthy heavily patinaed urns; stone would be most in keeping with the book. Clipped, blossom-free gardens dominate Wharton's Italian focus but I probably couldn't resist echoing the golds, rusts, and yellow-greens in the fabric with looser fresh leaves and just a few flowers.

[Image via Martha Stewart.]

Although Wharton apparently wasn't wild about Maxfield Parrish's illustrations for Italian Villas and Their Gardens, his scenes of the countryside could still be a source of inspiration.

Below, moving away from Italy and back to the States.

[Clematis and Virginia creeper at The Mount by David Dashiell.]

[Exterior view, near The Mount's forecourt. Image via The Mount.]

The Mount, Wharton's 1901 house and personal design laboratory in the Berkshires is today open to the public as a cultural and literary center. (In case you are wondering, it still can be rented for weddings with proceeds helping to sustain the institution.) Here contemporary personalities ranging from Downton Abbey screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, to actress and writer Mindy Kaling reference the Gilded Age author. And to celebrate Wharton's 150th, The Mount is kicking off a series of festivities with a special birthday open house on Saturday, January 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. This happening is free.

[My copy of the garden book sans dust jacket.]

Before that, on January 26, a marathon reading of The House of Mirth is scheduled to begin with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan at the Center for Fiction, located in New York at 17 East 47th Street. Details here.

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