Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


From Agra to The Shoals

[Hand-stitched organic cotton Facets Pillow from Alabama Chanin
Photo by Rinne Allen. All textile images via Alabama Chanin.]

Florence, Alabama and Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India aren't places I usually put together in my mind.

But recently I noticed a connection -- something apart from the heat.

[Stencil used to create Alabama Chanin Facet-patterned textiles.]

Florence-based Natalie (aka Alabama) Chanin's Facets design reminds me a lot of the marble jalis traditionally crafted by artisans in Agra.

[Click to enlarge. Specially commissioned marble jali for Doris Duke's suite in Honolulu. Photo ©Tim Street-Porter from Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in ParadiseSkira Rizzoli, 2012. Image published here with written permission from the photographer and book publisher.]

And I don't just mean the striking visual similarities.

In several past posts we've already touched on the pierced jalis Doris Duke and her then-husband James Cromwell commissioned from the artisan workshops at the Indian Marble Works in Agra during their 1930s round-the-world honeymoon. Designed and overseen by architect Francis Blomfield, the jalis were incorporated as pocket doors and windows in the couple's modernist bedroom suite at Shangri La, and also used to beautifully screen their roof-top terrace above the bedroom, aka the “Jali Pavilion.”

[Doris Duke and James Cromwell pose by the Jali Paviliion at Shangri La during a photo shoot by Martin Munkacsi; Select photos from the shoot appeared in Life Magazine, March 20, 1939. Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.]

The question is to what extent were the Cromwells inspired by their short 1935 visit with Mohandas K. Gandhi at his ashram, the All-India Village Industries Association? A related video on this, I've shared before, along with Thalia Kennedy's article (just know that clicking the paper link opens a PDF). Maybe, Kennedy speculates, Duke's encounter motivated her to help ease poverty by reviving local craft industries -- art forms facing extinction. We know Gandhi and others were strong proponents of crafts education and industry.

[Alabama Chanin American Flag pillow in blanc.]

Likewise, today Natalie Chanin is passionate about fundamental "living arts," most notably stitching. As John T. Edge and Christy Lorio have both noted in different stories for Oxford American, Chanin, working from an old T-shirt manufacturing plant just outside Florence -- a city once known for T-shirt production as well as the music scene and Frank Lloyd Wright's Rosenbaum House -- provides work for local artisans, many formerly unemployed seamstresses. With her slow-process, all-hand-stitched couture for body and house, she's reinvigorating a waning craft, too.

Bonus link: an antique Southern quilt with unexpectedly graphic lines made by an anonymous African American stitcher. 


Cover of the Day: Jaipur Quilts

Krystyna Hellström's Jaipur Quilts is on my Christmas wishlist but since December is months away, I thought I'd help spread the word that the book is now available in the U.S. As you can see, a quilt with those iconic rows of red Mughal poppies was chosen for the cover. To see the same motif on antique resist-dyed and mordant-dyed cotton floor covers, visit the MFA, Boston and the V & A.

[Image is from Elle Decor, October 2000. Photography by Anita Calero. 
Story written and produced by Miguel Flores-Vianna.] 

And of course here's Brigitte Singh's interpretation in the previously posted circa 2000 bedroom of artists Elliott Puckette and Hugo Guinness. (Aleta is the source for Singh's blockprinted fabrics in the U.S. and UK.)

[Photo by Annie Schlechter for Martha Stewart Living, November 2011]

In Deborah Needleman's guest bedroom, a Roberta Roller Rabbit quilt. 


Cult of the Interior

[Detail view: Julius Eduard Wilhem Helfft (German, 1818 -1894) The Music Room of Fanny Hensel, 1849 ©Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, Smithsonian Institution -- Thaw Collection.] 

So the monumental expansion and redesign of the Cooper-Hewitt continues. The main campus galleries are scheduled to reopen in 2014, but in the meantime past exhibitions organized by the Museum are traveling to other institutions across the U.S. and abroad. Romantic Interiors: Watercolours 1820–1890 just opened in Paris at the Musée de la Vie Romantique and will remain on view through mid-January 2013.

This show explores the Post-Revolution era, a time when a new group of people were achieving success, ultimately catching the decorating bug, and commissioning artists to do portraits of individual rooms. These artists may have previously worked as porcelain painters or topographical painters, but the demand for interiors pictures offered them more professional options. In all there are eighty-nine highly detailed 19th-century watercolours and gouaches of European interiors in the exhibition -- works donated by Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw to the Cooper-Hewitt. It was a period of major changes in design, and the evolution is captured by the drawings.

When the show first opened at Cooper-Hewitt in 2008, you may recall, it was titled House Proud For the French audience, there's a revised catalogue with additional findings on the room portraits.


Flower Power II

[Detail followed by full view: Curtain, silk with metallic-wrapped thread woven on the island of Chios, mid-to late 17th century. Collection of The Textile Museum.] 

With The Sultan's Garden now in full swing, I wanted to share another example of the treasures you'll see if you stop by The Textile Museum this fall. Curator Sumru Krody says the style with which the flowers (rose bouquets and tulips and lilies in vases) on this crimson curtain were executed indicates Italian and Ottoman influences. In case you were wondering, I haven't cropped the panel; interestingly, it was made from two and a half fabric lengths. Each length, or narrower panel, features an intricately designed niche flanked by two thin columns on either side, the idea being to create the feel of a columned garden courtyard as more panels are joined together. Personally I'm drawn to the pattern on the tiny hanging lanterns -- something between a highly stylized floral and a geometric.

[Detail of embroidered cover, Istanbul, 16th/early 17th century. Textile Museum 1.22. 
Acquired by George Hewitt Myers.] 

The previously posted colorful cover, above, represents the iconic Ottoman tulips and serrated carnations most of us associate with Turkish design. It's also in the exhibition, and I've pulled just a few more contemporary fabrics inspired by textiles like it. 

Dina by Alidad for Chelsea Textiles.

Urbino by Alidad for Chelsea Textiles.

Layla by Alidad.

Some of the motifs in Penny Morrison's Karlstad linen, below, kind of echo the first silk at the top of this post. 

And of course so many of her hand-printed linens derive from old Turkish embroideries along with Mughal styles.

Nathan Turner has for sale a Penny Morrison Waverton pillow. Click here for more views of Waverton.  

Penny Morrison's Rumeli, above.

Morrison's Turkoman.

And Mallika, also by Morrison.


V&A Africa

[South African coiled brass and steel wire bracelet, ca. 1870-1880 (made). 
Given to the V & A by A. L. Byrne.]

This fall the V & A will revisit its African collection, inviting the public to see some textiles, jewelery, and sculpture never before displayed in the galleries. The exhibition, V&A Africa: Exploring Hidden Histories, opens November 15. (Over the past 150 or so years, the Museum's perceptions of African design have evolved, so the show will look at shifts in attitude as well as the objects themselves) Combing through the online collections, I spied quite a few 19th-century African pieces that today would fit right in at Calypso.

[South African glass beaded necklace, ca. 1850-1900 (made). Given to the Museum by A.L Byrne.]

[North African silver hinged bangles in the form of broad, flat ribbons with applied decoration, 19th century. Bequeathed to the V & A by Edmond Dresden.]

[South African Ostrich egg-shell beads, ca. 1870-1880 (made).
 Given to the Museum by Hugh Exton.]


For the Birds

[RED-WHISKERED BULBUL, India (Calcutta), dated 1777, by Shaikh Zayn al-Din. Originally part of Lady Impey's collection. Now at Simon Ray.]

First we had adventurer/artist Mark Catesby's tercentennial (actually the biggest celebration takes place in early November), then there's Victorian poet/artist Edward Lear's bicentennial exhibition, a show which opened just days ago at the Ashmolean, and today I became aware of yet another avian-related happening: Lady Impey’s Bird Paintings, also at the Ashmolean beginning October 16.

Lady Impey (Mary) and her husband Chief Justice Sir Elijah Impey were among the wave of English men and women who arrived in Calcutta during the 18th century. Both apparently became enthralled with the flora and fauna of India, even creating their own private menagerie. Since cameras would not arrive on the scene until much later in the next century, the Impeys and their set commissioned Indian artists to document their new, awe-inspiring surroundings. Lady Mary in particular was a great patron. And Sotheby's says her art collection -- eventually encompassing well over 300 drawings, nearly 200 of which featured birds -- was among the very best.

According to the V & A, she and her husband employed three Indian artists to paint their birds, plants, and animals. But most of the large-scale pieces in the Ashmolean show will be the work of acclaimed Patna-born Shaikh Zain ud-Din. Stylistically, he referenced his background in Mughal painting as well as European approaches.

Blue Notes: More Cords

[Click to enlarge. Photo by Ricardo Labougle, The World of Interiors, October 2012.]

Many thanks to Blue for commenting on the previous corduroy post and drawing attention to Jaime Parladé's sofa, another terrific example of the classic textile used for upholstery. Writer Ros Byam Shaw reports that corduroy is a favorite of Parladé's. I'm loving the cozy material mixed with the decorator's collection of global textiles. Pick up or download a copy of the latest WoI to see the entire house and discover the magazine's go-to source for upholstery-weight corduroy.


Less-familiar Cords

[B & J sells cotton corduroy in an array of colors.]

According to Brooks Brothers and other sources, Corduroy Appreciation Day doesn't take place until November 11 (note how well the date works out, visually: 11/11) but I already said I wanted to start celebrating menswear fabrics in September.

[Walnut and corduroy side chair by Georges de Feure, French, born 1868, died 1943. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.]

In my mind, you can't beat menswear translated for interiors. A circa 1899 French chair by Georges de Feure wasn't what I was originally thinking for a corduroy post, but this interesting Art Nouveau-influenced piece, with corduroy upholstery, belongs to The Met and, coincidentally, it came from Edward C. Moore, Jr., son of the collector/designer mentioned in the previous post. Since the image here is black-and-white, you can imagine the corduroy to be whatever color you like best.

[1750-1759 waistcoat back, Victoria and Albert Museum.]

Contrasting with the straightforward wales we're used to, this much older piece (the back of a man's mid-18th-century waistcoat belonging to the V & A) has "wales of light brown cotton woven in a decorative pattern, imitating that of silk velvet," according to the museum. Curators are uncertain whether the light brown cotton corduroy was woven in England or France. To paraphrase the V & A: Lancashire, one possibility, was a major hub of cotton weaving at the time, and English weavers in London (Spitalfields, to be exact) often produced textiles based on French designs for silk, but when the waistcoat was made French weavers in Rouen were trying their hand at cotton, too.

[Sid Mashburn cords.]

So, like the French chair, the intricately detailed antique corduroy is far from the Ivy Style pieces that put me on the menswear wavelength. Still, it's one for the get-to-know corduroy file.

BTW, Brooks Brothers' post offers a great synopsis of corduroy history.


Inventive Synthesis: Shangri La

[Click to enlarge. Shangri La living room. Image © Tim Street-Porter 2011. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.]

A work of "inventive synthesis." That's how curators Thomas Mellins and Donald Albrecht describe what Doris Duke achieved in Hawaii with Shangri La. "Eclectic," apart from being a little over-used, might suggest an aesthetic free-for-all or rooms that just came together serendipitously. Instead, the curators dispel any preconceived notions that the Honolulu house is simply an eccentric heiress' folly. Joyful, original, and completely personal -- definitely. But created thoughtfully. A very independent American woman's visual mixed tape with selections from Agra, Rabat, Iznik, Kashmir, San Francisco and Damascus, to name a few.

[Pierced metal lamp in front of the wood grill, custom-made in Morocco in 1937-38, screening central courtyard from foyer at Shangri La, Honolulu, with view overlooking the Pacific Ocean © Tim Street-Porter. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.] 

[The Playhouse at Shangri Laoverlooking the Pacific Ocean © Tim Street-Porter 2011. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.] 

Under the direction of a different art collector, Shangri La could've so easily become too theatrical -- maybe a bit Disney-esque -- but even in her early twenties, when the house was designed and built, Duke had a discerning eye.

[Initial drawing of a scheme for Shangri La’s living room, May 1937. P. Vary, S.A.L.A.M. René Martin, 18 x 24 ½ in. While seeking input from respected authorities, Duke continued to offer her own suggestions, always seeking a balance between cleaned-lined Western modernism and highly decorative Eastern antiques. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.]

We know she fell in love with Mughal design during the Indian leg of her round-the-world honeymoon in 1935. Although, in Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in Paradise,  Linda Komaroff speculates that Duke may have begun to develop her passion for the arts of the Middle and Near East much earlier, through exposure to the acquisitions of the great Gilded Age collectors like Edward C. Moore and the Havemeyers. Still, Komaroff and other scholars agree that the honeymoon was really the spark that ignited Duke's own voracious collecting and the ideas for her house.

[Click to enlarge. Specially commissioned marble jali for master suite. Photo ©Tim Street-Porter from Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in ParadiseSkira Rizzoli, 2012. Image published here with written permission from the photographer and book publisher.]

Today most design enthusiasts are at least vaguely aware of Shangri La, but I'm not sure how many fully appreciate the modernist architecture -- its original underpinnings that act as a simple foil for all of the intricate pieces Duke tracked down or commissioned. Until recently, I didn't.

[The hanging swing beds in Horst's book.]

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I didn't completely grasp how well the architecture relates to the surrounding gardens and coastline. And I've spent my fair share of time looking at Horst Interiors with the iconic 1960s Shangri La photos -- pictures seasoned photographer Tim Street-Porter describes as "nothing less than tantalizing" -- as well as her Foundation's lovely little book.

But, again, it's the new collaboration between Street-Porter, various art historians and the current Duke exhibition curators Mellins and Albrecht -- their gorgeous companion book -- that opened my eyes.

Now I see Duke's art collection and house partnering the way Sidney and Frances Brody's commissioned Matisse later connected with their midcentury A. Quincy Jones-designed home.

Take, for example, Duke's living room seen from multiple angles through Street-Porter's lens. Architect Marion Sims Wyeth designed expansive plate-glass floor-to-ceiling windows that hydraulically retract into the basement; these clean windows counterbalance the patterned ceiling (with modern indirect lighting in the ceiling coves) and painted cedar doors commissioned in 1930s Morocco. Did you know Duke chose curtains and upholstery by midcentury California textile designer Dorothy Liebes? It's such a treat to see Duke's antiques in the mix, too. Textiles like this. Some were found on the honeymoon, others acquired over the next six decades.

In the past we've talked about Thalia Kennedy's research into Duke's meeting with Ghandi and how that encounter possibly inspired the philanthropist to commission craftsmen, or maybe strengthened her appreciation for fine craftsmanship of all kinds. Whatever the results of the meeting, the new book makes clear that Duke surrounded herself with sensuous surfaces.

[Shimmering ceiling in Duke's dressing room.  Photo ©Tim Street-Porter from Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in ParadiseSkira Rizzoli, 2012. Image published here with written permission from the photographer and book publisher.]

[Hand mirror, Northern India, nineteenth century. Jade, gold, gemstones, and mica diameter: 9 1/8 in  © 2006 David Franzen. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.]

[Footed basin, Spain, Valencia, probably Manises, ca. 1500. Earthenware: underglaze painted in blue, overglaze painted in luster, 7 1/8 x 10 in. © 2008 David Franzen. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.]

[Tile panel, Turkey, possibly Istanbul, ca. 1650. Stonepaste: underglaze painted, 44 x 10 ½ in. © 2003 David Franzen.]

This sneak peek doesn't begin to do justice to the book, which covers nearly every inch of Shangri La.  But I hope the post entices you to look through the tome at your own pace and visit the traveling exhibition highlighted here the other day. Duke didn't leave behind any diaries; she mainly expressed herself through design and music. However, the book does reference a rare 1947 article, about her Honolulu home, that she wrote for Town & Country and you can read her brief description of her Mughal-inspired bedroom here (bottom of the page).


Up Next: Tim's View

[Click to enlarge. Photo ©Tim Street-Porter from Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in Paradise,
Skira Rizzoli, 2012. Image published here with written permission from the photographer and book publisher.]

After myriad mentions of Doris Duke's Mughal Suite, we'll soon see her Taj-inspired bedroom, bathroom, and dressing room in a whole new light, through the eyes of photographer Tim Street-Porter in this new book. Actually, we'll tour the rest of the East-meets-West hybrid house, Shangri La, too. From where I sit, the images offer the next best thing to being there. So the post will be up later this week. For now, one of my favorites of Tim's many shots: a detail from the dressing room. It's like Doris might walk in any second.

If you decide to check out any of the videos referenced in the previous post, the iTunes U series related to Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma, two thirds of which was comprised of pieces from Duke's Southeast Asian collection, I recommend Conserving the Collection (some of the best images from the show) and John Guy's Dressing Oneself (terrific 19th-century photos and textiles).