Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

Faringdon House

On April 12th the eclectic contents of the iconic Faringdon House will be auctioned at Christie’s. The walls (and objects) of this Country House have witnessed Lord Berner’s eccentric parties attended by luminaries like Salvador Dalí, Elsa Schiaparelli, Cecil Beaton, Aldous Huxley or Nancy Mitford.

Lord BernersLord Berners playing the piano at Faringdon, circa 1930s

 

Faringdon house

Faringdon House - Berners indulged in many notable ‘teases’ of Faringdon’s stolid neighbours. These ranged from doves dyed in dainty pastels to the twinkling chandelier in the porch, from dogs wearing pearl collars to an invitation to tea for Moti, Penelope Betjeman’s Arab stallion. It was a summons that came with a request: namely, that the horse ‘sit’ for a Berner portrait in his drawing room.Berners indulged in many notable ‘teases’ of Faringdon’s stolid neighbours. These ranged from doves dyed in dainty pastels to the twinkling chandelier in the porch, from dogs wearing pearl collars to an invitation to tea for Moti, Penelope Betjeman’s Arab stallion. It was a summons that came with a request: namely, that the horse ‘sit’ for a Berner portrait in his drawing room.

 

Faringdon HouseDyed doves are still to be found at the property

 

Easter 1939 at Faringdon. From left: Frederick Ashton, Robert Heber-Percy, Lady Mary Lygon, Constant Lambert, Lord Berners, Prince Vsevolod of RussiaEaster 1939 at Faringdon. From left: Frederick Ashton, Robert Heber-Percy, Lady Mary Lygon, Constant Lambert, Lord Berners, Prince Vsevolod of Russia

 

Fardington House

The paintings and furniture at Faringdon reflect the unique personality and taste of its owner: a composer, writer, painter and life-long eccentric. The diverse collection includes Lord Berners own art as well as pictures and antiques he inherited and much that was acquired during a lifetime spent travelling and working in France, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

Two portraits of Robert Heber Percy, Lord Berners, oil on canvas-boardTwo portraits of Robert Heber Percy, Lord Berners, oil on canvas-board

 

English school, 20th century. A view of the Drawing Room at Faringdon House

English school, 20th century. A view of the Drawing Room at Faringdon House

 

A pair of Bermantofts faience turquoise-glazed shell jardinières, late 19th centuryA pair of Bermantofts faience turquoise-glazed shell jardinières, late 19th century

 

A pair of painted and parcel-gilt hardwood large elephant figures mid 20th Century, the decoration probably later. Faringdon House

A pair of painted and parcel-gilt hardwood large elephant figures mid 20th Century, the decoration probably later.

 

 

George III Giltwood mirror, c.1755 Faringdon House

George III Giltwood mirror, c.1755 

 

In 1950 Lord Berners passed away leaving the house to his longtime partner, Robert Heber-Percy nicknamed  ‘Mad Boy’ for his uninhibited behaviour, which included horse riding naked through the surrounding woods.  While still living with Berners Robert unexpectedly married Jennifer Fry, a lovely, high-spirited socialite whom he brought to live at Faringdon. This strange ménage a trois lasted just two years, until Jennifer departed, taking with her their baby daughter Victoria, to live at her parents’ house in Wiltshire. Faringdon’s current owner is Victoria’s daughter, Softka Zinovieff. She inherited her grandfather home when she was just 25. Since 2013, Softka and her family have properly been installed in Farindgon. The images below were published by House and Garden in 2016 (Photography by Andrew Montgomery)

(I thought Softka was still the current owner until I saw that the house has been sold by  Savills )

Faringdon House Cecil Beaton's portrait of Lord Berners, the Mad Boy, holding Sofka's mother as a baby, and Jennifer.Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Lord Berners, the Mad Boy, holding Sofka’s mother as a baby, and Jennifer.

 

Faringdon House - the drawing roomThe drawing room. Sofka chose fabrics and wallpapers that are not intended to be period but are similar in essence. 

 

Faringdon House - the music roomSofka’s husband, Vassilis Papadimitriou, reading in the music room.

 

Faringdon HouseVassilis and Sofka dine with her brother Leo and his wife Annabelle at Faringdon.

 

Faringdon House - bathroom

Robert added the en suite bathroom in the Fifties, with its flamboyant pink tub and Rousseau-inspired murals by Roy Hobdell.

 

Faringdon House

Faringdon House Main Bedroom

 

Faringdon House - The Red BedroomThe Red Bedroom

 

Faringdon House - sitting room

The sitting room

 

Faringdon House - Elaborately decorated shelving displays delicate chinaElaborately decorated shelving displays delicate china

 

Faringdon House

Faringdon House

The music room

 

Faringdon folly, a tower that was Lord Berners' tribute to his good looking and wilful companion. It is said that he hung a notice there that read: 'Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.' Robert gifted the tower, with the surrounding woodland, to the people of FaringdonFaringdon folly, a tower that was Lord Berners’ tribute to his good looking and wilful companion. It is said that he hung a notice there that read: ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’ Robert gifted the tower, with the surrounding woodland, to the people of Faringdon

 

Faringdon is a real country house for all its elegance, not one of those pretty old-maidish town houses that sometimes occur in the English countryside, looking sweet but silly, and exhaling an atmosphere of afternoon tea. It is plain and grey and square and solid, and as much a part of the rolling Berkshire landscape before it as of the little old market town of Faringdon, to which it turns its back and which is hidden from view by the parish church and huge clumps of elm trees. Faringdon House has very little in the way of a flower garden, Lord Berners was not fond of flowers growing in beds, and considered that such things as herbaceous borders were more suitable to the half-timbered houses of Surrey stockbrokers than to a classical house, which should be surrounded by a plain expanse of lawn to enhance the perfection of its line. Indoors, his house, as we shall see, was always full of flowers but they were large brilliant tropical flowers in vases, not buttercups, the little children’s dower.

 Faringdon acquired that which every respectable country house must have, a ghost. It also has, equally important, a rookery and a flock of pigeons. And such pigeons! They are Lord Berners’ famous multi-coloured birds, but it is no use asking for a sitting of eggs, for the secret of their brilliant plumage lies less in the breeding than in what used to happen to them every Easter Sunday, when they were dyed and dried in the linen cupboard, before being set free to flutter, like a cloud of confetti, between church and house, to astonish the students of bird-life in Berkshire. This bird motif, repeated over and over again inside the house, is the signature of its late owner, so to speak, who preferred feathered to many other sorts of friends. As with flowers, he rather disdained the modest English sparrow, eschewing it for something gaudier.

I can remember, during all the tedious or frightening but always sleepless nights of fire-watching in wartime London, that the one place I longed to be in most intensely was the red bedroom at Faringdon, with its crackling fire, its Bessarabian carpet of bunchy flowers, and above all, its four-post bed, whence, from beneath a huge fat fluffy old fashioned quilt one could gaze out at the view, head still on pillow.

Faringdon was solid and elegant and so was Lord Berners. So great was his sense of elegance, fantasy and humour that the solid quality of his talents, and above all the immense amount of hard work he did all his life, are sometimes overlooked, though a moment’s reflection would show that without great talent and hard work he could not, as he did, write and paint like a professional, in addition to shining as a composer of music. Stravinsky himself said that at one time the only important living English composer was Lord Berners. But one of the greatest of his achievements was the atmosphere he created around himself at Faringdon, a house where the second best was never tolerated, either in comfort, conversation or in manners.

These fragments were written by Nancy Mitford in 1950 as ‘ a tribute to an artist, musician, wit and kindly host’ You can read the full article here 

Finca Pascualete

Aline Griffith was born in New York in 1923. She was working as a model in Manhattan when she was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services and sent to Spain to work as a spy. It was in Madrid that she met Luis de Figueroa y Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno, the count of Quintanilla and later of Romanones. He was heir to one of Spain’s largest fortunes and a grandson of a former foreign minister. They married in 1947 and had 3 children.

The Countess of Romanones quickly was part of the aristocratic elite and became known for her lavish house parties, attended by many world leaders and celebrities, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jacqueline Kennedy, the Duchess of Alba, the Duchess of Windsor, Baron Guy de Rothschild, Salvador Dalí, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, among many others. Her homes in Madrid, Marbella, New York and Caceres were as stylish as was her life.

Cayetana, Duchess of Alba, dancing flamenco at Countess of Romanones's Madrid residence. Aline was hosting a party for her friend Wallis,  Duchess of Windsor.Cayetana, Duchess of Alba, dancing flamenco at Countess of Romanones’s Madrid residence. Aline was hosting a party for her friend Wallis,  Duchess of Windsor.

Aline, Countess of Romanones. Finca de Pascualete

Aline Griffith in Finca Pascualete,  c. 1960

If I have to choose a favourite home of hers that has to be Pascualete,  the country state in the Spanish rural province of Caceres. This Finca had belonged to her husband’s family since 1232.She visited Pascualete for the first time in 1950 and insisted on giving life back to this, then abandoned,  farm.  Its rich history and unique ecosystem caught the Countess attention

‘I had the great fortune of discovering Extremadura in the 50s, what I saw then must have been very similar to medieval Europe. The time had stood still. There were thatched huts where the families lived around the fire; all of them dedicated their lives to farming and their work was carried out as it was centuries ago. They used to plowed the field  with yokes, the houses were heated with braziers and fireplaces … I remember the high straw mattresses. And the elegance of the people, who dressed in the traditional way with blouses and hats during the week, and black suits with precious handmade embroideries, on Sundays’

In a short period of time, they installed electric power system, built a landing strip and even created a carpet factory bringing weavers from the Alpujarras (Andalucia) to teach them the technique. However, it was never their intention to make Finca Pasculate a  pretentious home.  “It had always been a country property and that guided my steps when it came to restoring it,” the Countess said. And she succeeded.  From the hunting pavilion to the patio through the 16 rooms, every corner gives off a proper Spanish country style. She dedicated her life to preserving Pascualete’s culture and tradition passed down throughout centuries.

‘We renovated the house with the help of Duarte Pinto Coelho. We bought furniture from antique stores in Toledo, Córdoba and Salamanca, and everything we found was thanks to my husband’s good taste, because I was a disaster’ 

The Countess of Romanones not only gave life back to the interiors but also to the farm. Nowadays, Aline’s son Juan de Figueroa Sayn-Wittgenstein and grandson Luis de Figeroa manage the family business and the products that Aline and her husband shared with guests and friends for years, are now enjoyed around the world – Their award-winning cheeses are a must!

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones. Finca PascualeteFuera de Serie, 2012

 

Aline , countess of RomanonesThe Countess speaking with the harvesters

 

Aline Countess of Romanones. Finca Pascualete

Finca Pascualete. World of Interiors

 

Finca Pascualete Countess of Romanones country home in Extremadura.  Henry Clarke for  Vogue. March 15, 1968 Henry Clarke for  Vogue. March 15, 1968

 

Finca Pascualete. Countess of Romanones country home in Extremadura

Finca Pascualete. Countess of Romanones country home in Extremadura                                                                         Fuera de Serie, 2012

 

Finca Pascualete. Countess of Romanones country home in Extremadura

Finca Pascualete. Countess of Romanones with her family at their country home in ExtremaduraThe Count and Countess of Romanones with their three children

 

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones Aline Griffith, Countess of RomanonesVogue España 2010

 

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones,  with her grandson  Juan Figueroa at Finca Pasculate Fuera de Serie,2012Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones,  with her grandson  Juan Figueroa at Finca Pasculate Fuera de Serie,2012

Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones

 

The following three images are from her pattern-filled  NYC apartment

Countess of Romanones's NYC apartment

Countess of Romanones's NYC apartment

Countess of Romanones's NYC apartmentArchitectural Digest via The Devoted Classicist blog 

 

Countess of Romanones in her Madrid Flat

Countess of Romanones in her Madrid FlatAt her home office in Madrid in the 60s (1st image) and 70s (2nd image)

 

Countess of Romanones in her Madrid residence

Countess of Romanones in her Madrid residenceAt home in Madrid. S Moda 2011

Tulip mania

Tulip season is a major event in Holland. Part of the country is transformed into a vast sea of flowers from mid-March to mid-May. It starts with crocus season in March, which is followed by daffodils and hyacinths. Finally, the tulips show their gorgeous colours, this is from mid-April through the first week of May. This flower originally came from Turkey but has become Holland’s symbol. How did that happen?

The Tulip was actually originally a wildflower growing in Central Asia. It was first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000AD. Although the Dutch Tulipomania is the most famous, The first mania occurred way back in 1500’s in Turkey – which was the time of the Ottoman Empire and of Sultan Suleiman I (1494-1566). Tulips became highly cultivated blooms, developed for the pleasure of the Sultan and his entourage. During the Turkish reign of Ahmed III (1703-30) it is believed that the Tulip reigned supreme as a symbol of wealth and prestige and the period later became known as ‘Age of the Tulips’.

An Iznik Polychrome tile, Turkey, circa 1575 of square form painted in underglaze cobalt blue, viridian green, turquoise and relief red, outlined in black with tulips, saz and composite lotus and saz palmettes issuing from scrolling tendrils. Sotheby'sAn Iznik Polychrome tile, Turkey, circa 1575 of square form painted in underglaze cobalt blue, viridian green, turquoise and relief red, outlined in black with tulips, saz and composite lotus and saz palmettes issuing from scrolling tendrils. Sotheby’s

 

It was during the early 1700’s that the Turks began what was probably the first of the Tulip Festivals which was held at night during a full moon. Hundreds of exquisite vases were filled with the most breath-taking Tulips, crystal lanterns were used to cast an enchanting light over the gardens whilst aviaries were filled with canaries and nightingales that sang for the guests. Romantically, all guests were required to wear colours which harmonised with the flowers.

A tulip in a landscape within stencilled borders. Ottoman, 17th century. British Museum Collection.

A tulip in a landscape within stencilled borders. Ottoman, 17th century. British Museum Collection.

 

Tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century. When Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips in 1592, they became so popular that his garden was raided and bulbs were stolen on a regular basis.

Tulips were originally a natural curiosity and a hobby for the extremely rich. The fascination with the tulips, its endless mutations and mystery, gave it an increasing value of immense proportions.

Double Portrait of a Husband and Wife with Tulip, Bulb, and Shells oil on panel painting by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt, 1609  Sotheby's

Double Portrait of a Husband and Wife with Tulip, Bulb, and Shells oil on panel painting by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt, 1609  Sotheby’s

 

Speculation on Tulip bulbs began building quickly as the middle and upper classes sought them as the ultimate symbol of wealth and prosperity. Along with aviaries of exotic birds and large, decorative fountains, there would always be Tulips in the garden of any self-respecting Emperor, King, Prince, Archbishop or member of the aristocracy. Often mirrors would be set up in the garden to give the illusion that the owner had been able to afford to plant many more tulips than he actually had.

Until 1630 the bulbs were grown and traded only between connoisseurs and scholars but more commercially minded people soon noticed the ever increasing prices being paid for certain Tulips and thought they’d found the perfect “get rich quick” scheme.
And so the popularity of the Tulip increased and more and more people became caught up in the trade.

It wasn’t long before the majority of the Dutch community became obsessed with these flowers. Those who could not afford the bulbs settled instead for art, furniture, embroideries and ceramics which featured the flowers.

Tulip vase, Adriaen Kocks, 1694. Royal Collection Trust, UK.   Many of Queen Mary II's Delft vases were described in the inventories of her palaces at Het Loo and Hampton Court as standing on the hearth. Flower vases such as these were used to ornament the fireplace during the spring and summer when fires were not lit. Each of the nine hexagonal stages was made separately, with a sealed water reservoir and six protruding grotesque animal mouths, into which the cut stems of tulips or other flowers could be placed.

Tulip vase, Adriaen Kocks, 1694. Royal Collection Trust, UK.   Many of Queen Mary II’s Delft vases were described in the inventories of her palaces at Het Loo and Hampton Court as standing on the hearth. Flower vases such as these were used to ornament the fireplace during the spring and summer when fires were not lit. Each of the nine hexagonal stages was made separately, with a sealed water reservoir and six protruding grotesque animal mouths, into which the cut stems of tulips or other flowers could be placed.

 

Many of the gorgeous Tulip watercolours painted during this period are now considered works of art but were, at the time, painted for catalogues with which to tempt buyers into ever more extravagant purchases. It was only ever the most expensive Tulips (ie those with ‘broken’ colour) which were painted.

Since bulbs were sold by weight, most people were speculating on the future weight of the bulb once it was dug.

Jacob Marrel, Four Tulips: Boter man (Butter Man), Joncker (Nobleman), Grote geplumaceerde (The Great Plumed One), and Voorwint (With the Wind), ca. 1635–45. Met Museum.

Jacob Marrel, Four Tulips: Boter man (Butter Man), Joncker (Nobleman), Grote geplumaceerde (The Great Plumed One), and Voorwint (With the Wind), ca. 1635–45. Met Museum.

 

The tulip’s popularity reached unprecedented, even excessive, heights, in the 1630s. This gave rise to a veritable tulipmania, which held many Dutchmen in its grip in 1636 and 1637. If the flower had initially roused largely scientific interest, from around 1630 on tulips became attractive financially. Tulips and tulip bulbs were bought and sold actively, frantically in fact, and this trade deteriorated into speculation in 1637. Countless people jumped on the bandwagon buying options they could pay later, some even putting up their homes as collateral. The market crashed suddenly in February 1637; prices plummeted and many investors were left penniless.

Tulip, two Branches of Myrtle and two Shells, Maria Sibylla Merian (attributed to) c. 1700. Rijksmuseum

Tulip, two Branches of Myrtle and two Shells, Maria Sibylla Merian (attributed to) c. 1700. Rijksmuseum

 

Jean Leon Gerome, The Tulip Folly, 1882, The Walters Art Museum

Jean Leon Gerome, The Tulip Folly, 1882, The Walters Art Museum

 

Susan Stewart 'Tulip Fire' Quilt, 2012, The National Quilt Museum

Susan Stewart ‘Tulip Fire’ Quilt, 2012, The National Quilt Museum

 

The people who speculated in tulips and tulip bulbs were the object of ridicule in countless pamphlets and prints. After all, vast sums were involved. Yet this way of doing business existed already in the 16th century, for instance in the grain trade. This was called grain futures, which is a polite word for speculation. Futures trading is still current; our present-day options exchange continues to work with a form of futures.

While interest in tulips remained undiminished after the crash in 1637, the market was no longer rife with excess and prices dropped to a more reasonable level. Tulips never lost their popularity, and growers in the west of Holland have continued to develop new varieties to this very day.

Tulips, Charlie McCormick

@mccormickcharlie

 

 

Tulips, The Landgardeners

@thelandgardeners

‘Some tulips last so long you could almost dust them off, and others you can’t trust overnight’ Constance Spry