photographed by Etienne GilfillanChinoiserie furniture seems to be having a resurgence of late and it isn’t hard to see why. Beautiful detailed lacquer work sits well in almost all houses, be they in the manner of Billy Baldwin with clean lines, classic furniture and a mix of styles, an all out Chinoiserie explosion, or indeed just a one off statement piece.

54038Chinoiserie, a European interpretation of Chinese and East Asian artistic tradition, sees simple cabinets and tables take on a whole new life. The Chinoiserie style, although varied, is often characterised by Chinese figures in exotic looking landscapes which almost always feature colourful birds, dragons and the iconic pagodas. This exuberant decoration depicting wildlife or domestic scenes was thought by colonial-era Europeans to be typical of Chinese culture. There however were some who believed Chinoiserie to be an injustice to Chinese culture and arts, as well as overly feminine, and a sign of cultural confusion within Europe in the 18th century.

Chinoiserie has never really gone out of fashion as such. The style took a blow after the death of George IV, whose endorsement of the style as can be seen in some of the rooms in the Brighton Pavilion. In addition to this, the first opium war 1839-42, meant export from China became near impossible and people became generally less interested with the style.

Chinoiserie has, however, always been a popular choice for interiors favored by Kings and nobles alike, sitting well with Rococo furniture that was also in fashion in the mid to late 18th century. In 1754 the 4th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort commissioned a Chinoiserie themed bedroom for Badminton House with William & John Linnell producing much of the furniture including the 994fd34c6a525b2d1da50be1b6f61763embellished bed with its imitation lacquer surface and pagoda-like canopy. A more contemporary interior is that of Coco Chanel’s living room providing excellent inspiration for a Chinoiserie interior; functional, elegant and chic. The 20th Century saw houses like Maison Jansen create fabulous Chinoiserie pieces for a larger market, although still proving popular with the higher classes. To this day the pieces appear to have an almost timeless quality, coffee tables like this 1950’s piece have simple clean form, oriental bamboo style legs and a highly decorated top. The actual make up of the piece is very simple, the art is in the detail. Top Photograph Courtesy of Etienne Gilfillan


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
IMG_20170119_105500It is very cold right now…I can tell you it is even colder at 5 am, and even colder still in Brussels.

Marc and I went on a whistle-stop tour on Thursday last week. Fortunately there was no snow or rain so I skipped along with a glass half full attitude, and an intravenous drip of caffeine. The first shop we went, we struck gold (I am told this isn’t always the case). We found a rather large 18th century Flemish Tapestry, with a far off chateau; recently Tapestries have been selling like hot cakes (hoping I haven’t jinxed that!), they provide a fantastic wall covering and add an interesting focal point to a room as well as a warmth, both aesthetically and literally. This one is winging its way to us this week!

I had never been to Brussels before so Marc pointed out what I think is his favorite area “chocolate square” and like small children starved of sweets we pressed our faces to the windows, but then like the consummate professionals we are, walked on by with out a second thought….

IMG_20170119_112229A few more shops and a beautiful harlequin set of Val st Lambert 50’s hi-ball glasses, which are probably my favorite purchase of the day, especially as Marc didn’t seem that impressed with this pair of diamanté encrusted candelabra suggested, there is no accounting for taste. Then to lunch, there is a certain novelty about being encouraged to have a glass of wine while technically at work, I didn’t even pretend to say no, the food was delicious, and the restaurant was warm, but alas we ventured back out into the cold. But not for long as we were on our way to BRAFA art fair.

IMG_20170119_164300 (1)BRAFA, if I had to compare to a London fair is a lot like Masterpiece, and one of the most easily navigable fairs I have ever been to, which was a bonus. I would be lying if I said that everything in there was to my taste, but that is life, the stands were impressive, well thought out and had a selection of very fine items. As with most fairs there was a healthy smattering of the very modern in contrast to the antique elements. We saw some beautiful works, with tapestries on the brain, of particular interest was the De Wit stand with some of the most impressive and beautiful examples of tapestries I have ever seen, Marc liked one of a cabbage leaf with an ornate floral and figural border, but I preferred “Separation of day and night” (Southern Netherlands 1585 – 1600) there is something both whimsical and fantastic about it, and it is a bit more out there than the usual landscape scene.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Untitled_Panorama1The day that I walked in to Guinevere to find Dean’s dark and mysterious room of plaster breasts, legs, bums and tums, I was instantly mesmerised. The limbs are spread throughout the room, clutching banisters and breasts, kicking balls (metaphorically) and tiptoeing down stairs, they filled my face with a smile from ear to ear. The 60-piece plaster set from the workshop of renowned Parisian sculptor Max Le Verrier has been nestled amongst stunning Neo-Classical Mirrors, luxurious bone veneered Regency style daybeds and glistening gilded 8ft fluted Torcheres 53471from southern Spain, creating a feel of eclecticism but in a sophisticated and somehow controlled manner. With the rich aubergine coloured walls, the pale plaster is all the more eye catching, and when a knobbly knee protrudes from the wall you almost believe there is a Centurion behind it breaking free from the past.

As one of the leading pioneers of the Art Deco movement in the mid 1920’s, Max Le Verrier won a gold award for his work at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art in Paris 1925. The predominantly Greco-Roman inspired casts were used by Max Le Verrier to create some of his most beautiful sculptures.

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 12.44.37When I first saw the limb covered walls, it reminded me of photographer Marc Lagrange’s sculptor workshop scenes in Tongeren, Belgium. The magnificent form in the centre blew me away, but then the clutter of moulds and mannequins on the wall meant you could look at it for hours and continue to find new amusements hidden in a dark corner. From the floor to the ceiling there is something beautiful everywhere you look, and ensuring no surface is left bare, whether that is the dust-covered floor or the old easel hanging from the banister, I found it quite inspiring.

Having always been fond of the more eclectic taste, this is something I would happily take home, creating drama in a sort of peacefully chaotic way.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
I saw an old lady standing at a bus stop the other day. She was wearing a shabby purple coat, the sort that old ladies wear, with a bright pea green sweater and deep pink trousers. I doubt she had very much money or that life had been very kind to her. She looked fabulous. Beautiful colour combinations can happen anywhere and when they do they are a gift for the brain. They stay lodged, stored in some recess, to be recalled years later when one reminisces about a time and a place, or used immediately next time you choose a bunch of flowers or place a cushion on a chair.

Unknown My mind is full of, among other things, a myriad of colour combinations. Things I’ve mixed together in my head and things I’ve seen, sometimes remembered exactly as they were and sometimes re-imagined as better versions of themselves.

I’ve been thinking about Italian Renaissance colours for a while, the type one sees in paintings. That particular red that might be pink, a green that is more green than green can be and of course, that gorgeous blue that seems to be made of cornflowers and lapis lazuli.

The National Gallery’s recently staged an exhibition “After Caravaggio”. The first time I attempted to see it was sold out, undeterred and having made the effort to haul myself into the centre of town on a Friday evening, I decided to have a look around the permanent collection anyway. One forgets how lucky we are to have such wonderful places on our doorstep for free, we should all make more of an effort to visit them and not just queue for the blockbuster exhibitions. I focused on the High Renaissance Galleries. All the colours I wanted to see were there. I knew them already, of course, they were in my head and I could visualise them, but it was wonderful to see them in front of me, together.

unnamed-1 The blue, the pink red and the green are all in Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (dated 1520-23, top left image), a painting that positively dazzles. Bronzino’s monumental ‘Allegory with Venus and Cupid’ (dated 1540-46 Right Image) has them too. As a child I loved Bronzino’s paintings. I was given a book and found them mesmerising. I was a quiet, bookish sort of boy, alone in my own little world.The National Gallery has his ‘Portrait of a Young Man’ (dated 1550-55), an unidentified sitter portrayed in front of a pinkish red curtain; this was close to the shade I’d been thinking of. By way of a slight detour, but continuing on the drapery theme, Hans Holbein the Younger’ ‘The Ambassadors’ (1533, Image Below) has the most beautiful green curtain as a backdrop, of a shade so unique that it is impossible to accurately describe.1039px-Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_The_Ambassadors_-_Google_Art_Project The gentleman on the left of the painting, Jean de Dinteville, French ambassador to England, is resplendent in silk of pinkish red and against the green the effect is brilliant.

So, I had my colours, I had my combination, now, what to do with them?

I wanted to create window displays for Guinevere using this Renaissance palette, but re-interpreted in a fresh modern way. The last thing I wanted was some sort of historical pastiche, all trompe l’oeil painted draperies and bunches of grapes with bits of marble. We may be an antique shop but, perversely;Guinevere Mar 17_094 progress LAYERED FINAL I always want us to look new.Could the paint take on a life of it’s own? Initially applied by the artist in a careful, considered manner and then left free, unconstrained by rules to run and drip and splash and pool on the floor? That would be a different and interesting thing to do with this bunch of shades that was living in my head.

I had paint especially mixed, water based gloss that behaved just as I hoped, first neat in broad bands of vertical stripes, then slipping and sliding as we left it to drip.

The colours, deliberately splashed and splattered onto the floor, took on a new energy and proved to be the perfect backdrop to bold red Chinoiserie furniture, (53391) a French Empire daybed with a green chartreuse silk seat, (52654) a Cheval mirror shaped like an artist’s palette (50917), coloured glass and Italian modernist cabinets of steel and brass (53268). A strong backdrop is a great way to display strong pieces.

Guinevere Mar 17_019 FINAL I don’t know whether other people see the colours of the Italian Renaissance metamorphosing into C21st century randomness when they look at the windows. Maybe they just think “oh, that’s fun and jolly for spring”. That’s the wonderful thing about colour; it’s filtered through the individual’s eyes and imagination and means something different to everyone. Never let anyone ever tell you there are rules, it’s as subjective as taste. Look for colour wherever you are and in all that you see. Load it to your visual bank or put it away somewhere in your memory. Remember the shades you like and the mixtures that entrance. Imagine the possibilities. Then, when life is quiet or grey recall, think of it, visualise it and let it take you to another time or place.

Dean Robinson

Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Guinevere Mar 17_044 FINALLondon Design Week is always something to look forward to with the new collections being launched heralding the start of Spring and longer days (finally). It's easy to forget how lucky we are in London to have such a fantastic design district with Chelsea Harbour and Chelsea Design Quarter, a London home so many International brands mixed in with more eclectic standalone shops.

C6eLoO_XMAA9cjNWe are particularly looking forward to visiting the new de le Cuona showroom, we always enjoy using their beautiful fabrics on our furniture. Both Alton Brooke and Pierre Frey have exquisite fabrics that look fantastic on both traditional and contemporary furniture so we always make a point of visiting their showrooms and seeing the latest designs.

There is a great buzz during design week, with both Trade and Retail participating in the week’s events, talks and lectures. Many of the UK’s top Interior Designers and tastemakers give informative talks during the week and these are a great place to pick up design tips, recommendations and inspiration.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
moai_Easter_IslandEaster Island, the remote Polynesian island located in the South Pacific, has always been steeped in mystery. The island of ‘Rapa Nui’ or ‘Easter Island’ as it is more commonly known earned its nickname thanks to Dutch explorers landing there on Easter Day in 1722.

This island’s most impressive claim to fame is an array of almost 900 minimalist monolithic human figures known as ‘Moai’ which were constructed between 1250 and 1500AD. The iconic moai have overly large heads with broad noses, strong chins and thin pouting lips. The statues have heavy torsos without legs and are usually portrayed as squatting.53534 The oversized heads are thought to relate to the Polynesian belief in the sanctity of the head and represented both dead ancestors and powerful chiefs. Varying sizes of the statues directly related to the status of the chief who had commissioned it.

Originally the majority of the statues were located along the coast gazing inland overlooking the community as if to keep them safe. The exception to this was seven figures which looked out to sea, legend has it, to guide travellers to the island. There are a few inland ‘Easter Island Heads’ which are the most iconic of the moai which recent excavations have revealed to have full torsos buried beneath the earth.

Much has been made of how these monumental statues carved from a compressed volcanic ash which weigh on average 15 tons and are 13 feet high were moved around the island from the quarries to their final resting place. The most likely theories involved either rolling the statues on logs or ‘walking’ them into position using ropes.

moai-with-peopleFollowing on from the Moai era was the ‘Birdman Cult’ which was an annual competition to select a new leader. The competition comprised of a race to a nearby islet to collect the first egg of the season from the Sooty Tern bird. The first person to swim back to Easter Island and climb up the sheer cliffs with the egg intact to hand over to their sponsor was then declared ‘birdman’ for the year, an important position of status.

The demise of the island is still much debated amongst archaeologists with several leading arguments. It has long been thought that deforestation was the major cause along with the invasive Polynesian rat which devastated crops followed by the slave trade. The few survivors of the slave trade were vulnerable and as landing missionaries forced their religions onto the islanders the natives quickly lost their identity and were forced into living on a small portion of the island with much of their ancestral history lost or destroyed.

As of 1994 The Rapa Nui National Park and its Moai are a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Glass BoxesBohemian glass, or Bohemia crystal is glass produced in the regions of Bohemia and Silesia (now the Czech Republic). For centuries it has been internationally recognised for its high quality, craftsmanship, and innovative designs and is highly collectable.

The main fashion for colours came in the 1830’s glass was then coloured by layering or by colour stains and lustres. Usual colours were cornflower-blue and emerald-green. 51841 In the 1840’s green and greenish yellow glass came into fashion, was coloured with uranium and yellow glass coloured with antimony or silver chloride. Ruby glass coloured with copper was used almost exclusively for over-laying clear glass. A cut decoration that exposed the transparent layer underneath gave the glass a richly decorative effect. Gold was used for colouring the pinkish Rosaline glass that was made around the middle of the 19th Century by both the Harrach and Meyr glassworks.

The traditional techniques of engraving remained artistically in the forefront in Bohemia. In the traditional refinery region of North Bohemia only naïve mythological and allegorical scenes were engraved in the first quarter of the 19th Century celebrating loyalty, love and friendship, the ages of man, etc. According to the latest research it seems that the high standard of engraving was preserved in the first place by the engravers in Nový Svĕt, such as both Franz and Johann Pohl (1764-1834) who like the Silesian engravers engraved seals. Both Pohls are cited as teachers of the most famous engraver of the first half of the 19th Century Dominik Biemann (1800-57).52915 Biemann left a wide range of signed works in the first place excellent portraits on glass medallions and on Harrach beakers, which show his training in drawing at the Prague Academy of Painting. Biemann settled in Prague, but he seems still to have worked occasionally for the Harrach glassworks in Nový Svĕt.

52635Bohemian glass is shaped by the two principal activities of the region – deer hunting and health spas. The town of Carlsbad was established, according to legend, when King Charles IV's hunting party chased a deer over a cliff. In their pursuit, the hunters descended into the valley and found a bubbling hot spring. The king established a town there and a statue of a deer is one of its symbols. By the 19th century, aristocratic visitors from all over Europe combined hunting trips with a spell of detox, drinking the water and bathing in the health-giving spas.

Glassmakers in Bohemia, led by Friedrich Egermann, responded with endless experiments. The secret of ruby glass that had been made from gold a hundred years earlier was rediscovered, along with recipes for rich blue and green glass. Whilst solid coloured glass was exciting, it wasn't suitable for engraving as the carving didn't show up. In order to overcome this a thin layer of richly coloured glass was applied on the surface.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
IMG_8217 The Parma antiques fair is always an interesting experience. It’s a melting pot where antique dealers from all over Europe set up stands in noisy multilingual confusion, as international professional buyers try to make sense of it all and find a treasure.

The fair doesn’t officially open until day 3, by which time all the buyers have left. Confusing? That’s the Parma fair.

The size of the fair is astounding, as is the diversity of merchandise (antiques would only cover half of it) including: old master paintings, garden furniture, oriental porcelain, slot machines, baker’s racks, watches, jewellery, front of Parma Duomo fur coats, stuffed animals and supposedly Roman statues – all treated with the same irreverence amongst the shouting and gesticulating.

After 8 hours of trawling the aisles, asking prices with a scattergun approach because you should never assume that something is going to be too expensive, I decide to call it a day and make my way back to town. In all the years of going to the Parma fair, I have never taken the time to visit the famous Duomo with it’s cupola painted by Corregio, mainly because I’m too tired and I put it off till next time. So I decided that tired or not, today was the day – and I was completely bowled over.

Corregio's Cupola The relatively plain Romanesque entrance is guarded by two massive Byzantine marble lions sculpted in 1281, and the interior is one of the best examples of 16th fresco painting that I have seen (perhaps excluding the Sistine). The nave and side chapels are completely covered in beautifully depicted biblical stories, although you have to put 2 euros in the slot to turn the lights on! When I got to the famous cupola, or dome, painted by Corregio in the late 1520’s,Santa Maria interior I stared in awe for 20 minutes (4 x 2 euros for the lights).

It was famously stated by Titian, who was the most celebrated artist in the world at the time, that such was the technical ingenuity of this work of art, that the cupola filled with gold would be a fair price to the artist for such a feat – he wasn’t wrong.

Still dazed and blinking from the splendor I had just witnessed, I decided to pop into the relatively modest Santuary of Santa Maria della Steccata, which I must have walked past more that a hundred times over the years, casually appreciating it’s baroque architecture alongside all the other wonderful buildings. A relatively small church, the interior is covered by flamboyant baroque magnificence, with the fresco paintings by the famous Pamigianino (the little one from Parma) amongst others.

That will teach me not to be casual about Italian churches.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
52472I have always loved Textiles old and new, but once I started working at Guinevere (centuries ago!!) My love of all textiles grew.

Beautiful vegetable dyed yarns, woven into tapestries. Reminding us of time gone by in castles and mansions. Cold, windy, wet days with barely any light, warmed up visually by the rich yet muted colours, and exciting us with a story.

Tapestries have been out of fashion, but I bought some recently because I love them and I was thrilled so see that some of our clients agree with me. They are wonderful pieces of history. Our most recent acquisition is an early 18thC Flemish tapestry. With a rich border, where the colour has remained, the central section filled with gorgeous flowers, food on plates, a bow and arrows, crossed swords at the top and blue parrots at the bottom.

Unknown-2 Setting the scene in the middle is a cascading waterfall and a grand house in the distance to give depth. Framed buy trees, the colours of which are amazing. Leaves of every shape and oversized to give an element of drama, with colours ranging the spectrum of blues and greens. The tree trunks are a medley of warm browns and terracotta.

Unknown-1 The characters are all in dramatic positions, arms up, feet pointing to show movement. Their clothes are swaying too. Not to mention, the main attraction of Perseus having just cut of Medusa’s head triumphantly. He is keeping her eyes well away from the crowd, no-one wants to turn to stone.

Thank you to all of you who, like myself, love a bit of drama and colour, tied together with history. Long my we continue to find them!!

I have trawled the internet and found some other excellent examples of these beautiful fragments of history.

1074500_lNazmiyal Collection
18th Century Flemish Tapestry Pastoral – “Combining Romanticism, classicism and Baroque artistry, this spectacular antique Flemish tapestry is a quintessential example of this highly evolved art form that flourished in Dutch-influenced Flanders throughout the 18th century”

T3F0273a_org_z Mallet Antiques
Flemish Tapestry Depicting the Crowning of Esther, late 16th-early 17th century, probably Oudenaarde.

1da1eefb_295a_4cb0_8c09_236675629b1a_z Robuck
17th Century Flemish Tapestry, “Rescue of the Nymph Io from the Giant Argus” The scene depicting a well-known Roman and Greek Myth: Hera, wife of Zeus has turned his lover, the nymph Io, into a cow and has cast her out of the heavens to earth and the garden of Nemea and ordered Argus, the all seeing Giant, to watch over her.


Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
One of the great things about working at Guinevere is the opportunity to meet interesting people. I had heard about mud larks, usually poor children of the 18th and 19th centuries who scavenged in the Thames mud and shingle for anything of value that they could sell for money. It transpires that one of the directors, Florence Evans, of the Weiss Gallery (location of the Guinevere Pop Up in Mayfair) is a modern-day mud larker. Really!? And she agreed to take me along to show me what it was all about.

We met at Barbican Station, crossed the bridge and climbed over a locked gate to get to the foreshore. We were a bit late for the lowest tide, but we had plenty of shoreline to scavenge. It takes a while to develop an eye for the small pieces lurking in the mud and shingle. I despaired until I spied my first piece.

And this is some of what we found: The bowl of a clay tobacco pipe and a myriad of pipe stems: Photo 1 Photo 2 These pipes were sold pre-packed with tobacco and then were thrown away. The stems of these pipes are everywhere along the foreshore, but intact bowls, less so…particularly this smaller bowl variety, which dates from the early days of tobacco use, between 1580 and 1610. Tobacco smoking became quite a craze, and perhaps Sir Walter Raleigh smoked this very pipe!

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.37.51

Bellarmine Potsherd 17th c. (right, sample of intact face from Jug). Also known as a Bartmann jug – German for ‘bearded man’ – it was a type of stoneware from the Cologne region manufactured in the 16th and 17th centuries. It always incorporates a bearded man on the neck of the vessel.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.45.44

Brass dress pins, Tudor – 18th c.

Neolithic flint flake (definitely made by human hands fashioning tools).

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 11.02.42

Green glaze shards, possibly Medieval

Piece of Roman Marble

Photo 9

Shard of combed slipware pottery. The unfired pot was dipped in liquid clay (the slip) to coat it. And then a pattern of dark lines on top of the slip was ‘combed’ in, like the icing on a Bakewell tart.

You have to keep an eye on the tide though. A few hours later, the area we covered is under water again.

Photo 10

Share this post:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest