Bohemian 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. 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). 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.
Bohemian 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.
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, 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.
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,
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.
For this years London Design Festival, we are holding a Dhurrie Exhibition at Guinevere. The exhibition, which is currently open at our showroom on the Kings Road, celebrates the variety of patterns and colours of dhurries, and is accompanied by text, which explores the history, manufacturing techniques and symbolism behind the different dhurrie designs.
In India, dhurries play an important role in everyday life. These flat-weave cotton carpets are functional and decorative. The variety of colours and the simple designs make dhurries very appealing. They are suitable for use in classic or contemporary schemes, and are extremely durable.
They became popular in Europe after the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London, 1851. This major industrial exhibition promoted manufactured products and international trade. In the Indian Pavilion a huge ‘tile’ design dhurrie was hung up on the wall. We have examples of this design on display.
As British influence grew in India, dhurrie manufacture entered a new phase and thus, the period between 1850-1930 was the finest and most creative era of dhurrie production.
Our stylist Dean (aided by the muscles Raffi and Julian) transformed one of our rooms by covering as much floor, wall and ceiling space with a patchwork of striped, geometric, floral, pictorial and medallion dhurries. A fabulous 19thC Anglo-Indian ebonised four poster bed, some beautiful sari covers, cushions and lampshades, different coloured mosque lanterns hang from the ceiling, and an Indian painting of a Jaisalmer Lady . The room now looks like explorers have come back from India with all of the colour and patterns you would expect.
We love it! – and it is a great way to display the dhurries, which are usually all rolled up. The exhibition encourages people to touch and interact with the dhurries; to feel the different texture and softness of the weave and the surprising weight of the carpets.
For the exhibition, we borrowed a selection of really special and unusual antique dhurries from private collections. One of my favourites is this pictorial dhurrie, from northern Deccan, c.1910, which is composed of dark blue peacocks, light blue peahen and parrots. Highly decorative dhurries, such as these, would have most likely been commissioned by a wealthy family. In the centre of the dhurrie a peacock looks out directly at the viewer, displaying his plumage in an act of courtship ritual. The fertility symbols in the design implies that this dhurrie was part of a dowry, and its size suggests it was a bed dhurrie. Definitely worth a visit in our opinion….
Valentine’s Day. Sunday 14th February.
A Cautionary Tale.
Once upon a time there were three brothers: Tom, Dick and Harry.
They were nice boys, well brought up and each quietly excellent, in his way.
Tom worked hard in the city and earned a lot of money. Most of the time he was stressed. He drove a top of the range Audi and, if he’d lost a little weight, could have been considered quite handsome. He had a lovely girlfriend who also worked hard in the city and earned a great deal of money. She was permanently exhausted and survived on coffee.
Dick was the best looking of the bunch, his career had never really scaled the heights, but he was ever hopeful & rather charming. He dressed well and he and his wife made enough money to take regular weekends to Ibiza & Formentera. Sometimes they asked if they were a bit old for partying but as they didn’t have kids yet, why not? She had a fabulous wardrobe of boho chic kaftans and he spent a lot of time on his abs.
Harry was generally regarded as the nicest of the bunch, quiet and unassuming he was secretly rather clever. He’d been dating a girl he really liked for quite a while and she really liked him. They both separately wondered if the other could be the one. Neither wanted to tempt fate by saying so.
As St Valentine’s day approached the three brother’s began to think.
Tom thought about Paris, or maybe Rome? Deciding both were far too predictable he settled on Istanbul instead, until he realized there was no way his girlfriend could take a few days off. She was working every hour at the moment and about to clinch a massive deal.
In the end he brought her a spiralizer, she’d said she wanted one recently and was worried about how much take-out food they ate.
He proudly presented it on Valentine’s day morning. If only we were overlooking The Bosphorus, he thought.
“Hmm, that’s nice” she said, “how useful”.
Like a man who turns up at a smart party in a rented tux, he knew he had failed.
What she’d been hoping for was actually a weekend away, anywhere, as long as she could catch up on her sleep and have massages. It didn’t have to be a magical kingdom, just somewhere with no client meetings.
Dick couldn’t buy lingerie, he’d done that for Christmas, and as his credit card was a bit maxed out, jewelery was out of the question. The wicked florist said she couldn’t guarantee a delivery of flowers before 10am on a Sunday, so he went all the way to the market in a distant part of the kingdom and brought the biggest bunch of red roses he could carry. Worried he hadn’t spent enough he picked up a bottle of scent too, not her usual one, as that would have been too obvious, but something new. An hour in a department store sniffing testers just about finished him off & by the time he got back to the flat, he and the flowers had rather lost their sparkle.
He proudly presented it all on Valentine’s Day morning. By now the flowers had even less sparkle. He smiled hopefully, If he’d had a magic wand he would have waved it.
“Red roses, what a lovely surprise”, she said and not a bit like the diamond tassle earrings I wanted, she thought. And he doesn’t even know which scent I wear!
Like a man who puts all his money on red as the wheel spins to black he knew he had failed.
Now Harry and the girl he really liked had both left things to the last minute, but neither seem worried and oddly enough neither was free to spend Sunday with the other.
Guinevere, a beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness opened at 10am on Saturdays. Only five minutes walk from the tube station, Harry had enjoyed a coffee and avocado on toasted rye at a nearby deli before he walked through the doors about half past.
He looked at the array of things, all unique, before selecting a gorgeous Murano ruby glass casket , he considered a pretty shagreen photo frame but decided that could wait. If everything went as he hoped this weekend they were going to need to frame a photo to commemorate a special day.
The girl he really liked spent the morning at the gym and as she knew that Guinevere, the beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness wasn’t stuffy, like some places, she walked through the door in her gym gear with a post work-out glow just after after 12. She looked at the array of things, all gorgeous, before selecting an Art Deco silver mounted decanter (50671). She considered a cut crystal ice bucket but decided that could wait. If everything went as she hoped this weekend they were going to need something to put Champagne in when they announced a special day.
Harry and the girl he really liked didn’t wait until Valentine’s day morning to exchange their gifts.
Imagine their surprise and delight as they exchanged their smart packages wrapped in Guinevere boxes and ribbon that very evening! Sometime love can’t wait and it’s reassuring to know that the one you think you love has excellent taste.
Much later, sat at her dressing table, the ruby red casket taking pride of place, she looked up and in the mirrors reflection saw Harry at the end of the bed, he had poured drinks from the Art Deco decanter.
“Perfect” she smiled and he smiled back. He was the one.
Like a man who buys his Valentine a gift at Guinevere, he knew he hadn’t failed.
Guinevere is open from 10 until 5.30 Saturday 13th February.
Gift wrapping free of charge.
Fairytale ending up to you.
We recently came across a collection of Bianchini Férier designs in black, blue and autumnal watercolours. The designer's notes scrawled around the edges, a couple even had stamps charting their progress through different stages of approval, in the hopes that they might become one of the signature fabrics produced by Bianchini Férier. Not knowing much about the company, I began doing a little research, and started to realise what a huge part of fashion industry history these 12 watercolours represented.
For those of you, like me, who didn't know, the silk weaving house of Bianchini Férier was founded in Lyon on the 23rd July 1888 by François Atuyer, Charles Bianchini and François Férier. After a few decades of successful partnership, in 1912 the artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1935) was contracted by Bianchini to design textiles for the company, which turned into one of the best known collaborations within the design industry at the time.
It has been said that Dufy was poached from right under the nose of Paul Poiret, who he had been working with for just a year before being tracked down by Bianchini, however his designs were still used in Poiret's garments.
Over the course of his contract he produced over 4000 designs, and would see each one through from conception to completion. The firm continue to prosper after Dufy's contract came to an end in 1928 as planned,
and continued supplying fabrics to the great fashion houses of the time, a practice which continued and expanded in the sixties to the production of designs for designers such as Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Laroch, Nina Ricci and Yves Saint Laurent, to name a few.
Much like the prints used in the fashion industry today, the simplicity and pared down colour scheme of the watercolour designs ensures a seamless transition from design to fabric.
These 12 'working' watercolour sketches have an immediacy that gives them a fresh, timeless look, which along with the insistent French notes in the margins (“And they had better be consistently engraved!”) to remind us of their origins, makes them the perfect addition to the Guinevere walls.
Collection image courtesy of dufy-bianchini.com
Lacca Povera, perhaps more commonly known as Arte Povera; which literally translates to poor art, is as term which you might be surprised to find associated with some of the beautiful European furniture of the 19th and 20th Century, such as these Venetian Consoles from Newel, left,
or our Italian Commodes right. Far from showing a lack of wealth, however, this was a actually an incredibly popular finishing technique, often taken up by amateur hobbyists as well as professionals, based on the Chinoiserie craze of the time. It involved taking Asian concept and aesthetic, to some extent 'westernising' it, and recreating it in a less expensive and time-consuming manner.
As opposed to layer upon layer of lacquer being built up, along with labour intensive hand-painted designs that went into making pieces such as Coromandel screens, Lacca Povera was a much shorter process. It involved paper cut-outs, which were often purpose-made commercially printed images that might then have been hand-coloured, being applied using fish glue onto the already prepared surface. This was then varnished several times, making it difficult to distinguish the edges of the images from the surface of the object.
What once began as a less expensive, simpler version of chinese lacquer is now considered quite a rarity, often as or if not more valuable than some of the more readily available Chinoiserie pieces.
These Lacca Povera pieces lack the formality of traditional chinese decorative lacquerwork but retain the elegance of their inspirational counterparts.
Working at Guinevere for so many years I have been spoilt by looking at gorgeous items on a daily basis. Every now and then something new is purchased which really over exceeds all our expectations and excites the senses. This week we have a stunning Pair of Russian Malachite tables with Silver mounts and hoof feet. They ooze elegance and would work in a truly modern space or a traditional one.
I am currently working from a Large Louis XV style Bureau plat in Kingwood with Ormolu mounts. It has great scale and a wonderful old leather top, which really tells a story. Not many people are able to work from a desk with so much history and character. Lucky me!
We are always shopping for the un-usual. Yesterday it was a cheerful red 1950’s English cigarette box in snake skin with bone edges. In all my years I have not seen one this colour.
Today I have been playing with the Antique textiles in the conservatory. Fabulous Block printed, hand quilted bed covers in gorgeous Indigo . All shades of blue are always a winner.
Otherwise the coat to wear this winter is the FUN coat made from Indian ceremonial throws. They are embroidered with bright coloured flowers with little mirrors. While everyone one else was wearing Black to an opening of an Art Gallery I wore one of these coats and was the ONLY person looking bright and cheerful. If nothing else I was different.
Tomorrow is another day….