Press release for an early Coco Chanel Exhibition

coco-chanel-picFound in a box of ephemera — this press release from the Paris HQ of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel announcing a forthcoming exhibition on a May 5th (possibly 1933) of over a hundred dresses made entirely from British materials.

The aim of this non-selling exhibition, which was to be held at 39, Grosvenor Square and would last a fortnight, was to promote co-operation between textile manufacturers and exclusive model houses in Britain and designers in Paris. The show was the result of a previous visit to London when Mlle Chanel had met with forty textile manufacturers. From the samples they had brought with them she had produced a collection that aimed to prove that’ it is possible to be appropriately dressed in British materials for a cloudburst at Ascot or a hurricane at Lords, as for a dead calm at Cowes, or a tropical spell on the Scotch moors.’

‘These dresses and their many accessories ’, the press release continues, ‘will be displayed by English girls, (including Mrs Ronald Balfour and Lady Pamela Smith), and as each dress appears, a card will be shown stating the name of the manufacturer of the materials employed. Continue reading

Odd photos bought online 2

anne1Bought at eBay for the price of a latte (and muffin) -these 3 photos purporting to be of a British royal – Anne, Princess Royal. The left and right photos are indubitably her, the middle photo (printed on Fujifilm Crystal
Archive paper -as is the other colour shot) may not be. It shows a well dressed and striking young woman emerging from a Ford Thunderbird sometime in the (late?) 1960s in what looks like a field or orchard with other mostly pretty fancy American cars parked there. It has the feel of a Cindy Sherman performance  art photograph and if authentic must have been taken on a tour of America by Anne or while she was on holiday there.

 

The mouth (and nose) and assured demeanour certainly look like Anne. The provenance is good but such web purchases always have an element of doubt- certainly if it is Anne she is looking uncharacteristically  ‘cool’ and it is one of the ‘groovier’ moments of her young life. An online search revealed nothing conclusive especially when coupled with the words ‘Thunderbird.’
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A relic of the talented Messel Family

Messel Medea cover 001Found in a box of old text books (Zinn collection)  is this copy of part two of C. B. Heberden’s edition of Euripedes’ Medea ( notes and appendices) published by the Clarendon Press in 1886.Stamped in gold lettering on the light brown cover of this distinctly dull-looking school text book are the words MESSEL/TARVERS. Inscribed in pencil on the fly-leaf we find ‘ L.Messel/Tarvers ‘, which suggests that it belonged at one time to Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel ( 1872 – 1953), father of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Beneath the inscription are two pencil and ink drawings—one of a veiled lady in Victorian dress, the other a small profile of a man’s head.

Leonard was the eldest son of Ludwig Messel, a German stockbroker who had emigrated to Britain, possibly in the late 1860s.He married and in 1890 bought Nymans, a 600 acre estate near Hayward’s Heath in West Sussex. His son Leonard was sent to Eton, where he joined Tarver’s house, and that is all we really know about his life as a schoolboy. However, if he did execute the two drawings, then he obviously passed on his artistic skills to his son Oliver, who may also have inherited skills from his mother, who was the daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne, the eminent Punch cartoonist. This being so, it is equally likely that Oliver, who also attended Eton, inherited his father’s copy of Heberden’s Euripides, and it was he who drew the veiled woman and male profile. Continue reading

Wonder Wall—Second World War murals in restaurants and canteens

Murals Bawden 001It is a sad fact that most of the best mural paintings executed in canteens, cafes and restaurants in the UK no longer exist. Unlike those executed for some public buildings, those in private premises are subject to the taste of those who take over the property. By far the most notorious example was, of course, the murals executed around 1913 on the walls of Rudolf Stulik’s Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel in Percy Street, just off Tottenham Court Road, by Wyndham Lewis, which were later painted over.

The prevalence of the post-war obsession of interior decorators with the ‘ white wall ‘ was a possible explanation for the disappearance of most the Second World War murals that feature in an article by the architect Oliver Hill in the November 1943 issue of The Studio magazine. Working within the tradition of thirteen centuries of mural painting in English churches, and using the contemporary iconography of posters, notably those of McKnight Kauffer, many of the muralists commissioned during the Second World War were asked to address what was essentially a captive audience –diners at many British restaurants, staff dining rooms and government canteens. Muralists saw these projects as an opportunity to introduce otherwise unappreciative diners to good public art. To the architect Hill, the mural was not the equivalent of a large framed representational painting that focussed the attention of the viewer on itself, but was part of the building on which it was painted. As such, rather than realistic representation, a ‘good mural ‘ should, according to Hill, ‘ fire the imagination and, by its effect and phantasy, allow the mind of the observer to escape beyond the confines of the room, without, of course, forcibly obtruding itself upon him ‘. Continue reading

An amazing Art Deco garage photograph

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From the ever-giving El Mundo archive is this quite astonishing Fox Photos pic of a multi-storey garage housing what appear to be bran new, high-class, automobiles. Along with the press agency stamp and the date 6 Feb 1930 is a description in Spanish of the scene. Here it is in full:

Un “garage” moderno, ofrece a los ojos un aspecto fantastico y desconcertante .El automovil ha reemplazado definitivamente al caballo como elemento de transporte y las grandes ciudades se preparan par albergar la avalanche de coches que diariamente sugen de las fabricas e inundan las callas. Este “garage” , que pareciera el producto de una fantasia, ha sido construido en Paris.**

I have yet to see a photo that better expresses the visual impact of the Art Deco era. [R.M.Healey]

**A modern "garage " offers a fantastic and baffling appeal to the eyes. The car has definitely replaced the horse as a transport medium and big cities are preparing to host the avalanche of cars daily coming out of factories and flooding the streets. This " garage " which seems the product of a fantasy , has been built in Paris .

What a Knit ! The 1947 Home Industries Exhibition

Charing cross underground Cripps homemade 001From the wonderful El Mundo archive here is a press photo of the post-war Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, with Lady Reading, chairwoman of the Women’s Voluntary Service, among products featured in the 1947 Home Industries Exhibition sponsored by the WVS, which was held, rather bizarrely, in the entrance hall of Charing Cross Underground Station (now renamed Embankment) in London.

Apparently, far from resembling the rather naff home produced textiles that can still be found in countless craft fairs and garden fetes round the kingdom, these products were rated good enough to be part of a post-war export drive. The exhibits shown in the photo attest to the quality of the textiles.
Indeed, the seat covers on show were probably amongst the six examples which Queen Mary herself created for the exhibition and which were later sold for $10,000 in the United States! The Queen also wove panels which were later sewn together by other craftswomen to form a carpet that was presented to the National Gallery of Canada. Later, the Queen Mother got in on the act by contributing one or more of the seventy-two tapestry kneelers commissioned by the Washington National Cathedral.

The example shown by members of the Royal Family was doubtless a fillip to Women’s Home Industries, as the enterprise became known, with the result that before too long the flood of high quality textiles being supplied by home craftswomen from all over the UK became so enormous that a shop in West Halkin Street, around the corner from Harrods, was opened

By 1964 there were 3,000 home knitters supplying products to the London store and by the end of the decade some of the best known figures in textile design had become associated with the enterprise, which survived into the early seventies. [R.M.Healey]

“Fadeless Sundour”

Found on the dust jacket of a Collins 1939 edition of Alice in Wonderland
 this notice:

This book is bound in fadeless Sundour cloth, which can be lightly rubbed with a sponge when soiled, with perfect safety.

The cloth has hardly faded in its 77 year life and does not need sponging. The Sundour company is still going (in Warrington, Lancs) but now deals almost exclusively with  curtains. Its involvement with book cloth seems to have ceased in the 1940s. There is very little online about this and Sundour’s fadeless cloth is mostly mentioned in the more meticulous used bookseller’s lists…

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How to become a female home decorator c 1930

Decorators women ceiling661Devoted Jot101 followers will perhaps recall a previous jot of about a year ago which featured some unusual photographs of three ‘ women home decorators’ going about their work inside a what appeared to be a Georgian town house. The snaps, which appear to date from the late twenties or very early thirties, were attached to a short handwritten article composed by a women of feminist sympathies outlining the rewards and pitfalls of self-employment for a woman intent upon a career as a decorator. It is not known whether the article was ever published—possibly not, as the manuscript was recovered from an archive of various material. Anyway, here is the article in full.

Home Decoration as a Career.

‘House Decorations is a most enthralling & interesting business, but let no-one imagine it is not a very serious undertaking.

Its aims are artistic, its ideas are artistic, but in the carrying out of these ideas stern business ability is required and no-one need undertake it who does not realise this.

Plain Business means incessant work, physical and mental control, knowledge of men & things, and insight into the character of others.

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Bailey, Keeler, Tree & Faithfull in 1969

Found  – this 1969 press photo. The byline reads: “1/10/69 London. Christine Keeler (left), whose name figured prominently a few years back in a scandal that rocked the British  government attends a party in Chelsea 11/9 to launch a new book on the “Swingin’ Sixties”.  With her is photographer David Bailey actress Penelope Tree and singer Marianne Faithfull (right).”

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We covered this in an earlier jot with a different photo. One comment said that the super model Penelope Tree ‘owned’ the photo, but in this shot she shares the limelight with the handsome hippified Bailey. A rhyme at the time went: ‘David Bailey/ Makes love daily.’ Christine Keeler appears uncharacteristically jolly and  Marianne Faithfull was appearing at the Theatre Royal Brighton in Alice in Wonderland about this time.

The book was Goodbye Baby & Amen. A Saraband for the Sixties. The text was by Peter Evans and photos by Bailey. The sitters included Brigitte Bardot, Cecil Beaton, Marisa Berenson, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine, Julie Christie, Ossie Clark, Joan Collins, Catherine Deneuve, Mia Farrow, Albert Finney, Jean-Luc Godard, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Dudley Moore, Rudolf Nureyev, Oliver Reed, Keith Richard, Peter Sellers, Jean Shrimpton, Barbra Streisand, Andy Warhol, Franco Zeffirelli. Presumably some of these illuminati were at the party..

A Georgian Giles Coren (concluded)

Georgian eateries117Virginia, Newman’s Court, Cornhill.

This house is much frequented by ship carpenters, and ship brokers. Dinners are very well served up at 15d a head. Rural city merchants, that is, those who sleep in the country, generally dine here. The entertainment is good, and the charge moderate. As to the mistress at the bar, she is very obliging; she is as prolific in curtseys as a Frenchwoman, and as prolific in issue as a rabbit.1)

Mill’s, Gerrard Street, Soho

This house is remarkable for good red port, and good spirits. They dress dinners and suppers in style —and the breakfast are very comfortable. Several intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years, are it’s constant guests, and the conversation is both pleasing and instructive. The charges are indeed very reasonable, and the attention prompt and agreeable. It is celebrated for being the very first house that reduced the prices of wines and spirits, after the commencement of the French treaty. 2)

Batson’s Coffee House, near ‘Change.

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Sea Glass Beachcombers

New Brighton Beach, Capitola

Having returned to Northern California recently I noticed a new phenomenon on a beach that I regularly walk on when here - people looking intently at the stones and digging about in the sand. I asked one guy what it was all about and he said they were looking for sea glass, and that he had heard about this beach online. People make jewellery with this glass and also sell it online or just wear it. It is attractive stuff especially the more unusual colours (red, blue and the very rare black). So popular is it that people fake it - this type of glass is known as ‘tumbled.’ Some of the glass is not that old - a type of frosted white glass is said to come from Skyy vodka bottles. The best beach is at Fort Bragg (Glass Beach) in Northern California. The photo below is probably from before the recent craze, although remoter parts of the beach still have good yields. The amount found there is something to do with passing passenger ships and tides etc., The best time to look is after a storm. Some sea glass jewellery, especially in fancy settings, sells for $500 plus. See this high end  seller in Santa Cruz.

There are a few shops selling nothing but sea glass rings and bracelets and a few colourful books...

Many thanks Find Sea Glass
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Famous people from Stevenage (2) Edward Gordon Craig

The only other one appears to be the racing driver Lewis Hamilton, who was really born in Tewin, a few miles away, though some sites will tell you differently. According to the site devoted entirely to famous Stevenage people, most of the other contenders are bit players on soap operas or models, although it is not specified that the one decent footballer amongst them, Manchester United’s Ashley Young, actually came from the town.

Anyway, it can truly be said that Edward Gordon Craig (1872 – 1966), the eminent man of the theatre, designer of stage sets etcetera, was indeed born in Stevenage, long before the ancient Georgian coaching town had a bright, spanking New Town tacked onto its southern end. The illegitimate son of the famous actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward Godwin, it was almost inevitable that he would make his name as a stage designer, with his radical ideas of neutral non-representational sets and use of top-lighting. This photo (to follow) comes from the same archive of press photos featuring Herbert Read, Stephen Spender, Harold Nicholson and Desmond MacCarthy that inspired previous Jots– so one must assume that it too belongs to the Sunday Times Book Exhibition of 1936.

One extraordinary fact about Craig is that although he lived to be 94, all his most significant work was done before the age of 40—that is, before 1912. [RR]

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Bailey, Keeler, Faithfull in 1969

Recently found - this 1969 press photo. The byline reads:

1/10/69 London. Christine Keeler (left), whose name figured prominently a few years back in a scandal that rocked the British  government attends a party in Chelsea 11/9 to launch a new book on the "Swingin' Sixties".  With her is photographer David Bailey actress Penelope Tree and singer Marianne Faithfull (right).

The book was Goodbye Baby & Amen. A Saraband for the Sixties. The text was by Peter Evans and photos by Bailey.

The sitters included Brigitte Bardot, Cecil Beaton, Marisa Berenson, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine, Julie Christie, Ossie Clark, Joan Collins, Catherine Deneuve, Mia Farrow, Albert Finney, Jean-Luc Godard, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Dudley Moore, Rudolf Nureyev, Oliver Reed, Keith Richard, Peter Sellers, Jean Shrimpton, Barbra Streisand, Andy Warhol, Franco Zeffirelli. Presumably some of these illuminati were at the party..

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The Red Priest and the Architect

It might perhaps be guessed that Conrad Noel (1869 - 1942), the 'Red Priest' of Thaxted, whose Socialist views once outraged the Tory faithful of his North Essex parish, would be sympathetic to the Art and Craft movement, whose guru was the Socialist poet and designer William Morris. But an inscription, dated April 1906, in a copy of The Country Cottage, presented to him from its co-author, George Llewellyn Morris, confirms it.

Amazingly, I found this inscribed copy of the little book, a hymn to the virtues of both the humble thatched labourer’s cottage and its much more sophisticated Arts and Crafts imitations in brick, plaster and tile, profusely depicted in photographs, in 2006 among the trashy novels in the ten pence box outside a well known bookshop in Saffron Walden. The book had been given to Noel four years before he became Vicar of Thaxted, and it had somehow found its way from here to that bookshop, just 12 miles away, in the intervening years.

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The Tragedy of Copped Hall

The effects of the First World War were wide and long lasting, not just for those who were directly involved in it, one way or another , but for the architectural heritage of Britain. The deaths of so many sons of the upper class meant that estates that had been run so successfully up to 1914 were plunged into uncertainty. Great mansions were sold off or demolished. A different fate befell one great house and its astonishing gardens in Essex, as some clippings found among the papers of the late Peter Haining, who must have passed the site regularly on his route to and from his Essex home, tell.

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Beware—-Lady Decorators at Work !!

Here is one of four press photographs from the Photopress agency showing the same group of female house decorators performing various tasks. The other photographs depict two decorators limning Georgian panelling in a ‘West End mansion ‘, painting exterior window frames at the rear of another Georgian house by means of a ladder, while a third shows paint being mixed. This particular shot of three painters white washing a plaster ceiling while standing on two very precarious looking duckboards would probably horrify our Health and Safety jonnies. Back in the early 1930s, when these photos were probably taken, Risk Assessment Reports were sixty years into the future.
A slightly  sexist comment typed on the back of the Georgian panelling photo by some agency worker is worth examining:

WOMAN DECORATORS BUSY ON THE JOB
Many of the big houses and mansions in the West End are now in the hands of decorators. At some of the houses woman decorators are busy on the job of working with effecientcy (sic) that expert decorators would find hard to beat.

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Oliver Messel and ‘Bobo’ Sigrist in the famous Suite he created

It’s got a toilet seat shaped like a scallop shell, a grand double bedroom and more rococo swags, flat columns and baroque touches than a wealthy thespian could wish for. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent their honeymoon in 1964.No wonder American A listers, like Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson, have demanded it. We are talking about the Messel Suite, which is all yours for a mere £2,950 a night.

This photo, retrieved from a pile of press shots issued by the Dorchester itself, shows its creator, Oliver Messel, arguably the greatest stage designer from the thirties to the sixties, sitting alongside the twenty-two year old Frederika ‘Bobo’ Sigrist, heiress to the Hawker-Siddeley fortune. It was taken on 28 June 1962 on the occasion of her mother’s marriage to British public relations chief Sir Berkeley Ormerod.

Messel and Sigrist, in an artfully arranged pose, may first have met through their shared association with the millionaires of Mustique. Messel lived in a Barbabos beach house named Maddox, which he had totally transformed and decorated to his own designs , while Sigrist  was part of the Bahamas jet-set. A year after this photo was taken, she married Irish film producer Kevin McClory, who was responsible for the James Bond films.

Messel went on from creating stage sets and hotel suites to become one of the most sought after house designers in the Caribbean. Between 1960 and his death in 1978 he designed around 30 homes on Mustique, of which at least 18 have been completed. The V & A houses a large collection of his stage and other designs. [R R]

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Fat Mary’s brother, a royal sex scandal and a precedent created

As a follow-up to a very recent Jot on Princess Mary of Teck, whose biography was called The People’s Princess, here is a short letter from her brother, found amongst a pile of old letters acquired a few years ago.

 Prince Francis of Teck seems to have followed the age-old career path of minor royalty—public school, Sandhurst, and action abroad -- only this particular royal seems to have been a philanderer and gambler. He had an affair with the beautiful Ellen Constance, wife of the 3rd Earl of Kilmorey, and this together with his ruinous gambling got him sent to India. In the letter, dated March 20th 1893, written when Francis was a lieutenant in the 1st Royal Dragoons, he thanks someone called Mowbray for sending him an ‘ excellent photograph’ but regrets that due to an ‘ exam’ that he is obliged to take on the 4th May, he cannot accept an invitation to visit him. This exam may have been for the rank of captain, and though he probably failed it on this occasion, he was promoted the following year. After India he served in Egypt, and later saw action in the Boer War, eventually retiring in 1901 with the rank of major.

In 1910 Francis died suddenly at Balmoral of pneumonia, aged 39.When his will was read it was discovered to his family’s horror that he had bequeathed to his mistress Ellen the famous Cambridge emeralds, which were part of the family jewels. It was then left to his sister, now Queen Mary, to have this will sealed, thus creating a legal precedent. Previously, royal wills could be publicly examined. The Queen also  negotiated to buy back the emeralds, reportedly paying £10,000 ( around £600,000 today ) for them. Mary then wore them at the coronation of her husband in 1911.

A few years ago actress Sarah Miles claimed that not long after this letter was written, Francis fathered an illegitimate son called Francis Remnant, who became her maternal grandfather. This makes the beautiful Sarah second cousin of the present Queen.

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The People’s Princess

The phrase 'the people's princess'  was not made up by Alastair Campbell for the famous Blair soundbite on the day Diana died but, rather, recycled… This 1984 book found in a box of slow-selling royalty books shows the original 'People's Princess' - Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (1833- 1897). She was not quite as good-looking as Diana (indeed she was also known as 'Fat Mary') but like Diana she had a knack for popularity. She was also one of the first Royals to patronise a wide range of charities. She is the current Queen's great grandmother. Elizabeth II seems to have thrown off the Hanoverian look…(although Lucian Freud's small portrait has some suggestions of it.)

An interesting piece of tiara trivia… the lavish two tiered tiara that was created for Princess Mary has made its way down the family via the Queen Mother to the Duchess of Cornwall (i.e. Camilla). It has been modified but  was originally a 'diamond diadem' featuring three wild roses separated by 20 crescent shapes and was assembled from various jewels Princess Mary inherited from her aunt, Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester.

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Boozing with the Victorian Society in Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay

Found in a box of books is this photocopy of a typewritten guide to a ‘pub crawl’ (walk no 41) of various late Victorian ‘gin palaces’ in North London arranged by the Victorian Society on 16th September 1966. The guides were two architects-- Roderick Gradidge and Ben Davis—both of whom had designed interiors for Ind Coope. Judging by their descriptions of the pubs they planned to visit, both were also passionate and knowledgeable fans of late Victorian architecture and design. The grand plasterwork of the ceiling cornices and Art Nouveau stained glass is pointed out as being of special interest. But the two men also emphasised the ways in which Victorian pub architects tried to make   their interiors both glamorous and homely as a way of getting their (mainly) lower middle class drinkers (mention is made of Mr Pooter’s ‘raffish’ friends) to spend hours away from their more humble abodes, much (we might add) in the way that the designers of Music Halls and northern shopping arcades  (one thinks of Frank Matcham ), and grand hotels, were doing in the same era. Here are the guides admiring the combination of grandeur and intimacy found in the Queen’s Hotel, Crouch End (below):

All the way round there were through views, glimpses of the other bars, and as a result one was able to feel that one was standing in one part of a single large space, large enough to tolerate the considerable height without become vertical. Since the space was so well subdivided…one could feel secluded in a sufficiently small and enclosed space, but since the proportion of the greater space was horizontal a feeling of repose was retained which could not have belonged to tall, restricted vertical rooms. This method of subdividing an area into small bars by means of partitions, which were half-glazed  with semi-obscured glass, and were not much above six feet high, was peculiar to Victorian pubs, and goes a long way to explaining the incomparable drinking atmosphere they provide...

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