Victoria here.  The Corcoran lions guard the doors of the gallery, in Washington, D. C., behind which are many treasures, including the Salon Doré, or Gilded Room, an excellent example of French 18th century décor.

I visited with author Diane Gaston, a long-time friend and fellow traveler to England and elsewhere in search of Georgian/Regency-era delights.  Diane was as gob-smacked by the beauty of the Salon Doré as I was and we both snapped picture after picture.  She was much faster at blogging about  our visit than I was.  Click here for her post.

Salon Doré at the Corcoran Gallery of Art
This installation is the third for the sumptuous ceilings and paneling.  The room was created in 1770 as a wedding gift to his bride by Pierre Gaspard Marie Grimod d’Orsay (1748-1809). The artist was Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin (1734-1811).  Some early descriptions of the room say it was fashioned for the wedding ceremony itself.
In the early 20th century, D’Orsay’s mansion, the building now known as Hôtel de Clarmont (68 rue de Varenne, Faubourg Saint-Germain, Paris), was stripped of the Chalgrin work and it was acquired by American mining millionaire and industrialist (aka robber baron) and Montana Senator William A. Clark (1839-1925).  Clark installed the room in his Fifth Avenue, NYC, mansion about 1904.  He was a benefactor of the Corcoran in its early years, and the fittings of the Salon Doré  were moved to the gallery in 1926.
Count d’Orsay and his wife, the former Marie-Louise-Albertine-Amélie, Princess de Croÿ-Molenbais, had one son who in turn fathered Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Count d’Orsay (1801-1852) , a famous dandy who was well known in England in the 19th century, friend of the famous and infamous, such as Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Read about the Duke of Welllington and Count Dorsay  here.
Decorative Panels

The Corcoran’s Salon Doré is one of the finest examples of French Rococo style from the reign of Louis Quinze (XV).  Another such gilded salon from Paris can be found in San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum. Read more about it here.

Detail of paneling: Corcoran’s Salon Doré

Gilded corner tables (encoignures) by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin
(French, 1734-1811)
The four corner tables, along with most of the other furniture from the original room, were confiscated and dispersed during the French Revolution.  Though the other pieces are still lost the Corcoran acquired the four corner tables just a few years ago, in 2008, and placed them in their original positions in the Salon Doré.

Ceiling Details are not the originals but were created for the museum installation

Clock of the Vestals
The Case was made by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (French 1751-1843) bout 1789. The clock was created by Robert Robin, (French 1742-99), signed on the dial Robin/Hger Du Roi (clockmaker to the King).  The media are gilded, patinated, and  painted bronze, Sevrès porcelain, enamel on copper, and marble.        

From the Corcoran’s website: The Clock of the Vestals marked the passing of the hours in Queen Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, or private sitting room, in the Tuileries Palace in Paris, adjacent to the Palais du Louvre. The  royal family was forced to move there in October 1789 after a mob of Parisians attacked the palace at Versailles, the official residence of the king for over 100 years.  In the Tuileries the  king and queen held court in gilded splendor but were state prisoners nonetheless.   Their last unhappy days together were passed in this palace before they were permanently separated in the mean quarters where they awaited their executions in 1793…The scene on the clock may depict the moment when the vestals, warned of the approach of the Gauls (c. 389), took the sacred fire and vessels from the temple and fled from Rome to Caere, a nearby city…At least sixteen versions of the Clock of the Vestals are known, each having some variation in materials and secondary elements.  The clock in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, dated 1788, is closest in appearance to the Corcoran clock.”

Paneled Doors of the Salon Doré

From the Corcoran Gallery’s website: “The Salon Doré as we know it today is the product of these two great patrons of the arts, the French Count d’Orsay and the Francophile Senator Clark. Even though one was an 18th-century Frenchman born to wealthand privilege and the other was a 19th-century self-made American industrialist, they are linked across the ages as passionate collectors of the antique and the Old World who at the same time used art and architecture to foster their social ambitions.”

The Corcoran’s Staircase

Other Salon Dorés can be found in palaces, mansions, and museums. Another I have enjoyed visiting was recently re-furbished at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, part of San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums.  Learn about it here.



Salon Doré. from the Hôtel de La Trémoille, Paris
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


Victoria here, inviting you to join me in a brief view of some of the American treasures in the collection of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC.  I wrote about some European masterpieces here.  I have more to share about the Corcoran, very soon.

Washington Before Yorktown, 1824-25
Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860)
As befits a museum in the nation’s capital, the Corcoran collects American paintings from the colonial period through the present day. 
Cupid Stung by a Bee
Benjamin West (b. Swarthmore, PA, 1738 – d. London 1820
A different version of this scene, also by West, hangs in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.  Benjamin West, born in  Pennsylvania, was recognized for his abilities by wealthy colonial citizens and traveled to Italy to study the old masters.  On his way home, he stopped in London and never returned to the colonies, after 1776, the United States.  He met and received commendations from many prominent British leaders, and was named the second president of the Royal Academy, following in the footsteps of Sir Joshua Reynolds. West, surveyor of the King’s pictures for many years, was called “the American Raphael.”  His historical paintings are found in museums all over the world.

Gilbert Stuart, 1755-1828: George Washington, ca. 1800
Gilbert Stuart. who studied with West in London, painted a number of similar portraits of the first President of the United States, especially familiar since his image is reproduced on the U. S. one dollar bill.
Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) House of Representatives, 1822-23
Another of  West’s students was Samuel Finley Breese Morse, a celebrated painter who later turned to inventing and is credited co-developing the single wire telegraph and Morse Code.   
Rembrandt Peale: Lt. Col. Joseph Outen Bogart, c. 1822
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1826) sired a number of children named after famous artists, many of whom became well-known painters in their own right: Rembrandt Peale, Rapaelle Peale, Rubens Peale, and Angelica Kauffman Peale. Charles and several of his children studied with West in London.  They became well known for portraits of early American leaders.
Thomas Sully ( 1783-1872): General Andrew Jackson, 1845
Thomas Sully was born in England but came to the United States as a child of nine in 1792.  He returned to London and studied under Benjamin West. Sully was celebrated enough to paint the young Queen Victoria in 1838.  The version below is in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.  several other versions and copies are in the Royal Collection.,

Sully: Queen Victoria

The Corcoran’s American Collection continues with many painters from the Hudson River School and other landscapes and portraits celebrating the beauties and dangers of the open spaces of the West.


Thomas Cole (1801-1848) The Departure, 1837

Born in Lancashire, England, Cole came to Ohio as a boy and studied with itinerant painters. After moving t
o Philadelphia and developing as a painter, he studied the great masters in Europe. Cole is generally attributed with being the founder of the Hudson River School, that loosely based confederation of artists whose landscapes of the unspoiled American wilderness are treasured by museums across the country.

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), Niagra, 1857
Church was born in Connecticut to a wealthy family.  He studied with Thomas Cole and became widely known and revered for his dramatic, romantic landscapes.


Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) Mount Corcoran 1877

Bierstadt was born in Prussia, and came to the U.S. in childhood. Though he returned to Germany to study art, he is best known for his romantic views of the American landscape as well as studies of the Westward Expansion. He traveled to the Pacific Coast, throughout California, Oregon and Washington.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) The Oyster Gatherers at Cancale, 1878
Sargent was born to Amercan expatriate parents in Florence, Italy.  He lived in Europe most of his life, studying in Paris and becoming a popular portrait painter in London.  When he traveled to the US, he received many important commissions.  But like so many successful portraitists, he preferred other subjects.  Sargent traveled throughout Europe and to the Middle East, making watercolors sketches of his journeys.

Childe Hassam, Big Ben, 1897-1907

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was an influential American Impressionist, whose work helped to bring acceptance to the styles we now accept as so very familiar.

Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923) Yellow Red Triangle, 1973

Ellsworth Kelly is one of many contemporary American artists whose works are in the collection of the Corcoran.
More ahead on the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
All photos (except the first) ©Corcoran Gallery of Art





London Walks

If you are lucky enought to be in London this season, be sure to take advantage of one of the city’s best bargains: London Walks.  Here is their website with their daily schedules.

Though I am missing out on London this year, I’ve visited at least once almost every year for the last 25 or so, and I never tire of tagging along with the London Walks guides.  Not a single disappointment —  and I’ve been on quite a few of them at least twice.

There are many operators of walking tours and many may be excellent, but with London Walk, you can be confident you have an experienced and entertaining guide.  Among the most popular walks (and operated by many it seems) is a night-time venture through the alleys of the East End in the footseps of Jack the Ripper.  Note: you won’t find him! I found the LW guide a fount of knowledge about the criminal, the victims, the crimes and the locale, with all sorts of facts included about the residents and architecture of the area, now largely gentrified.  I didn’t want a sideshow kind of tour — and it wasn’t.  But be careful of copycat tour operators.

Bodecia on Westminster Bridge
One of my favorites (well, they  all are!) was a recent one: Old Westminster. I had told myself that since I’d visited Westminster Abbey, watched a debate in the House of Commons and walked across Westminister Bridge in the past, I really didn’t need this tour.  Was I wrong or WHAT?  I learned so much!  And that is exactly what happens on all the tours.

Little Venice

Also highly recommended: the Little Venice walk through a neighborhood not far from Paddington Station. You’ll see lovely homes and a fascinating church with a monument to actress Sarah Siddons. St. Mary on Paddington Green is, for Regency lovers, more like churches looked in those days, before the Victorians tarted them up with fancy new stained glass and other gee-gaws.

St. Mary Paddington Green, completed 1791

One of the Walks I have taken at least three times is Legal and Illegal London or the Inns of Court.  You will learn all about the British legal system, the difference between solicitors and barristers, and how the law is taught and practiced while walking around the delightful buildings and gardens of the City.

Gray’s Inn

 And you will visit the Temple Church, full of fascinating lore, dating from the 12th century, but with many renovations, including repairs after the Blitz.

Temple Church

On the walk Secret London, you find out why there is a camel on the banks of the Thames and secrets of sculptor Sir Edwin Landseer’s lion paws in Trafalgar Square.

You’ll find walks geared to fans of Harry Potter, the Beatles, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and many more clever approaches to seeing the great city.  There are some special opportunities to visit Olympic sites too.  Each Walk takes about two hours (don’t forget to visit the loo before starting out).
Most days of the week London Walks runs Explorer Days, to such not-to-be-missed- sights such as Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Bath, Oxford and many many more, all accessible by train.  These cost a little more, but if you don’t drive in England, it is a convenient way to see a bit of the countryside as well major cities.

The Roman  Baths, Bath

Another special set of walks visit pubs in the evening, a boon to those of us who sometimes visit solo and enjoy a bit of company with our  pints (or I suggest half paints as you will visit several pubs and time is short at each one).  Here is one of my favorite London pubs, though I can’t remember which walk features it.

Blackfriars Pub

I hope this has convinced you to try out some of the London Walks on your next visit.  You won’t be sorry.

If you, like me, have to stay home this year, you might send for London Stories, pub
lished by London Walks, and written by David Tucker and the Guides.  It’s a good armchair companion.  It’s available on their website and elsewhere.

Walking St. James's, Part Two

Victoria here, continuing my walk through parts of St. James’s…I reached Marlborough House, once the residence of Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), and his wife Alexandra of Denmark.

Since it was not only the day of Trooping the Colour but also part of the Open Squares weekend, the gardens of Marlborough House  were open to the public.  It is now the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat and Conference Center. The tents shown above not only dispensed hot tea, a necessity on this chilly day, but also displayed brochures and booklets on the 54 member nations of the Commonwealth.  Anyone for a vacation in Tasmania?

Marlborough House was built for Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough by Sir Christopher Wren, closely bordering the grounds of St. James’s Palace.  Eventually the house was taken up by the crown and used by various members of the royal family.  For many years, as the residence of Edward and Alexandra, it was the home of the Marlborough Set, a late Victorian social circle around the Prince of Wales.

My favorite feature of these gardens was most definitely the Pet Cemetery where Alexandra’s dear little dogs are buried in a corner.  

I walked to the opposite corner of the gardens and watched the troops escorting the Queen back to Buckingham Palace. I stood on a mound inside the wall that gave an excellent views, only partially blocked by the police and mounted officers along the route.

A memorial to Queen Alexandria is built into the garden wall of Marlborough House, just opposite St. James’s Palace.

East facade of St. James’s, facing the grounds of Marlborough House
Queen’s Chapel, opposite St James’s Palace, north of Marlborough House
The Queen’s Chapel was built for Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, in 1625 and designed by Inigo Jones.  It is used for services at various times of the year that are open to the public.  It was originally Roman Catholic but is now Church of England.
I walked around the corner of St. James’s Palace to the more familiar facade of the palace which faces north, up St. James’s St. toward Piccadilly.
From here on, the royal connections are more limited: the warrants given to various merchants which supply the royal family and the memberships various royals hold in the gentleman’s clubs.
Berry Bros. and Rudd, wine merchants, est. 1698

Through a narrow passage beside the shop is Pickering Place, a small courtyard reputed to be the sight of duels.
  They must have involved swords for certainly it is too small for gun play.

Nearby is Lock and Co. Hatters, est. 1676.

D. R. Harris, Chemists, is located at 29  St. James’s St. Their website is here.

St. James’s Street is also the location of several of Britain’s most prestigious gentleman’s clubs. Below is Brook’s.

Here is the famous bow window of White’s.
When I reached the top of St. James’s Street, at Piccadilly, I turned east once more and sought the comforting, yet stimulating, confines of Hatchards Bookshop.  Oh, to be there once more!!  Their website is here.
I will leave you here, as I immerse myself in some wonderful volume — most likely more about London or British history.

Walking St. James's, Part One

St. James’s Palace

My pictures of London’s St. James’s over the years show astonishing similarity of views, but I keep trying to capture the essentials of the area and manage to fail.  St. James’s is the area around St. James’s Palace and was once, in the reign of the Stuarts, where “everyone” lived.  Before Kensington, before Belgravia, before Mayfair, St. James’s Square was — and is — the Place To Be.  Only the most exclusive clubs, the most distinguished businesses and retailers, the most luxurious hotels…the creme de la creme of London.

map of St. James’s
St. James’s is bordered on the east by Haymarket, on the north by Piccadilly, on the south by the Mall and St. James’s Park, and on the west by Green Park.  Once part of the royal hunting grounds itself, like the Parks, the area of St. James’s was granted by Charles II to Henry Jermyn (Earl of St.Albans) to develop as a residential neighborhood adjacent to St. James’s Palace.

Last June (2011), I watched the Queen and Royal Family, accompanied by a FEW of her  Guards, parade from Buckingham Palace along the Mall toward the parade ground at Horse Guards for the annual Trooping the Colour.  See this blog of July 30, 2011, for more.
The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, beside her and following were Prince Charles, Prince William, and Princess Anne on their uniforms as Colonels of Guards regiments.

While the Queen was reviewing her troops, I took the opportunity to wander around St. James’s and snap more pictures.  I walked up the steps from the Mall between the two large buildings that comprise Carlton House Terrace, once the site of the Prince Regent’s fantastic Carlton House, demolished in 1825.

The large townhouses which comprise the Terrace wings and Carlton Gardens are mostly offices now but once housed distinguished figures such as Lord Palmerston. 
Waterloo Place is not much more than a parking lot, sadly. 
Waterloo Place with Duke of York Column
The large monument is to the Duke of York, son of George III and brother of George IV.
Waterloo Place was to be the terminal point of the great development of Regent Street, stretching from the Mall to Regent’s Park, as designed by architec
t John Nash for George IV, and for which Carlton House itself was demolished.  But unlike the nearby Trafalgar Square, it has never become a public gathering place of importance.
Looking in the other direction, north, up Regent Street.
 One one side  of Waterloo Place is the Traveller’s  Club and on the other is the Athenaeum with its garden.  I assume all the distinguished members were at Horse Guards, for it appeared to be rather deserted. 
Atheneaum, with equestrian statue of Edward VII
Athenaeum and Garden
Athenaeum Entrance
Things were pretty quiet with everyone watching for the Queen’s return, so I turned west and walked down Pall Mall.
Above, looking west on Pall Mall with London’s ever present traffic diversions
  At 87 Pall Mall is the elegant facade of Schomberg House with its Coade Stone figures supporting its portico.
Just a few steps farther is the handsome 79 Pall Mall with its lovely window set off by pink geraniums looking out at the busy street.
A building on this site, still part of the Crown Estate, was given to Nell Gwynne (1650-1687), the little orange seller who became the Restoration Theatre’s most famous actress — as well as being one of the mistresses of Charles II.

I’ll continue with my St. James’s Views soon…next stop, Marlborough House and St. James’s Palace.  How I long to return…there’s so much more to explore in just this one small area of London.