Sunday, 27 November 2011

Beauty, Morality & Voluptuousness

The recent Cult of Beauty exhibition at the V&A has transferred to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, with the rather clunky new title "Beauty, Morals & Voluptuousness in the England of Oscar Wilde".  We figured that the chance to see the four objects borrowed from MoDA's collections in such a fabulous setting was too good to miss, so we booked our Eurostar tickets.

The show focuses on the Aesthetic Movement which flourished in Britain in the 1860s.  Arguably, it wasn't so much a 'movement' in the sense of having a thought-through manifesto or clear plan to change anything.  Its main driver was the desire of a literary and artistic elite (Oscar Wilde foremost among them), to differentiate themselves from the masses by their ability to choose beautiful things for their houses, rather than the 'inferior and ugly' mass produced products that were within reach of everybody else.

Japanese Katagami Stencil, late nineteenth century.  
Part of the Silver Studio collection, 
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, K1.1
currently on loan to the Musee D'Orsay, Paris

The result was 'Art for Art's Sake'; a rejection of the Victorian principles of order and morality and a greater emphasis on sensuality and beauty.  The exhibition ranges widely, including paintings, ceramics, book design, textiles and furniture.  In a sense, it's all spread a bit thinly, with not much to hold it together other than that "here are some beautiful objects".  Which is, in itself, a good reason to see it.  Plus, if you have room for another sensual pleasure after all that beauty, we can recommend the hot chocolate in the museum's cafe.

The exhibition continues until January 15th 2012, at the Musee D'Orsay, Paris.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

on the trail of a mystery wallpaper

Here at MoDA we often receive enquiries from museums and historic houses wanting our help in identifying unusual wallpapers. Unusual wallpaper is frequently uncovered as part of the restoration of an old building, and finding out about the wallpaper can reveal important details about the tastes, income level and aspirations of the people who lived there at the time.

We recently received an enquiry about this wallpaper, from Sagtikos Manor in New York, which dates from around 1902:

We're pretty sure it wasn't designed by the Silver Studio; the peacocks are very unlike anything else designed by Silver Studio designers at the time, and it doesn't appear in the Studio's surviving photographic records. However, the trees are a bit similar to those in this wallpaper, which was always attributed to Rex Silver:

SW1161, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture

This is a mystery we haven't yet been able to solve - if you have any thoughts about who might have designed the peacock wallpaper, do let us know!