Wednesday 30 November 2011


...par excellence
in this entrance hall of a Swedish mansion of the Baroque era,
1640 - 1720

The walls are painted with trompe l'oeil pilasters and shadowy landscapes
while the ceilings under the stairs are painted in grisaille
to imitate the bas-relief of Classical friezes.

Isn't it beautiful?
I love it!  Never get tired to look at it...

"The impact of Italian Baroque and French Absolutism"

From the wonderful book  THE  SWEDISH  ROOM
by Lars and Ursula Sjöberg and Ingalill Snitt

to be continued...

Monday 28 November 2011

Week 48 - Fashion in the 17th Century

Prince Charles Louis, Count Palatine, about 1637

Studio of Anthony van Dyck, 1599 - 1641
National Gallery, London


"A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic"
George Bernhard Shaw

True?  What do you think?

Bonne Semaine!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Old Master's Autumn

Guiseppe Arcimboldo, 1527 - 1593
"....perfect in his uniqueness, as are only the great".

Autumn, 1573
Musee National du Louvre, Paris

A broken old tub is held together by some wicker branches in a somewhat make shift arrangement, 
and a head protrudes from it. It is the head of a rather rough sort of fellow,  and is made up of autumn produce.

His bulbous nose is a juicy pear, his healthy-looking cheek is a ripe apple, his chin is a pomegranate and his ear is a large mushroom, which could be a russula. It seems appropriate that the ear-ring should be an over-ripe, burst fig.    His head is crowned with red and white grapes, reddish vine-leaves and a gigantic squash,   thus reminding us of Arcimboldo's earlier depictions of Baccus.

The sumptuousness of the fruit is an indication of the fertility of autumn, and the sharp tongue which comes through the prickly lips seems to signal Autumn's joyful anticipation of culinary delights.


As in "The four seasons", in the series of "The four elements"
Arcimboldo assigned to any element a face formed by the most characteristic of any of them.

In addition, this series has an evident connection with "The four seasons".
Both series are organised by a hypothetical "axis of symmetry",
confronting the air with the spring, the summer with the fire,
and the autumn with the earth.

Earth, around 1570
Private collection, Vienna

...a head which consists of over forty different animals...

The ibex, an animal which lives in the Tyrolean mountains, has been inserted in the back of the neck,
together with the rhinoceros, the mule, the monkey, the bear and the wild boar.
 Above the forehead are the camel, the lion and the horse.
And the nice thing is that all the animals with antlers have arranged their weapons around the forehead,
thus forming a king's crown:  that was an amazingly clever idea,and it decorates the head very nicely, too.
The area behind the cheek (the head being in profile)
is formed by an elephant whose ear is large enough to be the ear of the whole figure.
A donkey underneath the elephant fills out the lower jaw.
For the front portion of the cheek a wolf was forced to render its service, its mouth wide open and about to snap at a mouse: its open mouth is the eye, and the mouse the pupil of the eye.
The tail and the leg of the mouse form a moustache just above the upper lip.
On the forehead, sitting among the other animals, there is a fox with its tail curled up, which forms the eyebrow.
There is a hare on the wolf's shoulder, forming the nose, and a cat's head which is the upper lip.
Instead of a chin there is a tiger, held up by the elephant's trunk. The trunk is rolled up and forms the lower lip of the figure's mouth. A lizard can be seen coming out of the open mouth.
The curvature of the entire neck is formed by a recumbent ox, together with a fawn."


"I think if there are buffoons today, then that is nothing new.
There have always been eccentrics who were probably also buffoons.
But there is an important difference:
if nowadays someone suddenly discovers the genius in him,
even though yesterday he could not even draw, then that seems a bit insincere to me.
When, on the other hand, the early pioneers discovered beauty in ugliness or vice versa,
they were in fact faultless masters of their craft and, partly because they were relative beginners,
had a certain straightforwardness about them.  And because they were straightforward,
they were original.  Indeed, this ugliness surpassed all beauty and included
the sort of satire that delighted the artist's customer,
the jokes that were told again and again among the bored inhabitants of the various courts,
it included those optical illusions and that artistic mimicry.
All this is just one more reason why it is worthwhile spending time and effort
to studying a painter who was indeed a genius,
who used to entertain three emperors at the time of Titian and Tintoretto
and who still entertains us today."
who published in 1954 his extremely thorough analysis
I dipinti ghiribizzosi di Giuseppe Arcimboldi

 Autumn, 1572
Private collection, Berlin

This picture of Autumn differs from the one in the Louvre
through its sharp contrasts of light and darkness.
Some of the grapes, for instance, are almost black,
whereas the face is generally very bright indeed.
The change of format is made necessary by the tub,
which is longer than in the other picture.
What is particularly striking, however, is the relatively light background,
which is rare in Arcimboldo's art.
Beyond that, there are only very few differences.
The level of artistic quality is the same in both paintings.


H A P P Y    T H A N K S G I V I N G !

Arcimboldo's  "Spring"   here
Arcimboldo's  "Summer"  here
Arcimboldo's biography and Benno Geiger  here 

Tuesday 22 November 2011

A truly authentic Country Look - Une Ferme Alsacienne

'Des edredons en kelsh ancien dans la chambre,
des poteries de Soufflenheim dans la cuisine,
des poêles du XVIII. siecle dans la stube et des coffres un peu partout:
Un Musée d'art populaire quelque part en Alsace?
Non, une ferme des  adossées aux Vosges,
habitée, pensée, parée par un couple d'Antiquaire inspirés.'

An old farm house in the Alsace, East France, on the foot hill of the Vosges mountains,
not far from Strasbourg, just opposite of  the Black Forest on the western side of the Rhine.

Charmingly decorated and interiored by Bernard and Christine Demay,
a couple of passionate Antiquaires.

Found this in an older issue of  COTE  EST
and thought it will nicely round-out my previous posts of the Black Forest region.

Because I do have quite a number of francophile readers I've left the original text in French.

'Vue plongeante sur la stube d'hiver, chaleureuse et recuellie autour de son poêle en fonte.
Du sol au plafond, le bois est omniprésent.
Original, le séchoir ancien accroché à l'une des poutres.'
(the old drying rail fixed to one of the beams above the cast iron stove)

La Ferme...
  same architectural style as in the Black Forest region

'....on y découvre des coffres polychromes (painted trunks) qui n'ont plus très bonne mine,
des bahuts (buffets) mis à mal par les ans...'

On the ground floor:

La stube d'hiver  (the 'winter room')....
' du canapé, une vue de Strasbourg et des cartes anciennes.
A l'extrème gauche, une corniche surplombe des portraits fixés sous verre,
 typiques de la région et présente une série de bocks de bière...'

'Le coins repas avec les bancs habillés de kelsh (benches with cushions of old kelsch linen)
et les traditionnelles chaises alsaciennes,
( in the Black Forest region and Southern Germany we call these chairs "Stabellen- or Brezelstuehle")

' ...une maison bien campée sur ses poutre...'

La Cuisine....
'...s'ouvre sur le jardin et, l'été, la fenètre encadrée par des huiliers de Bercksdorf,
sert de passe-plat, puisque la table et juste en dessous!
Panier à escargots, poêle à châtaignes, râpes à fromage sont suspendus au plafond,
tandis qu'un petit rideau en kelsh cache la poubelle....'

'....bel ouvrage que cet escalier de meunier qui mène aux chambres....'

The original beautiful staircase leading to the bed rooms, bath room
La stube d'èté  (the 'summer room')
...avec un écritoire (an 18th century writing table) Louis XVI.
et des fauteuils Louis XIII.  (early 18th chairs)...
Sur l'étagère dans un joli dégradé de bleus, un collection de pots à lait à petit pois,
à fleurettes et naives volutes.
(on the shelve a collection of old milk jars, typical for the region)


La chambre d'amis  (the guest room).....
'...avec son extraordinaire ciel-de-lit en sapin.....
...Ici, on ne dort pas dans autre chose que du kelsh!
Par terre, un sac de blé qui arbore l'année de la récolte et sa provenance....'

"...L'amour des objets est le véritable moteur des ces antiquaires-restaurateurs dans l'âme.
Dans la quitétude e leurs granges, Bernard retape tandis Christine repeint.
Leur plus grand bonheur?
Rendre à un coffre polychrome du XVIIIeme siecle,
remanié maintes et maintes fois, ses couleurs d'origine....."

- all images and text  COTE  EST, 2000 -


Now...what is Kelsh ?

The word itself, 'kelsch' in allemanic dialect, originates from "Koelnisch Blau",
'Bleu de Cologne'  -  'Cologne Blue'.
It refers to a plant grown as animal feed, and whose leaves and stems
were the sources of an intense blue dye.  As early as the 7th Century,
the plant, along with hemp and linen, was the main crop
cultivated in eastern France and neighboring Germany.
From the 16th Century through to the 19th Century, the word 'kelsch'
 came to describe the hand-woven linen and hemp cloths made by the rural peasantry.

Kelsch denotes a plain weave in linen or hemp with checks or stripes
in ecru and blue, or ecru and red, or the three shades combined.
Blue came from the woad and later indigo, and red from madder.

  It is said that Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, the Franken King,
who resided in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in the 7th century, 
 recommended these cloths and commended the use of linen and hemp.
Since then, in Alsace, Black Forest and the Upper Rhine region,
they have adhered to the tradition of making plain weave in these three shades.

These pieces of cloth, one plain bottom, one patterned top,
where tightly whipstitched together on three sides. Linen ribbons, appliqued to the open edge
  of the envelope after the three sides of the finished piece were joined,
kept the feather or straw lining, crudely in place.  Vents cut into the cloth
or formed by leaving the corners of the kelsch open,
which allowed the family to stir the stuffing with their hands, thus keeping it well distributed.

19th Century Alsace kelsch linen plaid or duvet cover, 56" x 65"
and a large pillow or bolster sham, 45" x 29" 

Large 19th century sham, Black Forest

Late 19th Century Alsace and early 20th Century Black Forest  kelsch


All linen kelsch shown here is from my own collection
and now for sale,
should you be interested on any piece, just drop me a mail.

(detail of an 18th century polychrome trunk)

Bonne Semaine !

for further info about "Kelsch" and/or any inquiries please  contact

Thursday 17 November 2011

Last few 'snap-shots' and Views of the Black Forest region....

Old houses and interesting facades....

In the  "Altstadt" - the historic town center of

The small city, or town Lahr,
was owned by the House of Geroldseck around 1220
and received a city charter (Stadtrecht) around 1278.

The charter was renewed in 1377
and served as the foundation for municipal independence
through to the end of the 'Old Empire'.
The significant tax privileges allowed Lahr
 to quickly grow into a centre
of trading during the eighteen century.

And then during the 19th century
Lahr was highly involved in the printing industry.

Der Storchenturm - The stork or crane tower
- the 'logo' of Lahr -

The tower is a remnant of the former middle age water castle of the Geroldseck,
built in 1220, and remains together with parts of the old city wall.

Das Alte Rathaus - The old town hall, built in 1608


"The Canadian Connection"

From  1967 until 1994, the Canadian NATO forces
maintained their headquarters in Lahr.

After the Canadian Forces left in 1994,
a small Canadian contingent,
about 200 of former civilian employees remained in Lahr.

Totem pole in the city garden of Lahr,
a gift of Canadian Forces


15 Km south of Lahr

located between the foot hills of the Black Forest and the Upper Rhine valley,
was founded about 700 AD.

In the Middle Ages it belonged to the Arch bishop of Strasbourg....

...and gained its charter (Stadtrecht) in 1392.

 A  baroque town with beautiful buildings
in the historical center, the "Altstadt"


Heading into the Black Forest...

....passing vineyards on the west hill-slops of the Black Forest
in the "Margkgraeflerland"

The area of the so called "Markgraeflerland" (Margrave's land)
is the region between the Rhine and the southern end of the Black Forest,
stretching from Freiburg to the Swiss border at Basle.
The Margraves of Baden who ruled here centuries ago
gave this region its name.

The Markgraeflerland is often referred to as "Tuscany of Germany" -
due to its mild, sunny climate, gourmet food and fine wines.
The 'Baden Wine Road' goes for miles and passes by dozens of wineries
inviting you to some wine tastings.
The "Gutedel" grapes are typical for this particular wine region
and produce a light white wine - one of my favorites -
also known as Fendant in Switzerland or Chasselas in France.



Der Belchen
"The King of the Black Forest Hills"

View onto the 'Belchen'

People call it the "King of the Black Forest Hills".
The Belchen sits between Schoenau and the Muenstertal in the Markgraeflerland,
it is only the third highest mountain in the Black Forest
but it is the most beautiful one.

crowned at 1414m with a Stone Cross that reaches into the heavens.

The views stretch out over the Vosges, the Swiss Jura and to the Alps.

The Markgraefler poet Gerhard Jung called it
the "Basilisa of Belenius",  the "Cathedral of the Sun God".

 Johann Peter Hebel (1760 - 1826),
a German short story writer and dialectal poet...

... was also fascinated by this "Peak of Peaks".
He once described it as
"the first station on the road between the earth and heaven"

If you like to read more about the Belchen
and the wonderful Black Forest   here


.....November grey and blue.....

At the foot of the "Belchen" lies the wonderful countryside
of the "Muenstertal".....
(unfortunately mainly covered in fog at my visit)

...with its majestic site of the former Benedictine abbey of  St. Trudpert.
The spiritual heart of this sacred place, however, lies hidden behind the Church:
it is the source of the spring, in the ornate pump room,
and the chapel built over it, that share St. Trudpert's burial site.

According to legend the saint,
who was probably an Irish-Scottish missionary, settled here around 604 AD.
His life as a hermit was, however, soon ended by a blow from an axe.
By the year 800 the first Benedictine monastery east of the Rhine
had been established on his grave.

nearby, in Ettenheimmuenster, there was another Irish-Scottish hermit,
read more in my post from April  here


While the Black Forest valleys and the whole Upper Rhine valley
was shrouded in grey November fog...

...right up to 1000 meters to the open heights above the clouds
with their awesome views...

and... there was the sun and blue sky to greet us...

...bathing the mountain peaks...

...while the valleys disappear under a dense blanket of fog.

On the far distant horizon, like sitting on the clouds,
the French Vosges mountain chain. 

I could breathe freely...

...being closer to the heavens
and feeling the clear air!


A beautiful old Black Forest house...

...built around 1750-60

retaining most of the original features

the facade still covered with the old shingles....

not inhabited but obviously looked after.

Certainly a lovely historical house,
one of the rare ones to find in its original state.



One of my brother's houses,

an old former farm house from the 18th century, 
'under restoration' for years,
but now nearly finished....

'November-Rose' in front of the house


My beloved Black Forest

Everything else seemed to be unimportant
compared to the endless freedom I experienced up above clouds,
surrounded by the beautiful mountains and pastures.


I had a wonderful "Wallpaper-change"

and now I'm pleased to be back home...

...being greeted by a Perigordian blue sky and late autumn colors in our garden,

by my dear husband

- of course -
by Oskar...

La Pouyette is happy to have me back!

A bientot...

images 1-2-3 from internet