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Wheel Chasers: Historical Paris Street Furniture of the 19th Century.

historical chasse-roues, cast iron ball Paris street furniture and other designs.

Wandering through neighborhoods in Paris, you’ll notice that doorways are often flanked by low structures made either of stone or metal. These guard stones are called chasse-roues (French lit. “wheel chaser“) or bouteroue (“to push the wheel out of the way“). These projecting metal, concrete, or stone exterior architectural elements are usually located at the corner and/or foot of gates, portes-cochères, garage entries, and walls. They function to prevent damage from vehicle tires and wheels. During the period of horse-drawn vehicles, the wheels, including the hub, would protrude beyond the vehicle’s body, and were thus prone to collide with and damage a corner of a building or gate. Chasse-roues were developed as a warning signs: ‘keep back‘, ‘keep your distance’, ‘don’t brush up against me’, and as traffic bollards––or, in the common parlance, ‘traffic cones’ ⚠️😄.  They are a historical item of street furniture and some are still in use today. 1 2 3

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photos: Sylvaine Lang, Moments Parfait blog, Chasse-roues. February 26, 2019

Stone was the favored material for chasse-roues during medieval and Renaissance times but many different cast iron designs were installed during the Haussmannian transformation of Paris. 4 Of the surviving chasse-roues in Paris, many are from that age of economical iron and steel. Cast iron was often preferred because it’s affordablity and versatility. Initially, a pattern or mould of the design––the most expensive part of the process––would be made. Then the molten cast iron would be poured or ‘cast’ into the mould and could take many decorative forms with each subsequent casting being relatively inexpensive to produce. Many ornamental cast-iron pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries survive today. These decorative artifacts represent a perfect union of form and function projecting a sense of strength, durabilty and good design.

When automobiles replaced fiacres 5, chasse-roues no longer served their purpose being replaced by objects meant for automobile traffic, such as curbs and guard rails. They were, in fact, undesirable but because they were unusually difficult to remove, most of them were just left in place. Those that remain stand as silent sentinals to earlier traffic on those historic roads. 6

Today these architectural artifacts are treasured for historic reasons and are often protected as part of a city’s cultural heritage.

On one of our recent excursions into Paris, we found a lovely patinaed pair of iron ball, “boule”, chasse-roues which we had electrified and museum-mounted as an impressive pair of table lamps.7 ^jh

Pair Of Iron Ball, "boule", chasse-roues mounted as table lamps, French, circa 1870.
Pair Of Iron Ball, “boule”, chasse-roues mounted as table lamps, French, circa 1870.

Further readings and sources:

Show 7 Footnotes

  1. Moments Parfait, https://www.momentsparfaits.com/blog
  2. The Parisian Fields, Noman Ball, June 2011, https://parisianfields.com/2011/06/26/the-art-of-the-chasse-roue/
  3. Un jour de plus à Parishttps://www.unjourdeplusaparis.com/en/paris-balades/balade-belleville-menilmontant
  4. Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haussmann%27s_renovation_of_Paris
  5. A fiacre is a form of hackney coach, a horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage for hire. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiacre_(carriage)
  6. Revolvy : https://www.revolvy.com/page/Guard-stone
  7. Pair of cast iron ball chasse-roues mounted as table lamps, French, Circa 1870 at Garden Court Antiques, https://www.gardencourtantiques.com/shop/pair-of-iron-ball-finials-now-mounted-as-table-lamps-french-circa-1870/
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How Jeremy Irons Rescued and Restored a 15th-Century Irish Castle – Vanity Fair, October 2017

Kilcoe’s main living area, known as the “solar,” showcases art and collectibles acquired by Irons in his travels. Photograph by Simon Upton.

We are absolutely taken by this article by David Kamp for Vanity Fair Magazine and this ambitious restoration project undertaken by Actor Jeremy Irons. The fact that he’s a sailor iswell, just bonus!

Its a wonderful read. We encourage you to pick up the October 2017 issue of Vanity Fair Magazine and read it for yourself or view it online.

Below a few excerpts:

In the midst of a creative crisis, the British actor impulsively purchased Kilcoe Castle, a long-abandoned fortress near the water. VF Writer, David Kamp learns how a magical retreat came to be.  Inlaid in the wall of the courtyard, was a pale stone slab. Etched into the slab were the following words

MANY HEARTS LIE IN THESE WALLS.
FOUR YEARS WE WORKED, AND WE
JUST DID THE BEST WITH WHAT WE KNEW.
AND WHAT WE DID YOU SEE.
A.D. 2002

The hard work of making Kilcoe habitable again began in 1998 and took six years, wrapping up in 2004

Kilcoe, while not remotely a faithful re-creation of what it was 600 years ago—it offers such modern features as hot and cold running water, electricity, and Wi-Fi—is a magnificent place: at once stately-home beautiful and slightly mad, a 360-degree immersion in its owner’s eccentric psyche.

As Irons took on the massive project, his wife, the actress Sinéad Cusack notes: it was no coincidence that Irons, who was born in 1948, was soon to turn 50. “I did see it very much as Jeremy’s midlife crisis, and that he should get on with it,” she said. “Also, I understood where the need came from. Jeremy can’t bear waste. He can’t throw things out. I think he saw that castle as a beautiful ruin that needed to be saved, that needed not to die.”

But generally his instincts proved sharp. Early on, Irons noticed twig-like striations in the mortar on the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the main tower’s second floor, which is now a game room occupied by a large snooker table. Doing some research, Irons learned that, in medieval times, builders formed arched ceilings by bending into place a series of large wicker panels made of pliant, weaving-friendly woods such as hazel and willow, and holding these panels aloft from below with strong timber posts. The builders would then lay stones and mortar above the panels. Once the mortar squeezed through the woven panels and dried, the arches would hold themselves, and the underlying timber posts were removed. This backstory warmed Irons to the idea of using wicker panels as a decorative element throughout Kilcoe. He found a German-born weaver based in Cork, Katrin Schwart, to make such panels for the game room’s ceiling, and the results proved so spectacular that Schwart’s ornate wickerwork is now a motif throughout the castle, appearing on guest-bedroom ceilings, in the headboard of Irons’s own bed, and even on the outer frame of his bathtub.

“There’s something about the castle that generates the most extraordinary energy,” Irons said to me. “Everybody stays up ‘til three, four in the morning—talking, listening to music, drinking. You just want to go on, go on. It takes a bit of getting used to, this place. Because it does somehow produce an energy. Have you felt it?”

Kilcoe.
Article by David Kamp.
Photographs by Simon Upton.

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Read the article in it’s entirety in the October 2017 issue of Vanity Fair Magazine and online at https://www.vanityfair.com (yes, we are all subscribers :) ^jh

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Zuber Wallpaper: Vue de l’Amérique du Nord

Zuber Wall Paper Panels, circa 1852, Mounted as a Screen
Garden Court Antiques Seven Panel Screen: Views of North America, West Point, New York – Historical Zuber & Cie Wallpaper panel.

“West Point, New York” is one scene from the scenic wallpaper “Views of North America” first produced by the French firm Zuber et Cie in 1834. This scenic contains 32 panels and shows some of the natural wonders of the continent: New York Bay, Boston Harbor, West Point, & the natural bridge of Virginia. Scenic wallpapers were introduced around 1804 and remained popular with new designs being introduced until 1865. Scenic wallpaper allowed the viewer to visually access an historical moment during the July Monarchy (July 1830- 1848) in which America was idealized as the future of France.

“Vues d’Amérique du Nord” offers an idealized view of Jacksonian America as conceived by its designer, Jean-Julien Deltil, who may never have visited the United States and based hiswork on the designs of Jacques-Géard Milbert, and designed the paper for Jean Zuber et Cie in 1834. Zuber crafted the paper using 1,700 hand-carved blocks and 223 different colors. The Frenchman’s scenes of free blacks engaged in trade, dressed in finery, and residing happily alongside their white counterparts presented an idealized (bordering on utopian) view of the newly born country, which may have been intended as a slight to the English as much as it was a glorification of the Americans’ nascent democratic nation.

In 1852, Jean Zuber took advantage of a nationalist wave in the US and republished “Views of North America”, as “The War of American Independence”. He substituted foreground figures so the Boston Harbor became the Boston Tea Party. Peaceful scenes became battlefields.

Zuber et Cie Headquaters Rixheim , France
The Zuber Headquarters, Rixheim , France

Between 1804 and 1860, Zuber Manufacture de Papiers Peints produced more than 25 of these panoramas wallpapers. The process is labor-intensive, requiring hundreds of hand-carved pearwood blocks. Unfortunately, the method of carving the blocks is virtually a lost art, a set for one panorama took up to 20 engravers a full year to complete. For some panels, 70 to 80 different woodblocks might be required, applied one by one in an exacting order. To create the horizon, four people work simultaneously using a complex hand-brushing technique, producing a velvety matte. The papers are then refined by hand and dried on huge racks. Zuber et Cie’s wallpapers are astonishing in their scale and painterly attention to coloration, shading, and detail.

It was reported that Zuber’s wallpapers were so renowned that King Louis Philippe honored him with the Legion of Honor in 1834, the year that ‘Scenic America’ was printed. The Zuber blocks were recently deemed an historic monument by the French government.

Fascinating & beautiful video from the Manufacturer, Zuber et Cie, which shows us how these these large-scale scenic block-print wallpaper panels are made using the same craftsmanship and time-consuming artistry that has defined their work for centuries. ** We recommend you turn the audio off, there is no narration and the music is, well, lacking. :)

The White House.

West side of the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House showing the panoramic Zuber & Cie wallpaper Scenes of North AmericaJacqueline Kennedy was so taken by the beauty and historical significance of these wallpaper block print panels that she had one installed in the White House in the 1960’s
The Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House is one of three oval rooms in the White House. It was refurbished in 1960 during the Dwight Eisenhower administration in the style of the Federal period with antiques selected by New York interior designer Michael Greer. In 1962, with advice from American antiques expert Henry Francis du Pont, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had the room papered with antique French scenic wallpaper produced by Jean Zuber et Cie in Rixheim (Alsace), France c. 1834. The Zuber wallpaper, titled Scenes of North America, and features scenes of Boston Harbor, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, West Point, New York, Niagara Falls, and New York Harbor.
The sweeping panorama on the elliptical walls provide a sense of space negating the lack of windows. Additional Federal-era furniture was acquired, and upholsteries and the carpet furthered a soft gold and blue decor.
~ [Source: Author: Paulus Swaen]

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^jh

Further readings and sources:

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The Historic British Embassy in Tehran.

Images via Smithsonian: Handwritten information on slip of paper (from a 1943-1944 cash book, produced by the Bathni Brothers, Tehran) reads, “27) Interior of British Embassy.” [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information
– Myron Bement Smith handwritten caption in English reads, “47.P; Box 41.6: Tehran. British Embassy. Interior. (# 27).” [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P: Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran

The British embassy in Iran was reopened this weekend by UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond. The embassy building itself has a rich & storied past.

The British embassy in Tehran was constructed by British Architect. James Wild (March 9, 1814 – November7, 1892) on a piece of land acquired by the British government in 1860. The construction of the building lasted for almost sixteen years, the bulk of which was constructed from 1871 to 1876. Construction was complicated by Wild’s decision to transport the roof and other materials, such as glass, from the UK. Part of the roof was lost at sea in 1871, and two caravans of 367 camels transporting other materials were variously robbed by bandits and held to ransom by excise official and a ship carrying glass and joinery caught fire at the port city of Bushehr.

The British Embassy to Iran was designed from the South Kensington Museum (today the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, in 1869. James Wild had a strong reputation as a specialist in Middle Eastern architectural design, which he had studied and extensively drawn while living in Egypt between 1842 and 1848. He was sympathetic to the general principles laid out in Jones’ Grammar of Ornament. His Tehran embassy buildings are representative of the “controlled eclecticism” typical of the Design Reform movement broadcast from South Kensington.

Design Reform at the British Embassy: James Wild’s Arabesque Hall in Qajar Tehran. from Orientalist Museum on Vimeo.

Wild’s first proposal for the State Rooms was rejected, apparently because he had selected a “Persian” style: this was not considered workable for Britain’s official profile in Iran, where Britain and Russia struggled for political influence and status at the Qajar court. After a long hiatus, Wild’s second (more conservative) scheme for the State Rooms was approved: this also offered a British assimilation of a “foreign” style, echoing the eighteenth-century British assimilation of Greek and Roman architecture exemplified by neo-classical practitioners such as Robert Adam.

In 1906, the embassy played a key role in the uprising which led to the establishment of a parliament in Iran, when well over 10,000 Tehran people took refuge in the compound.

Tehran Conference 1943
Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the Tehran Conference 1943

Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met at the British embassy in Tehran for the first time to discuss the progress of the war and the future of Europe, even though the bulk of the meetings were at the Soviet embassy. Ambassador, Geoffrey Adam, and his wife, Mary Emma, had restored the interiors the British embassy in Tehran to their former historic glory. Tables and chairs had been repositioned exactly as they were in 1943 when Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt and their aides met at the Tehran Conference that failed to end the second world war. (Churchill and Stalin reportedly drank whisky and got on famously; Roosevelt looked on disapprovingly.) ^jh

The British Embassy in Tehran
198 Ferdowsi Avenue
Tehran
11316-91144
Iran
Telephone:
+44 20 7008 1500

Further reading and sources: