Eclecticism: ‘Things New and Old’ – Part I

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Eclecticism: ‘Things New and Old’

“I was ushered into one of the prettiest and most curiously furnished old-fashioned parlours that I had ever seen. Mirrors and looking-glasses of all shapes, sizes and design lined the walls. Whichever way I looked I saw myself gazing at myself.”– Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and His Circle (Cheyne Walk Life), Henry Treffry Dunn, 1904.

In 1862, poet, illustrator and painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), moved from Blackfriars to a handsome, and delicately proportioned, Queen Anne townhouse at 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Here, inside the building he affectionately named the ‘Tudor House’, he surrounded himself with extravagant furnishings and a parade of exotic animals that he accumulated over a period of twenty years. With this, he spearheaded a new Bohemian ideal.

Despite the criticism of his contemporaries, Rossetti was one of the first people to buy ‘antiques’ for their romantic resonance. He acquired an eclectic mix of furniture and artwork, from the medieval to the modern, not for its museological value, but to use and enjoy; collecting was considered a poetic and artistic construction, and a reflection of an individual’s personality. Drawing together contrasting artworks in the interior was an expression of artistic sensibilities, and made for interesting conversation. Henry Treffry Dunn recalled how the mantelpiece in Rossetti’s sitting room was an ‘original make-up of Chinese black-lacquered panels bearing designs of birds, animals, flowers and fruit in gold relief’, whilst blue Delft tiles decorated either side. The taste for aesthetic, rather than scientific or intellectual, private spaces, can be traced here, to the mid-nineteenth century.

It did not take very long for people to commercialise Rossetti’s Bohemian taste. The 1870s saw a slew of publications informing you of how to create an artistic interior. One such example, Clarence Cook’s The House Beautiful, offered the Victorian homeowner advice on how to furnish a home tastefully and affordably, covering everything from Tyrolian tables to Dutch bedsteads. Essentially, the book encouraged people to find ‘what was left in an old house to build upon for modern comfort and elegance’, and create a new type of individual decoration.

Here at Velvenoir, we believe, like Rossetti, that each interior space has a unique story to tell. Juxtaposing distinctive artworks with their surroundings opens an interpretative dialogue with viewers. Our network has collaborated with interior designers to build curated art collections that reflect the values, philosophy and personality of our clients. The team carefully selects the best artwork available from emerging and career artists for each project, to achieve a distinct aesthetic of understated luxury. Velvenoir’s consultants are dedicated to guiding clients through every step of this process, so please contact us today to discuss your interior project.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Frederic Watts, c. 1871

D. G. Rossetti and Theodore Watts-Dunton in the Sitting Room at Cheyne Walk, Henry Treffry Dunn, 1882

VELVENOIR Project - Salzburg