An Antiquare’s Influence

Posted in marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on August 19, 2009

Above: Chaim Soutine, Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, 1929 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art). Bottom Left: Photo of Madeleine Castaing by Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe, ca. 1920. Top Left: The salon of Castaing's country house, Maison de Lèves, near Chartres; photograph by René Stoeltie (via An Aesthete's Lament)

Leves_by_Rene_Stoeltie,_copyright_2007pfrench7_1384411cYesterday’s interior photographs of the Swedish Gunnebo House were supplied by Christopher Flach. In 2007, Flach made a half-hour documentary about the legendary French aesthete, Madeleine Castaing (1894-1992). Though associated with leading artists of the early twentieth century – including Modigliano and Soutine (the latter’s portrait of Castaing now hangs in the Met) – this grande dame of design was enthralled by the possibilities of classicism – in most cases nineteenth-century revival pieces of one sort or another. Emily Evans Eerdmans, author of Regency Redux, describes the Castaing look as a “unique blend of Neoclassicism, Proustian Romanticism, and pure wit.” One might see Castaing (the wife of the art critic, Marcellin Castaing) as a twentieth-century analog of the Goncourt brothers, though admittedly, the discrepancies are as interesting as the points of congruity.


Interior of the Castaing shop's; photograph by René Stoeltie (via an Aesthete's Lament)

9Castaing’s greatest influence was channeled through the antique shop she ran in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the corner of rue Jacob and rue Bonaparte (it’s now home to the patisserie, Ladurée). Various accounts have appeared over the past few years (including this one from David Feld), but for dixhuitièmistes, its importance stemmed from the way it animated a twentieth-century vision of previous eras of design (however idiosyncratic the interpretation may have been). The shop, turns up, for instance as an early source for the aesthetic proclivities of David Mlinaric, who went on to forge much of what now constitutes period interiors, particularly in England (he’s worked, for instance, at the V&A, the National Gallery, and Spencer House). In the recent Frances Lincoln book, Mlinaric on Decorating, Mirabel Cecil describes Castaing’s shop as an “exercise in looking – and remembering”
(pp. 9-10).

09_30_sothebys_castaingFollowing Castaing’s death at age 98, her furniture was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2004. In addition to sources already provided, the following articles and postings may be useful: The Style Saloniste on ‘Castaing blue/green’ (related, of course, to the colors of Wedgwood and Robert Adam), Jan del Monte on the renewed interest in Castaing (including an exhibition in Paris of her furniture and a biography by Jean-Noël Liaut), a summary with photos from Topsy Turvy, more photos at An Aesthete’s Lament, and finally, this feature from The New York Times Magazine (17 October 2008). Flach’s documentary is available for purchase through his website.

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