Call me a curmudgeon, but there are certain terms or phrases which I’ve banished from use amongst my staff: Eastlake, Fat Lava, Artsy/Craftsy. And one word du jour in particular—the oh-so-trendy “Hollywood Regency”—really gets my bile rising. Decorators, merchants and antiques dealers are always scrambling for words which might substantiate a bump to the ticket price—or to legitimize an otherwise hard-to-identify period or movement. And “Hollywood Regency” seems to be the catch-all term into which anything from the late Thirties or Forties is dumped—a designation seasoned with the implication of glamour, theatricality, or grand visual artifice.
The problem is, most people who use the term don’t even know what The Regency (or the Regency Style) is. In its most basic sense, a “regency” is a period of time when a monarch is unable/unfit to rule—and someone else (a son, a brother, a highly-placed advisor) takes the monarch’s place in proxy. The most famous regency period (from which we get “The Regency Period”) was in England from 1811 to 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule (Madness? Blood disease? Lead poisoning?) and his son, Prince George, ruled as Prince Regent. The high-living prince was very much the patron of art and culture and he (basically) broke the bank with lavish and wonderful building. Under him, England experienced a classical renaissance of sorts. Architect John Nash was much-employed and Brighton became the seasonal go-to place for the smart set. When the ill father (George III) died in 1820, the Prince Regent became king in his own right (George IV) and the regency period was over. Of course, the new king’s tastes and ambitions continued-on through his reign, but, technically, the regency was finished.
What this very specific historical period has to do with Hollywood sound stages in the 1940’s is beside me—as it is to all those people who toss around the term “Hollywood Regency” with knowing confidence. My point: why make up a new term when the old one (Art Deco) is just fine? (And don’t get me started with “East Village” versus “Lower East Side”).
The set of four Art Deco “Celery Glass” tumblers, shown above, were made in the 1940’s—at the high point of Hollywood glamour. Just don’t call them “Regency!”
More newly-acquired glassware tomorrow and in the days to come.