Let's take a three-day holiday to Paris—and enjoy a little celebration of handsome French ceramics from the early Twentieth Century. On the way, we'll reminisce about a previous trip to The City of Lights and take a little detour into early Twenty-First Century French politics.
It's amazing how an acquisition—a special souvenir—can trigger so much memory of time, place and circumstances. The piece here brings-back memories of a wonderful and exciting trip at a special time of my life.
Shown above, a Pierrefonds French Art Deco urn with a sensational multi-colored, dripping glaze: olive, turquoise and cornflower blue. Furthermore, the glazes are crystalline—creating seemingly-random "bursts" of crystal formation, an uncontrollable process which makes every piece unique. (More about this in future days.)
This gourd-form urn is "corseted" near the top, that is, pulled-in tightly to create two distinct "lobes." And the two heavy, muscular handles give substantial punctuation to the top half of the piece, counterbalancing the visual weight of the bottom lobe.
To be clear, the Commune de Pierrefonds, where this piece was crafted, is about 50 miles outside of Paris. We'll talk more about the village tomorrow. But I originally did acquire the piece above in Paris itself, at the Saint-Ouen flea market on a cold and wet April morning. I remember it well! I bought a lot on that trip; my très teeny-tiny hotel room, just down the street from the Odéon Theatre and La Jardin du Luxembourg, was a horror scene of suitcases, bubblewrap, tape and (in this case) exquisite Art Nouveau and Art Deco ceramics. (I won't mention the shockingly small elevator which could only fit one person and one suitcase at at time!)
I also remember—very distinctly—that there was a Presidential Primary Election in France that weekend. The two "top" candidates were the conservative sitting president, Jacques Chirac, and Lionel Jospin, the popular Socialist candidate. It was expected that Chirac and Jospin would take the two top slots in the primary and face each other in a run-off two weeks later (in which Jospin would likely oust the establishment conservative). But French elections are not straightforward! There were 16 candidates on the primary ballot (including for parties like the "Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions Party"), which siphoned the votes away from the two most viable candidates. As a result, while Frenchmen were "making a statement" by voting for their fringe candidate in the primary, Jean Marie LePen (the odious MFGA candidate) was able to sneak-into the second spot (and, thus, into the final runoff against the incumbent, Chirac). As we climbed-out of our local Odéon Métro station, we were greeted by Frenchmen in the streets, banging pots and pans in protest of that day's election. They were upset that they had two bad choices: Chirac or LePen. Two weeks later, the country rallied around "the lesser of two evils" and re-elected Chirac in a landslide. With 82.2% of the vote, Chirac won by a greater margin than Napoleon had in his day! And LePen and his Nationalists were kicked to the curb (at least for the time being).
All these memories from one single (though exquisite) vase! Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248