Florine, My Ondine

I like slippers of gold / I like oysters cold / And my garden of mixed flowers / And the sky full of towers / And traffic in the streets / And Maillard’s sweets / And Bendel’s clothes / And Nat Lewis hose /And Tapp├ęs window arrays / And crystal fixtures / And my pictures / And Walt Disney cartoons / And colored balloons. - Florine Stettheimer

Imagine my delight when this wondrous dressing room peered up at me from within the pages of January's Architectural Digest:

Dressing room, by Samuel Botero, in Architectural Digest, January 2009

Let's see what we've got here: emerald crystal, mirrors (x10), a Fornasetti-meets-Edward Gorey mat, a graphic cameo cabinet. Naturally, this fantastical and arguably weird throwback to Victoriana with an eccentric flourish appealed to me. Yet, I had this unsettling feeling every time I'd look at it. Sure, it's unapologetically girlish, and yeah, I'll admit that it sort of has a hall-of-mirrors-in-a-fun-house thing going on. But that wasn't it; it was more like an experience of deja vu. And then, today, I realized why: this dressing room, in spirit and execution, intensely reminds me of the work of the artist Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944), known for her portrayal of the New York avant garde art scene in the 20s and 30s. And it's not just her paintings, but also her sets, poems, and interiors, all of which have the same frolicky quality, and bizarre underlying (or maybe overt) fantasies of girlish eccentricity.

Two of my favorite Stettheimer paintings. Florine wanted her paintings destroyed upon her death. Thank god her sister had the sense not to listen to her:
Left: Spring Sale at Bendel's, 1921 Right: Natatorium Undine, 1927

Stettheimer's set for Four Saints in Three Acts, a play by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein:

And her New York City apartment:

House and Garden, May 1991

If there's anyone who makes me want to wrap myself and my interior in swaths of cellophane, it's Florine. And trust me, that's not something I would think about ordinarily. I generally run for the hills when I see plastic, but in this case, will you look at those drawing room drapes?!

1 comment:

Palm Beach Vintage said...

Imagine my delight when I found your page here! I have been intrigued by Florine Stettheimer since I came across the '91 article from H&G...her world seemed so over the top and fantastical...there is so much joy in her paintings and I too would love a chance at those cellophane drapes...like living inside an Easter basket!

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