10.16.2009

A Baroque Fascination

"Though the association of the Baroque with excess was well understood by the august Victorian and Edwardian(s), the rediscovery of the essential eccentricity and bizarre nature of the Baroque, and the recapturing of its all-but-forgotten whimsicality, has been a phenomenon of the modern era." - Stephen Calloway, in Baroque Baroque

Calloway's depiction of the Baroque is seductive, isn't it?  The Baroque is usually associated with pompous decoration and round, undulating flourishes affixed to grand-scale architecture.  I love (LOVE) Calloway's books because he probes beneath the surface and attempts to capture the essence of the Baroque.  What does he find? An era of experimentation, a state of flux.  Indecorous taste shifting into decorous taste, the gray space in between; you get the picture.  Surely, this is something I can relate to.

What I find so interesting is something he characterizes as a "baroque" fascination with the grotesque and unusual. From Baroque Baroque:
"In the history of taste there is a great fascination in the way in which things once despised are gradually found to have a certain curious charm.  Some continue to gain ground aesthetically, finally to enter the sacred canons of Good Taste."
 The word "baroque" was first used to describe rare, misshapen pearls that 16th and 17th century noblemen came to collect and treasure in their cabinets of curiosities. You know, those moments when something looks so bad, it could be good? Often the things I end up loving most are things I hated on first exposure. Now, I embrace that bizarre gut response when I'm lucky enough to encounter it.


 
Above, Virginia Bates's vision of shattered and decadent decay, from Divinely Decadent, by Stephen Calloway.





Above, Shattered mirrors in an interior by Carolyn Corben, from Divinely Decadent by Stephen Calloway




Above, Entrance gate at the Salon de Coiffure, Institut Harriet Hubbard Ayer et Alexandre de Paris, photograph c 1946 by Gilbert Poillerat, from Baroque Baroque by Stephen Calloway.





Above, an interior by Dennis Severs, inspired by Charles Dickens' Christmas ghost stories. From Divinely Decadent, by Stephen Calloway. 

As I was perusing these jaw droppingly gorgeous images from Calloway's books, it suddenly dawned on me that I'd SEEN HIS RESIDENCE!!!!  These are the moments I giddily relish (it's like a behind-the-scenes peek- the man behind the curtain!)  Not surprisingly, the accompanying article was about using your living space as an experimental "taste laboratory."  I liked this idea, and so, I've scanned Calloway's apartment to share with you:





Above, Calloway and his wife, artist Oriel Harwood. From House and Garden, April 1991.

For me, this space isn't so much about perfection in taste (I don't necessarily even LIKE certain aspects of it), but it's not about that.  It's more about the excitement of seeing someone's vision and design journey; its an appreciation of the extremely personal nature of the apartment, even if it's almost too personal to love wholeheartedly unless you're the designer.




In other words, I'm intrigued. And appropriately so. After all, what could be more baroque than that?



Scans of Calloway's residence from House & Garden, April 1991.

8 comments:

Cristin said...

Baroque? Yes, please!

little augury said...

That is a great book-actually much more exciting seeing the images here. It is the Laboratory part of the SC home that is so very intriguing. So that was 18 years ago-Don't you wonder what stuck? GT

home before dark said...

I agree with you about the wonder of being able to see an artist and his vision brought to fruition. While we might not want to live this way, I stand up and applaud people who have the confidence to do as they please.

The flip side of loving what you originally hated is that many times we end up hating what we originally loved. Funny how it works out that way.

{Tara} said...

I REALLY must get my hands on this book! These images are so intriguing...

Seraph + Splendor said...

Thanks for the wonderful post. We truly adore all things baroque... The Calloway residence is amazing –they are the Lord and Lady of all things wicked and sublime…
S+S

Lauren said...

Little Augury- I always wonder, but especially in this case. He did, after all, describe it as a "laboratory," so surely it's changed since then...

Home Before Dark- So true. When that happens, I usually relegate whatever I've come to hate to a drawer or closet, and keep it there sufficiently long enough so that I've forgotten I own it!

Anonymous said...

Dear Author www.indecoroustaste.com !
It does not approach me.

Anonymous said...

I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

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