Friday, 29 June 2012

ENCHANTED ~ Castles - Neuschwanstein by Domythic Bliss

As a child I read and loved all the classic fairytales and the wonderful illustrations of forests and castles. It was with great wonder as an adult that I came to Europe and visited the places which inspired their authors and illustrators. I never tire of finding the source of books, poetry and art.

I enjoyed reading this post which is a fine tribute to Cinderella's castle Neuschwanstein by Grace at Domythic Bliss. This castle and it's King have a real story all their own played out to a Wagner soundtrack. Have a look and be inspired.

Neuschwanstein tribute

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I am becoming obsessed with all things watery and blue and green - seas, rivers, lakes, ghostly galleons, fish ..... and yes ..... mermaids.

Poseidon's Horses by Walter Crane 1893

Lady of The Lake by Graham Reading

Victor Nizoutsev's magical Mermaids are breathtaking

"I must be a mermaid, Rango.
I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living."
— Anaïs Nin

The Little Mermaid, bronze sculpture by Edvard Eriksen, 1913, modeled after a story by Hans Christian Andersen; in Copenhagen harbour.
© Spectrum Colour Library/Heritage-Images

Undine a great read with wonderful Rackham illustrations

Despite paying homage to Frederic Lord Leighton's 'Flaming June' and the Bard's Midsummer Nights Dream in our last post summer has still refused to shine here. It is warm, but very humid with little bursts of rain.

Edward Matthew Hale (1852-1924) oil on canvas, private collection,
this illustration is from "The Mermaid's Rock"   (1894)
Sulimith Wulfling The Mermaid

It is no surprise therefore that instead of sun and sand I find myself thinking of the sea and mermaids.

The Little Mermaid illustrated by Christian Birmingham

It's probably also because we are decorating a bathroom. It was last given attention in the 80's when someone rag rolled and stencilled over horrible wallpaper and patterned tiles instead of removing them and starting over. The 80s have a lot to answer for on the home décor front. 

It's a tiny room with one small window and bad lighting that was originally the third bedroom in our Victorian worker's cottage. Imagine - in those days the toilet was outside and the family bathed in a tin bath either in the kitchen, or if you were lucky, in front of the fire in the sitting room. We cannot afford to do a complete makeover as we would like so it is what I refer to as a 'half-way' decorate.  One day we will decide whether or not we change the boiler, get rid of the linen cupboard and water tanks and convert the loft to a more useful life. For now all we can do is tear off that painted stencilled wallpaper we can no longer with with. We are keeping the aqua floor tiles and woodwork.  We do have a new basin, and a vintage washstand on which to perch (excuse the pun!) it but that may take awhile to install.

Each piece of wallpaper we pull away takes half a ton of 150 year old plaster with it .... I can see that this bathroom will not be a Mermaid den until sometime in the future. But meanwhile I can dream, and dream I will.

 basin and tiles for a Mermaid, from Fired Earth

On a limited budget it is hard to summon the magic that Victor Nizoutsev has in his Mermaid paintings, but this is what I want. All that golden, coppery green and turquoise. And the glowing light. How to infuse that into something as mundane as a bathroom?

I have a Mermaid wish list which might help channel the look. Some of it goes in the bathroom, and others just outside. Even Mermaids cannot stay in the bath forever.

inspirational colours

A mother of pearl shower

Lalique to catch the light on the windowsill
Old glass bottles to keep flowers in
Turquoise and quartz

'Mermaid's tears', sea glass to scatter in an abalone shell

jade green shells
A fine collection of Mdina glass
A little something from the jewel chest

A watery coloured cabinet to keep things in

A turquoise velvet shimmery throne chair with a gold cushion

Seed pearls and green jewels

Bedrooms by Caroline Quartermaine

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


John William Waterhouse - Dolce Far Niente

I love iconic images and over the years have amassed a collection of those that continue to inspire me as if seeing them again for the very first time. They are old friends.

I have always appreciated literature, art and fashion.  The Pre-Raphaelites enchant me because the way they painted brought together these three in a wonderfully unique way. And the carved and gilt frames they created to hold their pieces have a magic all their own.

The dresses and interiors have equal billing with the ladies who pose languidly often looking as if they had been captured unawares. Even though history informs us that they posed for hours and long days on end. You can feel the softness of the silk on their skin, and smell the scent of the roses and the incense in the air.

I don't have an absolute favourite image either painted or photographed. I like to divide them into seasons and cherish them throughout the year.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was my favourite Shakespeare before the melancholy of other works overtook it. I still have a little print of Bottom by Arthur Rackham which I love and turn to every summer.

A Midsummer Nights Dream by Arthur Rackham

And who could resist Rackham's Titania? Delicate and haughty in turn.

Antique print of Titania circa 1860

But of all the images of June the one that I have loved best is Flaming June painted by Frederic, Lord Leighton in 1895.

Flaming June in it's fabulous original frame
You can see the painting here in his studio in Holland Park.  Photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895.

You either love it or hate it.  I got to see it in 2008 when it was displayed at The Tate in London. Although orange is not a colour I often wear and only use sparingly in my home I do like the energy surge which orange conveys and the immediate hit it gives your senses. The power of orange belongs more to sunrise, sunset and summer, and I am a twilight, midnight and winter person. This orange is almost overwhelming, but not quite. It is not an Autumn orange which is rust.  It's warmth envelops you, a sleepy summer idyll that brings back holidays abroad. Those we took and those we meant to take. It seems to say that the orange of it, glowing as it does, is her, the Goddess of June. The frame adds to the golden aura.

I like the idea that he never confirmed who sat for it and so it is left to our imagination to decide if there was a real live muse or if he was channelling an Olympian Goddess.   It adds a poignant note to this that although he painted so many Goddesses he never fund his own and died unmarried living all alone in his fabulous house in Kensington.

This work which Lord Leighton produced almost by accident has received a mixed reception throughout history. It failed to attract a bidder when it came up for sale in the 60s and probably had it's most popular period in the days of the Athena poster which adorned many student walls.  It even has it's own Wiki page where you can read more about it.

"Flaming June is a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. Painted with oil paints on a 47" x 47" square canvas, it is widely considered to be Leighton's magnus opus,  showing his classicist nature. It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naids the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolises the fragile link between sleep and death.

Dorothy Dene, the actress, and Mary Lloyd, who was depicted in paintings by various Pre-Raphaelite artists, have been variously credited with modelling for the work.

Flaming June was auctioned in the 1960s, during a period of time known to be difficult for selling Victorian era paintings, where it failed to sell for its low reserve price of $140 (the equivalent of $840 in contemporary prices). Afterward, it was promptly purchased by the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico where it currently resides."

I was thrilled to see that it had survived and remained a part of modern culture when I caught a glimpse of it in an unexpected place - included on Paul Weller's Stanley Road album. It's behind him on the blue wall where he sits upon a bed. I wondered if her beauty and warmth had touched the Mod Father as much as she had others in her long life. 

Flaming June behind Paul Weller on Stanley Road

And as I am more a twilight-midnight person I quite like this painting by Diane Sellers which is an interesting take on Flaming June.
Midsummer Nights Dream by Diane Sellers

Tom Lubbock argues the defense for Flaming June in The Independant

Friday, 22 June 2012

THE SPORT OF KINGS ~ Royal Ascot 2012

The bunting by The Bandstand at Ascot Racecourse

Having looked forward to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and Royal Ascot for so long it's now nearly over. Let's hope that summer returns after this winter like weather intermission!

The day that we attended Royal Ascot the weather was kind and the sun shone on proceedings. Not only is the location beautiful and the horses magnificent but people watching is wonderful. We saw some fabulous outfits and you have to look at all the little details, there are small treasures dotted all about. Especially crowns! 

A pile of champagne coloured silk cushions to rest on in the Moet Stand
The beautiful geraniums by the table areas
'Rembrandt' lions flank the crown gates

A little like Alice in Wonderland
A signpost topped by a crown in the Royal Enclosure
There are crowns everywhere! The crown gates into the racecourse
The Royal Box from the parade ring side
You can just make out the Royal Box balcony, with the flower trim and heraldry
Even the saddlecloths are adorned with a crown.
This one is worn by the star of the meeting -

A bit of fun - the Budgie in the flowers on this hat!

Just one stunning colourful hat, there were so many

UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
and his wife Princess Haya in the parade ring with their horse
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
 His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the main parade ring

The traditional sing along in the bandstand after racing

The song book
The band - don't you love her hat?

All over for another year
Catching the parking lot bus back to the car

And ... for a meeting which has it all, the most perfect ending to Friday. A winner for the Queen when her 3 year old filly 'Estimate', who was favourite for the race, wins the Queen's Vase. It's her first winner at the meeting since Free Agent landed the Chesham in 2008 and her 21st winner at the royal meeting overall. And as she usually gives the winner of this race the award, her husband The Duke Of Edinburgh presented it to her. Something that has never happened before.

The meeting ends tomorrow, and the Austalian superstar unbeaten mare Black Caviar makes her debut in England. We are not there but it would be such fun to see all of her fans who have travelled over from Oz en masse to cheer her on. Good luck to them all!

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