Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Queen of the Night + Giveaway

Some years ago whilst working in Paris, I was given a copy of Cecil Beaton's book: The Glass of Fashion. This is where I first discovered the fabulous society portraits of fashionable Edwardian figures such as Countess Zichy, Rita de Acosta Lydig and the Duchess of Marlborough, all by the incredible Italian painter Giovanni Boldini.
Tilda Swinton as The Marchesa Casati by Paolo Roversi
Click to Enlarge
With my magpie's eye widened, my introduction to what is now one of my favourite Boldini paintings of the Marchesa Casati swiftly followed. Her infamous bewitching eyes were like hypnotic chasms in which I, like so many others, became instantly entranced.

Marchesa Casati with a Greyhound by Giovanni Boldini 1908
During the first half of the twentieth century she inspired and associated herself with a wealth of artists and designers, the likes of Poiret, Diaghilev, Fortuny, Bakst and Erte to mention only a few.

 Helleu, Boldini and Casati in Venice 1913. Photograghed by Mario Fortuny

The Marchesa Luisa Casati turned heads with every entrance she made. Holding grand Venetian balls in St Mark's Square with gold-leafed, half-naked men holding velvet ropes to keep the uninvited out, styling herslf in the most incredible dresses and costumes Europe had ever seen, wearing eye shadow made of velvet paired with live snakes as jewellery. Rumour has it that whilst hosting the Ballet Russes wearing a creation comprised exclusively of egret plumes, every movement she made caused the gown to moult right before everyone's eyes.

                                 Queen of the Night costume by                             Portrait by Augustus John
                                  Leon Bakst 1922                                                         1919

Living with a menagerie of exotic and mechanical animals in a rose marble mansion just outside Paris or in the grandeur of her Venetian Palazzo, squandering a huge fortune on a life of extravagance  and courting the who's who of the Belle Epoque, the Marchesa stole the show wherever she went.

Venice 1912

When the years of excess and partying took their toll and the debtors began knocking 'Luisa' escaped to London, living in what is now the Beaufort Hotel close to Harrods. Buried in Brompton Cemetary in leopard skin and false eyelashes with the quotation " Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety" inscribed on her tomb.

Tilda Swinton as Casati by Paolo Roversi for Acne
So this coming Halloween, join us when the moon is full, as we gaze out of our windows into the night, think not of Mary Shelley's scientific creation or Bram Stoker's bloodthirsty Count! But of a magical waif with flame coloured hair, emerald eyes painted darkest kohl, wearing a long, black duchess satin Vionnet dress walking the dimly lit streets of Venice with her diamond- leashed leopards. Make way for the most glamourous Queen of the Night!
She's coming to get you!

Photo by Baron Adolf de Meyer 1912

To celebrate the gothic month of October in style, join us in our
Queen of the Night Giveaway

We have a copy of one of my very favourite books to giveaway in time for Halloween.
The Marchesa Casati: Portrait of a Muse by Scott Ryersson and Michael Yaccarino
A fabulous addition for your Autumn coffee table.

All welcome, new and existing followers. Join up and join in.

To be in with a chance of winning just.

A. Follow (Worldwide) The Magical Christmas Wreath Company Blog
B. Leave a comment below
C. (Optional) Mention this giveaway on your Blog, Facebook or Twitter & return to let us know here for a 2nd entry into the giveaway.

One lucky winner will be picked at random from the comments below on 19th October 2012
Good Luck!

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Mile High Garden

It's 10am and a break in the weather had me calling for Hercules the chauffeur to fire up the silver lady, so we could take a trip to one of London's best kept secrets. A place in the heart of the city where a wise old Oak tree filters the twinkling rays of morning sun through it's 120ft high canopy, casting dancing shadows on luxurious lawns, reflecting a mosaic of light upon the quiet stream that passes under a scarlet bridge. A place where a chap can order a Bellini whilst gazing out over the vast metropolis without so much as a car horn to break the silence.

Welcome to The Roof Gardens, one hundred feet above High Street Kensington in Central London. A grade II listed site and Europe's largest rooftop garden area of one and a half acres crowning the building which was until 1975 home of the legendary BIBA store. The Roof Gardens have been under the ownership of Richard Branson since 1981. 

Masquerading as a tranquil urban oasis by day, you can almost feel the rock and roll mayhem and adventure these gardens have played host to over four decades of partying after the sun goes down. Not quite the Kensington Garden Peter Pan would have frequented. It's been quite a few years since I was last here at an after show party and I've never seen the gardens in daylight.
One floor up is the Babylon restaurant with it's fantastic outside deck providing views of London's iconic skyline. The Royal Albert Hall, Shard, Battersea power station and the London Eye all clearly visible.

The gardens are divided into a playful infusion of pure escapist styles including Moorish fantasy, Tudor formality, English woodland and Oriental romantic. The entire garden is growing unbelievably in only eighteen inches of soil including the 75 year old Oak tree that looms over the woodland garden.

The thirty five year old resident Flamingos are a hardy bunch and quite happy to spend the winter here. Bill, Ben, Slosh and Pecks are to be found greedily filtering algae in the ponds unfazed by my eager lens trying to capture their magnificent plumage.

By all means take your mother but get her out before sundown!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

High Beeches

Nestled in the forest ridges of West Sussex, mid-way between London and the south coast sits High Beeches Woodland & Water Garden, containing a beautiful collection of rarely seen plants and trees surrounding peaceful water gardens.
Click to Enlarge

The reason for our visit was to view the Blue Willow Gentians which are in full flower at this time of year. High Beeches is said to be the only UK garden in which these shade loving plants have naturalised in such large numbers.
We took to the descending paths, through an acid wildflower meadow that had not been ploughed or cultivated within living memory to see pirouetting butterflies, diaphanous winged dragonflies and friends dancing amongst the Devil's Bit Scabious.
Down into enchanting mossy woodland glades, we walked marked tracks past ponds bordered by enormous Gunnera Manicata, malodourous American Swamp Lily and then thankfully on to swathes of sweetly scented Hedychium Gardnerianum growing under a dizzying array of trees including some very impressive Magnolia, Rhododendron and Acer. 

At last the Willow Gentians we sought revealed themselves with trumpet shaped flowers in the most beautiful and vivid shade of blue scattered all over the lower gardens. The long descend concluded with a much longer ascend to a well deserved picnic with views over the High Weald.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

You old Weasel!

Short of seeing the odd local fox slinking around your garden looking for a tasty titbit, British native mammals are elusive creatures.

For those eager to connect with our secret society of hedgerovians up close and personal, there is a place where hardy urbanites can go to see an example of the beautiful native wildlife these islands have to offer in a natural setting.
Halfway between London and Brighton in the village Lingfield (close to the renowned Lingfield Park Racecourse) The British Wildlife centre was our destination of choice last week to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Pine Marten, Weasel and Water Vole.
Click to Enlarge
Is it me or would the guy above left make an excellent Bond Villian with his white fang!