04 March 2011

Grandville for 2 Grande dames


 "JJ Grandville" was in fact Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard- the Grandville was his grandparents' stage name. The caricature drawings of Grandville are still recognized and admired today for their distinctive style. The primary work that brought Grandville into fashion was called Les Métamorphoses du jour (1828–29) Most well known for his anthropomorphic drawings of  animals going about daily human tasks, after their publication, Grandville became sought after as illustrator & satirist.

What first interested me in the Grandville drawings is the great embroidered tableskirt Nancy Lancaster created for her drawing room and continued to use as she moved from house to house. Her daughter in law -Anne Tree- "inherited" the whimsical piece from Nancy Lancaster and placed it in her drawing room at Shute House- referring to it as a "winner."
I couldn't agree more! 

Nancy Lancaster's Haseley Court Grandville tableskirt

 photograph of the Grandville tableskirt from The Englishwoman's House

Nancy Lancaster  introduced the witty felt embroidered tableskirt with animals dressed in 18th & 19th century costumes into her formal rooms at Ditchley. One of the figures is Madame de Pompadour dressed in fashion with a goat's head atop her shoulders from J J Grandville's drawing in  LES SCENES DE LA VIE PRIVEE ET PUBLIQUE DES ANIMAUX. The inclusion of the table in Nancy's room at Ditchley and subsequently reappearing in her Saloon at Haseley Court in 1954 says a great deal about Lancaster's ideas about the bon ton. The Grandville embroidery also tell us Nancy Lancaster got it right the first time & continually used the favorite pieces in her collections, recycled and reinvented them in new settings.

This is a philosophy that more design aspirants should follow-

Serebriakoff painting of Lancaster's interior

Just recently in reading about the Duchess of Devonshire's new home, the Old Vicarage,Edsenor in the World of Interiors- I spied  a similar tableskirt with JJ Grandville animal caricatures promenading around it. This piece was embroidered by  the volunteers of Chatsworth.

Now-I'm thinking,
I could have what Nancy had.
What the Duchess has.
I could have a JJ Grandville skirt- skirted table that is-maybe not embroidered-(no volunteers) though my mother and I have done some stitching in the past-but a painted one! My mother paints, and quite well.

Now all I have to do is talk her into it- that's another story.



  1. Some years ago, I bought a large number of Grandville prints from John Rosselli's, and put them up in blocks in a guestroom. Children below a certain age refuse to sleep there -- they find the pictures too disturbing!

  2. Gayle, have you considered fabric transfers? You can get special paper at craft stores, on which to photocopy the artwork; then, you heat transfer the print to fabric (with an iron) and voila!! Artist friends used to make "collaged" T-shirts this way before the arrival of Cafe Press and Zazzle. (although of course size is limited to what's available in transfer paper.) You could also see if someone on Etsy could custom make the tablecloth for you? Get what you desire and support artists!

  3. This certainly filled a large gap in my knowledge

    Growing up, I had various A.A. Milne characters painted onto my bedroom walls; I think that as a young adult, there's something whimsical yet mature about a Grandville caricature-based wallpaper that I wouldn't mind displaying

    All best,


  4. I just read Nancy Lancaster bio by Becker and noticed the table skirt. I ran to my WOI on the Duchess and thought it might have been gifted to the Duchess. Not. However, I did have a great time comparing the famous yellow room contents from John Fowler bio, Nancy Lancaster bio and WOI remake of Lancaster's masterpiece. Some would say I have too much time on my hands. Love your blog!

  5. FABULOUS!!! I never knew about this table skirt - I love it. And totally agree with you that more designers should recycle and reinvent. Your idea for your own skirt made me a bit sad since my mother, like yours, was a fabulous painter - and seamstress. She loved these type of projects - it would have been right up her alley!! You'll have to keep us posted on whether you were able to convince your mother!!

  6. I appreciate your post as I was disappointed that the WOI had briefly mentioned the table covering belonging to the Dowager Duchess but, of course just as a tidbit, and did not explain. (The same article also went on about a favorite piece of furniture that was not shown). Thanks!

  7. We have known each other in another life! I have torn out scraps of magazines from the 50's with that tablecloth....I have them!!....I do! I also did not miss the duchess's tableskirt (it said in the text it was painted....but then it said it was embroidered! did you get that part?) It had to be embroidered......I would be happy with it painted.....any which way.......45 years I have been wanting that skirt for a table!

    How do we do it? I know we can come up with a way......we need to ask the AESTHETE? Or is he too busy ? He is so deserving of his new position at the magazine he will resurrect........we have to think of something!

    I have an artist who can paint.......(trompe l'oeil) shall we start with that?

    Honestly; it is so funny that I have been obsessed with this tablecloth practically my entire life!

    No mass market.....but on a really great blog.....a limited supply.......? Yours?
    I will have one a website one of these days.......but this tablecloth.......do you sell things? I have hired a "website-genius"........we shall see!

    New deal for me.....I have never even had a listed phone number.

    I am hopeless........I sure know what I like! And so do you!.


  8. I forgot! What makes you think she created it? My guess is she "found" it! (Nancy Lancaster) and "Ancient" since your grandchildren don't like those prints....want to sell them? I will buy them in a heartbeat!
    that is very interesting.......perhaps it is because the animals are dressed as humans.....don't take them to "Bemelman's Bar" in New York City!

    the" zoo," in the murals , has people in the cages......and the animals dressed up looking at them! I love it.......they might not.

    (He is the man who wrote and illustrated "Madeline" one of the most successful childrens book of all time!)

    The murals at the Carlyle in the Bemelmans bar are totallly fascinating.
    l(ook at them in the daytime.....at night.....people will think you are a crazy person!!)

    Ludwig Bemelmans painted the murals during WWII in return for room and board at the Carlyle.......same with Marcel Vertes.....who did the murals in the Cafe Carlyle....long the site of Bobby Short........(they have just been restored after 50 years of smoke) exquisite beyond belief! (I collect works of Vertes).......
    I love all these stories of art works....and where they end up!

    I thought I was the president of the fan club of the tableskirt......no there are a lot of us!!

    Let's figure out a way to reproduce it!.......Debo did!!

    Penelope from California!

  9. A terrific post---an d perfectly timed for me as I'm right now mid-way through the biography of NL, and this brings it to life.

  10. Every time my eyes move to that table skirt I feel a rush of happiness. Good for your health. We should all have one. I loved your lavender series...something else that made me happy.

  11. I love the whimsy of Grandville's art so much...any of his characters would make a fabulous table skirt, wallpaper or fabric for pillows, drapes...etc. I hope you are able to figure out a way to make this or have it made, it would be such a charming addition to your home.
    Thank you for this post...it, and the artwork, made me smile!
    xo J~

  12. That's it. Now I have no excuse not to subscribe to World of Interiors. Thank you for tipping the scales!

  13. What a treat this all was. I cannot even begin to tell you how delightful i find your posts. This is so original, loved the various images as well.

  14. my mother laughed when she read this post!

    as always much appreciate the comments everyone- my computer is crazy right now-as Am I. a virus and reworking all files etc-and I am the sicker for it. I hope to catch up-but does one ever? Gaye

  15. I have always adored Grandville and been influenced by him..
    Who knew his work could end up on a table skirt as divine as this!?
    Fabulous post and I linked to it today-the Met show just opened of satirical drawings

  16. Carol- thanks for letting me know about the exhibit!

  17. Oh dear Lord!

    I may never recover!

    My fave house......(I actually WENT there!!)

    Divine beyond!)


    That tablecloth is in my dreams........do you think I could hire someone to reproduce it? It doesn't have to be old!

    I think my friend Kathy!!

    fingers crossed!




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