22 August 2011

landscaping: le style Pauline


Inspiration was easy for Pauline de Rothschild-she need look no further than the exquisitely framed eighteenth century Chinese painted panels in her Mouton bedroom. The panels would come to life on her table landscapes- petite orchards  of wild cherry,  apple and pear branches, cache pot with achillea- yarrow and candytuft clustered around the fruited branches -all for Beauty's sake.

In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. 
In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.- John Fowles 

I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. 

Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.-Robert Browing

a small forest of apple and pear branches, white achillea, white candytuft in tiny pots on a pale apple green tablecloth. The nineteenth-century Bordeaux plates have pale-green borders,black-and-white designs. In the background: a seventeenth-century Italian wooden horse with a horsehair tail, a sixteenth-century Italian artist's jointed wooden figure. (Valentine Lawford in VOGUE)

Pauline de Rothschild would liaison with staff member Marie Gyselinck in the mornings to give her instructions for the day's table landscapes. Gyselinck collected the agreed upon branches, fruit- mosses and flowers and then worked  her magic in the flower room of the original chateau. The pair completed there work sitting at the tables assuring no guest's view was obstructed by these landscape fantasies. Plates and linen were chosen from household books holding photographs of 170 different porcelain services and swatches of linen for the table.

Valentine Lawford writing for VOGUE about his "Wildest-dreams weekend-with Pauline de Rothschild" describes another of the tables:
A table setting for five for luncheon in the Grande Piece (but it could have been anywhere in the chateau)-planted with blue and white or scarlet Japanese pots and Landscaped on a flowers and butterflies embroidered white Porthault tablecloth. Blue and white monogrammed napkins; blue and white Chantilly china.

This table landscape at Mouton set for 7- with pampas grass, Cedar atlantica, Equisetum-horsetail, wild rose, wild orchis and Gyposphila all set again in cache pot or mounds of moss. The Persian cotton tablecloth depicts legendary lovers, Mejnoun and Leila.

If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is nature's way.  Aristotle

The Baroness' imagination ran wild with the seasons-here Winter tables-with the scenes changing for each dining experience. From The Best in European Decoration- " The Baroness prefers white (linens), for Mouton she chooses solid colours in delectable shades of orange, coral, yellow, lavender, or hand-blocked printed small designs. The Baron added- "When one lives in the country-variety is essential."

A  winter setting with a tiny printed tablecloth holds Creil plates that tell the story of the capture of Orleans by the Duc de Berry , vermeil and silver tableware-the tables center is laden with pine cones and needles.

  Sevres plates decorated with the Revolutionary cockade on pink with an abundance of kale.

 Physalis alkekengi, the Chinese Lantern plant, is in abundance at this table setting with English stoneware, decorated for the English trade in Japan. The knives and forks mix ivory, vermeil and silver.

Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; 
only when the clock stops does time come to life. -William Faulkner

An intimate table in the Long Salon looks out onto the vines of Mouton. Narcissi appear to grow out of a mossy mound,  a yellow tablecloth is used with Chantilly plates.  The 19th century silver is English, made for the Baron's grandfather, and decorated with hunting scenes. The sphere is a bronze and ivory 19th century clock that moves up and down along a chain telling the time- something that must have faded away when dining at Mouton.

 Orchids and mosses from the chateau greenhouses line this heavily set table on a beautifully hand blocked provencal print tablecloth that trails on the floor just as one of the Baroness's gowns might trail.

At Petit Mouton-the original chateau built by the Baron's grandfather- the dining room table is a hunter's fantasy.  A deep forest of catkins, dried fern and oak leaves spill out onto the intricately patterned tablecloth with polychrome Creil plates with hunting scene decorations-alongside these-the Baron's silver and pistol shaped horn knives and forks.  Just visible in this photograph is the dining room's linen printed red and white covered walls and green and gilt Napoleon III chairs.

Inspiration from Nature led the Baroness to set her tables for a fleeting moment-just long enough to linger over food, conversation-and wine, there must have been a great deal of wine at Mouton. Little need for staid lasting bouquets- each meal brought a change-much as the seasons of the year.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant,

it were an injury and sullenness against nature not to go out and see her riches,

and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth. -John Milton

In Nature-we all have an unending source of Beauty.



  1. Oh, how fantastic!
    What a gift you are giving your readers by posting elements of this kind of high life! Thank you!!!

  2. I would hope you'd take the trouble to create one of your sidebar niches for this posting, and possibly include previous postings on this vivacious custodian of one of the great estates of civilisation as we know it. For that matter the guidance of the female hand in the priceless viticultural heritage of France, as evidenced lately at Margaux and at Haut-Brion, would make an extremely fit project for this fabulously catholic page.

    In the present case, there are persistently glorious ripostes to the bias of the age, in favour of technologically clever stemware and obscenely deracinated tableaux for the service of food and wine, which you are polite enough to allow to speak for themselves, over and over, in wondrously celebratory permutations of the household's setting and its capabilities. I note that the unusual presentation of vermeil with sterling nevertheless highlights the importance of a single course in the train of the carte, and I think this is brilliant.

    How fabulously this presentation restores the agrarian celebration of the ground, which is at the heart of any viticultural satisfaction and the sine qua non of humane humility. It also exercises the most creative use of the noun, "liaison," I have ever seen, and which will probably be noted in the next edition of the OED. :)

    But these considerations are trifles, next to the valiant morality on display in this important entry.

  3. Thank you for this post! Gorgeous and inspiring. xoxo

  4. Anna, Pauline de Rothschild is an ongoing topic here. Your blogs and works with paper are so interesting-I need to explore you sites further. pgt

    Chelsea- She is that. pgt

  5. Carter, seeing these table settings in reality- or by magazine at the time was quite avant garde. The
    such a life of aesthetic perfection is non existent today-no-more like not attainable. There is too much "stuff" masquerading as nature in the most unnatural materials-there is no substitute for the realy thing. pgt

  6. this is really magnificent- in so many ways

  7. I love how after the beautiful and elaborate table settings, we get that Aristotle quote and the image of the simple white rose, a visual palate-cleanser.
    --Road to Parnassus

  8. VT- the natural gathering on these formal tables of course you- Victoria would love and appreciate. In light of the ridiculous napkin rings with all sorts of animals-bugs- crystal with painted matching motifs- or etched and cut to within its limit- etc-these landscapers are truly refreshing.

  9. Parnassus-Nature is the finest host-though elaborate-it is Nature that keeps these so very important to consider in an -of the moment way. I love the idea of that white rose cleansing the palate, and I am enjoying your blog too. pgt

  10. These tablescapes are truly inspired.I cannot even begin to pick a favorite...fruiting branches placed in little Chinese pots like the miniature jeweled trees the old Gumps used to sell; catkins and pampas grass..it is all too delicious. I just loved this.

  11. Philip- they are exquisite. I knew you would love these. pgt

  12. Did I misread the sentence above...it uses "there" where it should read "their". This is the first blog I find worth reading, so I hate to find fundamental grammar mistakes.

  13. Laura, thank you for the kind words-and if this is the sentence you refer to-I have reviewed it and believe I did get it right. Inspiration from Nature led the Baroness to set her tables for a fleeting moments-just long enough to linger over food, conversation-and wine, there must have been a great deal of wine at Mouton. Little need for staid lasting bouquets- each meal brought a change-much as the seasons of the year.
    My meaning being "in or at that place" rather than the possessive, However that doesn't belie the fact that there may well be errors in this or other posts, I rely on readers to let me know of any glaring errors or presumed ones. I do profess to gross ill use of proper sentence structure-creating some confusion occasionally. pgt

  14. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

    Bedford landscaping supplies



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