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img740Researching a collection or a topic can lead to very surprising things! Initially, this post was going to be about drawing and drawings, but sometimes the end of the search becomes more important than the start.

A very wonderful book, I often reference because of its topic and the visual pleasure it provides, is titled: The English Archive of Design and Decoration by author Stafford Cliff (Abrams 1998). The author is very adept at making his points throughout the folio size book with its 600 illustrations in color and black and white.

Since we like and collect sample books and drawings ourselves, let me start this post with an introduction by Stafford Cliff to his book, we hope you will keep reading to see where this posts ends up. The entire book almost gives you that sense of living with the old sometimes leather bound books, yes you can almost smell the leather!

img741” This book is a celebration of the work of the named and unnamed artist-designers who made such an astonishing and original contribution to English domestic culture, craftsmanship and manufacture during the eighteenth,nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.During my researches, some of the records I discovered could hardly have been expected to survive, being little more than scraps of paper, never intended for the client’s eyes, let alone be printed in a book.Other designs I found recorded in pattern books, swatch books,shape books, sometimes actually recorded by in colour by the very craftsmen who had earlier made the finished artifact.Such records often show the signs of constant use: worn edges of pages marked with potter’s clay or even singed by a glass-blower’s flame; patterns annotated with later comments or artisan’s instructions, bindings battered by constant handling.Yet ,for the most part, the designs still reveal the remarkable skills of those who drew them, and a freshness and spontaneity as appealing today as when they were first created.”  

I could not have said that any better or more precise myself, and the same applies to photographic records like the ones shown below from our own collection of ceramic drawings and ephemera. These albumen photos are of an unknown German/Bavarian ceramic manufacturer probably around 1890’s to 1900’s.


They were made as a visual reference for prospective buyers who came to the factory, I believe, as the “ruler” would indicate a quick reference to size in some of the photos.

img742img743 It is however a double page in the book which really struck a chord with me (pictures above). The superb complete drawing of an English parlor room used by the author to show the skill of the draftsman, but also of the craftsmen who made the items. It reminded me about something in my own collection of furniture drawings from Italy and particularly from a small cabinet maker, the Nada and Billour Company (sounds part French). According to their annotated drawings of the various furniture pieces (shown below), they outfitted many of the Villas built by British expats or other wealthy foreigners.


bordigera 1The penmanship is very good and the small drawings show a good amount of detail, for example, opening drawers as well as views from various angles or whole settings. Presumably, the pieces were made before the furniture was ordered by the clients to their taste and specification.

DIS6Some drawings are annotated (see drawing above) Stile Inglese or “in the English style but they could easily be used as a catalog of the firm’s expertise in cabinet making or hotel or boarding house outfitting. In those days, a boarding house would be called “Pensions” in French. The town of Bordighera, Italy (I have never been there) is located not far from the French border on the Italian Ligurian Coast and has a terrific climate and beautiful beaches and gardens.

The famous French architect of the Paris Opera in the 1870’s, Charles Garnier built his own imposing Villa in Brodighera. (shown below)

But the story gets even better yet, in the middle to late 1880’s Claude Monet traveled to this same old town that has a wonderful history, and as far as I know, he painted at least 6 paintings some are shown below.

monet villa bordighera

monet palm trees

Moreno Garden in Bordighera

olive grove monet

A Grove of Olive trees in Bordighera

monet valley of sasso

Palm trees at Bordighera

Because of its favorable climate, the Town of Brodighera attracted not only wealthy retirees but many other artists like the German painter Lovis Corinth who painted a woman on a balcony (shown below).

In comparing the above Room Setting drawing by Nada and Billour, we find a drawing and educational skill certainly at par, with the one used as an example above in Cliff”s book. Next time I am in Italy, Bordighera will be on my list to visit.  If you want to learn more about this wonderful Italian town, then you can visit this website.