Archive for the ‘Porcelain’ Category

Beth Katleman’s Rococo vision

June 6, 2011

Beth Katleman, Folly. ©Beth Katleman/Alan Wiener

I recently spotted these images of an extraordinary porcelain relief entitled Folly, by New York-based artist Beth Katleman. The work is five meters long and consists of 3,500 individual porcelain pieces. It is inspired by the riotous wall decorations of the Rococo period.

Facsimile of a Regency chinoiserie wallpaper in the Bow Room at Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Folly is reminiscent of eighteenth-century Rococo and chinoiserie tapestries, wallpaper and printed cotton, with their floating islands populated with whimsical figures and fantasy structures.

Folly (detail). ©Beth Katleman/Alan Wiener

The work also references the more extreme forms of plaster decoration, and the phenomenon of the porcelain room, with its walls covered with figurines, vases, cups and plates.

Detail of the mantelpiece in the Paper Room at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

But upon closer inspection Katleman infuses these ‘high culture’ sources with a healthy dose of kitsch. The floating islands are populated by porcelain casts that the artist has taken from flea-market finds, including pencil sharpeners in the shape of famous monuments and cast-off plastic dolls.

Folly (detail). ©Beth Katleman/Alan Wiener

Katleman aptly emphasises the surrealist potential of the Rococo style. At the same time she subverts the domestic associations of interior decoration, transforming the elegant into the uncanny. 

Detail of toile de Jouy in the Ante-Room at Plas Newydd, Anglesey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Folly will be shown by Todd Merrill at Design Miami/Basel from 13 to 18 June. Subsequently it will be part of the exhibition Flora and Fauna, MAD About Nature, at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, from 28 June until 6 November.

Folly (detail). ©Beth Katleman/Alan Wiener

Another edition of the work will travel to London to be shown, again by Todd Merrill, at the Pavilion of Art and Design, from 12 to 16 October. 

Chinoiserie plasterwork and carved wood decoration in the Chinese Room at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Todd Merrill website features a short video about Folly featuring Beth Katleman.

How were they used?

March 9, 2011

One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, French, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

Our curators have been puzzled by a group of objects in the collection at Attingham, in Shropshire.

One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, J. & P. Munn, New Bond Street, London, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

These small, dainty containers, made of cardboard and porcelain, have been described as card racks. They seem to date from around 1820.

One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, French, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

They were clearly designed to be hung from a wall or another vertical surface, but as they are only about 15 cm tall they could not have held anything larger than calling cards or small items of stationary.

One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, English or French, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

Their varied and sophisticated designs seem to indicate that they were fashionable objects which played a role in the social life of the house. 

One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, French, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

Were they used to collect visitors’ calling cards? If so, why were there so many of them in the same house and why did they come in sets of twos and threes?

One of a set of three card racks made of porcelain, this one showing a view of Attingham, Coalport, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

Do leave a comment if you know more about the use of these Regency relics.


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