Decorating With Helen Churchill Candee

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Hi Kalman,

Just saw this post. Sorry for being late to chime in.

I definitely think that the autographed Candee book was well worth the $380. It isn't really just because Candee was a Titanic survivor. "The Tapestry Book" was the most important of her design books. And the 1912 edition at least is a very beautiful one.

You got your copy of her book at a steal! Isn't your's the British first edition? Mine is the US first edition (sans autograph) and I think I paid $28.

By the way, I guess you know that Lucile's autobiography is getting more and more scarce and expensive. I stopped in at an antique book shop the other day and saw the UK edition of "Discretions and Indiscretions" displayed behind glass. It cost $500, the highest price I've seen so far. So your copy, with Lucy DG's signature and the bookplate showing that it was once in her own library, would be worth a hefty sum now!

As to the Candee book I won on eBay - I have forgotten which one it was, because would you believe I still haven't received it!? I've never left negative feedback for a seller but I'm afraid this may call for it.

Oh, you might want to note that in addition to the two "National Geographic" articles that we know Candee wrote in 1935, she also did one for NG the following year. It's one of her last published pieces, a beautifully illustrated story on Normandy; I'll send you details privately.

Best wishes,
For those who might enjoy a bit of a glimpse into "The Tapestry Book" below is an excerpt from Candee's foreword. One might not be interested in the history of tapestries through the ages but anyone will be charmed by Candee's warm, cultured writing style. The home-like feel of the text is captured best in these lines from pages 12-13 of "The Tapestry Book"'s first American edition (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., October 1912):

"...To enter a house where tapestries abound, is to feel oneself welcomed even before the host appears. The bending verdure invites, the animated figures welcome, and at once the atmosphere of elegance and cordiality envelops the happy visitor.

To live in a house abundantly hung with old tapestries, to live there day by day, makes of labor a pleasure and of leisure a delight. It is no small satisfaction in our work-a-day life to live amidst beauty, to be sure that every time the eyes are raised from writing or sewing - or bridge whist, if you like - they encounter something worthy and lovely. In the big living room of the home, when the hours come in which the family gathers, on a rainy morning, or on any afternoon when the shadows grow dim outside and the tea tray is brought in whispering its discreet tune of friendly communion, the tapestries on the walls seem to gather closer, to enfold in loving embrace the sheltered group, to promise protection and to augment brotherly love.

In the dining room the glorious company assembles, so that he who eats therein attends a feast on Olympus, even though the dyspeptic's fast be his lot. If the eyes gaze on Coypel's gracious ladies, under fruit and roses, with adolescent gods adoring, what matters if the palate is chastised? In a dining room, soft-hung with piquant scenes, even buttermilk and dog-biscuit, burnt canvasback and cold Burgundy lose half their bitterness.

When night is well started in its flight, perhaps there will remain one lover of the silence and solitude, loathe to give away to sweet sleep the quiet hours. This one remains behind when all others have flown bedward, and to him the neighboring tapestries speak a various language. From the easy chair he sees the firelight play on the verdure with the effect of a summer breeze, the gracious foliage all astir. The figures in this enchanted wood are set in motion and imagination brings them into the life of the moment, makes them sympathetic playmates, coaxing one to love, as they do, the land of romance.

Before their imperturbable jocundity what bad humor can exist? All the old songs of mock pastoral times come ringing in the ears - 'It happened on a day, in the merry month of May,' 'Shepherds all and maidens fair,' 'It was a lover and his lass,' 'Phoebus arise and paint the skies,' etc. Animated by the fire, in the silence of the winter night, the loving horde gathers and ministers to the mind afflicted with much hard practicality and the strain of keeping up with modern inexorable times.

This sweet procession on the walls, thanks be to lovely art, needs no keeping up with, but merely asks to scatter joy and soften the asperities of a too arduous day..."

Many of those interested in Titanic's interior decor admire the first class dining saloon with its Jacobean design. Their delight in that style was shared by Helen Churchill Candee who wrote, among her decorating titles, a book called "Jacobean Furniture."

This is a beautiful little book, published in 1916 by Frederick A. Stokes, Co., New York.

Candee speaks very strongly against "purveyors of imitation" in this book - experts who were knowingly foisting off as the real thing badly-made copies of antique furnishings, particularly those of the Jacobean mode which was enjoying such a revival in popularity in the early 20th century.

Those who have the idea of Mrs. Candee as a coy, eye-batting damsel (owing to the romantic tales of "Our Coterie") will be amused by her forthright language in the following passage in which she rails against contemporary furniture-makers and stores.

(One wonders what Candee's verdict was of Titanic's dining room and other features of the ship's interior which had Jacobean elements, such as the famous grand staircase)

"...The pity of it is, that no sooner had the artistic eye of the true collector begun to search for 17th century furniture than the commercial eye of the modern manufacturer began to make hideous variations on its salient features. He caught the name of Jacobean and to every piece of ill-drawn furniture he affixed a spiral leg and the Stuart name, or he set a serpentine flat stretcher and called his mahogany dining set "William and Mary."

These tasteless things fill our department stores and it is they that are rapidly filling American homes. And the worst of it is, that both buyers and sellers are startlingly yet pathetically glib with attaching historic names to the mongrel stuff, and thus are they misled.

New furniture must be made, however, or resort must be made to soap boxes and hammocks. The old models are the best to follow for the reason that the present is not an age of creation in this direction. The stylist is always a hobby-rider, and I must confess to that form of activity, but it is always with the idea in mind to make and keep our homes beautiful. And so I make a plea to manufacturers to stick to old models of tried beauty, and to buyers to educate their taste until they reject a hybrid or mongrel movable with the same outraged sense that they reject a mongrel dog..."

I guess we can assume from her last remark that the esteemed Mrs. Candee did not own a mut for a pet!

Best wishes,
Here are some promotional blurbs from the dust jacket of "Jacobean Furniture:"

"Jacobean Furniture"
Author of "Decorative Styles and Periods," "The Tapestry Book," etc.

This volume is the first adequately to treat Jacobean furniture with its many charming styles of oak and walnut, which have come to be of even more interest to collectors than the colonial mahogany of a later period.

It is the historical background - the personal connections between antiquities and the great people of their era - that gives the spice to the art of collecting. Mrs. Candee is especially enthusiastic over this phase of her subject, and she brings out delightfully the relation between Jacobean styles and the gay, romantic European courts of the 17th century.

The book is not only of value to those interested in antique furniture, it also makes piquant reading for the general reader.

With 43 illustrations. Cloth, 8vo, net $1.25.

Publishers - Frederick A. Stokes Company - New York.

(This book is 57 pages and bound in brown vellum, resembling dark, carved Jacobean paneling, with gold lettering for title and author and an inset photo of a tapestry-covered Jacobean dining chair.)
On another thread I discussed Helen Candee's views of reproduction French furniture. Being an antique purist, her attitude was naturally somewhat negative.

To show her taste for the "real deal" here are three views of a drawing room she decorated. The photo is dated 1916 on a slip pasted to the back of it but a notation dates the decorating commission to 1912. There is a name, "J. Samuels," also written on the reverse of the image, but it is not clear if this was the owner of the home.

I know of three major residential commissions Helen undertook in Washington (two of them in 1912) and three in New York (no dates known) - so further research will be needed to determine which of these homes is the one featured here, or if it is indeed another home altogether.

And here is the right side of the room.

I know nothing about Candee's vision for this room, beyond its Louis Seize character and the obvious proof that it was a very personalized space (family portraits, etc), or her color scheme, although I know she was a stickler for authentic palettes. I do note that the brocaded wallpaper or "hangings" seem very similar to that in some of the Titanic's B-Deck suites, which Daniel Klistorner tells me were gold in color.

Lord, Randy, how the other half lived. When I look at my living room.....still, I wouldn't go back, impressive as it is. Imagine being in a corset, perched on those chairs. I'm much happier in my pyjamas, sprawled on my sofa.

Paul Rogers

I must be getting more in touch with my feminine side. The first thing I thought when I saw the pictures was: "Think of the dusting! It would be like painting the Forth Bridge."

Great photos, Randy. Thanks for posting them.
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