November 10, 2009

Italy Now: The Classic and the Contemporary Juxtaposed

Filed under: Art and Culture, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — michaeldelicio @ 3:59 PM

Italians love and cherish the countless art and architecture treasures of their classical and ancient heritage. Every where one looks, the eyes are dazzled by the beauty of the Ancient, the Renaissance and the Baroque. The good news is, the traditional reverence for art and architecture on the cutting edge, did not end with the Baroque. In fact the line remains unbroken right up to the present with a demonstrated love of all things MODERN, and a playful, provoking tendency to put the modern and the classical right up against one another for contrast and comparison.


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I was KNOCKED OUT when I showed up for my tour of the ROMAN FORUM and COLOSSEUM, to see these stunning modern sculptures by the brilliant Costa Rican sculptor Jimenez Deredia, installed throughout the grounds. Deredia brings a haunting Central American Pre-Columbian mysticism to this place already inhabited with so many shadows of the past. Aesthetically the contrast is stunning. Deredia’s ovular females, giving birth to themselves and the world stare far off into the horizon, seemingly quite undisturbed by the mere rising and falling of empires.

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In Florence, the Galleria dell’ Accademia houses what is perhaps the most famous and admired (and parodied) sculptures in all the world, Michaelangelo’s David. This year, they have done something unprecedented on several counts. For one, the introduction of a major body of work that is contemporary in this traditional and storied venue. And shockingly, delightfully, thrillingly!!…they have paired that said work, the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe with The David, this most beloved and revered acheivement in Renaissance art.

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I hardly need to name the comparisons evoked by looking at these two artists together. The eternal beauty of the human form comes immediately before you. The David itself is so stunning, and so beautifully presented, that it really takes your breath away. The Mapplethorpe photographs are viewed in a small dark narrow hallway, which then stunningly opens up into the wide brightly lit rotunda that holds the David. There are several Mapplethorpes on view in that area, directly surrounding the David. The message is clear.


CARAVAGGIO and BACON  at the gorgeous Villa Borghese Museum in Rome, is a revelation. The pairing of these two geniuses is brilliant. The effect is highly provocative on a visceral level. The beauty of shadows. The sacred and the profane. Space and reality. Darkness, life and death.  For me, this exhibit threw real light onto the work of two artists that I already greatly admired, but now will never think of in quite the same way.

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I came to Italy to see the Classics. I did throw my coin into the Trevi Fountain, so that means I’ll return! When I do, I look forward witnessing the continuing innovations in art and design, alongside the timeless classics that continue to inspire the world!

July 13, 2009

Gothic Revival: IT’S ALIVE! In Westchester County, New York

It’s time for a Gothic Revival-Revival! Do you have a tendency toward romanticism and flights of fancy? Are you fond of pointed arches, deep carvings, curvaceous tracery?  Are you a secret lover of vampire literature, television and cinema? Guess what: YOU’RE  GOTH!  No, I don’t mean you have to go out and get body piercings and buy lots of black clothes!  I mean you should look at this gorgeous, influential movement in American design.

In Tarrytown, New York (in the southern part of Westchester County,a little north of New York City) is Lyndhurst Castle, one of the finest, extravagantly beautiful OPEN TO THE PUBLIC examples of Gothic Revival architecture and interiors in America.


Lyndhurst Castle Tarrytown, NY

In the mid 18th century, with the rise of Romanticism, an increased interest and awareness of the Middle Ages among some influential connoisseurs created a more appreciative approach to selected medieval arts, beginning with church architecture, the tomb monuments of nobility, stained glass, and late Gothic illuminated manuscripts. The movement quickly swept through Europe, finally taking deep root in America, becoming the style of choice for the newly wealthy industrialist class, and infamous robber barons!

Lyndhurst Ent Hall

Lyndhurst Entry Hall

Lynd art gallery

Lyndhurst Art Gallery


Lyndhurst was designed in 1838 by Andrew Jackson Davis, for William Paulding, a former mayor of New York and merchant.  The house, as it stands today, was further formed by the Merrit Family and the famous railroad tycoon, Jay Gould.

In person, Lyndhurst Castle is both more impressive, and less daunting than the photography suggests.  Many children grew up in Lyndhurst, and the little nursery rooms,( quite near to the Master Bedroom) are on display, complete with a pair of old fashioned little girl's button up boots.  Within sight of the main house, is a perfect play house called Rose Cottage.

The rooms are large and filled with beautiful detail of the Gothic Revival period, but not heavy or oppressive.  Though spacious, the brilliant architecture of A.J. Davis  manages to keep it on a human scale.  Faux finishes became quite the fashion out of Europe in the later Gothic period, and Lyndhurst is filled with the finest examples I've ever seen of faux limestone and marble, and other forms of decorative painted surfaces.  Really, the only word is INCREDIBLE!  This is decorative painting elevated to the level of fine art.

dining room Lynd

Dining Room, Lyndhurst

Dutchess Guest Room, Lyndhurst

Dutchess Guest Room, Lyndhurst

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Restored Wheel Back Chair designed for Lyndhurst by it's celebrated architect Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the many exquisite authentic pieces to be seen at the mansion.

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Hey, did you know that Lyndhurst Mansion was used as the house set for the classic TV series from the late 60’s-early 70’s “Dark Shadows”? I was strangely drawn to watch it, but my Mom wouldn’t let me because it gave me nightmares!  Boo Hoo!!



There's Lyndhurst in the background. I promise, during the day it's not scary at all!


Lyndhurst as seen in "Dark Shadows" Oooooo, spookey!

But really, Lyndhurst is no vampire’s lair, nor maker of nightmares.  It’s much more like something from a fairy tale, an enchanted castle from a little girls’ favorite story book.



Exterior window detail. If I'd known I was taking my own picture, I would have said "cheese".

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Rose Garden

A detail from a large planter near the Rose Garden

I can’t resist including this  heartbreakingly beautiful painting  by my favorite artist of the Gothic Revival era,  Sir Edward Burne-Jones.  This piece is NOT at Lyndhurst.  It’s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  I’m showing it here, because it embodies so much of the dreamy romantic quality of the Gothic Revival movement…and I LOVE IT!

 Sir Edward Burne-Jones

"The Love Song" by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

American Gothic Revival Rocks On…..!

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Like the iconic painting “American Gothic” (1930) by Grant Wood,(titled for the  pointed arch window depicted in the farm house) Gothic Revival just keeps on going!
Is Gothic Revival still relevant? Yes it is, and guess what. Far from being relegated to Grandma’s attic, it’s influences are all around us and have never really gone out of style or usage. They’ve just evolved. You don’t have to be a wealthy robber baron to take part.  Here are some examples of Gothic Revival today:

Gothic Revival printed fabric form the period.

Gothic Revival printed fabric form the period.


Kravet #28247-613

More beautiful fabrics that display the Gothic influence:

Kravet  #23089-540

Kravet #23089-540

Kravet 25841-319

Kravet 25841-319

Highland Court #180933H-298

Highland Court #180933H-298

Highland Court #180906-533

Highland Court #180906-533


Whimsical, dreamy, fanciful; Mackenzie Childs has built a whole sub-category and career on elaborating on these qualities (already present) in Gothic Revival, to create something new and current, built on design of the past.  Fabulous!!

Mackenzie Childs

Mackenzie Childs at Neiman Marcus

Mackenzie Childs at Nieman Marcus

Mackenzie Childs: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was published in 1865 at the height of the Gothic Revival. Alice is the only thing missing from this fantastical display!

Architectural touches from the period you can add to even the most contemporary setting:

These beauties are available from

These reclaimed beauties are available from

From,brand new Gothic windows ready for installation.

Here are some current furnishings that  bear the unmistakable influence of the Gothic Revival period:

Yep, this is Gothic Revival

Yep, this is Gothic Revival!

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Antique fixture at Lyndhurst Castle

Gothic Revival reproduction lantern from  Well done!

Gothic Revival reproduction lantern from Well done!


Cabinets from Walz Craft

Cabinets from Walz Craft


Walz Craft is wonderful!  Any door style you can think of, they’ve got it.  And they’re terrific to work with.  Their interpretation of a Gothic cabinet door has the beauty and grace of the past, combined with unsurpassed function.

This would make a great hallway piece.  From

This would make a great hallway piece. From

Here are some decorative touches you can use that will add some of the old world beauty of Gothic Revival to your home:


This piece is available from




Scroll work wall art from Pier 1

Scroll work wall art from Pier1, little $'s, lots of Goth!


This piece will be auctioned at clark Auction on June 13th .  The estimated sale price is $150!

This piece will be auctioned at clark Auction on June 13th . The estimated sale price is $150! Needs a little love.

From Four Point Mirror

From Four Point Mirror

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Susand and Russell's new house 003 The print on my outdoor pillows from Restoration Hardware (2 or 3 years old) is pure Gothic Revival.  Their current prints are too!

Lyndhurst is one of five exquisite historical mansion museums in the Lower Westchester area of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY. The Lower Hudson River Valley region is rich with history on display.  It’s the best way I know to time travel, and get a shot of inspiration from the past.

So, if you’re coming around, I wouldn’t worry too much about vampires, but you better watch out for a HEADLESS HORSEMAN! I hear he’s still running around these parts!


The Headless Horseman from Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

For more of the fascinating history of Lyndhurst Castle and the other historical mansion museums, as well as their hours directions etc : and


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