- If we look at a painting in any particular time frame, you will see the fashions, the furnishings and designs of the interiors. An example is Velazquez “Las Meninas” or “The Family of Philip IV.”
- Diego Velazquez “The Family of Philip IV”
How in the world did anyone sit down? Or ride a horse? Or play hide and seek? But no matter who or what designed these strange fashions, comfort of sorts was provided. After all, it is the Renaissance, a time of rebirth and revitalization of life and living. Stool sitting is an obvious choice for such fashions, but would you believe they actually did have chairs? For example, the caquetoire, a small
Caquetoire 16th century
French conversational chair, also known as a gossip chair, standing on four legs held together with stretchers, designed in the Renaissance in the 16th century. The arms are wide, but not really wide enough for those voluminous farthingale skirts. The shape of the seat is what really distinguishes it. It was designed to be very wide in the front, and narrowed at the back, making a triangular shape. The back was high and panelled, and sometimes was decorated with carving and medallions. This chair has carved rams heads on the ends of the arms.
The chairs were apparently grouped for ladies to sit together and chat or gossip. Indeed the word caquetoire comes from the word caqueter which means to chat. Somehow the translation favors the word gossip over chat. These chairs first appeared in France but then found their way to other European countries.
The chair was designed during the reign of France’s Henry II (1547-1559), who married the Italian Catherine de’Medici, a woman of cruel but forceful character, who completely controlled him and their three sons, each of whom succeeded to the throne. She was instrumental in giving additional impetus to the Italian arts in France. She surrounded herself with Italian courtiers, who aided in introducing at the French court the amenities of Florentine social existence. Catherine died in 1588 after an active life as the central figure of the religious wars. Tradition ascribes to her the instigation of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s (1572), which occurred during the reign of her son, Charles IX.
Painting by François Dubois, a Huguenot painter born circa 1529 in Amiens, who settled in Switzerland. Although Dubois did not witness the massacre, he depicts Admiral Coligny‘s body hanging out of a window at the rear to the right. To the left rear, Catherine de’ Medici is shown emerging from the Louvre to inspect a heap of bodies.
Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre
Does Catherine de’Medici of the 16th century remind you of anyone you know today? What happened to women by the 20th century? Why did we need the wakeup call by Gloria Steinem?
Gail's Christmas angel on her angel tree
Twinkling lights hung on fragrant boughs, laced with golden antiquities; garlands strung from the mantle, framing a glowing fire of crackling pinecones, the family Bible prominently displayed on a table, opened to the greatest story ever told. Walking from room to room, the heavenly scents of fir, pine, hemlock, sweet spices of cinnamon, cranberry, and apple fill the air. Windows are frosted and the walls faintly shudder with the howl of the snow-laden winds outside. Guests filter in and leave their calling cards at the foyer desk, each one a brightly decorated token of the season.
Fireplace in the dining room at the Biltmore
Names are crisply spelled out in fine script, surrounded by pictures and designs in bright, cheery colors. The mail basket is overflowing with cards lavishly printed with the lithographs of Currier & Ives and Louis Prang. A scrapbook in the parlor, another in the children’s playroom, announce with appropriately selected pages, that Christmas is here in all its spectrum and splendor.
Currier & Ives winter scene
When we celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we have the Victorians to thank for many of its joyful festivities and delightful customs. They revived old traditions, such as caroling, and invented new ones such as sending Christmas cards.
The Victorians also promoted church-going, gift-giving, and charity to the poor as essential parts of the holiday. They transformed the folk figures of Father Christmas and Santa Claus into symbols of holiday generosity, and they greatly popularized Germany’s traditional Christmas tree or Christbaum.
A Christmas Carol
Most of all, the Victorians made Christmas a family celebration, with its primary focus on the Christ Child and children. A Victorian Christmas entailed the exchange of gifts between parents and children; attendance together at Church services; a multi-course family dinner; and visits with friends, relatives, and other families.
Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum Victorian Christmas
Christmas was certainly celebrated in this Victorian Mansion. Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum welcomes guests to enjoy the decor of a true Victorian Christmas. For hours and information please go to: www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com. Those of us involved with the mansion are working towards complete restoration. Will you get involved?
Pine tree aromas pine cones all around
From our house to yours-Greetings of the Season
Christmas evening on the grounds at The Biltmore - I could not pass this image up, it is too beautiful.
Lagoon View Fall
The Osprey, with its wide wingspan, zoomed down into the lagoon, feet first, from its nesting place nearby. The silent spring was interrupted by the rattle of wings. From her place on the rock, Cornelia raised her eyes to the sound. Her arm was suddenly jerked by the leash in her hand. Holding onto it, she followed the dog’s trail to see the Osprey’s catch.
Cornelia, the only daughter of the eminent George Vanderbilt, was raised in this palatial atmosphere. George, the builder of Biltmore and the great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, opened his country estate to friends, family and heads of states.
The tale above tells us a little about George’s daughter Cornelia and her precious puppy…and according to history, George’s father, William Henry Vanderbilt, continued the legacy of the Vanderbilt empire in railroad and shipping created by the Commodore. He doubled the value of the Vanderbilt lines, to approximately two hundred million dollars.
The 1989 book “The Vanderbilts” by Jerry E. Patterson, states, “They were, and remain today, among the richest families in the world, and they lived as the world expected them to, lavishly and publicly.”
Biltmore Christmas Fantasy
George Vanderbilt, through his inheritance, in 1888 purchased the land that would ultimately become the Biltmore.
George Vanderbilt first welcomed guests to the Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895. Today, that tradition is kept alive each year as the Biltmore House is filled with hundreds of trees and garlands from the area. Each year, the 34-foot-tall Banquet Hall Christmas tree wows Biltmore’s guests.
During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, the Oak Sitting Room glows in the light from candles and matching fireplaces at either end of the room
Oak Sitting Room
The glow of hundreds of lights and a roaring fire illuminate George Vanderbilt’s Library during Christmas at Biltmore.
The Tapestry Gallery during Christmas shines in tones of green, blue and gold. The tapestries reach from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. We breathed in the beauty.
During our stay, Tom and I were treated royally. We enjoyed the warmth and wonder of Candlelight Christmas.
The Banquet Hall is 72 feet long, 42 feet wide and 70 feet high. It could seat up to 64 guests.
Mr. Vanderbilt's Bedroom
George Vanderbilt’s bedroom, in red with deep rich wood- toned furnishings of Victoriana.
Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom
Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom is dressed with contrasting fabrics in yellow and black. The French furnishings painted white add a country flavor, an informality in contrast to the formality found throughout the home.
The Winter Garden is located in the front hall. In November when we visited, the garden was filled with Christmas, decorated with Christmas trees, plants, poinsettias, musicians, choirs of high school angels and more.
Thanks to LeeAnn Donnelly, Senior Public Relations Manager at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, for permission to use the Biltmore images.
Biltmore keyhole roof
Christmas at The Biltmore House is unlike any other. When you are there it is 1895. Where can you go in this year of 2011 to experience life in 1895? The Biltmore House, of course, where candlelight Christmas is celebrated most every evening throughout the holiday season, starting just before Thanksgiving. Presented as though the Vanderbilt family were our hosts. We spent three nights at the Inn at Biltmore on the grounds of the estate and enjoyed tea in the afternoon, lunch at the Bistro, dinner in the dining room. Five star accommodations, five star food, five star grounds.
Gargoyle without water spout
"The Grounds" designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Designer of Central Park, NYC
The landscape was designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City.
Olmsted described Biltmore Estate as “The most distinguished private place.”
Below is my photo of our breathtaking, spectacular view from our room. Olmsted’s design, with a mountainous backdrop. It was mesmerizing.
Tom Claus & Gail Ingis Claus in the library lounge
Tom and I were dwarfed by the mantle in the library lounge.
Dining room fireplace
Below are images of Biltmore Christmas.
- Christmas Biltmore shoppe decor
Poinsettia in the Conservatory
Christmas doggie doll
The Vanderbilt rail empire was created by Biltmore’s George Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877. It was Commodore that bought out LeGrand Lockwood after Black Friday in July 1869 when Lockwood lost his empire. The same Lockwood who built the Mansion in Norwalk, Connecticut. The same Lockwood who commissioned Albert Bierstadt to paint “Domes of the Yosemite.”
Most of my readers know about my journey writing about the life of painter Albert Bierstadt. My visit to Biltmore Estate was inspired by my research while creating a copy of Domes and henceforth, writing my romance novel.
Tree greens at the Inn at Biltmore entry
What would you do if your home was stolen away by a friend, especially if your friend said he would save you and save your home?
To be continued…