Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
1 pound rhubarb stalks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Combine and cook over low heat until the rhubarb is tender and you can stir it into a puree. Chill and eat! I know a lot of people add fancy things like corn starch (makes it goopy), lemon (rhubarb’s not tart enough?!?!), port, or red food coloring ~ but I think the simpler the better.
Anyway, my current rhubarb craze led me to do a little research. Rhubarb has its origins in Asia as a medicinal plant ~ its roots valued for their cathartic properties. It most likely came to Europe as a result of the silk and spice trade, and by the 18th century was being cultivated for culinary purposes. However, the plant we now use for sauces and pies is probably a hybrid of its Asian ancestor (see above). The plant was brought to America some time between 1780 and 1800 by a gardener from Maine (!) who apparently procured seeds or root stock from Europe. And generations of Maine women have been cooking it up ever since.
(image: François-Pierre Chaumeton, Flore Médicale [Paris, 1814], plate 297)
P.S. This card is by the talented Alicia Peck of Bellamuse, whose wonderful work I discovered on West Broadway in SoHo several years ago. I am a huge fan of her clever notecards and silkscreen prints!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The original 18th-century carvings were made by skilled Scottish stonemasons and include guilloches, griffins (a Washington family symbol), bows and swags. The garland of roses and acorns over the north portal (see above) is now partially hidden from view by the portico added in 1829. The roses that I admired on the columns of South Portico were added in 1824.
I am fascinated by the history of buildings ~ I love learning about how they evolve over time, how materials are reused, and the symbolism behind the decorative elements. So, I apologize for the history lesson ~ it’s the curator in me I suppose! For those who would like to know more, see Lee H. Nelson, White House Stone Carving: Builders and Restorers (National Park Service, 1992), a fascinating history of construction of the Executive Mansion
(image: White House Historical Asociation)
Monday, April 23, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
I found this cyanotype with a group of photographs taken in Idaho Springs (hot sulphur springs), most likely in the 1880s. The blue tone, typical of a cyanotype, adds a certain aura to this already strange photograph ~ I love it!
For a great collection of odd photographs like this see Accidental Mysteries.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tucked away in the little hamlet of Blue Hill, Maine, is a historic gem ~ the Jonathan Fisher House. Parson Fisher was a fascinating man: an artist, carpenter, scholar, farmer, and Congregational minister (among other things). A real renaissance man! His home, which is filled with wonderful 18th and 19th-century vernacular furniture (some made by his own hand), is open to the public for part of the year ~ and I promise a historic house tour when I visit this summer. The memorial foundation still owns many of Jonathan Fisher’s woodcuts and journals. As a lover of old manuscripts, I was enthralled by his geometry notebook from 1790 (see above), and the transcriptions from his journals. And what was Jonathan Fisher doing on this day in 1803? He “killed and skinned a couple of cats. Turned several chair rounds. Drew and painted a slate colored snow bird.” All in a day’s work!
(images via Jonathan Fisher Memorial)
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
The same could be said for our hearty historic house group. Despite a nor’easter ravaging the mid-Atlantic seaboard, we set out (armed with two umbrellas and plenty of Starbucks) for Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. The house, which overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains was once the home of James and Dolley Madison. It remained in the Madison family until 1844, and after changing hands several times, it was purchased by the duPont family in 1900 and converted into an impressive country estate. When Marion duPont passed away in 1983 she left the mansion to the Historic Trust with the express wish that it be preserved as a monument to James Madison.
And there begins the controversy. Over the years the duPonts had transformed the original Georgian and Federal structure into a massive stuccoed mansion, doubling its size, and making it into something quite different from the house James and Dolley Madison had known (for more see here). In 2003 the Montpelier Foundation, under the auspices of the Trust, embarked on an ambitious project to bring the house back to the time of the Madisons, which meant (among other things) removing the stucco from the exterior, dismantling the DuPont additions, reconfiguring the front portico, and completely restoring the interior. There has been great debate among preservationists about this restoration ~ how much of it would be accurate? original? authentic? Should they really try to erase 100 years of history? I must admit that I myself was dubious. But, as it turns out a great deal of original structure and material remains. Using historical records and photographs, and conducting a meticulous architectural study, the Foundation was able to put together an amazingly truthful restoration plan. The house is still partially covered in scaffolding and the interior is stripped down to the bear bones ~ but it is all so fascinating!
I also loved the walled and stepped garden, which retains some elements of the Madison era, but is more typical of an early 20th-century formal garden.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! We are off to Montpelier (the home of James Madison) on Saturday, so I will be back Monday with tales of its controversial renovations (intrigue!).
(image from Country Home, May 2007)
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The daffodils ~ those harbingers of Spring ~ have almost gone by here, which seems strange as the weather is so cold. Funny how we mark the progress of the season with each crop of flowers ~ the cherry blossoms succeeded by the red bud, the red bud by the dogwood. The daffodils by the tulips...and each one welcomed in its turn and lamented in its passing. For some reason Wordsworth's poem popped into my head today ~ particularly that last verse. Enjoy!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
(image via Amazon)
Monday, April 9, 2007
Built in the 1770s by Fielding Lewis and his wife Betty (sister to George Washington), Kenmore is a handsome Georgian mansion set in the heart of Fredericksburg. The house is currently undergoing a lengthy and detailed restoration, and though the interior is swathed in plastic sheeting and full of scaffolding, the tour was fascinating. Meticulous research has been done to determine paint types, reconstruct missing plaster molding fragments, and to determine appropriate wallpapers (using miniscule fragments of the original papers). Interesting side note: the house miraculously survived heavy bombardment during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862 with only a few war wounds, including a canon ball that is still lodged in the facade (though I was told the original was recently removed for preservation reasons and replaced with a reproduction).
Friday, April 6, 2007
Happy Passover and/or Easter to all!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
(images via Victoria & Albert Museum)
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Have been thinking about cameos lately ~ maybe because I found my own as I was rummaging through my jewelry box the other day, or because I had been looking at Classical architecture all weekend, and dreaming of ladies in white linen dresses (spring fever does strange things to one's brain). This is an Italian cameo, Nessus and Deianira by Giuseppe Girometti, dated 1815-1820. It was included in a beautiful exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called Cameo Appearances. Love, love, love!
(image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Gift of Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ada Peluso and Romano I. Peluso, in memory of Ignazio Peluso, 2004)