Folks, have you heard the good word about Tony Duquette? He was a Hollywood set designer, furniture crafter, jewelry maker, interior decorator, figural sculptor, and all around VISIONARY artist working out of California from the forties' up until a few years before his death in 1999. I was completely ignorant of his existence until I stumbled across the Life magazine article I'm about to tell you about....but first! Breaking news! Check out the Tony Duquette inspired Coach bracelet that I totally own now:
|Could you beeee....the most beautiful bracelet in the woorrrrrld....|
I was ebaying Tony Duquette items week before last in preparation for this blog post... when I found several listings for a Coach charm bracelet that was part of a Duquette inspired line. Long time collaborator and partner of the designer, Hutton Wilkinson, in tandem with Coach idea man Reed Krakoff (can I please have a name like any of these some day?) created a series of Coach jewelry inspired by some of the fine costume pieces Duquette created during his lifetime. What really "bought" my eye? This brass link bracelet features alexandrite and opal stones, and was winking at me like we had prior history. Matthew and I decided, out of our wedding loot, that everything but a hundred dollars, split two ways, would be put in our joint savings account. MY fifty dollars was burning a hole in my pocket...and when pounce came to pounce, I did! It came in the mail yesterday from Oregon and looks like this:
Yep, that $248 MSRP tag was still attached in the little package I opened from ebay. The box and the little cloth Coach bag were in there, too! The auction was a buy it now for $69.99 with free shipping, and for once in my tiny, thrifty little life, I was like "Ah, just get it!" Scientific findings: a) you can't find another like it on ebay for less than $109 PLUS shipping, b) it's GORGEOUS in person and c) I couldn't give a hoot. I wanted a piece of jewelry other than my wedding ring to remember my wedding by, and here it is! I'm honestly almost too afraid to wear it out in case of a piece of it goes missing. But I'll get up my gumption and wear it first non-work day I get, mark my word!
Now, here is Tony Duquette, from the magazine article that brought me this far:
This Sept 1947 issue of Life magazine was, I think, the result of me looking up something on 7UP ads, but I was way more interested in the bent wire sculptures and home decor items described in this article. Discovered by major interior design icon Elsie de Wolfe in the 1940's, Duquette worked on costumes, stage sets, home interiors, jewelry, random objets d'art....from A to Z, really, and ALL. AMAZING.
Ann Blyth, who memorably played daughter Veda to Joan's title role in Mildred Pierce (remember the slap scene? Ay yi yi!), models a $3,000 amethyst wreath, in front of a fish sculpture with "removable topaz eye". Doesn't Blyth look just like a fairy princess? PS, $3000 is $30,427.26 in now money.
Life really missed an opportunity in not photographing these pieces in color-- as stunning as they are form-wise, the colors Duquette uses, rich golds and brass and jewel tones, are what really make his pieces magical. Look at the scans on this blog from the Duquette coffeetable book More is More...aren't the color tones just jaw-droppingly gorgeous? The living limit of luxe!
Neat as the jewelry is, I had my socks knocked right off by the "large plaster figures" that "hold flowers and candles", to be put in "private entrance halls". Can you imagine these in the pink, green, and red color scheme described in the caption? Marvelous, human-sized statues standing in the foyer of some Hollywood eccentric's Holmby Hills mansion just like a suit of armor, but as-done-by-Dorothy-Draper....I die! 2012 cost for this trio is around ten grand. Yeesh. For the less fortunate of us dreamers, you could have the Frog Prince or Madonna pieces in your chi-chi forties' living room for only $1,500 USD (maybe that's still a little steep, but I do wonder how much these pieces would sell to a museum nowadays!).
Here's the artist himself, looking very butch and Jackson Pollock like in splatter denim and a plaid workshirt...but just look at all the magical things happening in his workshop! A Marie Antoinette like doll, next to a gingham unicorn, with a full size alligator hanging vertically....the caption reveals that he's going to decorate the alligator with jewels. WHY. WHY WON'T YOU SHOW US THE AFTER AS WELL AS THE BEFORE OF THIS DECADENT REPTILE. Oh, my imagination and heart are just bursting with love for the kind of design aesthetic at play here. Whimsy meets regency meets...I don't even know, it's just too cool.
For color examples of TD's work, I looked over Google images and found a couple pretty neat things:
1) James Coburn's house:
Aaaaah! Are you kidding me? If I'd known lanky movie villan/action guy James Coburn (Charade, In Like Flint, The Great Escape) lived in such fanciful digs...I don't even know! I think it says something about his personality that in spite being a laconic, Western kind of screen presence, he lives in this totally GORGEOUS, wild-and-out house. Do you see the red wrought iron railing detail? The teal sofa? The drums-as-side-tables? THE ZEBRA PELT RUG? And topped off with a chandelier like a cherry on an ice cream sundae. I love it!
2) This bird:
I didn't find any other information on this piece other than its creator was Duquette, but let's look. Taxidermied speckled bird, to which has been added an outrageous feather turban of similar stones and feathers to the ones he's perching on and wearing, respectively, and placed in this six sided glass-and-brass rectangle of a box. The children's book elegance of TD's vision for these kinds of things...it's just stunning.
3) Cobina Wright's living room:
A columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Cobina Wright is draped languidly amongst her new Tony Duquette living room in this photo, and doesn't she look just like a jewel in a velvet box. Her surroundings! So quirky-perfect. Everything in this room looks just as modern as it did in the early 1950's. The low lying purple couch piped in a lighter fuscia. The panel of drapes. The mirrors. The sunburst room divider. The 3D collage of instruments over the fireplace. The lamps-with-bases-that-are-eighteen-inch-Louis-XVI-people. AAAAAH. See more of the space here.
I can't lie, I was so bowled over by these and other interiors that in spite of its natural "charm" (haha, haha), I treasure my new bracelet all the more for having a connection with the amazing history of Duquette as a designer. Next thing you know, I'm going to redesign my whole house to fit an eccentric view of late forties', early fifties' chic! Don't think I won't! In the meantime, I'm waiting for my copy of More is More to come through interlibrary loan, and enjoying my bracelet.
How about you? What do you think? Which of these pieces sparks your imagination and interior design lust? Is there a decorator or a school of design that's really inspired you of late? What's the last thing you threw caution to the wind and just bought, price be hanged? Let's talk!
That's all for today, but you can see tons more Duquette designs via this link, as well as on the official site, here. I'm off to get some work done, but will see you back here tomorrow! Til then.