Some fun ‘mon­key busi­ness’ go­ing on in home decor

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page - Joseph Pu­bil­lones

The old adage “what’s old is new again” couldn’t be more true. It wasn’t too long ago that we saw mon­keys in ev­ery ac­ces­sory, lamp and dish towel. We all thought that it was a pass­ing trend and ex­haled as the next “trend” or theme in decor ap­peared. But how wrong we were, at the lat­est home ac­ces­sories shows through­out the world, man­u­fac­tur­ers are re­vis­it­ing the furry friend. It seems that far from a trend, mon­keys are a bit of a clas­sic in in­te­rior de­sign.

Amer­i­cans and es­pe­cially in Palm Beach, adore mon­key decor, which they as­so­ciate with vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tect Ad­di­son Mizner’s side­kick Johnny, and present at ev­ery client meet­ing. How­ever, mon­key decor goes way back be­fore then.

In France, from the 1720s to the1770s, the Louis XV style was de­vel­op­ing as a light and fem­i­nine decor with a strong Ori­en­tal in­flu­ence, a lit­tle looser from the gilded ex­u­ber­ance and straight lines of Louis XIV. This Chi­nese in­flu­ence brought forth the style now known as Chi­nois­erie, which means in the Chi­nese man­ner. Of course, most of the de­signs were French adap­ta­tions of Chi­nese de­signs at the hands of French artists. In this mix, vivid col­ors from red to black re­placed the golds and sil­vers, which from that point on were used more of­ten as ac­cents.

Madame de Pom­padour, Louis XV’s chief mistress, gave an im­mense sup­port to artists and ar­ti­sans. She fa­vored the Chi­nese in­flu­ence and de­sign as a foil for the fluid and curved lines of French fur­ni­ture at the time. Madame de Pom­padour was in­stru­men­tal in the im­por­ta­tion of Ori­en­tal art. What some con­sider an ab­surd devel­op­ment from this was an­other style: Sin­gerie. This style was from the hands of artists Pille­ment and Christophe Huet who brought forth the Man­darin pagoda, lad­ders, para­sols, Ori­en­tal fo­liage and the iconic mon­key, which was a sym­bol of luck in Chi­nese cul­ture. The French ro­coco pe­riod saw sin­gerie flour­ish.

These artists were seek­ing the court’s fa­vor and in­tro­duced these Ori­en­tal pat­terns to just about ev­ery dec­o­ra­tive sur­face — from fur­ni­ture em­bel­lish­ments to china to fab­rics. Need­less to say, these mo­tifs can be seen in the fa­mous French fab­rics known to this day as Toile de Jouy.

Sin­gerie play­fully de­picted mon­keys fash­ion­ably at­tired in cloth­ing and frocks of the day and par­tak­ing in hu­man be­hav­ior such as play­ing an in­stru­ment or sit­ting at a ban­quet table. This was an in­cred­i­bly dis­creet way for artist to high­light with satire the cus­toms of that time.

In 1932, dur­ing the age of Jazz, Ed­ward Sorel painted a mu­ral at the Ho­tel El­y­see in the Mon­key bar where celebri­ties were de­picted along­side mon­key servers dressed in liv­er­ied at­tire at the height of the glam­orous Art Deco pe­riod. Al­though the mu­ral has been re­stored sev­eral times...I don’t think liv­er­ied mon­keys would fly these days.

From wall­pa­pers to book­ends, mon­keys have adorned our lives through­out the ages. Man­u­fac­tur­ers from Meis­sen, Scala­man­dre, De Gour­nay and Mot­ta­hedeh have all con­trib­uted to our love of all things mon­key, and they are fun some­times. So, next time you see mon­key decor, I hope you won’t guf­faw at it, but in­stead un­der­stand its place in his­tory.

Joseph Pu­bil­lones is the owner of Joseph Pu­bil­lones In­te­ri­ors, an award-win­ning in­te­rior de­sign firm based in Palm Beach, Flor­ida. His web­site is www. joseph­pu­bil­lones.com. To find out more about Joseph Pu­bil­lones, or to read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Cre­ators Syn­di­cate web­site at www.cre­ators.com.

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