Thursday, October 30, 2008

Splendor's Spooky Children's Books

May your Halloween be wicked and wonderful, dear readers! Here is a glimpse as to why every day is a little like Halloween to me…

As the story goes after the rebellion the fallen angels were cast into the fiery abyss for all eternity. Luckily for me the abyss turned out to be the gloomy Pacific Northwest and a sublime and disheveled Victorian near the shores of Lake Washington. As for fiery pits, the most I had to contend with were gigantic fireplaces, as well as hidden rooms and haunted closets.

I was a tomboy to the bitter end the only things I hated more than dolls was having my hair brushed or wearing a dress. Although I have reformed my ways in several aspects (OK, I haven’t reformed anything, I’ve just become more subversive…) dolls STILL TO THIS DAY make me queasy. And even though my mother insisted (FORCED) me to take ballet lessons, I still manage to sharpen my budding horns on some rather interesting books…

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (above)
© 1978 Henry N. Abrams New York

This book was like a child’s faerie guidebook to me. I spent hours studying the illustrations and will admit that some of the pictures scared me to death. Alan Lee’s artwork truly evokes the world of the fey. His illustrations are at once haunting and sensual, full of dreary mists, gnarled trees and exquisite beings. He has also illustrates J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Children of Húrin. Brian Froud’s work might be recognized as the inspiration for characters in the movies The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth (in collaboration with Jim Henson)

Kay Nielsen edited by David Larkin (above)
© 1975 Peacock Press / Bantam Books New York

As a child I had literally dozens of fairy tale book ranging from the mundane Americanized volumes to the crumbling Victorian books found at thrift stores by my parents. Some of my very favorites (still to this day) were illustrated by the Danish artist Kay Nielsen (1886-1957). His work brings to life an old world essence and a deep sense of European grandeur that I find missing in the American versions of the same stories. Nielsen’s characters are expressive, heroic and passionate. Definitely not to be missed.

Ratsmagic illustrated by Wayne Anderson / story by Christopher Logue (above)
© 1976 Pantheon Books New York

This is the truly wonderful story of The Valley of Peace and the imprisonment (and inevitable rescue) of Bluebird and her Magic Egg. I HIGHLY recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and illustration as well as collectors of children’s book. To me Wayne Anderson epitomizes a more modern day approach to children’s book illustrating (although I do realize the book was published in 1976, I am fan of the Golden Age of illustration, so it still modern to me!) His work is slightly edgy and over scale and departure from more tradition styles.

Splendor as a Cherub (and or the last time I left the house not wearing black…)

I was born in the cemetery
Under the sign of the moon
Raised from my grave by the dead
I was made a mercenary in the legions of hell

(“Evil” by Mercyful Fate)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gilding the Willy

The concept of a gilded man holding up a glorious china cabinet greatly appeals to us here at Chintz of Darkness and it is something we feel we could work into our interior. Baroque furniture is quite out of our budget, but gold body paint is NOT… (Don’t you just love those weekend DIY projects…)

Architect Design’s recent post about a visit to the Cooper- Hewitt Museum sent us on another of our frenzies searches through bookcases and file boxes. The ensuing results are some wicked and sublime Baroque objects from the museum’s collections.


A commode that demands to be the center of attention. (One of a pair (!!!) made by Andre-Charles Boulle for the bedchamber of Louis XIV.)

This harpsichord is to die for! How can anything so lovely exist in the world? (The pastoral scene painted on the lid is attributed to the Italian painter Crescenzio Onofri.)

Roaming through the mists of gold
Feeding with the ancient ones
Teaching kills and holy wars
Drinking black forgotten blood

(Seraph’s Baroque Incantations)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Now that it is officially Fall and all the better elements of our garden are dead and gone, it seemed like the perfect time for a post about gardening. (NOTE: we do not actually have a “garden” because we do not actually have a “yard”. Think more in terms of an eccentric jumble of ceramic pots, antique wrought iron trellises, a birdcage and some odd statuary piled onto our apartment terrace. It is in fact a vast improvement over our last “garden” that consisted of a patch of sidewalk between a restaurant and a bar. So at least we are going in the right direction…)

Perhaps we do not appear the types, but we have always tried our hand at gardening. Both of our families contain more than a fair share of successful gardeners, so while we might not be truly green thumbs we try our best. There is a particularly highfalutin nursery here in town that will remain nameless (*cough*Swanson’s*cough*) that is a favorite, no make that an entertaining place to shop (and they actually DO have a fabulous selection of everything related to gardening.) The last time we were there the salespeople tended to follow us around. Perhaps it was the tendrils of Seraph’s tattoos blending with the armload of Creeping Jenny that he was carrying or possibly it was just the evil and vicious plants that we selected that made them jumpy. But it is not as if we were planning a daring getaway with a BRIGHT RED RADIO FLYER WAGON full of shrubs. We swear to you, dear readers, we really are not the trouble makers people make us out be…
Our fantasy garden would be a blending of the indoors and outdoors into a series of decrepit and decaying roomscapes. We envision ornate graveyard of chairs, benches and plant stands slowing being reclaimed by nature, faeries and wildlife. Crystal chandeliers and jeweled sconces would spring from tree branches, while wrought iron room screens would form hidden parlors and pantries. A tile mosaic of stepping stones and plants would create elaborate Persian carpets and garden pathways. Stained glass windows would look upon unknown vistas while a gilded mirror would reflect nothing but sky…

Among the old trees,
As the dust covers every flower in bloom,
The mourners hide their eyes,
To reap the seeds and harvest.

Withering flowers of the northern autumn,
Shall never thrive again.
The time has ceased,
Now my dreams are true....

(“When Thousand Moon Have Circled” by Carpathian Forest)

Seraph + Splendor’s Highly Recommended Reading List

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Book Worship Volume IV

Erte by Jean Tibbetts

Much inspired by The House of Beauty and Culture's recent post Romain de Tirtoff, we set out on a mission to locate our favorite Etre book. Our book collection tends to be a bit nomadic. Entire tribes of books form caravans and move from room to room. Along the way they set up encampments under the sofa, on the nightstand and behind the bed. Needless to say, it can be hard to locate a particular book at any given moment.

Now the book in question was finally found (in of all places) upon the BOOKSHELF! (Although it was behind a bronze shield, some Victorian prints and a slipper chair clad in black velvet.)

Erte with one of his costumes designed for the MGM movie Paris (released in 1929)(Left) and
Carmel Myers in a costume that Etre designed for the movie Ben Hur. (Right)

We have enjoyed spending the last few hours immersed in Erte’s lovely and sublime illustrations and highly recommend this book to followers of his work. The book cover in itself is quite appealing. It features a gilded angel playing a human harp with stands of pearls for strings (oh, if life could only be so wicked…) This only begins the book’s exploration of Etre’s genius. Included are many of his fashion, advertising and stage designs. He has had a profound influence upon us personally as artists and designers. His use of color, texture and embellishment combined with his stunning sense of composition is always an inspiration. Above all, we admire the way he always brought a jubilance and grandeur to all his work.

Etre by Jean Tibbetts
© 1995 Saturn Books Limited London
ISBN 1 85627 9170

A serenade made out of black magic
She has learned to set souls afire
And makes sure that you never
Will leave its trance
Her diabolical beauty
Enchants your bewildered mind

(A Succubus in Rapture by Dimmu Borgir)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fit to Be Tied

(The Chateau de Conde-en-Brie)
Many people cringe at the mention of Marquis de Sade. It seems even his relatives changed their family title from Marquis to Comte. So we apologize in advance to anyone easily offended or faint of heart, but if you are really so put off by shameless displays of public humiliation, then STOP WATCHING DANCING WITH THE STARS!!!

(The Grand Salon)

We recently ran across a feature on a residence owned by the de Sade family. We immediately began to wonder what it would be like flocking against such a backdrop, but then realized that the Marquis himself never lived there. The Chateau de Conde-en-Brie is located near the lush vineyards of Champagne, France. It was heavily damaged in both world wars, but has since been fully restored by the Marquis’ ancestors and houses many of de Sade’s papers, diaries and travel logs. It also appears that you can rent out the Chateau for wedding and parties (so it looks like the only golden shower you are likely to get there nowadays is just some cheap confetti).

(The Music Salon)

Apparently the attic contained a large mysterious case that had never been opened. Now perhaps we have overactive imaginations, but we envisioned a trunk filled with magical sex toys that sprung to life and began scampering around the room like some pornographic Pandora’s Box. At the minimum we were hoping for a flogger tipped with demon’s teeth, a blindfold that could predict the future or at least a ball gag that could speak several languages. (In the end, all it contained were some plays, letters and a diary.)

(Papers and memorabilia)

Illustration from "Histoire de Juliette" by the Marquis de Sade, 1797. They don’t sell these pulley systems at Home Depot (we know because we checked – the salesperson will just give you a strange look and send you to the plumbing department…)

Dictating to DeSade
In the dark entrails of the Bastille
And as he wrote, I smote
A royal blow to the heads of France
And in the sheen of guillotines
I saw others, fallen, dance

(Babalon A.D. (So Glad For the Madness) by Cradle of Filth)

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