Exquisite French Finds

By Karen Parr-Moody


There are any number of French items in GasLamp and GasLamp Too. And to lay eyes on the truly ornate pieces, such as a French chinoiserie lady's desk or a Sèvres jewel casket, is to spy extraordinary beauty.


At GasLamp, one can find many gorgeous French pieces at booth Trouvailles, Booth T-108 (French for “discoveries”). One such piece is an antique porter’s chair in a carved Louis XV frame (photo, right; $1,495).


Upholstered in shabby silk, this porter’s chair is a gorgeous piece that, while an antique with rich historical roots, is simultaneously “au currant.” Hip interior designer Kelly Wearstler uses them to glam up restaurants. New ones can also be found in Restoration Hardware wicker ones dot the German seaside resort Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea. (Bit of trivia: In the 1982 futuristic movie “Blade Runner,” actress Daryl Hannah sits in a velvet one in J.F. Sebastian’s apartment.)


These dramatic, canopied chairs were originally called “guérites” (French for “sentry”). The name “porter” derives from their use: They were situated at the doors of palatial manors in 16th-century France, where hall porters sat as gatekeepers. Because the hall porter had to keep sentry around the clock, porter chairs were built with drawers for keeping supplies handy. Isn’t that interesting?


If you love hand-painted Bristol glass – and I certainly do – then booth Trouvailles has a few pieces with hand-painted motifs, including romantic figures and pretty foliage. The name Bristol derives from the town of Bristol, England, which was a major glassmaking hub in the 17th and 18th centuries (even though the glass wares of the Victorian era were not always made in Bristol).


Thanks to those acquisitive Victorians, Bristol glass was proudly displayed in the 1800s among their troves of glassware and tableware. Bristol glass was so popular that it was made into vases, perfume bottles and lamps.


The blue vases in the photo, upper left, are truly exquisite examples of the Bristol glass genre ($375 for the pair). Each one features an image of a courtly couple. The white vase on the right is also gorgeous, with its carefree Grecian goddess and a putti at her feet ($125). I love the vivid plum-colored palm trees. Simply exquisite.


This 19th century French painting on canvas in the photo, below left, is possibly a study for a tapestry ($450), as it has the look with the Greek goddesses lolling about their instruments. Such subjects were incredibly popular during the Classical and Neo-classical Revivals of the late 18th century and early 19th century. This photo shows only a detail of the canvas painting; the entire piece would almost cover an entire wall in a small room. Wouldn’t it look gorgeous in a home office?  

Lastly, the Trouvailles booth features a nice selection of traditional soap from Marseille, France (photo below). This distinctive, cube-shaped soap is from the maker Fer à Cheval (“iron horseshoe”), which opened its doors in 1856. The soap is still made in the factory’s original red brick pots, which have been reinforced with stainless steel, and uses a recipe of olive oil or palm oil and no dyes, preservatives or fragrances. It takes 10 days to make this soap, with eight days in a cauldron and two days for molding, during which each soap is stamped on all six sides.


I simply must get to Paris soon. But in the meantime, I can daydream about those cobblestone streets by visiting Trouvailles – and so can you.


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