Monday, 26 May 2014

Madelief and Her Dutch Garden

Since its publication in 1898, Elizabeth Von Arnim's 'Elizabeth and Her German Garden' has continued to delight readers with its evocation of the joy and wonder which she, the author, found in the gardens of her husband's Prussian estate. Those who know of, and follow, 'Madelief', will be familiar with the absolute loveliness of her own Dutch garden where, only a short bicycle ride from the heart of vibrant Rotterdam, she has created an oasis of calm, beauty and tranquillity scarcely to be imagined.

a pretty corner of Madelief's Dutch garden displaying a selection of Viola

Madelief, as we think of her, is most dear to us. And over recent days, staying with her in her most charming home set in a quiet, leafy area of the city, where cool canals flow alongside verdant grass banks, we have been treated to the most magical of times.

evening - a quiet, residential area of Rotterdam yet only minutes from the bustling centre

the sails of a landmark windmill stand out against the darkening sky over Rotterdam 

First there has to be Rotterdam. Such an exciting, thriving city with its contrast of old and new and its myriad of waterways. We took morning coffee in the newest of skyscrapers, the city spread below us, a patchwork of canals and rivers, shops and offices, bridges, parks and gardens, apartments and houses, factories and warehouses, all teeming with life.

just one example of many of the new and exciting buildings which populate Rotterdam

it is called taking a 'selfie' - Jane Hattatt and Madelief together in a Rotterdam skyscraper

Later we explored the New York Hotel, formerly the offices and headquarters of the shipping company 'Holland America Line' and so resonating of a vanished era.

interior of the New York Hotel, formerly offices of the Holland America Line

speeding down river in a water taxi - the New York Hotel between skyscrapers

From there, transported by speed boat, we found ourselves aboard the SS Rotterdam for lunch on the Lido Deck where, for a short while, we imagined ourselves plying the Atlantic as privileged passengers of the 1950s. So exciting. Such fun. As was tea, taken outside a tiny street café overlooking a quiet square, where we all indulged in a delicious raspberry lemonade [and as an aside to Magalie, we were not stabbed!!]. And beyond Rotterdam we left our hearts in Dordrecht, with its steam festival, and Delft, famous for its blue pottery. They, however, are tales yet to be told.

on board the SS Rotterdam - Lance Hattatt checks out the lifeboat station

leaving the SS Rotterdam, now permanently moored in the city where she was built 

But what remains indelibly with us is Madelief's garden. Bordered by a small canal it sits among a series of allotment gardens, each one distinctly individual, each one tended with care. Here she has created, in the very real sense of the word, a true cottage garden where old fashioned perennials cavort with colourful annuals, where fragrant roses are entwined with clematis, where honeysuckle scents the air, where birds sing, paths meander, and daisies dance on the lawn. Perfection.

this delightful summer house lies at the very heart of Madelief's garden

in the entrance of her summer house, Madelief radiates the happiness she finds in her garden

At the centre lies an enchanting little summer house with its treasures of decorative cups, saucers and plates, all made excellent use of for eating al fresco, its ornamental jugs and teapots, its country furniture, cushions, chandelier [really so] and its walls lined with paintings, photographs and prints. Where else to come across the regal, and young, King and Queen of Thailand?!! And beside that a tiny kitchen, complete with sink and drainer, all ordered and contained.

a young King And Queen of Thailand survey the scene

an eclectic mix of  treasures are gathered together on a vintage dresser

a corner of the garden with a weathered table used for outdoor dining

And as we looked down from the aeroplane on a receding Rotterdam en route home for Budapest, we took with us memories without equal of love, kindness, generosity and happiness which will be with us for all time. 

Jane Hattatt listening to the bird song rather than attempting to ride a bicycle

going Dutch - Lance Hattatt rides a bicycle along the path bordering Madelief's garden

Dank je wel! Hartelijk bedankt, Madelief, M, M, A [and B].

Thursday, 8 May 2014

To Live a Life More Extraordinary

Mark Amory wrote, "When a second parent dies, some people feel threatened by death themselves, some feel overwhelmed with grief or regrets, some feel liberated and others feel all of these things." Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, eccentric Italian heiress, muse and patroness of the Arts, upon finding herself parentless at an early age, set about living a life more extraordinary than most.

Indeed, some might argue that she was a legend in her own lifetime, dominating, decorating, and delighting European society for almost three decades with her scandalous lifestyle, bizarre dress and intriguing choice of pets and live jewellery.

Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Sonico as portrayed by Cecil Beaton

Marchesa Luisa Casati could possibly be the most represented woman in Art after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra. Legion numbers of painted portraits, sculptures and photographs were made in her image. Giovanni Boldini, Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and Cecil Beaton are just a few of the artists who she inspired.

She graced the dining rooms of Italian palazzos and English country houses, often with a pet snake as a companion. She attended balls and cocktail parties the length and breadth of Europe, dressed to live up to her aim of being 'a living work of art'.

'a living work of art' - Marchesa Luisa Casati, photograph by Cecil Beaton

She set trends rather than followed them. Her lively entourage of devoted followers comprised aesthetes, artists, bon-vivants, poets, writers, dancers and dandies. And, for royalty, aristocracy and commoners alike, she amused and outraged in equal measure.

the style of the Marchesa Luisa Casati as captured by Man Ray in 1924

And so, finding ourselves parentless, surely through misfortune rather than carelessness to misquote Oscar Wilde, having stopped counting birthdays and being far more preoccupied with leisure than with work, we contemplate new Casati-inspired career paths.

Shall we be, perhaps, waited upon by gilded naked youths? Should we make up our faces deathly white, dye our hair red, paint our lips vermilion and replace Teddy with a boa constrictor [in a box, of course] when attending the Opera? Dare we walk the streets of Budapest clad only in furs. Shall wax mannequins take the place of dinner guests when insufficiently amusing and entertaining people are in town?

The Hattatts consider the future, as seen in a looking glass at the Ari Kupsus Gallery 

Whatever, we are decided to follow in the fetching footsteps of the Marchesa as we patronise the Arts amongst the young talent of Budapest. But, at all costs, we must avoid her final fate of running up debts of millions of dollars. Carpe Diem!

We have been overwhelmed with the number of comments received on our previous post. To each we have made reply but in order to see later ones it is necessary to click 'Load More' whilst for the most recent, then 'Load More' must be clicked for a second time. To 'Admirer', please feel free to be in touch by email.