Monday, 21 May 2012

Library Lust

I borrow the term "library lust" from Claire at the Captive Reader, because a) I too am inspired by the way in which a library room is set and b) this is exactly what led to this post.

A little background:  I really enjoy visiting museums, looking at art, studying art, trying to decipher the past, learning about history lessons that will enrich my life.  What I really love, though, is visiting private houses that have been turned into museums.  Two such examples include The Wallace Collection in London and the Nissim de Camondo Museum in Paris. 
I am fortunate enough to be able to travel and visit both these museums easily, but I'm even more fortunate to be able to see the works of art housed in them.  The people who inhabited both these houses recognised the wealth of art they had collected, and wanted at some point the greater public to witness a lesson in history and in beauty.

I know that art collection is not everyone's idea of caring for the arts (recent examples of great pieces being bought at auctions only to be stashed away into obscurity prove the point), but I have faith that most collectors do so because they are genuinely interested in art.  
Both these houses showcase the way to live together with great works of art and how to include them in all room arrangements.  Such works of art lose the frigidity I sometimes feel in a proper museum, when  I am in a bare room looking at a painting:  were I to see the same painting in a bedroom, next to a writing desk, surrounded by the rugs, the bed, the chaise-longue next to the window - well, all this would bring out various elements of that same painting and shed a different light on it.  That's how I felt in both the Wallace and the de Camondo museums.

The Wallace Collection

The large Londonberry Bookcase
at the Wallace (photo credit)
The museum itself is cleverly hidden in downtown 
London - some things are best left for those who 
will make the effort to look for them ...

It displays wonderful pieces of art collected in the 
18th and 19th century by the first four Marquesses 
of Hertford.  It was bequeathed to Britain by the 
widow of Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son 
of the fourth Marquess.

The Wallace Collection has a series of galleries, 
each displaying particular pieces of art from different 
styles.  The ground floor is almost entirely dedicated 
to armoury, both from European and Oriental styles, 
while also  exhibiting fine specimens of rococo 
and medieval art.  The first floor includes galleries with brilliant paintings from the 17th to the 19th century.  Where I find my inspiration, however, is in the large Drawing room.  An immense room covered in emerald wallpaper, it provides solace with great Dutch  paintings and an even greater Londonberry Bookcase:  I can already see myself reading classic novels of a slight romantic nature there, bringing to life all those ballroom scenes...  

The Nissim de Camondo Museum

 The Library room at Nissim de Camondo (photo credit)
   This private house turned museum is situated 
   next  to the Parc Monceau in Paris.  It was the 
   house of Moïse de Camondo, a Parisian 
   Banker from the Belle Epoque, who wanted 
   a private mansion to house all his collections.    
   What is really impressive here, is the state of
    the art of modern life:  one visit to the 
    kitchens, the offices and the bathrooms will 
   suffice to realise the luxurious lifestyles of the
   inhabitants, while the private rooms bear proof 
   to an eclectic taste in furniture and art of the 
   18th century.
   Again, while the kitchens are a close second, 
   my favourite room is the Library Room, on the 
   first floor of the house, with a great view over
   the gardens.  The setting is demure, and 
   brilliantly executed.  Wall-to-wall bookcases 
inspire you to read, even when you are not fond of (not the case with me).  Here, I can see myself being immersed in books in European history and politics of the 19th century, while holding philosophical soirées with academics, politicians, and  members of the business world (I can still dream...)   


  1. They both look lovely! I'm going to Lyme Park is June (yes, because it was Pemberley in P&P 1995) and I hear they have a great library. Looking forward to it!

    1. that's also a great idea! I'll keep it in mind




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