The Sun King
Photo Source: Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds on Instagram
Perhaps for the first time since I’ve started building up my own library, I had a moment when I realised why it is truly important to go beyond immediate interests and books you want to read right now, to build a library for the future, a library that will be able to provide the right books when you least expect it.
I read recently about how during the plague, the Sun King bathed in perfume produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree, his favorite scent – odeur de Neroli, a passion also reflected in the expansive orangery he had built at Chateau Versailles. This fun fact immediately made me want to read more about him and his eccentricities. As it so happens, I remembered purchasing years ago (at a car boot market, where else?) Nancy Mitford’s book The Sun King, mainly because I recognised her name and loved the luxurious red and gold dust jacket.
The book, published by Hamish Hamilton London, but printed in Italy, is beautifully illustrated with numerous pictures of Versailles and paintings of the numerous historical figures mentioned. Although not a scholastic study into the life of Louis XIV, it is a sort of anecdotal telling of history which I’ve been enjoying tremendously. I will probably give Madame du Pompadour a go soon enough since I’ve now realised I have that one as well. What a treat!
Photos Sources: BookBub
Inspired by the fabulous Versailles, with its thousands of rooms, numerous galleries and countless distinctive architectural and design features, I realised what a rare privilege and luxury it is at present to imagine and build the house of one’s dreams. This is a recurring motif in my letters because until it happens I will never not fantasize about my ideal home – big enough to house not only physical possessions, but also a rich everyday life, passions and dreams for the future.
I wonder how many houses nowadays still have a room called the Library or even the Study, a Salon (not a living-room), a drawing-room, a smoking room or even a sunroom or a formal dining room? I am not thinking here of rooms made redundant by technology or a change in lifestyle, but about rooms that have disappeared from our houses (or potentially were never there for certain social classes) mainly because space and resources were and still are scarce.
Apart from the main rooms in a house – the bedroom, the bathroom (youngest room in the house, ha!), the living room and the kitchen (watch this BBC series to learn more about their history) -.what exquisite rooms would you include in your dream house?
Escape to the Chateau
There will probably never be a more appropriate time for me to include in the letter my passionate recommendation to watch Escape to the Chateau! This is a British reality show following Angel and Dick Strawbridge as they renovate a (slightly dilapidated but nevertheless) chateau they bought in France for the same amount of money they would have struggled to find a flat in London or any big city here, really. It is a lovely show, bursting with Angel’s creativity and Dick’s ingeniousness and providing first-class DIY inspiration in each episode.
There is actually a spin-off series Escape to the Chateau – DIY, featuring other Brits that have embarked on the same journey across the channel. I haven’t watched this yet, but somehow I started following on Instagram one of the lovely ladies featured – The Intrepid Chatelaine – and I love her chateau updates, as well as her posts about amazing finds in the local charity stores and brocantes. This is, for me, the best sort of escapist TV!
Photo Source: Pinterest
This letter has something of a citric sub-theme, with the mention of odeur de Neroli, the vast orangery at Versailles and now this incredibly informative and captivating article about the grapefruit and its history! I had no idea how distinctive this fruit is among its ‘relatives’. In fact, it turns out I didn’t know much about the citrus genus in general and I ended up researching its taxonomy to understand better just how deliciously special these fruits are.
I learned, among other things, that all the citrus fruits I would have named as main species – the orange, the lemon, the grapefruit and the lime, are in fact hybrids between ancestral species, particularly mandarins, pomelos and citrons!
You get bonus exquisite points if you devour these articles while also enjoying your citrus fruit of choice! Does citrus caviar sound about right?
I thought it was an amazing coincidence to stumble this week also upon this article about taste, starting with nothing else but an anecdote about an orange that was actually a grapefruit! The article was prompted by research which has uncovered a new type of taste cell – a discovery that has somewhat upended what we thought we knew about the human taste system.
“It’s a very elegant study,” says Julie Mennella, a biologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center who also studies taste, and I didn’t need any other prompt to include it in this week’s letter, because what are our senses if not the very means of experiencing all things exquisite?
Ex Libris Stamps
Talking about building one’s library and having a library room in one’s house, both life-long dreams of mine, I remembered something I’ve been meaning to get for myself and my books for years – an Ex Libris stamp. Also known as a bookplate, this form of marking a book as one’s possession dates back to the 16th century, used first by the Christian monks but soon adopted by the European gentry as well. Here you can see some famous bookplates and here some royal ones, including those of The Sun King himself. While researching ex libris stamps, I have also enjoyed reading about book curses and book rhymes, maybe you will too.
Nowadays there are many artists and design companies that will create customized Ex Libris stamps or even embossers, and I am really keen to get my own at some point. I know it will include an onion, but what else?
NeSpoon Lace Mural – Elegant Street Art
Photo Source: ThisIsCollosal
This is one of those strikingly beautiful visual exquisite finds that I had to share – a lace mural by artist NeSpoon adorning the façade of La Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, the Museum of Fashion and Lace of the city of Calais, an industrial hub for lace manufacturing, employing around 40,000 residents, back in the XIXth century. She rightfully describes her work as sitting somewhere between street art and art and I absolutely love her elegant street art! I am also in awe of her work in clay and ceramics, inspired by lace and crochet as well. So precious!
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