I feel a little guilty! I have ignored my blog for a while. Since I joined the rest of the world with a new up-to-the- minute phone I discovered how easy it is to email instant photographs and put comments on my 'Facebook' page about what I am listing or buying around the brocantes. Then I realise that not everyone visits Facebook!
Today we set of at 6am for what is probably the last brocante of the year. It was bitterly cold and the sellers were few and far between but I did find a few treasures. I had my "little" eyes on and came home with some finds that I shall list this week.
Miss Frou Frou and Mr Frou Frou stopped by this afternoon on her way to the ferry en route to the UK to stand the fair at Kempton Park in London. I looked at their van loaded to the gunnels with treasures - and I realised she has turned into me, 30 years ago!!! How I used to love standing the fairs, come rain or shine! I loved the buzz; I loved meeting clients face to face; I loved the travelling; I even loved sleeping in the back of the van whilst travelling! For one moment I felt really envious. After they drove away I walked back inside - into our lounge with a blazing log fire, sat down and checked my auctions online - and decided that standing in the freezing cold at Kempton Park at 4am was not for me after all! But good luck out there Miss Frou Frou!! She is definitely a chip off the "not so" old block.
The beautiful letters of the World War II romance ( see my previous blog a few weeks ago) are proving a hard task for the wonderful lady translating them. Some of the writing is almost impossible to read but the fact that she can actually decipher them is simply divine and I promise I shall let you read them too soon. Last week I had a wonderful lunch with the Countess Deauville at her country chateau. She spends her days between the chateau and her Paris apartment and does some amazing charity work. We lunched by her log fire in the petite informal cuisine overlooking the walled garden. She met her husband the Count some 30 years ago in a whirlwind romance in Monaco - and I am always desperate for her to repeat the tale to me time and time again. She must think me quite mad.
And excuse me.....[fanfare of trumpets]...you are reading the blog of someone who supplied a batch of antique hat veil lace to the Disney production team working on the new Cinderella film. When it does finally hit the screens I shall be too busy trying to spot my lace to enjoy the film! Charles, le Baron du Breuil, has been fighting weasels again as you can see by his ear! He simply will not give in until he catches one. If I knew where he was finding them I would try and stop his antics.
So...............may your week be filled with Fabulous fripperies...
I am constantly amazed at what I truffle out whilst
rummaging around in boxes at street brocantes here.
Lying at the bottom of one box I was looking through recently was a small wooden post box. It had the usual sealing wax on the outside and I knew that they were usually used to post items of value, eg. jewellery.
The address label alone (which had been 'sealed' onto the box with red wax) immediately intrigued me. It was addressed to a Monsieur Muteau, the 'ancient premier president de la cour de Dijon", the railway label showed it had come from Besancon. I noticed that it had what looked like a few old letters folded up inside - but I didn't actually look at them in detail until I got home. But what a surprise I had when I did so!
There were 5 letters in all - all hand-written in beautiful italic-scrolled writing of the period - and wrapped in some felt, right at the bottom of the box was a small tablet of marble with an inscription in latin on it.
What on earth could it all mean?
I have been unable to translate all the letters but have been able to determine the following:
Letter 1: Dated 6 April 1867, it is from the office of the Archbishop of Besancon to a Monsieur MUTEAU . In it the bishop says he is greatly impressed by what he has seen of Monsieur Muteau's work [M. Muteau appears to have worked in the office of the 'Premier President honoraire' at the 'Cour Imperiale de Dijon'] and, in gratitude, is asking him to accept a gift. That gift is the marble tablet which, the bishop states, had originally been given to him by Pope Pious IX - who had given his permission for the tablet to be handed on. He says " the tablet is not only a unique piece of antique marble; more than that it is an original piece of a foundation stone - which I would like you to have at your home".
Letters 2 and 3: - both dated 11 April 1869 - are written by M. MUTEAU. One addressed to 'Eminence'; the other addressed to
'Saint Pere' - which I believe may have been to the Pope himself.
The former states that he has received from Le Cardinal Mathieu [who was the Archbishop of Besancon] the title:
"Commandeur de L'ordre de Pie IX" which " his holiness had deigned to award him" - and the letter goes on to thank his eminence for the part he played in the 'ordre' being granted.
The latter is to 'Saint Pere' - and thanks 'his holiness' for 'crowning my long life as a magistrate with the title of "Commandeur de son Ordre de Pie IX".
Letter 4: Dated 9 August 1869, this letter , I think, is written by the wife of M. Muteau to the Archbishop informing him that her husband " is no longer with us", mentioning great pain he was in on 6 Aout.
Unfortunately the writing is so 'squiggly' that I cannot decipher any more of it!
Letter 5: Dated 19 August 1870 this letter is from the office of the Archbishop of Besancon, as before, which is addressed to M. Muteau's wife. In it he explains to her that, before his death, her husband had written two letters - one to the Pope, the other to Cardinal Antonelli; that these letters, he told her, were "above all for the Pope to see to whom M. Muteau had sought absolution for some criticism...a serious comment about religion which I had still not been seen to do" - and that he was enclosing copies of both the letters [namely letters 2 and 3 above] "as an interesting memento for the family".
The marble tablet referred to in the first letter measures 4.5" x 3" (11 x 7.5 cms) and is 12 mm thick.
Inscribed on the top is:
"FRAGMENTUM LAPIDIS E CALLIXTI COEMETERIO AMOTI
AN. XXII SACRI PRINCIPATUS
PII. IX PONT.MAX"
This roughly translates as:
"A small slab of stone removed from the Callixti cemetery.
In the 22nd year of the sacred government
Pious IX Pontifex maximus"
I think there is a fascinating story here, but do I simply do not have the time to investigate it further.
For those who do not read my facebook page this is what I was up to last weekend! We took the ferry across to the UK to attend the annual Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London on Sunday. Mark is permitted to march at the ceremony being a veteran of the Falklands War - and he was suited and booted for the occasion The weather was perfect; a wonderful crisp but sunny Winter morning.
Whilst Mark and some 10,000 other ex-service personnel gathered on Horse Guards Parade I walked up the Mall to Buckingham Palace to see what was happening. Most members of the Royal Family attend the Remembrance Service - and a huge crowd had already assembled in the hope of seeing them all as they left the palace. Quite by chance I became an unofficial tour guide for a group of French tourists who had no idea what was actually going on that morning; they were standing at the palace hoping to see the 'Changing of the Guard'. Instead they were treated to a running commentary by me of which 'royals' were leaving the palace ( which they insisted on calling 'Buckingham Chateau!) en route for Whitehall.
I explained that the Queen and Prince Philip would soon leave for the ceremony.........
....and pointed out to them the lowering of the Queen's Standard on top of the palace as she left. With all 'royals' seen I walked back up through St James Park to watch the service. And who did I see first whilst standing at the railings but.........................
Boris Johnson the Mayor of London
......................Boris walking the route.Get out of the way Boris; you are blocking my view!! And then, a little later who should appear from a side building but.................
.......HRH Princess Anne. She was walking up to take her position on the dais on Horse Guards ready to take the salute as the columns of veterans marched past her. I heard them before I saw them --- and then the band came into view around the corner and marching towards me.
And behind the band came the first column of veterans - and then they just kept coming and coming! Veterans of the Gurkha rifles...some Royal Marines including, clearly, a proud Scottish one! Now....where was Mark.......?
The sight of the famous Chelsea pensioners is always an amazing and uplifting one. Most if not all of them over 75 years , some in their 80s and yet, despite their age, marching in time. I could hear their Sgt Major encouraging them: "come on lads, almost there. Keep going. Left right, left right." Very humbling to see them, I can tell you. Ah..........at last. Was this the Falklands Veterans group coming up?
Yes............it was. Can you spot my "moustachioed, bespectacled monsieur?".
I recently read that in the early 1800s a troop of elephants was brought to the city of Venice to entertain, among others, the Emperor of Austria and his family who were visiting the city during 'carnivale'. Whilst a large naval review was underway the elephants were transported into Venice to parade around St Marks Square before being secured into nearby warehouses. Unfortunately when the naval guns went off the elephants became frightened - and one particular young bull elephant became uncontrollable. His keeper was summoned to calm him. The elephant promptly picked him up threw him against the wall, trampled on him and killed him outright. The animal then burst through the doors of the warehouse and headed off up the jetty. So.....during our recent visit to Venice we had to find out if the story was true, and if so, re-tread his tracks. Finding his way blocked near the arsenal, the elephant turned about and ran down CAL DEL DOSE. We had to walk down it - and this is how it looks today.
The animal then ran out onto the Campo Della Bragora square, perhaps pausing before deciding where to run next. We surveyed the square too.
I had read that the elephant had "burst into nearby a church".................
...........and there, in the corner of the square, stood a church.
The doors were open so we went inside to look for signs of an elephant attack!!
The elephant had apparently burst through the church doors and rampaged inside. Finally his weight shattered a tombstone in the floor and his foot went down through it and he became stuck. We searched for evidence: any carvings, signs, pictures, cracked and/or repaired tombstones. But there was nothing to be seen. There was however an elderly lady arranging fresh flowers at the altar and I admit I was a little mortified when Mark suggested we ask her if she knew about the elephant!!! To my surprise she told him she did know about it - but went on to say that the church we were standing in [the church of SAN ANTONIN] was NOT the church where the elephant has sought refuge. The church we were looking for was at the end of another alleyway leading off the square.
We set off again [but not before enjoying all the beautiful treasures and pictures of Saint Antonin including seeing the font where the composer VIVALDI had been christened in c. 1689] and walking down a small alleyway on the opposite side of the square we came across the church in question.
Sadly it was closed and locked up and we couldn`t go in!!!! The story ends sadly for the elephant. Trapped in the church, soldiers were sent to fetch a naval cannon. Lining it up the first cannon ball went straight through the wall behind the elephant; the second killed the poor beast. I did check the outer walls for evidence of cannon balls! None!
The elephant was then apparently transported to the deconsecrated church of SAN BIAISO where, after a day of bargaining, his body was sold for 800 florins to the Natural History Museum at Padova.
One hundred years later the elephant skin, reduced to a moth-eaten ruin, was hurled from a window of the museum into a courtyard where children from the neighbourhood were allowed to play with it for some time before it was sold to a local man who exhibited it until its final demise.
So this of course means I will have to return to Venice when the doors to the church are open; I'm sure there must be some evidence of the 'elephant story' to be found!
We saluted the escapades of the poor beast with an elephant-sized icecream-topped chocolate back at a café on the square!!