Monday, June 15, 2009

History Lessons

Looking towards the dock on the Hudson from 70th and Riverside Blvd. 9:10 PM. Photo: JH.
June 15, 2009. A cool-ish mild weekend in New York. Often overcast, sometimes a little rain, weather doesn’t seem like a week from the summer solstice.

Meanwhile this past Saturday out in Southampton, Rita Schrager gave a booksigning for her friend Gigi Levagie Grazer and her fourth novel, Queen Takes King.

Sue Devitt, Gigi Levagie Grazer, and Alina Cho
The gorgeous Ms. Grazer, an LA homegirl, recently eliminated her king – in real life – producer Brian Grazer after more than 17 years of marriage (her second) and two kids. Evidently the divorce leaves the couple still friends. Ms. Grazer’s lawyers were originally asking a mill a month but they settled for $4.5 mill, the house, forty Gs monthly in child support, and happily ever after.

Ms. Grazer, obviously not a newcomer in the literary department (Rescue Me in 2000, Maneater in 2003, The Starter Wife in 2005) has been writing since she divorced her first husband (an African-American/Blackfoot Indian/Italian blues musician).

When she met Mr. Grazer, then a hot young film producer, she already had a script under option. They took a meeting over margaritas and ended up signing a long term contract, so to speak. Since then she’s written a number of screenplays since including “Step-mom” starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon.

Ms. Grazer’s friend Ms. Schrager brought out a lot of friends including Andrew Rosen, Alina Cho, Elie Tahari, Fern Mallis, Helen Schifter, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Lucy Sykes, Nicole Miller, Peter Gregory, Sue Devitt, Richard Johnson, Rory Tahari, Tamara Mellon, Tim Schifter.
Elie Tahari and Andrew Rosen Fern Mallis Daniel Benedict, Sessa Johnson, and Nicole Miller
Sessa and Richard Johnson, Rita Schrager, and Gigi Levagie Grazer Lucy Sykes and Tamara Mellon
History Lessons. Real estate and ex-wives. Empress Josephine, back when she was still Mme. Napoleon Bonaparte purchased the Chateau de Malmaison and 150 acres for herself and the little general -- not yet emperor -- in 1799 while he was away wreaking his own brand of havoc in Egypt. Josephine was known for her spending ways, and the real estate purchase infuriated her husband who once said the only thing that could come between Josephine and him was debt.

The house needed extensive renovation, costing the general even more. Nevertheless, Josephine (who was always known as Rose – her given name at birth – until Napoleon changed it) made Malmaison into a most beautiful garden, and one of the most famous in the world. She sought out flora and fauna, rare and exotic animals from all over the world. "I wish that Malmaison may soon become the source of riches for all [of France]"... she wrote.

Empress Josephine.
During the renovation, Joséphine built a heated orangery large enough for 300 pineapple plants. In 1805 (now as Empress Josephine), she ordered the building of a greenhouse, heated by a dozen coal-burning stoves. It was the largest greenhouse in Europe.

From 1803 until she died in 1814, Josephine cultivated nearly 200 new plants in France. Nothing, not even war, came between her and her botanical acquisitions from all over the world. Even during the war with England, the British Navy issued safe conducts for her flowers to be delivered via England to her.

Josephine loved roses most of all. She had almost every known species growing at Malmaison, eventually numbering more than 250 varieties. Her gardeners also created new ones such as the tea rose, which is in the parentage of most modern roses.

Besides the plants and flowers, birds and animals of all sorts were acquired and imported to enrich Malmaison’s garden, At its peak it was home to kangaroos, zebras, sheep, gazelles, ostriches, chamois, a seal, antelopes and llamas, and even black swans, most roaming free on the property.

Unable to bear children (she had two by a previous marriage) Josephine was divorced by Napoleon in 1809 so that he could marry Marie-Louise of Austria (who was also a grandniece of Marie-Antoinette whose monarchy had ended with the French Revolution). Josephine was allowed to keep Malmaison and given an annual income of 5 million francs (in what was a high inflation economy).

Josephine crowned.
All of which suited Josephine, who was by then married to her garden and its place in history -- thanks to a painter named Pierre-Joesph Redoute (Ray-do-tay).

M. Redoute was in his early forties when he came to Malmaison. During the last years of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, Redoute had been the queen’s official painter of her gardens.

Josephine, exercising her royal prerogative, hired Redoute to record her rare plants in watercolor. He, being the foremost plant illustrator (remember photography had yet to be invented), painted Josephine’s flowers on fine parchment with descriptions written by Etienne-Pierre Ventanat, librarian of the Pantheon in Paris.

With the paintings, Josephine then arranged for a number of engravers to produce colored stipple engravings from Redoute’s watercolors. (ed. note: “Stippling” is the technique of using small dots to simulate varying degrees of solidity or shading, somewhat similar to pointillism.) This project established M. Redoute as one of the most eminent botanical illustrators of all time.

The result of the venture of engraving Redoute’s watercolors was three books: The Lilies (with 466 plates); The Roses (with168 plates), and The Gardens of Malmaison (with 120 plates). The original books are still eagerly sought as collector's items.
Josephine's Chateau Malmaison today.
Which brings us to today. Graham Arader, a dealer in rare maps, prints and natural history watercolors here in New York, is holding a Sale at Sotheby’s this coming Friday (June 19th at 10 pm – 1334 York Avenue) including 30 lots of Redoute. The auction is made up of more than 200 Lots including that of John James Audubon (Lots 31 thru 57), the Natural History of the South (Lots 58 – 84); Icons of American Cartography (Lots 85 – 94), Atlases, Cartography and Navigation (Lots 95 – 106); The Expanding American Frontier (Lots 107 – 126), Near and Middle East (Lots 127-138A), Edward Lear (Lots139-145), Natural History (Lots 146 – 173) and European and American Painting (Lots 174 – 202).

Graham Arader is a subject in the world of maps and prints not unlike Josephine was in the world of flora and fauna. Besides the direct historical relationship of the two individuals, they share a kind of passion/commitment to their interests that is rare and notable and visionary.

The Graham Arader Sale. Location: New York. Auction Dates: Session 1: Fri, 19 Jun 09 10:00 AM.
Graham’s interest was inspired as a young man growing up in Philadelphia, by his father who had a collection of maps from his days as a navigator in World War II in the Pacific Theater. From his prep school days to attending Yale, he has been collecting with his passion, those engravings, color-plate books, atlases, watercolors and paintings that represent, as he puts it, “the cornerstones of world history.”

I think it was at Yale that he started selling some of his acquisitions out of his room. After leaving Yale he soon started up his business and took to the road with them. That was more than 30 years ago. Today Graham Arader with galleries in Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, Denver and here in New York on 78th and Madison and on 72nd and Madison, is one of the pacesetters in his field. His enthusiasm for his collections is as infectious as Josephine’s was for her flora and fauna.

This Sale at Sotheby’s is also including another one of Graham’s ground-breaking ideas. To all successful bidders in this coming Friday’s auction, Graham will donate 20% of the hammer price of such lot acquired “to any institution, museum, school, hospital, foundation, botanical garden, zoo, research library or university the buyer designates."

Meanwhile the exhibition of the Graham Arader Sale can be seen today (Monday) through Wednesday from 10 a.m to 5 pm and on Thursday from 10 to 1. Click here to view the The Graham Arader Sale at Sotheby's.

Also this week over at the Arader Galleries, each evening there will be a lecture series given by Arader Gallery experts at the 1016 Madison Gallery (between 78th and 79th) from 6 to 7:15 pm. To learn more visit or call 212-628-3668.
Medeola angustifolia | Medéola à feuilles étroites ["Scrambling Lily"]. LOT 18. REDOUTÉ, PIERRE JOSEPH. 10,000—15,000 USD. Choix des plus belles fleurs. Paris: [C.L.F. Pankcoucke for] Ernest Pankcoucke, [1833 or later]. LOT 30. REDOUTÉ, PIERRE JOSEPH. 60,000—90,000 USD.
Les Liliacées. LOT 24. REDOUTÉ, PIERRE-JOSEPH. 350,000—450,000 USD. Text by Augustin-Pyramus de Candolle (Vols. I–IV), François Delaroche (Vols. V–VI), and Alire Raffeneau Delile (Vols VII–VIII). Paris: Chez l'Auteur ... De l'Imprimerie de Didot Jeune, 1802–1816.
Hooping Crane. LOT 47. AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 50,000—60,000 USD. Booby Gannet. LOT 31. AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 7,000—9,000 USD.
LOT 98. RAMUSIO, GIOVANNI BATTISTA. 35,000—50,000 USD. Delle navigatione et viaggi ... con molti vaghi discorsi ... Venice: Giunti, 1588 (vol. I, "Quarta editione". Vol. II, "in questa nuova editione accresciuto": 1583. Vol. III, "di nuova stampata": 1606).
LOT 77. ABBOT, JOHN. 10,000—15,000 USD. Black crowned Warbler. LOT 66. MOYNE DE MORGUES, JACQUES. 22,000—26,000 USD. Cornflower.
LOT 123. ROESSLER, ANTON R. 40,000—50,000 USD. A. R. Roessler's Latest Map of the State of Texas Exhibiting Mineral-and Agricultural Districts, Post Offices & Mailroutes, Railroads Projected and Finished, Timber, Prairie, Swamp Lands ... Compiled and Drawn by M.V. Mittendorfer. New York: Ferdinand Mayer for Edward W. Welcke & Bro., 1874.

Lithographed map (39 ¾ x 46 in.; 101 x 1168 mm), with original full-color and rose outline, with inset "Map showing Agricultural Districts" in lower left corner, inset table "Enumeration of the Principal Minerals, Rocks, Soils and Timber Varieties..." in lower center, and two inset views of the General Land Office and the State Capitol both at Austin; a few small fold tears unobtrusively repaired, without the cloth pocket cover.
LOT 109. KARL BODMER. 1809 - 1893. MESSIKA. 150,000—200,000 USD. LOT 110. CHARLES BIRD KING. 1785 - 1862. AMISKQUEW, MINOMINEE. 15,000—20,000 USD.
LOT 182. FRANÇOIS GABRIEL GUILLAUME LÉPAULLE. 1804 - 1886. ROME- CHIEN DE TERRE-NEUVE: A NEWFOUNDLAND. 10,000—15,000 USD. Signed and dated G. Lepaulle 1835 (lower left).
LOT 190. FRANCIS AUGUSTUS SILVA. 1835 - 1886. SEABRIGHT FROM GALILEE, NEW JERSEY. 125,000—175,000 USD. Signed Francis A. Silva and dated 80 (lower right).

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