|Looking for Lost Palm Beach
by Augustus Mayhew
With Palm Beach's Mediterranean Revival style most often equated with Spanish and Italian motifs, Villa dei Fiori, a Midtown estate built first in 1921 for Jell-O scion O. Frank Woodward, appears to have broken the mold when its courtyard unexplainably became the setting for what is believed to be a myriad of ornate 18th-century Portuguese azulejos tile murals.
On Friday afternoon I called Steven Rose, a sculptor and retired dentist, who lives at Villa dei Fiori with his wife, Dale Coudert, a former banker who heads up the Palm Beach-based Coudert Institute. Several months ago, I happened a glance at the villa’s courtyard tiles when I was writing a story about Palm Beach’s historicus fragmentus, a local register of partially designated Palm Beach landmarks which included Villa dei Fiori’s front entrance. And while I have been putting together a feature on the island’s assortment of Spanish and Italian Renaissance tiles, I thought I should take second look at the courtyard murals.
|"Can you come over right now?" said Mr. Rose, who was in the process of closing the Palm Beach house for the annual summer leave to Aspen.
I was captivated just moments after stepping into the courtyard, its paperbark melaleuca trees, palms, hibiscus and gnarls of bougainvillea seemingly untouched for 80 years, making for the now lost look at Old Palm Beach. While I had planned on Villa dei Fiori for a segment of a more comprehensive look at Palm Beach’s 600 years of grout, I hope you will indulge my fascination, as the Hispano-Italian chapter will have to wait.
|Facing towards the ocean, this more elaborate composition forms the centerpiece of the courtyard’s west wall.||Full-sized statues stand in each of the alcoves flanking the loggia. "I believe they are original to the house," said Mr. Rose.|
|For more on Steven Rose’s artwork and Dale Coudert’s Coudert Institute:
www.stevenhrosebronzes.com and www.coudertinstitute.com
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.|