White Asparagus

Oui, Je manges des asperges blanches!!

Yes, I eat white asparagus!  

When we think of asparagus we think of typical green asparagus that we buy at the grocery store, but asparagus in Europe can be green, purple and WHITE.

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In European cultures, in particular France, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland and especially Germany–White Asparagus is consumed heavily.

On the seasonal food calendar in France, the front end of summer on through early September is a high point for asparagus.  Here, bunches and bunches of asparagus at the height of the French market season.

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Growing white asparagus is more labor intensive than growing green asparagus.  White asparagus is the same as green asparagus, but grown without daylight. Denying the spears daylight as they grow prevents photosynthesis from taking place and this is the process that produces the green coloring in plants.

The plants are grown in the dark by piling soil on top Image result for images of white asparagus being harvestedof the spears as they appear and then cutting them well below the surface with a special knife before they grow through the soil into the daylight.Image result for images of white asparagus being harvested

Asparagus that is allowed to grow up and through the top of the soil and receive sun, of course are green because of photosynthesis–as the asparagus looks below.asparagus

White asparagus in particularly is snatched up for delicate dishes.  Below is a typical French asparagus recipe that is easy to try AND delicious.

Asparagus with vinaigrette & poached egg (serves 4)Asperge et vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

5 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp mustard
1-2 garlic cloves, ground
1 & 1/2 tsp walnut vinegar (alternatively, you can use wine vinegar)
Salt & pepper – for seasoning
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir until the vinaigrette is smooth.

For the poached eggs:

4-6 eggs
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

In a shallow pan of boiling water, add 2 tsp of vinegar. Prepare your eggs by breaking them into little cups/pots so it’s easier to pour into the boiling water. When the water is boiling, pour in the eggs in different areas (maximum four at a time – or the water temperature will get cooler). Leave them alone, cover with a lid for 3 minutes, then check if they need a bit of ‘pushing and shoving’ to make their form rounder. You can use a large slotted spoon for this. Depending on how well you like your eggs cooked, 3 minutes should complete the task. When ready spoon each egg at a time onto a plate. Set aside.

For the asparagus:

A bunch of asparagus, depending on size count 4-6 asparagus per person.
A handful of chives (chopped finely)

Wash the asparagus under cool running water and trim away the bottom 1/3 of the stalk. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the rough part (leave the tip intact).

Fill a medium to large saucepan with water, about half way to the top. Add salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly – cook for 10 minutes, or until crisp and tender, depending on thickness of asparagus. Drain and place on a serving plate. Place poached egg on top, drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with chives.

A POPULAR DISH

In Europe, & France for sure, white asparagus gets just as much attention as the green variety. You’ll see it on restaurant menus steamed and served with hollandaise sauce, a poached egg and chives.Related image

Asparagus is so abundant in France and other places in Europe – an asparagus majolica plate to serve it on would not be uncommon.  Here are some of these beautiful type plates found at our French culinary store, Aubergine Antiques.

So, EAT MORE ASPARAGUS: 5 good reasons

It’s loaded with nutrients, it can help fight cancer, it’s packed with antioxidants, it’s a brain booster and it’s a natural diuretic!!

 

**special thanks to umami mart and mimi thorisson of medoc france, & pinterest for information 

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!

FRENCH ACCESSORIES – THE CHATELAINE

Chatelaine (chain)

The name chatelaine derives from the French term châtelaine – which means wife of the lord of a castle or a woman who owns a large house or is in control of it OR a set of short chains worn on a belt that carried necessary items needed in the home.

From the 16th century, women often wore a decorative clasp at the waist with a series of chains attached, called a chatelaine. Suspended from it were useful household accessories such as scissors, keys, and sewing tools. Crafted from precious metals, chatelaines were considered as jewelry and status symbols.Wedgwood Chatelaine, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Chatelaine, Tassenmuseum Netherlands. Chatelaine bag, LACMA.

Wedgwood Chatelaine, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Chatelaine, Tassenmuseum Netherlands. Chatelaine bag, LACMA.

Status among women

 The woman with the keys key equipage

to all the many desks, chest of drawers, food hampers, pantries, storage containers, and many other locked cabinets was “the woman of the household”. Carrying this chatelaine was a sign of status and power – This person directed all the servants and possessed total authority over who had access to what.

A tid bit:  When a woman married a son and the couple moved into his father’s house, the son’s MOTHER would have authority over the keys to the locked items.  BUT, if the mother became a widow the keys and the status that came with them, were passed to the wife of the eldest son.  If the woman of the house had to be absence then the controller of the keys was passed to the head housekeeper.

Often times younger women in the house would want the appearance of this responsibility, and would wear decorative chatelaines with a variety of small objects Image result for chatelaine jewelry that french women wore

in the place of keys, especially bright and glittering objects that could be used to start a conversation.

Early 19th Century Gold Sewing Chatelaine in Original Case

Early 19th Century Gold Sewing Chatelaine in Original Case

inspiringdresses: Chatelaine with watch, key, pomander, ca, 1770, BritishMFA

Chatelaine with watch, key, pomander, ca, 1770

Abiti Antichi Chatelaine in argento. Punzoni Citta' di Londra; anno 1892. Maker Samuel Jacob. Composta da quaderno, matita, porta metro, forbici e portaditale. Rif: chatelaine 5 Clicca sulla foto per vedere altre immagini di questa chatelaine.

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century and in the 16th century they often typically used as watch chains for the most wealthy.

This is a Georgian chatelaine which clipped to the waist band or belt of a dress for holding such items as the mistress of the house would need with her throughout the day. It might include her seal, watch, scissors, thimble, a vinaigrette, or a key holder.This is a Georgian chatelaine which “is a device which clips to the waist band or belt of a dress for holding such items as the mistress of the house would need with her throughout the day. It might include her seal, watch, scissors, thimble, a vinaigrette, and a key holder.”

Here is the front

and back view so you can  see how the chatelaine would be clipped to the waistband of the woman’s dress.

 

A locket such as this sterling silver one would be used for rouge/powder and attached to the Chatelaine chain.  Antique French 800-900 Silver 'Poudrier' Compact locket for chatelaine. LOVELY <3 @

Chatelaines were made of precious metals: gold, sterling silver, but many were made of steel as the one showed below.  This one made of cut steel is also from France, late 18th century; the tools include a disc shaped pin cushion, a button hook, a thimble holder with steel thimble, and a folding corkscrew for perfume bottles.

Fine Mint 2671, cut steel chatelaine, France, late 18th century; “Five matching attachments to the waist plaque. The tools include a disc shaped pin cushion, a button hook, a thimble holder with steel thimble, a folding corkscrew for perfume bottles and a decorative cut steel attachment made of 5 chatelaines.

And of course, all the Queens had beautiful chatelaine adornments to their dresses.  Here Marie Antoinette walking with her children is wearing decorative chains with charms – certainly a sign of wealth.

An up close view of the chains:

Marie Antoinettes Marie Antoinette's gold watch and chatelaine with diamonds and rubies, 1y V Oswald V Oswaldgold watch and chatelaine with diamonds and rubies  –  Very opulent & decorative.

Even today, women enjoy a new interpretation of history with a modern twist as symbolism in unexpected places turns up:  The chatelaine is officially on the fashion runway as Prada shows off the updated chatelainePrada_AW16_chatelaine2

Prada_AW16_2

CROWN AND COLONY ANTIQUES carries Chatelaines when they can be found!!  They have become rare commodities, but here is a picture of what we currently have in our shop.  251-928-4808

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!

FRENCH CLOCHE

THE BIRTH OF THE GREENHOUSE

FRENCH CLOCHE

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European growers have made use of small-scale greenhouse methods since the early 1600s. The simplest forms of greenhouses were the “cloche”, a bell-shaped jar or bottomless glass jug that was placed on top of the plants, and the cold or hot frame, a small seedbed enclosed in a glass-topped box. SchietraamA Three light Frame as used in French Gardens.

In the hotframe, decomposing horse manure was added for additional heating.  Something like the above glass frame would be placed on top of a wooden box with seedlings buried in the box.  Glass was difficult to obtain in large sheets so these were made with fragments and separated with wood or rods of metal.  Another fine example of these framed heat facilitators are in the picture below.

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BUT, there’s something charming about a bell jar… or cloche (pronounced kloshe).

Image result for images of cloche in franceCloche were first used in France around 1600 and then in England about 1629.  In 1677 square cloche emerged.

This is a picture of a 17th century kitchen garden.  Cloches are used in great numbers and several young plants were housed under each.

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Charming and rare, vintage cloche

The French developed the glass cloche, or bell jar, formed from a solid piece of dome-shaped glass. The purpose was to protect an early garden plant from bleak cold and frost.

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However, as you may expect, glass was  expensive to use in the garden and might break leaving shards of glass in the dirt. So the cloche were a very valued concept for the garden and were used with great care.

Garden cloches.

In the 1600s, garden designer and author John Evelyn listed glass cloche (klŌ-shh) as an essential garden tool in his book Elysium Britannicum.  Image result for image of book Elysium BritannicumThomas Jefferson employed these techniques in his extensive vegetable garden.

This modern day garden at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, would also use, not only glass cloches, but also ones made of terra cotta in the spring and fall when protecting the seedlings from frost.

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You can see on the terra cotta cloche they have a lid or ventilation that can be removed or adjusted as needed to cool or heat up the planting.

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Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche      Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche

Below, glass cloches stacked during summer in a French garden:  This gives one an idea of how valued this simple garden tool was.  They were used in abundance and it was most common to see them in gardens.

CLOCHES STACKED DURING SUMMER IN A FRENCH GARDEN.

NOTE:  If the tender plants were not watched carefully the very plants intended to protect would sunburn.  Often times gardeners would knock the “knobs” off with a hatchet to allow heat to escape. 

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The Sun Kings Garden

Kitchen Garden of King Louis XIV

Here in this royal garden that produced food for thousands in Louis XIV’s court the cloche was also used to propagate plantings.

At the Potager du Roi (The Kings vegetable or kitchen garden), a high wall surrounds 16 square gardens for vegetables. Behind it are 29 enclosed gardens. Making the most of the horticulture knowledge of the time, Jean De La Quintinie,  director of the royal fruit and vegetable gardens,  thoughtfully plotted the gardens to create individual micro climates. This allowed him to provide for the king’s table year round and to experiment with exotic melons, nettle clumps and berries.  The CLOCHE was instrumental in this endeavor.

This Kings garden had fine examples of espaliered fruit trees. The garden, which produced fresh vegetables and fruits for Louis XIV and his court, was created between 1678 and 1783.  It still produces more than 50 tons of fruits and 30 tons of vegetables as well as edible flowers, which are sold in Versailles markets and at the King’s Garden shop.

OTHER USES FOR THE CLOCHE

In France a cloche was used to cover the brides head piece worn on her wedding day and carried high symbolic content.  It was the bride’s mother who designed and gave the globe to her daughter.

Nearly all of them had mirrors. A mirror represented sincerity. The large mirror in the middle is the marriage mirror, the reflection of life. The small rectangular mirrors are the number of years the couple courted. The small losenge-shaped mirrors are the number of children wanted.

The domes would also cover doves (made of metal or resin) which are the symbol of peace, ivy leaves for attachment, grapevine leaves symbolized a life of abundance and prosperity; oak leaves to show strength,  love and health and of course linden which was the symbol of fidelity (which is why linden trees are often planted at the entrance of a property), clover means happiness, a sheaf of wheat is to remind the husband that he has to work every day of his life to keep his wife and children happy and sometimes daisies where placed under the dome which are the traditional flowers of lovers.

AUBERGINE ANTIQUES/FRENCH CULINARY

AUBERGINE ANTIQUES carries French cloches.  Please call us if you are interested in owning one of these functional and beautiful pieces of gardening history.  You can ring us at 251-928-0902 or visit our website:  www.crownandcolony.com

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!

FRENCH ART and how one French woman contributed to history….

THE MONUMENTS MEN

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Ghent Altarpiece

Did you know that during World War II, the Nazis executed the greatest art heist in history?  It was left to a special Allied military unit, the Monuments Men,  to get Europe’s priceless cultural treasures back.

An organization with established initiative beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and with General Dwight D. Eisenhower repeatedly ordering his forces to assist the MFAA (also known as Monuments Men) as much as possible, it was the first time in history an army attempted to fight a war and at the same time reduce damage to cultural monuments and property.

ADOLF HITLERS ORDERS

 Before Adolf Hitler became the German dictator that he was he had a much different passion and that was ART.  But after Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts rejected a teenage Hitler for his “unfitness for painting,” his singular dream of becoming an artist was crushed.

The Academy in Vienna

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Hitler’s interest in art never waned which became evident when he led the Nazis in a very deliberate systematic looting of famous works of art.  His goal was to not only rob millions of people of their lives and futures, but wanted to strip them of their past as well.

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Hitler’s forces plundered priceless paintings, sculptures, drawings, religious relics and cultural artifacts from all over Europe (France, Poland, Italy and so on).  His loyalists went into churches, private homes, universities etc and collected everything of value.  He was especially committed to collecting art from Jewish families.  He acquired musical instruments, entire libraries, Torahs, church bells and stained glass right out of the Strasbourg Cathedral.Image result for small images of strasbourg cathedral

France. Strassbourg Cathedral. "The largest clock you'll probably ever see is inside. It's amazing to watch it working."

However, with the foresight of a French woman named Rose Valland and the establishment of the Monuments Men, a group of approximately 345 men and women from fourteen nations comprised of museum directors, curators, art historians, archivists, architects, educators, and artists that served with one common goal: to save cultural treasures from the destructiveness of war, and theft by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Rose Valland ( 1898 – 1980 )Image result for image of rose valland

 

The unassuming heroine of French culture during World War II, Rose Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France on November 1, 1898.   She was extremely well educated in art with degrees from École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and advanced degrees in art history from the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne in Paris!

In 1941 she became curator of Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris.  In 1942 the Nazis over took the museum and made it their headquarters for ERR, the Nazi art looting organization created by Hitler.

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This organization stored paintings and other works of art stolen from private French collectors and dealers.  Jacques Jaujard, Director of the French National Museums including the Louvre, immediately instructed Valland to remain at her post in the museum to spy on the Nazi theft operation.  What she did in addition to that is the reason many pieces of art are back with their rightful owners today.

Her quiet demeanor kept her under the radar and unsuspected as she carefully and secretly kept meticulous notes on the destinations of train car shipments filled with looted art from all over France.

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What the Germans also did not know was that she spoke the German language allowing her to gather critical information from the conversations of drivers, guards, and packers, which she relayed to Jaujard and the French Résistance.

Paris was liberated by the American forces late August 1944 – this liberation placed Valland in an even more serious situation because of the enormous amount of information she had collected that was in her personal possession.

The information she collected would serve as a treasure map for Capt. James Rorimer, with the Monuments Men, who had orders to recover as much stolen art as possible.  Her information would serve them in finding multiple repositories of looted art in the Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps — All of which was stolen by the Nazis from private collectors and art dealers in and around France!!

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Thousands of pieces of art were also found in copper mines and salt mines.

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The notes of Rose Valland alone were instrumental in expediting the restitution process of returning objects to their rightful owners with well over 5 million pieces being returned to their rightful owners.

“Art belongs to humanity. Without this we are animals. 
We just fight, we live, we die. Art is what makes us human”.
– Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director, Hermitage Museum 

A MUST SEE MOVIE for enjoyment:

our poetic license [was] we wanted to let these guys have some flaws and have some fun. … Listen, the good news is, 80 percent of the story is still completely true and accurate, and almost all of the scenes happened. Sometimes they happened with other characters, sometimes it happened in smaller dimension. But that’s moviemaking. -George Clooney (Entertainment Weekly, August 12, 2013)

A modern day movie based on some events of the Monuments Men:  History Vs. Hollywood
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WE GIVE THIS FIVE STARS!!!
If you love art, have an appreciation for history and enjoy preservation – please, we invite you to visit our website:  http://www.crownandcolony.com and view our French paintings and architectural elements (click on Paintings and Decorative Accessories)  Purchases can be made through Crown and Colony  251-928-4808
**Any pictures depicting this historical remembrance were borrowed from internet sites for educational purposes only and we thank all who generously make these available for us to learn from**

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!

AUBUSSON TAPESTRY

The Enchanting Town of AUBUSSON

Aubusson is a commune in the Creuse region in central France where since at least the 16th century, Aubusson has been famed for its manufacture of carpets and tapestries. A national school of decorative arts founded in 1869 still maintains high standards of hand looming and remains to this day the principal occupation of the town.

History of the Aubusson Tapestry

It is thought that tapestry production emerged in Aubusson about 600 years ago; many historians date it to 1457.  Today that heritage is celebrated in the Aubusson Tapestry Museum and the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie Aubusson, where you’ll discover an incredible collection of old and new tapestries.

Here the importance of understanding how the tapestry begins with raising of sheep and the spinning and dying of wool to the creation of images and their weaving into an extraordinary array of tapestries is shared and carried on by well trained weavers.

 Twelve weavers (lissiers in French) are admitted every two years to the Cité’s two-year program for budding weavers.  It typically takes well over 10 years to become a “master weaver”.

 In order to be considered an Aubusson, a tapestry needn’t be woven in the town itself, but anywhere within Creuse. The two main centers of creation, however, are Aubusson and Felletin.

Tapestries were only for the rich, royalty, aristocrats, Bishops and the like. Tapestries were hung on walls and warmed up the palaces and manor houses of the wealthy and added colour. The tapestries were status symbols and were uniquely designed to impress.  Aubusson workshops worked in collaboration with renowned painters, whose drawings were used as models for the creation of masterpieces.

The traditional Aubusson tapestries are known for their iconic Verdures or garden tapestries.  

This style, mainly based on plant decoration such as trees and foliage, remained highly popular over the centuries.    Aubusson tapestries represent hunting scenes

and scenes of unicorn,

wild boar, wolf and even lion!

The Design of the Tapestry

Miniature paintings or maquettes

were used which the weaver had to interpret and typically had in front of them as a guide.  However, by the 17th century, life sized paintings were placed directly under the warp (chaîne) so the weaver could recreate the painting more accurately.  Weavers in Aubusson don’t see their finished tapestry until it is removed from the loom because they work on the reverse side of the tapestry, which is also why the cartoon

(painting being recreated by the weaver)

is presented backwards underneath the warp. This cartoon of the man and lions is a beautiful example.

Below is a tapestry (circa 1790) found at Crown and Colony Antiques We invite you to come and visit our shop and view this exquisite wonder of wool and silk craftsmanship.  This particularly large tapestry took years to make.

Special closeups of the tapestry:  The face of the woman is petite point and you can see on the petal of the flower a repair that was beautifully done.

The back of this particular tapestry seems to be a heavy cotton, while linen or a blend of both were used as well.

Religious scenes were very popular prompting numerous tapestries to be woven that represented mythological scenes and scenes from the life of the saints, and the Old Testament.

Whether you recognize the beauty in an antique aubusson or newly made you can be assured of the flat weave that is trademark of the aubusson.

Even furniture has been covered in the flat weave of the aubusson.

And newly made pillows in the aubusson flat weave are beautiful.  These are from Crown and Colony Antiques.$208 Ea. 217-9008 Brown and Aqua aubusson wool pillows 20 x 20

$295 Ea. 217-9005 Blue, brown and cream aubusson down filled pillow 20x20

The French Revolution Changes the face of production!

The manufacture and its marvelous productions were ransacked and burned during the Revolution because objects of the rich were very frowned upon.

The weaving workshops fortunately reopened a few years later under the Napoleonic Empire, but with less production.  The creation of large wall tapestries was discontinued and gave way to the production of small rugs.  These more ‘ordinary’ creations revived the tapestry industry and saved the craft from ruin.  Unfortunately, the spirit of creation was dulled.

The business of weaving went from thousands of professional weavers to around 50.  Today, those small few work mostly in private ateliers.

Aubusson’s today

Some of the small group of weavers work in Aubusson to this day weaving what is considered a rich man’s product, costing around Euros 2000 – 3000 per m² to commission a tapestry.  This price is dictated by the fact that the making of a tapestry is a hard physical job to do, pushing with arms and legs for 12 hours a day.  And given the fact it can take at least ten years for a person to become a master weaver.

The tapestries depict scenes of their day, mysteries, legends and life in France through colour, style and the images. There are some tapestries on display that are even quite cheeky!  A tapestry that might depict a rural party enjoying a seesaw (baloncaire) was apparently quite risqué, because it was designed to allow viewers to look up the skirts of the ladies!

Under French law, tapestry editions must be limited to 6 copies, and usually also one for the artist and one for the workshop. You can tell where it was made as each tapestry is edged in a specific color relating to the town around Aubusson where it originated. Tapestries also have a bolduc (weavers mark) on a front corner or on the reverse, which would be a small piece of tissue or paper bearing the name of the artist, the title, dimensions, the name of the workshop and often the date.

Aubusson tapestries are the gold standard throughout the world.  If you have the privilege to view one or even more exciting “own” one you are among the privileged few.

Some pictures were borrowed for educational purposes only from www.thegoodlifefrance.com, oldplank.com, pinterest, 1st Dibs, francevisited.com and museum pictures from the museums in Aubusson France

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!