December 9, 2010

Christmas by the Bay

I told you I was going to share my friends with you this holiday season. I want you to all meet Philip Bewley from San Francisco. Philip works at Therian & Co. Both of us share the love of beautiful things, but in addition, we appreciate the history of the object's existence. I speak with Philip from time to time over the phone ( we have a great time ) and recently I asked him to help me out with a holiday blog posting... enjoy!

Q: If we all lived in SanFrancisco like you do, what would you want us to all do or see during the holidays?

A: Well, I love looking at the city from different vantage points at night: The top of Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower illuminated, and the view of the city to Nob Hill with Grace Cathedral at the summit, the expanse to the lit towers and cables of the Golden Gate Bridge; the wall of skyscrapers seen from Potrero Hill with a light like a star on a Christmas tree surmounting the pyramid building, the Skyscrapers of the Embarcadero defined by lights along their length. The Bay Bridge strung with myriads of lights for the season; the top of Twin Peaks to take in the full expanse of the lights of the city and the necklace of lights encircling the bay beyond.

Q: Knowing I've been a good boy this year [laughs], what's the one thing Santa would bring me from Therien & Co?

I would present you with a gift of the Nawab, or the Nawab of Arcot to be exact. This CA 1790 ivory-inlaid miniature writing desk enriched by fine pen-work is an example of a small number of gifts given by the East Indian Nawab in the 18th century to European royalty.

You can find similar examples of your piece today in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and private collections such as belonging to HRH Windsor. A gift for a Queen!

It is interesting to note that the penwork reserves depict a kind of fantasy idea of the West that is as “exotic” as parallel imaginings of the storied East!

Anglo-Indian Inlaid Ivory and Pen-Work Miniature Writing Table
Of sandalwood; the rectangular cornice with single long apron drawer over two hinged doors enclosing fitted interior, centering four short drawers over base cabinet of one long drawer and slanted fall-front enclosing similarly fitted interior and raised on bracket feet; the whole enriched with floral and foliate decoration with reserves depicting pavilions and landscapes borrowed from Dutch and English engravings
Circa 1790 - Vizagapatam, India Overall dimensions: 25” wide x 11” deep x 31½” high

Q: You had shown me awhile back some vintage department store Christmas photos from SanFrancisco. What is one of your favorite memories growing up?

For anyone living in San Francisco (or surrounding the city, as I did growing up) we all went downtown before Christmas to look at the magical department store windows, the giant tree in Union square and to take in the ambiance of “The City”. This is how we referred to San Francisco in those days when we all read Herb Caen in the Chronicle (Don’t Call it ‘Frisco) and where we all dressed up, with my mother, aunt, and grandmother behatted and “begloved”, as it were. Gumps at the old location was where most presents were purchased. I remember watching the tree in the Nutcracker grow to the ceiling in a performance by the San Francisco ballet, and thinking I was so lucky to be there with my family in the most beautiful city in the world.

The rooftop of the old Emporium store with rides.

A vintage shot of the Christmas tree in the City of Paris San Francisco store.

Q: What decor do you have in your home during the holiday season you enjoy the most?

Two years ago I would have told you about ornaments and the like, but since then my mother was very ill, and has since made a remarkable recovery! It was she who has made Christmas so special for all of us over the years, so, the fact that we will all be together as a family this Christmas is the most joyous thing of all!