I am noticing diamond patterned decorative pillows, one here, one there, and they seem to hold trend-importance. Their underlying inspiration has touched painters, filmmakers, writers and sculptors within the decorative arts. The colours being employed are also turning my attention to that same cultural design source, in a word, Harlequin.
Harlequin, according to Agatha Christie, is an immortal who appears and vanishes, and when he appears in her stories, her personal favourites, he assists in preventing death. Christie’s Harley Quin shows up at key moments in the life of Mr. Satterthwaite, a sophisticated society gentleman with exceptional perceptive abilities. Quin offers a key idea that will help him find the source of impending danger in the events about to unfold. “The Mysterious Mister Quin” and “The Harlequin Tea Set” are delightful tales with a shimmer of the supernatural.
Harlequin originates in the beloved travelling theatre troupes of the 1700’s known as Commedia Dell’arte. Their bright costumes and exaggerated archetypal characters were preserved in porcelain figures, notably those from the Meissen workshops. Our own Gardiner Museum, just south of Bloor Street on Queen’s Park Circle, has an extensive collection of this prized chapter in the history of the decorative arts.
Agatha Christie also shares her enthusiasm for the finer things through Hercule Poirot, the famous detective. Poirot is a great admirer of the Commedia dell’arte porcelains. In ‘The Affair of the Victory Ball’ the six players involved in the murder are costumed to match a set of the porcelain figures. Poirot expands on the personalities of the characters as the story unfolds.
Each character of the comedy troupe has a distinct costume. Harlequin’s has diamonds. Pierrot is usually dressed in an un-patterned white tunic with giant pompom buttons. This Meissen Pierrot is tinted a linden green shade, an interior design colour to watch. Further to design, some Commedia inspired pillows are geared for children’s rooms. Others enjoy the sophistication of silk velvet and subtle abstractions that the aesthetic Mr. Satterthwaite would appreciate.
Oddly enough, pom poms are appearing as interior design details of late, giant ones like Pierrot’s. Samuel and Sons has a magnificent jumbo pompom trim. They feature it in a white on white setting that references lovelorn Pierrot, up to his neck ruff in the ruffled pillow trim.
A lounge setting from Samuel and Sons is more livable than theatrical, yet the cushion incorporates diamonds from Harlequin and border bands from Pierrot, like this classic white, charmingly restrained costume, from the Gardiner collection.
The colours favored for Harlequin and Pierrot costumes are showing up in the new living room colour schemes, an important clue to the next post.
A long standing member of the American Society of Interior Designers, Lois Macaulay holds a 1st place award for residential design 2018, 2nd place for 2017 and 2 presidential citations for contributions to the profession from ASID. “I love creating beautiful settings for extraordinary women--and men,” she says. The strong fashion/design connection in these posts owes its source to her first career as a fashion designer, coordinator and national fashion magazine editor.