JA N S E N
DETAIL OF BLUE ROOM UPHOLSTERY FABRIC
with white-to-gold eagle, laurel wreath, and lightning bolt patterning covered the Pierre-Antoine Bellangé gilt chairs Boudin had at one time envisioned for the Oval Office and which he arranged along the perimeter of the room. Also made in France, the trimmings for both the draperies and chairs consisted of ivory and rich purple silk, woven as a floral-patterned tape for the former and twisted to form an intricate, ropelike gimp for the latter. Jayne and Charles Wrightsman presented a number of important decorative elements to the Blue Room, the complete decoration of which they underwrote. Encouraged by Boudin, who discovered the items, the Wrightsmans donated a pair of early-19th-century French torchères with winged female figural supports. These were complemented by four gilt- and patinatedbronze sconces, circa 1825, which were mounted on the piers separating the three doors at the room’s north end and the three windows to the south; these sconces were positioned above portraits of early presidents, in a manner characteristic of Boudin. Lastly, Jansen devised electrified candle branches for an existing pair of Monroe-era, cannon-base candlesticks on the
mantelpiece. As arranged, these various period lighting fixtures created a rhythmic patterning that helped to unite uneven sections of wall created by doorways, windows, and the fireplace. The final addition was an Empire chandelier of gilt-bronze and crystal. It was specially wired by Jansen’s Paris workshop to light from within in an effort to preserve the original candle arms, which remained untouched. As Jacqueline Kennedy noted in a thank-you letter to Boudin, the completed Blue Room was praised even by Gérald Van der Kemp, then the curator of the royal palaces at Versailles, who was described as “green with envy.”7 As the former first lady recalled in 1980, “The Blue Room was Boudin’s masterpiece.”8 It was the most dramatic of the White House interiors created by Jansen, and it was also the most controversial aspect of the otherwise well-received Kennedy-era restoration of the mansion. Boudin’s decor for the space was likely too dramatic for the often-conservative presidential stage. It was an unusually personal public space, reflective of the idealism and somewhat romanticized sense of history embraced by both President and Mrs. Kennedy.9 Criticized as being overly French, the room was probably more accurately too intertwined with the ethereality of the Camelot years. Boudin’s scheme all the same represented the highest level of skill and talent, including an unrivaled understanding of period design vocabularies, sensitivity to proportion, and comprehension of ceremonial needs; his design for the Blue Room has yet to be equaled by succeeding decorators and historians for this White House room (let alone other imitators). In writing to Jacqueline Kennedy following her husband’s assassination in November 1963, Boudin regretted that “now our wonderful days are ended.”10 However, although his clients were no longer in
Published on Oct 20, 2009
Jansen showcases 30 of the company's most alluring commissions, including rooms for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Shah and Shahbanou...