Architecture Art People

House of the Nobleman London + Wolfe von Lenkiewicz

Algebra The Reunion of Broken Parts

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz @ Lavender's Blue

The artist, concept and venue are familiar. We last saw Wolfe von Lenkiewicz at Portland Place in the Edwardian space where that interminable yawn The King’s Speech was filmed. A couple of years before that, we popped up at the House of the Nobleman in one of Nash’s terraces overlooking The Regent’s Park. Our jaunt to the French Renaissance styled Il Bottaccio for an Italian job was just a few weeks ago. Combine the three and here we are back at 9 Grosvenor Place. Sometimes, familiarity breeds respect. A New Master | curation as an art form | heritage assets.

It’s a private view, so private it’s Lavender’s Blue* and Wolfe touring the two floors which have been transformed by museum lighting and, of course, art. “You don’t have to go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa!” exclaims the 48 year old British artist. The French surroundings are immediately rather apt. “Some paintings are so iconic they seem unapproachable. But think of how artists like Duchamp and Warhol reinterpreted famous historic art.”

This Mona Lisa for the 21st century – although it will later transpire that time is not of the essence in the House of the Nobleman exhibition – is a recognisably intimate version of its predecessor. Same scale, same pose, same serenity, different detail. On closer inspection the painting is actually a medley of motifs found across Leonardo da Vinci’s oeuvre. The trees to the left are from his Annunciation; the trees to the right, The Virgin and St Anne; the shoulder ribbons from La Belle Ferronnière, and so on. He condenses Leonardo’s artistic output into a single enigma. It’s conceptual without being conceptualist.

Wolfe reveals he chose the Renaissance as a platform for experimentation because it was an age when artists attempted to root the making of art in a mathematical and aesthetically programmable formula. He renders his pencil and oil studies with a careful craftsmanship that seeks to replicate the original conditions and painting practices of Renaissance artists. It’s an exploration of the possibility of algebraic multiplication in reverse, drilling down an aesthetic object to its essential numbers. And onwards, to its prime number. Wolfe presents a Wittgensteinesque proposition that an artwork requires no further description to be in and of itself.

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz House of the Nobleman @ Lavender's Blue

“These works represent a nonlinear flattening of history,” he relates. “They’re inspired by centuries of art… Botticelli, Michelangelo, Bruegel, Stubbs, Riley, Hirst. Why not Rupert Bear too? Inspiration doesn’t always have to be highbrow art or even art! On the surface, Wolfe transfixes and seduces us with his rare technical ability. Dig deeper beyond his respectful grasp of iconography. Yes, he succeeds in reviving the algebra of art, liberating it from the confines of history to a newness of meaning. In this way, Wolfe’s latest works question the notions of resolution and finish while maintaining the utmost respect for his forebears.

*wherever there’s design there’s Lavender’s Blue

House of the Nobleman © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hotels Luxury

Il Bottaccio + Il Bottaccio London

Classical Order 

Ill Bottaccio ballroom © Stuart Blakley

One is a five star Relais and Chateaux hotel in the rural idyll of Montignoso. The other is a luxury club in an Italianate mansion overlooking the gardens of Buckingham Palace. It’s time to go clubbing with Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian ambassador. We’re off to Il Bottaccio, place of the gathering of the waters. And the great and the good. Ascending the concentric marble staircase, the nine celestial spheres of heaven await a toast to Tuscan excellence.

A gentle breeze floats through the piano nobile ballroom, curtains fluttering out French doors open to the setting sun. Nino Mosca, Executive Chef of Il Bottaccio, is our gastronomic guide for the evening. Villa Mangiacane Winery supplies the Chianti. This 15th century villa is 10 miles from Florence and was built by the Machiavelli family, who presumably had a black sheep relative. Sheep’s cheese infused with wild artichoke comes from Lischeto Farm outside Volterra.

Lischeto Farm also produces extra virgin extra oil. Fabrizio Filippi, President of the Consortium of Tuscan Extra Virgin Oil, explains, “Tuscany is the perfect region for producing excellent quality extra virgin oil thanks to its landscape, climatic and environmental conditions, history and culture. The olive varieties, the cultivation techniques and the harvesting of the olives at the optimum moment all contribute to creating an incomparable product with a distinguished flavour.” Paradiso!

Chef Nino Mosca & Architect Ed Bucknall © Stuart Blakley