J.W. Bergl: a Bohemian Muralist in Vienna

Garden murals by J.W. Bergl, Hofburg royal apartments, Vienna. photo by Lynne Rutter, 2007

During our recent trip to Vienna, I visited the Imperial Apartments of the Hofburg palace, and I was thrilled to find there, two small rooms with murals by the Bohemian artist Johann Wenzel Bergl (1718-1789). They are painted on canvas, with a secco-fresco style, and a look that reminds me of papier peint panoramique, applied to all the walls, including two or three jib doors, making these tiny rooms whole, charming worlds unto themselves.
As it turns out, photography is not permitted in the Hofburg, so shortly after taking the above picture, I was asked to leave.
I mean, really.
I attempted to console myself with a Schnitzel and a Carafe of Grüner Veltliner in the nearby Burggarten Café.

The very next day I went to Schönbrunn Palace, hoping to get another Look at the wonderful rooms of Bergl murals I has seen there a few years earlier. To my dismay, the Goëss Apartments as well as the other Bergl rooms, were all closed. I was told they are open only on special occasions and by appointment, and was directed to an Office where Appointments are made.
I should point out that this would not irritate me quite so much if there was a decent book on this painter's work available anywhere.

I screwed up my nerve and asked the management if they would be so kind as to open the rooms for me. This request was met with the usual calm Viennese disdain, which conveys a measure of blank shock at having been asked about something that is not allowed. Why on earth would anyone ask about something that is not allowed? Oh no, they told me. Es ist nicht erlaubt. I don't speak German, so I refrained from asking why.
Another day, Erling and I spent over an hour trying to gain entry to the Melk Stiftkeller in Vienna, which is reputedly adjacent to a chapel full of Bergl's paintings. More Grüner Veltliner at a nearby Restaurant was required to recover from our Failure.

detail of the Goess murals at Schönbrunn   photo by Lynne Rutter 2002

Did you think you were going to read all this and go away with no eye candy? Would I do that to you?
Fortunately, I have the photographs I took in December of 2002, when the apartments of the Crown Prince as well as the Goëss rooms of Schönbrunn were open for a display of international-themed Christmas Trees. 

detail of the Goess murals at Schönbrunn   photo by Lynne Rutter 2002

These murals were commissioned by the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, and were painted between 1768 and 1777 in an enfilade suite of rooms on the garden level of the Palace. The artist used drawings of original specimens of exotic fauna and flora brought back from Hapsburg-funded scientific expeditions. Schönbrunn has extensive gardens and at one time boasted the largest zoo in Europe.

detail of Bergl murals at Schönbrunn  photo by Lynne Rutter 2002

Shortly after the death of the Empress in 1780, the murals were covered over with wall-hangings, and not rediscovered until 1891. They remain in exceptional condition.

photographs by Lynne Rutter, 2002 Click on the images to see larger version.

J.W. Bergl was born September 23, 1718, in Königinhof, Bohemia. He was a student of the prominent painter Paul Troger, the artist who decorated the ceilings in the enormous library in the Benedictine Abbey at Melk. Bergl worked his entire career in Austria, and is best known for his bright- colored baroque trompe l'oeil murals, most notably those in Melk, and Schönbrunn.

Thank goodness I'm not the only one with a camera! See more of J.W. Bergl's work around the internet while we patiently wait for someone to write a book about this fantastic painter.

detail of Bergl mural at Melk by Harald Hartman via flickr.
Jib Door is in the glossary!




In addition to exploring Lacis, and while were in Berkeley anyway, Kathleen and I made a visit to Tail of the Yak on Saturday.
This has been one of my absolute favorite boutiques ever since 1982, when I lived across the street. Back then, I saved up my money to buy a pair of giant Thomas Mann hand earrings, (and of course,in those days, I only wore one of them at a time.)

<--- antique chinese hair combs

The boutique is filled with a gorgeous collection of antiques, textiles, glassware, ornamental paper goods, from all over the world, all with a decidedly French atmosphere. The work of local artists Anandamayi Arnold, Aimee Baldwin, and Lauren McIntosh has also contributed a fair amount to the aesthetic and look of Tail of the Yak, which has been an inspiration to designers and stylists (and other boutiques) all over the Bay Area.

<---Tail of the Yak window display featuring paper beetles and logs.

We made a stop at Bell'occhio on way back home, and found the log motif being repeated in their wood-grained walls and the sculpted "Woodsie" cake stands.

I picked up some absinthe spoons, which I hope to make more use of now that absinthe is legal, and more available than it has been.

Platial map "Francophilia" more things to do in San Francisco that make you miss Paris.
St George Spirits, Absinthe Verte is being distilled in Alameda
Bell'occhio 10 Brady St, San Francisco
Tail of the Yak 3632 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley

Needle Lace Exhibit at Lacis

17th Century Venetian Lace

Saturday Kathleen Crowley and I ventured to Berkeley to pick up corset supplies at one of my favorite places- Lacis, where one can get all those little necessities for costuming and beautiful living, like chatelaines, patterns for period clothing, corset busques, pewter clasps, bone knitting needles, and of course, lace....

While there I got a tour in their small but fabulous Lace Museum. The current exhibit features some outstanding hand made needle lace from the 16th-19th century, that rivals the lace collection I saw recently at the MAK in Vienna.

this exhibit displays incredible examples of European lace, with photo-enlargements of pattern details, as well as illustrations of how it was used in collars, sleeves, etc.

a spectacular lace fan, and detail of its pattern

click on the images to see larger images and more detail.


signs of life

false spring in the garden...

the crocuses are blooming!

seeing these little flowers pop up really cheered my week.


Gothic Ornament: Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés

elaborate borders in the nave
There are few surviving examples of true Gothic decorative painting. Most of what we can see now is the result of the appreciation and revival of romantic and antique styles during the 19th Century.
Fortunately in the case of Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, reputed to be the oldest church in Paris, there were significant amounts of original 13th and 14th century ornament to document, despite fires, the sacking of the church in 1789, and the ill use of the building during the next ten years which greatly damaged its interior.
detail of borders
The decorative painting as we see it now, was restored/recreated in 1845. It is remarkable how some of the oldest ornament looks the most modern. Those geometric borders (polka dots!) especially.
An interesting description of the history of this church can be found in this text of a 1921 guidebook.
While taking these photographs I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the priests in the church, who pointed out to me some of the better areas to photograph, and explained to me that the many blank areas of the interior had been scrubbed of its paint during more recent repairs. It is hoped that an interior restoration will be scheduled soon. 
photos by Lynne Rutter, 2007
click on images to view larger


midnight brownies!

step-by-step brownies from scratch.
super Midnight Brownies!
We want brownies but don't feel like leaving the house. So we find a fabulous recipe on the internets, and fortune smiles on us. All of the ingredients are in the kitchen; clearly, God wants us to have these brownies.
Ultimate brownie recipe from Carroll Pellegrinelli via


  • 8- 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
(We eliminated the nuts. Erling does not like nuts in desserts)
Preparation: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. [with a convection oven, this translates into 350 degrees] and  grease a 9 x 13" pan
melting the butter and baking chocolate

Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat; set aside.
Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes. 

The mixture will be fluffy and have peaks. it's worth having a kitchenaid for this step, even a very old one like mine.
This Kitchenaid  - how can anyone live without this thing?
Blend in flour and salt, and the chocolate mixture, until just mixed.  Pour into prepared pan.
tip: lightly "drop" the pan a few times to coax the bubbles out of the batter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. it's a good idea to check after about 25 minutes, to make sure the brownies are not over-baked.
how long must we wait?
pineapple hotpads.  so?

Cool before eating!


Art Deco Chinoiserie

What a gorgeous, romantic bedroom, recalling silver screen Hollywood glamour, bias cut silk lingerie, martinis and cigarette holders....
Interior Designer Paula McChesney, designed this Hollywood Regency master bedroom for the 2003 Coyote Point Decorators Showcase in an historic Hillsborough mansion.
An expert colorist, Paula was understandably concerned about the astroturf green carpet, which we had to keep. The rest of the room- well, it had some problems:
Before: a long rectangular room with green carpet, white walls and a low ceiling beveled on two sides, dueling chandeliers, and not-quite symmetrically placed anything.

The solution: don't fight with the carpet- go green! The walls were painted with Benjamin Moore "Harrisburg Green" HC-132. The ceiling was painted a custom mixed green-grey and the rest of the palette was kept limited.

We paneled the room with three levels of silver moulding, including each corner, and a picture rail which settled the question 'where does the ceiling start?' The moulding was gilt with aluminum leaf in advance at my studio.
chinoiserie mural detail
For the insets of the panels I painted Chinoiserie murals, using restrained doses of brilliant color. The panels focus attention into the center of each wall, creating the illusion of symmetry, and balancing the architecture. And it was also just darn pretty.

Paula furnished the room all in ivory, like a splendid Jen Harlow gown.

After the showcase ended, the paneling and the murals were installed in one of our client's homes.

I've been collaborating with Paula for over 12 years now. I think this was one of our most challenging and successful rooms.

room photo by David Duncan Livingston


Trompe l'oeil bas-relief

more ornament for the bank...

Schoenbrunn, Vienna: trompe l'oeil bas-relief and mouldings, circa 1750. This is painted into the curved corner a coved ceiling.

Detail showing brushwork.
There is the barest hint of rose and green in the shadows and highlights.

photos by Lynne Rutter 2007
click images to view larger

Gothic organ case

Strasbourg Cathedral: gothic organ case, circa 1385, with foliate ornament, carved ribs w/gold leaf.

Photo by Lynne Rutter 2007
click on image to view larger