Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Places We Love: Villa d’Arte

We discovered the most wonderful place this summer during our travels to France and Italy: The Villa d’Arte in Mortola, Italy, just across the French-Italian border near Menton.

Nestled into a hillside village in Mortola Superiore, reminiscent of the village scenes in the film “Mama Mia!”, Villa d’Arte is an outdoor art studio and BandB run by the lovely and beautiful owner-artist Nicole Durand. It is a place of tranquility and inspiration where you can learn to carve stone, paint, make mosaics, model clay, draw or just take in the incredible view of the Mediterranean Sea that awaits you there.

Walking up to the studio.

Juliette, Jean-Marc and Nicole at work.
Nicole and Jean-Marc.
The outdoor studio sits on the highest point on the property, where artists work under fig trees, olive trees and a covered area for the stone carvers – the view is stunning! The surrounding bougainvilleas, lemon trees and lush Mediterranean flora tower proudly above the Mediterranean Sea – the perfect backdrop for creativity. The sound of cicadas, seagulls and nearby church bells make for an incredibly peaceful setting indeed.

Lunches are potluck style, served under an oversized umbrella, a place that seems to attract a permanent, delectable summer breeze. Morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea are all shared here throughout the day. 

Hungry artists!

Maura and Paul taking a much needed break after a morning of stone carving. 
You can schedule your lessons as you like – some stay for a day, some have pieces they work on year round and they come when they can. Some people come for a week or 2 or 3… Nicole offers lessons year round, workshops in July and September, but takes a break in August when she focuses on the BandB and the visitors it harbors from all over the world. She also organizes annual stone carving workshops in Greece that sound amazing!

The lucky artistes that stay and work for a week or more are enchanted – not just by the idyllic locale and excellent instruction they get from Nicole, but also by the excursions she takes them on to complement the art lessons and provide further inspiration. Nearby villages offer beautiful landscapes to draw or paint, world renowned exhibits in Monaco – just a short drive from Mortola – are a treat and nearby Menton and Ventimiglia have much to see as well.


“Hanging Heart” by Jeff Koon at ArtLovers exhibit in Monaco.

Stone carving takes center stage, as Nicole is a reputable and successful stone carver – her art has been sold worldwide, particularly in the US where she lived and worked for several years. Everyone learns to carve stone and we were amazed by the quality of the instruction and the results. 

Juliette contemplates her sculpture.

Jean-Marc joins in.

Nicole demonstrates.

Torso taking shape!
Finished product – nice work!

Grazie mille Villa d’Arte! Thank you for an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experience, fond memories and wonderful new friendships. We will be back!

Check out Nicole and her BandB at

Villa d’Arte
29 Via Moretti
18039 Mortola Superiore, Italy
Villa d’arte on FaceBook
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 07:41:00 PM
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Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Symbols in Turkish Rugs

Here at Jean-Marc Fray Antiques, we have recently acquired a wonderful selection of Turkish rugs in a variety of sizes, styles, and motifs. The beautiful motifs not only have aesthetic value; many also carry strong symbolic meaning. Interpreting these symbols is an art in and of itself!

Below are two charts illustrating a few of these symbols in their various, stylized forms (Blakeney).

In addition to these motifs, the borders of Turkish rugs often include representations of numbers. “Numbers like 3,5,7,9 etc. are usually regarded to be sacred . . . 3 symbolizes earth, sky, water, holiness, productivity, fertility and so on. 5 means of five fingers of the hand or five prayers in a day. 7 symbolizes seven levels of the sky” (Sultan Carpet).

Other motifs include the zip-zag, the eight-pointed star, the phoenix, the arrow, the goose foot, the dragon, the pomegranate, and the triangle. Colors are important in Turkish carpets as well, often with meanings that run counter to those in the west. For example, white represents mourning and orange represents tenderness. (Sultan Carpet)

Evidence for the use of these motifs in Turkey extends all the way back to the Neolithic period. Patterns found in wall paintings uncovered at the famous site of Çatalhöyük are often similar to the patterns found on the rugs we are familiar with today. “Some of their [Çatalhöyük’s] designs were linear or geometric, resembling designs commonly used by weavers . . . because of the similarity of these designs to those of traditional Turkish kilims (flat-woven rugs), the people of Çatalhöyük may have woven kilims” (Redman, Rise of Civilization).

The rugs we are now showcasing in our gallery are in a variety of Turkish regional styles. One type of rug comes from the city of Konya, known for its geometric patterns. 

Konya rug. Available at our gallery.

Another comes from the city of Oushak (or Uşak) — the most popular style during the Ottoman Period.

Oushak rug. Available at our gallery.

Oushak rug. Available at our gallery.

A third type originates from the city of Kars, which is know for its coarser weaving and, like Konya, its geometric patterns.

Kars rug. Available at our gallery.

The fourth type we are showcasing comes from the city of Sivas, whose patterns are based on classic Persian designs and which tend to have muted, pastel colors.

Sivas rug. Available at our gallery.

While many Turkish rugs created in the twentieth century use these traditional patterns, other incorporate more “modern” elements, including European Art Deco motifs.

Turkish Deco rug. Available at our gallery.

Stop by the gallery to see our Turkish rug selection and find the perfect piece for your space!

Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 09:41:00 PM
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