Sunday, July 21, 2013


Two years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a 1st Century Roman dinner at the J. Paul Getty Villa in Malibu. It was outstanding, the food, the presentation, the ambiance were amazing. I blogged about it at the time, it can be seen among my most viewed blogs on the right. This summer the Getty repeated the concept, this time with a 4th Century B.C. Sicilian meal. The fresh sourdough barley and wheat rolls were excellent, with a slight sweat taste. The roasted chickpeas above, seasoned with honey, dill seed, and coriander seed, were surprisingly delicious.

Some of history's most celebrated chefs came from Sicily and performance a la Gordon Ramsey was part of the culinary experience. Yesterday evening's menu was inspired by Archestratus of Gela, active about 350 B.C. The first course consisted of  "Archestratus's Delight" a trio of fresh fish dishes; seared tune batons coated in cumin and sea salt with balmer of mackerel, garlic and vinegar, sea bass fillet coated in paste of goat cheese with Parthean asafoetida and vinegar and finally swordfish marinated in olive oil with fresh oregano and wrapped in a fig leaf. The tuna and sea bass were excellent, the swordfish a bit dry and bland.

The main course was a roast duck in Erasistratus's hyposphagma of cumin, asafoetida, honey, salt, creme fraiche and fresh herbs. Unfortunately the consensus at our table was that it was much too salty. Fresh warm broad beans were served with oinogaron dressing as a side dish, as well as a standard green salad, however with sweet boiled grape juice and fish sauce.

The dessert was Plakous, a honey-coated cheesecake with yogurt garnish. Again, no raves from our table, it was too dry, where was the cheese? The wines served were from Sicily. The red Alcesti Nero D'Avola 2010 was quite pleasant and went well with the evening's dishes. The white Alcesti Ninfea 2010 which I did not taste, seemed less popular.

Chef and Food Historian Sally Grainger had created the evening's menu.

The evening's highlight for me was being able to stroll the Villa's  Peristyle Garden at night during full moon. It was magical.

 The party is over, the tables are empty, the guests are gone. My tired husband patiently waiting for me to return from my moonlight stroll!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


 It has been a great honor and a huge pleasure to design a window for Tufenkian Carpets at the La Cienega Design Quarter Legends event. The theme is "Time Capsule, the Past, Present and Future of Design". In my opinion Tony Duquette, the legendary Los Angeles designer, perfectly represents this theme. Hutton Wilkinson, president of  Tony Duquette Studio, has been an invaluable help by opening Dawnridge, Tony's Beverly Hills estate, his warehouse and fabrics designed by him for Jim Thompson Silks to me.
The window is huge, 37' wide, so I created vignettes representing each three phases. Above and below is Past, with a Tony Duquette Original green velvet sofa and coral table lamps, all circa 1950. The photo above the sofa is by Tim Street-Porter, the floor lamp by Tony Duquette for Remains Lighting.

The velvet covered chairs are reproductions of ones Tony owned, originally from a Venetian Palazzo. The red accent pillow is by OCARINE.

These are "Jewels for the Garden". They create a unique glow of shimmering gold at night. The area rug is Tufenkian.

This vignette, representing Present, shows furniture designed by Tony Duquette for Baker Furniture; the Biomorphic Console, the floor lamp, the pair of table lamps and the Insect Man. The glass pagoda is a Tony Duquette original.The black mirrored screen is my design, the area rugs by Tufenkian Carpets.

The Future is represented by Tony's "Phoenix Rising from its Flames" and the Crystal ball from Crystalarium.
Undoubtedly Tony Duquette will continue inspiring future generations keeping his magic spell alive.

The window is located at 501 North La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles. It is one block south of Melrose, on the west side of the street. It will be up for viewing until May 20. All photos are by Alexander Vertikoff.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I recently returned from a two week cruise to the Hawaiian islands. The highlight of the trip, without a doubt, was a visit to Doris Duke's Shangri-La in Honolulu. The philanthropist, art collector and  "richest girl in the world" fell in love with Islamic art during her honeymoon trip to Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and India in 1936. The final stop on the honeymoon was in Hawaii where the newly weds spent four months. They so enjoyed the easy, casual lifestyle of the islands that they decided to build a home there. They made further trips to the Middle East and Morocco adding to the collection of Islamic art started on the honeymoon.
Doris had hired Marion Sims Wyeth to design the house but was very involved in the design, collecting ideas on her travels. The understated exterior of the house belies the colorful, opulent interior. The two eighteenth century camels are from China.

In her will she established the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art which owns and manages the site and collections. The tours of the site are organized by the Honolulu Museum of Art. No photography was allowed inside, but the museum has an excellent website of Shangri-La.

The door is nineteenth century, probably from Cairo, Egypt. The calligraphy on the door is from the Qur'an:
" Enter them in health, secure.God the magnificent has spoken the truth."

 Exterior of the main building.

  The Mughal Garden.
 The Pool with the Playhouse, with the Diamond Head on the back ground.

On a tiled patio outside the living room with husband Ted.

Some of the tile work.

Monday, February 4, 2013


What an unforgettable evening Saturday at Los Angeles' Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The highlight was the Joffrey Ballet's performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The ballet was first performed in Paris in May of 1913 causing a riot in the audience. I will not get into the avant-garde pagan like music and choreography which changed both art forms for ever.  Youtube has a wonderful video in three parts of the entire ballet by Fatova Mingus of Joffrey's 1987 recreation of the Nijinsky choreography which was believed to have been lost. Photo by Herbert Migdoll

Just as dazzling as the music and the choreography were the costumes, designed by Nicholas Roerich for the 1913 production. Photo by Herbert Migdoll

The above original Nicholas Roerich costume is from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Just imagine the impact of all that color on the audience used to white tutus!

Above are members of the original 1913 the Ballets Russes cast back stage. Photo Private Collection/Roger-Viollet, Paris/The Bridgeman Library

"The Chosen One" performing her sacrificial dance to death so that the spring may return.
Photo by Herbert Migdoll

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Cleopatra, The Exhibition, at the California ScienCenter in Los Angeles is winding down after a very successful run. I was fortunate to get tickets for last Thursday, apparently the last days are sold out, even the gift shop had hardly anything left and there were no exhibition catalogs.

The exhibition is titled Cleopatra, even though there are no statues of her or any items that had belonged to her. The Romans destroyed everything pertaining to her after her defeat. There is one papyrus roll that she signed, in Greek, and is touted as an item touched by her hands. However, it is a very informative exhibition, the objects on view date from her lifetime, or around it, give or take a few centuries. The statue above is a statue of a queen, 3rd c. B.C. The masterful carving of the statue, the style of clothing and the type of knot on the shawl are details associated with Aphrodite.

There were coins, however, depicting her. The bronze coin above dates from her reign (51-30 B.C.)
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death. They spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian. Cleopatra, however, learned to speak Egyptian, one of the seven languages she spoke. Apparently she was not the ravishing beauty she has been depicted in more recent art and literature but seduced men, Caesar and Mark Antony among them, with her charm and intelligence.

Above is one of two sphinxes that guarded the temple of Isis at Cleopatra's palace. The head of this one resembles Cleopatra's father, King Ptolemy XII, who was also known as Auletes, "the flute player".

 Above is a Hemhem crown,  a triple rush crown set on spiraling ram's horns with a cobra in the middle.
Hemhem means "scream" or a "war cry".

One of the more striking statues is this one of Sarapis. He was a Ptolemaic invention, merging both Egyptian and Greek gods. The statue is from Canopus. Pilgrims traveled there from across the Mediterranean and spent the night sleeping outside Sarapis' temple, the Sarapeum, searching cures which were revealed in dreams interpreted by priests in the morning.

The immense wealth of the Egyptian pharaohs inspired awe and envy throughout the ancient world. As pharaoh, Cleopatra received a percentage of the assets of her subjects. Her lifestyle was opulent and luxurious. She ate and drank from plates and goblets made of pure gold, dressed herself in finest silks and adorned herself with magnificent jewelry, perhaps similar to the ones seen above and below.

Gold Bracelet with Lion Heads, 3rd c. B.C. Found at Bubastis, eastern Nile Delta, 1905.

Shown were also utilitarian items, such as the bronze ewer and the incense vessel, both from the Ptolemaic Period.

What a charming expression on this Gilded Mask. It is gypsum, glass, gold and limestone, 1st c. A.D.

The only description on this object was "Osiris-Canopus, Marble, 1st-2nd c. A.D., Canopus".
Osiris was the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.
I liked it's reflections on the back wall. The exhibition was very crowded , the light level very low and it was virtually impossible to get decent pictures. Photography was allowed, without flash.

This Piece of Statue in granite from the Roman Period is a favorite of mine. I love the serenity and dignity of his expression.

This figure shows a Ptolemaic royal standing in a pose commonly seen in ancient Egyptian sculpture.
Interesting that the wall paintings and hieroglyphics show figures with head and legs from profile and the the torso from front, in very stylized, stiff postures but the statues are very realistic.

Cleopatra's palace was situated on Antirrhodus island in the great port of Alexandria. This statue of a temple priest with a jar representing the god Osiris stood before the temple of Isis at the palace. 

The exhibition certainly revived my interest in ancient Egypt and it's art and culture. Now I can't wait to go there.