Singerie

Jeff Koons’ take on a singerie

Jeff Koons’ take on a singerie

If you are going to walk the walk, you should talk the talk. 

What is a singerie?

Singerie: Derived from the French word for “monkey tricks.” A monkey mimicking human behavior, often with satire, used as a decorative motif.  Typically the monkey is fashionably dressed.  

Then and now

Singeries were popular decorations during the French  rococo period, but they have been used since the late 18th dynasty of Egypt.   The most famous rooms decorated with singeries are called (fittingly) La Grande Singerie and the La Petite Singerie, located in France’s Chateau de Chantilly.  French artist Christophe Huet created them in the 18th century.

Detail from the Le Grande Singerie

Detail from the Le Grande Singerie

Le Grande Singerie by Christopher Huet for the Chateau de Chantilly in France

Le Grande Singerie by Christopher Huet for the Chateau de Chantilly in France

Other famous singeries include those found on the walls of the Monkey Island Hotel in England.

Etching from the Monkey Island Hotel

Etching from the Monkey Island Hotel

Andieu de Clermont’s decorative ceiling of the Monkey Room at Monkey Island Hotel. It was completed in 1738 on Monkey Island in Bray-on-Thames, England.

Andieu de Clermont’s decorative ceiling of the Monkey Room at Monkey Island Hotel. It was completed in 1738 on Monkey Island in Bray-on-Thames, England.

Meissen’s fanciful Monkey Orchestra, first created in 1753 by Johann Joachim Kaendler, also is iconic.

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Additionally, singeries were in vogue during the Jazz Age.  They graced the walls of speakeasies, including Manhattan’s Monkey Bar.

The singerie motif remains popular today. In 2009,  as part of a restoration, Edward Sorel created a new mural at the Monkey Bar  with famous Jazz Age celebs and monkey waiters.

Detail from Edward Sorel’s mural at Manhattan’s Monkey Bar

Detail from Edward Sorel’s mural at Manhattan’s Monkey Bar

Personally, I love the monkey mural  at the Inn at Little Washington (I wrote all about the Inn here) where I have celebrated many happy occasions, including my 30th birthday and first wedding anniversary.

Singeries at the Inn at Little Washington

Singeries at the Inn at Little Washington

Get the look

Wallpaper is an easy way to get the  singerie look.  Schumacher, Cole & Son and De Gournay all have fine examples.

Tree space divider by Eero Aarnio

Tree space divider by Eero Aarnio

Another way to bring a singerie into your home is with home accessories.  Little monkeys don’t always have to be scampering along your walls.  Consider adding these simians.

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My favorite singerie with all of the 3 C’s: (chic, cheap and cheerful) remains the monkey spray painted by Christian May!   Do you have any monkey tricks up your sleeve? Do share.

Photo Credits:  Detail La Grande Singerie   Etching Monkey Island Hotel NYC Monkey Bar   Wallpaper clockwise:DeGournay Deco MonkeysCole & Sons Fornasetti  Frutto Proibito available through Lee Jofa, Schumacher Singeries porcelain  Shopping: 1. 2. 3. 4.   The Inn at Little Washington photos, my own.