February 12th, 2021

French Club interior then and now (1936 vs. 2021)

Here is the Jasmine Room – located and photographed by Shanghai Sammy – where this 1936 photo was taken:

The elegant glazed doors at the end of the room have been sealed and turned into a wall; the extensive carpet covers the fine parquet (or its long-time absence). One wonders whether the original wall designs have been scraped off first or simply painted over? The old geometric patterns might look dated now, but so does the modern whipped-cream frill on the top edge of the wall panels – completely out of style, out of place and out of scale.

Surprisingly, the vase reliefs are still there, above the pilasters, repainted white and yellow gold, naively separating the drapery from the vases. The tedious beige+bordeaux color scheme suggests litle beyond an expensive banquet. Gone is subtle distinction between "green gold" and "multicolored gold," together with the "intricate shades of the greenish blue" and "most intriguing shades of red" that used to suprprise the visitors to the French Club...

Real or fake? French Club Caryatides on the columns (1926 vs. 2019)

Image © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. Blog link.

I'm inclined to think the Caryatides (Atlandidae) we find in the former French Club are original, but the thick coat of paint makes the relief less defined. They don't make such exact replicas in Shanghai: even the specially matched floor tiles in the foyer look visibly different from the original ones.

What intrigues me even more is whether these the work of Valentin Shabaeff-Firsoff.