23 de Fevereiro de 2003


The Monkey House

Fernando Bengoechea for The New York Times


The singerie in Munkebakken consists of 16 panels painted by Rui Paes.


ntil the 17th century, if you saw a monkey decorating the border of a medieval missal or swinging from a branch in a Florentine fresco, he was there to parody the baser side of human nature. Then, in the late 17th century, the artist Jean Berain promoted Sir Monkey from his lowly status. Suddenly he became playful; he dressed in elegant clothes; he discovered a talent for music, juggling, dancing and looking terrific on a ribboned swing.

Berain did rather well with his singeries, as his monkey decorations were termed, being appointed Dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi by Louis XIV in 1674. Perhaps the masterwork in the style was the little boudoir at the Chateau de Chantilly. Here, the antics of some extremely cheeky monkeys were depicted in a park that bore a close resemblance to Chantilly. Four of these enchanting panels celebrated the four seasons and their typical pastimes, a motif that other chateau owners adopted in their own singeries, which were installed in drawing rooms, libraries and hallways.

But the fashion for singerie was fairly short-lived; by the mid-18th century, shells or rocaille became the mode, and the Rococo movement was born. And so monkey matters rested, give or take a tableau or two, until recently, when the singerie again appeared on fashion's radar thanks to a talented Portuguese trompe l'oeil artist named Rui Paes.

One of Paes's solo commissions (he often works with the muralist Graham Rust) was an entire singerie room for a historic house called Munkebakken, built by the architect Arnstein Arneberg in Lysaker, a 19th-century artists' colony just outside Oslo. The present owners commissioned 16 panels, resulting in a triumph of monkey business. Monkeys walk tightropes in ruffs and frills; they play lutes; they do handstands, balancing parasols and playing the harp upside down. At Munkebakken, Paes has recreated a charming, if quirky, moment in the history of fashionable decoration without it looking like pastiche. Quelle singerie!

NOTA - Para quem não sabe, Rui Paes ou Rui Andrade Paes é natural de Pemba, filho da nossa consagrada poetisa Glória de Sant'Anna e do saudoso arquiteto Andrade Paes, e irmão de Andrea Andrade Paes, Inez Andrade Paes, Ingrid A. Paes,  Afonso A. Paes.