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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The old mansion of Sélys-Longchamps | The Crown Plaza Hotel in Liège | 18th Century Chinoiserie | 17th and 18th Century Interiors

Crown Plaza Liège | Mansion Sélys-Longchamps

The old mansion of 
 The Crown Plaza Hotel, Liège (Belgium)
18th Century Chinoiserie and 17th and 18th Century Interiors 
This blogentry is about the old mansion of Sélys-Longchamps in the city og Liège in Belgium. After a thorough restoration, it is now  The Crown Plaza Hotel, and  is located in the historic heart of the city. Particularly beautiful 18th Century Chinoiserie and 17th and 18th Century Interiors and carvings make this a very special hotel.

Liège and The Don Bosco Institute

I do still remember the fantastic time I spent in Liège (Belgium) between 1986 and 1989. In this city I followed the ornament wood carving education in the well-known Don Bosco Institute, which is located on Rue des Wallons. 
I was living in a student apartment; one of the advantages is that in this way you get a lot to know about the insights of this great French-speaking Belgian city.

During my many educational walks through the streets of Liège, I got to know the city of Liège very well. 
I discovered a city with many faces, lively neighborhoods, charming; but also de casual Liège, with a fantastic architectural heritage and also the places not visited by the regular tourists.

The Mont Saint -Martin in Liège

When I speak about Liège, I hear often that it is a dirty, hectic city and that one would rather not visit it. But when you visit it, you could be very surprise, because Liège is much more than that. 
The Mont Saint—Martin is located in the western part of the old town, on the Rue du Mont Saint Martin, a street that runs parallel to the lower Boulevard de la Sauviniere in the 17th century, a bifurcation of the Meuse; but now it is one of the main arteries in the center of Liege. 
The hill of Publemont or “montagne publique” (which his name is actually thanks to a Benedictine Abbey that was built in the area in the 11th century), it was a kind of refuge, a place where people could escape and be saved from the flooding of the Meuse river.

In the 17th and the 18th centuries, the district was a patrician neighborhood, full of historic buildings and facades. The Saint-Martin is the landmark of the district, towering above the Boulevard de la Sauveniere. 
A Gothic church with beautiful interiors, like the sacristy. Very nice furniture, a large cupboard in Liege Regence style; all doors are decorated with religious trophies and beads. 

During my student days I knew that in some of these private building, located on the Mont Saint Martin, there were houses with beautiful interiors. 
I had in fact –at the beginning of my studies- bought the book ‘Meubles Styles et Decors entre Meuse et Rhin' a reference book written by Mr. Joseph Philippe, an important author. 
He was also an authority on the history of the city of Liège and the Liège furniture, an important art “connoisseur” whom I have met in person several times.
Back to that book. From the beautiful illustrated pictures you can recognize which buildings on the Mont Saint Martin have magnificent paneling, beautiful staircases and door, in a Liège style in their interiors; and you know that you would never get inside to appreciate that beauty. 
Once I was brave enough to ring the doorbell, it was at the Jowa Collection which was also located on Mont Saint Martin, it was probably –at that time- the most prestigious private collection of Liège furniture and 18th century art in Belgium. The door remained closed.

The two most striking buildings at the beginning of the Publemont are the mansion of “Hotel Selys de Longchamps” and “Les Comtes de Mean”; two extraordinary facades. 
The mansion “Le Selys Longchamp” the one we are interested in, the property of the noble family Sélys Longchamps. The most notorious member of this family is the Baroness Sybille Michéle Emilie de Sélys Longchamps, and if that does not ring the bell, she is the mother of Delphine Boël (who claims to be the illegitimate daughter of Albert II of Belgium).

The plastic look of an 18th century paneling. 

Detail of the polychrome wooden trumeau, Liège style
Now, almost 30 year later, two of these buildings have different functions and are included in a complex of buildings that houses the Crown Plaza Hotel. In the historical part of the ***** complex (the mansions of Les Comtes de Méan and Sélys Longchamps) you can find a restaurant, a banquet hall and a number of smaller rooms.

This 17th and 18th century rooms are heritage protected and are in a very good condition. What I wanted to say is that a number of rooms that I had the chance to visit –among others- are the rooms with the 18th century chinoiserie, that has being badly restored (in my opinion).

The wood paneling with ornaments in Regence style shows no depth and no shades. I personally feel that the whole work has a plastic appearance; everything is painted without souls and the ornaments in high gloss (see picture). 
Would the “expert” knew what he was doing or he just needed to spend the budget; or maybe even the architect who was trying to give a contemporary look to a historical interior that would fit better with the rest  of the hotel and in this way tried to print his personal stamp on the project. 
Who knows? I only know that the next generation(s) will again be annoyed trying to restore our contemporary trend and our mistakes; you could thing that we have learned anything since the 70’s, but apparently history repeats itself. 

Liege painted ornaments

Photo above: This is a detailed pictures of an ornament on a wooden trumeau (central pillar that supports the tympanum of a large doorway) (=chimney lining). This trumeau is located in one of the hallways on the 1st floor, its paintwork has no depth, no nuances and is extremely untidy, and there are little skills on the brush and little passion. I frown my eyebrows, thinking that this heritage is protected… 

Crown Plaza Liège -Luik, restaurant in the new building

Liège style ornaments

The mansion Sélys Longchamps. 
In the current number 9 of Mont Saint Martin,  better known as the Hotel de Sélys Longchamps (a listed building), which bears the title of “exceptional heritage of Wallonia”. In the middle of the 16th century, this exceptional property was inhabited for members of the illustrious family “de la Marck”(1472-1538).

During the mid-seventeenth century the mansion belonged to the Méan family, notably Francis Anthony, the last prince-bishop of Liege, who was ousted in 1794.

After several owners, Baron Maurice de Sélys Longchamps bought the mansion Les Comtes de Méan in 1910 that is why now bears his name. For 12 years the Baron and the architect Edmond Jamar developed a major restoration in which some of the already heavily damaged elements were replaced by copies with respect to its past, or architectural parts that came from old building from abroad.

Since 1960 and after the death of the Baron there has being a long works on the building and late it came into the hands of Axa Insurance, the City of Liege, the Compagnie des Eaux and finally, the property was  acquired by Royal Sélys Company that transformed the building into a 5-star hotel.

The mansion Les Comtes de Méan
At number 11 of Mont Saint Martin is located the mansión “Les Comtes de Méan”, which history was often confused with the history of its neighbor, the mansion Sélys Longchamps.
Constructed in a U-shaped, the architecture is based on a central core from the 15th century, which was gradually expanded and rebuilt and decorated in different style periods.
The most notable features that have been preserved are part of the south façade. This façade of bricks and limestone dated from 1620. This refers to its expansion.
The façade facing the street was decorated with two wings and embellished with pilasters an eclectic style. The interior of the building is worked nicely, including the construction of a remarkable ballroom, decorated in a neoclassical style. 

The staircase of the mansion Sélys Longchamps

Stairwell Sélys-Longchamps, 1st floor

The Crown Plaza Hotel in Liège.
Five years designing, building and renovating was the time it took to two architectural treasures that lie at the foot of Mont Saint Martin, facing the slopes of the Citadel, giving a new soul.
The Crown Plaza Hotel is located in the western part of Liège, above the Place Saint-Lambert, two striking buildings at the beginning of the Plubemont, adjacent to the mansions of Le Sélys Longchamps and Les Comtes Méan.

They were neglected for a long time, but now have been transformed into a hotel complex that is unique in the entire region.

On the website of the Crown Plaza Liège: A large architectural and economic success, made this place a unanimously acclaimed renovation, both in terms of heritage preservation and the quality of the work for its upgrade.

Crown Plaza Liège | 18-Century chinoiseries

“Le Sélys”, gastronomic restaurant.

On the ground floor of the olm mansion Sélys Longchamps is the gourmet restaurant “Le Sélys”. It has a separated entrance from the hotel and (like other rooms) is also open to customers not staying at the hotel.

Le Sélys counts inside with 40 seats and includes an aperitif room and two dining rooms, including the Lovinfosse lounge. This salon is named after the artist Pierre-Michel de Lavinfosse (1752-1821), painted on a canvas, 18th century chinoiserie, a very popular and trendy theme at that time, and even now, still very tasteful.

The entire wood paneling, interspersed with the chinoiseries stretched canvas is polychrome treated and gold plated, it is cut in Liege Regence Style. The restaurant also has a terrace facing the south, with more than 50 seats and offers a breathtaking view of the Ardent City of Liege. Three adjoining private rooms are also available for private meetings with a possible opportunity to consume something.

Text and pictures Patrick Damiaens  (2013)
Translation Lis Alvarado

Restaurant Le Sélys' in mansion Sélys Longchamps

Here are some images of these 17th and 18th century interiors.

An oak carved trumeau, Liège style

Liège style woodcarving and ornaments | Crown Plaza Liège

18th century Liège ornaments and chinoiseries by Lovinfosse

Liège style woodcarving

A beautiful rocaille motif in Liège style | Woodcarving

17th and 18th century Interiors


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