Philip Hewat-Jaboor on the allure of peonies and losing sleep over a lion’s head
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My personal style signifier is a purple or lilac tie by Charvet. I’ve worn knitted ties all my life and theirs are the most beautiful. From £145; mrporter.com.
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of cufflinks made with rare black Egyptian porphyry. I gathered the tiny stones myself in the desert last year and the jewellers at Verdura have transformed them, following one of Fulco di Verdura’s original designs. verdura.com.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is an extraordinary second-century Egyptian porphyry lion’s head. I saw a photograph of it when I visited the Alessandra Di Castro Antichità gallery, and it’s giving me sleepless nights. alessandradicastro.com.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is John Robert Cozens – and the watercolours commissioned by the 18th-century novelist and art collector William Beckford to be specific. Cozens painted these views in Beckford’s language, so they are poetic, dramatic and absolutely ravishing. The bulk of them are at the Whitworth Art Gallery, but they do occasionally come up for sale. Whitworth Art Gallery, whitworth.manchester.ac.uk.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was my first Cad & The Dandy suit, made in the most beautiful, subtle, lilac-striped Loro Piana fabric. My life-long tailor, Dave Rose, retired recently so I’d been looking for somewhere new. It is smart, modern and run by a young staff who know their tailoring inside-out. Two‑piece suits from £1,000; cadandthedandy.co.uk.
An object I would never part with is a pair of leather-bound vellum albums containing eccentrically shaped slices of rare coloured marbles and stones. They were assembled in the late 1690s by Monsignor Leone Strozzi, the collector and connoisseur of hardstones. I bought them at auction 28 years ago and they are the focus that holds my stone and marble collection together.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose St James’s in London. It has everything I need in terms of shopping and eating and is only a hop and a skip from St James’s Park. My favourite places are Berry Bros & Rudd; David Gill Gallery for design; and the perfumery Santa Maria Novella. Then there’s Truefitt & Hill, the barber where I’ve been having my hair cut forever and a day, and Le Caprice, which I think of as my local café. I know everyone so well, it feels like home. Berry Bros & Rudd, bbr.com. David Gill Gallery, davidgillgallery.com. Le Caprice, le-caprice.co.uk. Santa Maria Novella, smnovella.com. Truefitt & Hill, truefittandhill.co.uk.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Old Masters Rock: How to Look at Art with Children by the dealer and European painting specialist Maria-Christina Sayn‑Wittgenstein Nottebohm. Although it was written for her son, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the arts.
The best gift I’ve received recently was an oil painting of a vase of peonies by Paul César Helleu. I have a passion for peonies and this appeared as a gift from my great friend [the art dealer] Lady Jane Abdy after her death. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever been given.
An indulgence I would never forgo is either my garden in Jersey – a true indulgence, as it’s looked after by someone else and I am only there for half the year – or my 1997 Bentley Azure, which I am wildly in love with.
My favourite website is Factum-arte.com, a business that specialises in 3D printing for architectural conservation.
My style icon is my late uncle, Sir William Aykroyd, who ran Hardy Amies for a time and had an immaculate dress sense. He wore impeccably tailored, slightly edgy suits and smoked John Player cigarettes in a long black Cartier cigarette holder.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a beautiful 19th-century Japanese lacquer box. It was a lovely, fortuitous discovery in a small antique shop in Nara – sadly I don’t remember its name – and it now has pride of place in my drawing room.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Clay, a very small and beautiful farm-to-table restaurant in the middle of Harlem. I ate combinations I wouldn’t have expected, such as pork belly with fermented cabbage followed by gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, corn and maitake mushrooms. claynyc.com.
An unforgettable place I have travelled to in the past year is Mons Porphyrites in Gebel Abu Dukhan. It was the 2,000th anniversary of the Roman discovery of these quarries in the Egyptian desert, and I slept under the stars in a remote camp outside the Temple of Serapis. It was an incredibly special experience. In my fridge, you will always find Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne, which is rich but light and made entirely from Chardonnay grapes; potted shrimps from Baxter’s in Morecambe; and Edouard Artzner’s foie gras d’oie from the wonderful Relish deli in St Helier. Baxter’s potted shrimp, £25 for 6 x 50g cartons; baxterspottedshrimps.co.uk. Foie gras d’oie, €25.75 for 145g; edouard-artzner.com. Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, from £60; champagnedirect.co.uk.
The person I rely on for personal grooming and wellbeing is my Alexander technique practitioner, Helen Cartier-Knox. I see her once a month to ensure I grow old gracefully. £48 per session; alexandertechnique.co.uk.
The grooming staples I am never without are my Guerlain Vétiver eau de toilette, which is distinctive without being overpowering; Santa Maria Novella shaving foam because it’s the most luxurious, foamy foam that allows for a terrific shave; and Dr Schrammek’s Skin Elixier, with extract of stinging nettles, as it makes my skin look fresh and perky. Dr Schrammek Skin Elixier, £48 for 30ml; drschrammek.co.uk. Guerlain Vétiver, from £55; guerlain.com. Santa Maria Novella shaving foam, €20; smnovella.com.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a colour photograph of the Room of the Greek Cross at the Vatican, to my partner [the milliner] Rod Keenan, for his study. It’s by Massimo Listri, who takes these precise, unbelievably clear photographs and, rather selfishly, I chose it because two of the main antiquities in the room are ancient Egyptian porphyry sarcophagi. massimolistri.com.
The last music I bought was Philippe Jaroussky’s spectrally beautiful recording of Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus.
If I didn’t live in Jersey, the city I would live in is Rome, because it is so vibrant; the food is marvellous – Ristorante Piperno serves the best stuffed artichokes in the city – and every church is filled with fascinating materials. The Lateran Baptistry, the oldest in the world, and the Baroque Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi are favourites, and I’ve recently discovered the Mirabilia Art Gallery, which is full of unexpected stuffed objects and stones – it’s like a medieval kunstkammer [cabinet of curiosities]. Battistero Lateranense, battisterolateranense.it. Mirabilia, +3933-8247 8570. Ristorante Piperno, ristorantepiperno.it. Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi, Via dei Portoghesi 2, 00186 Rome.
My favourite room in my house is my library-cum-gallery. Almost fully buried in the hillside adjacent to the house, it has a sloping copper roof and an amazing floor inlaid with coloured stones and contains my collections of reference books and coloured-stone objects.
If I weren’t doing what I do now, I would be a hotelier because, like the art world, it’s all about delighting the senses with enticing, exciting environments.