The Aesthete: Manfredi della Gherardesca talks personal taste

The art adviser and interior designer is inspired by the colours of Jaipur, the charm of Madrileños and “the art world’s Bryan Ferry”. Portrait by Jooney Woodward

Manfredi della Gherardesca at home in London
Manfredi della Gherardesca at home in London | Image: Jooney Woodward

My personal style signifiers are hard to pinpoint, given that I’ve worn just about everything. I suppose those closest to me would recognise me in a simple blazer and a pair of grey covercoat [twill] trousers.

Della Gherardesca’s 8ft model of the Qutub Minar
Della Gherardesca’s 8ft model of the Qutub Minar | Image: Jooney Woodward

The last thing I bought and loved was an 8ft-tall 19th-century wooden architectural model of the Qutub Minar in New Delhi. I bought it at Christie’s, having known the past two owners, Canadian collector David Graham and taste arbiter Christopher Gibbs, for 30 years. I am proud to be the next custodian of this marvellous object. christies.com.

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And the things I’m eyeing next are a 16th-century Urbino majolica polychrome figurine for my collection, and a glass vase by Giberto Arrivabene, inspired by the work of Lucio Fontana, that was exhibited at Ca’ Pesaro in Venice. giberto.it.

An Urbino majolica figurine
An Urbino majolica figurine | Image: Getty images

An object I would never part with is a 1976 Ed Ruscha work on paper, Just an Average Guy, which was a wedding present from the mother of my children. The irony is almost… well, it’s strong. I love the pop-art combination, his use of text and the California aspect. He is to art what Bryan Ferry is to music, which is to say one of the nicest people I have ever met. I love the work and I love the person.

Les Couilles du Chien on Golborne Road, a go-to shop for funky antiques
Les Couilles du Chien on Golborne Road, a go-to shop for funky antiques

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is cotton tablecloths and bedspreads from Jaipur. They are white with a white appliqué design – they’re not expensive or terribly special, but they’re all handmade, which I like. Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, Jaipur (anokhi.com).

At home in London, beside a Chesneys marble fireplace
At home in London, beside a Chesneys marble fireplace | Image: Jooney Woodward

The last thing I added to my wardrobe is a pinstriped suit cut by my Tuscan tailor, Florin Cristea, at Sartoria Morganti in Castagneto Carducci, my village on the coast. Arte E Moda di Cristea Florin & C, +390565-763 694.

White Châteauneuf-du-Pape
White Châteauneuf-du-Pape

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Golborne Road and Portobello Road in west London for all the small shops, mixed with the Portuguese cafés, the Moroccan food and a marché aux puces every Saturday. I like Universal Providers by Kokon To Zai for jewellery, fashion and decorative objects; Les Couilles du Chien for funky antiques; Pizza East Portobello for lunch; Lali for fashion; Bazar for antiques; and Warris Vianni & Co for good Indian textiles and cushions. Bazar, 020-8969 6262. lalishop.co.uk. lescouillesduchien.com. pizzaeast.com. universal-providers.com. warrisvianni.com.

A Chinese porcelain tea-leaf tray
A Chinese porcelain tea-leaf tray

The person I rely on for personal grooming is Robert Gillett at Atherton Cox in London, who has cut my hair for 29 years. I’m not a lotion or cream guy. From £35 for men’s restyle; athertoncox.co.uk.

Genesis by Sebastião Salgado
Genesis by Sebastião Salgado

My favourite room in my house in Castagneto Carducci is my bedroom, with trompe-l’oeil painted simulated 18th-century Chinese wallpaper and a large Italian gilded baldaquin [canopy] bed from the Louis XV period. The furniture is Tuscan 18th century. It has the most beautiful terracotta floor with a herringbone pattern and a vaulted ceiling. My favourite room in London is probably the living room. The original fireplace was lost, so I installed one from Chesneys – a contemporary take on an early-Victorian white marble original. I have some of my collection of Old Masters paintings on the walls, and the furniture includes a custom sofa inspired by Finn Juhl’s 1960s design; and a ceramic sculpture lamp by Georges Pelletier. The fabric for the curtains is from Tissus Tartares and the rug is Swedish, 1950s, by Barbro Nilsson. The room feels warm and cosy, but also fairly casual. chesneys.com.

Osteria del Tasso on the Guado al Tasso wine estate, Bolgheri
Osteria del Tasso on the Guado al Tasso wine estate, Bolgheri

The last music I downloaded was Shallow by Lady Gaga with Bradley Cooper, Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy and Berlioz’s Requiem, Op 5 by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Sir Colin Davis.

Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, from €75 for 30m
Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, from €75 for 30m | Image: Jooney Woodward

In my fridge you’ll always find Italian cold meats, double cream and a bottle of white wine – usually French and, if I’m lucky, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Le Braci by Sándor Márai
Le Braci by Sándor Márai

The best gift I’ve given recently was an 18th-century Chinese porcelain tea-leaf-pattern tray that I inherited, to my friend Antonio Monfreda – the supreme aesthete. It’s an overlapping green-pink-red-white pattern you would see in ceramic sales in New York at one time; the kind of thing collected by people like Bunny Mellon in the 1950s and ’60s. 

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And the best ones I’ve received recently are two books, Genesis and Africa, on the work of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. My son gave them to me; he has an incredible cinematic eye and may end up in film school. £60 each; taschen.com.

If I didn’t live in London and Tuscany, the city I would live in is Madrid. The Spanish are our happy cousins, pleasant and outgoing. I like Camisería Burgos for shirts; and Garoa Zugasti – if you went to a sale of the remains of [interior decorator and collector] Charles de Beistegui’s house, basically that’s what this place is. Then there’s Galería de Arte Travesía Cuatro and El Landó restaurant – it’s a time warp and totally delightful. For culture, the Museo Sorolla, Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas and the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. camiseriaburgos.com. esmadrid.com. mnartesdecorativas.mcu.es. patrimonionacional.es. travesiacuatro.com. zugasti.co.uk.

An indulgence I would never forgo is having friends to stay with me wherever I live. I grew up in a house that was very open to guests. It is an indulgence because entertaining means spending money, and I keep certain standards – but I like to make people’s lives pleasant, when I can, to create little nuggets of joy.

The grooming staple I’m never without is my eau de parfum, Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien: a traditional scent. I love it because everybody loves it on me. And I love the fact that I buy it in the 8ème in Paris – it’s specific to that city, a sort of ritual. From €75 for 30ml, goutalparis.com.

The books on my bedside table are The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, and Sándor Márai’s Le Braci [in Italian, translated from Hungarian] – it’s about a conversation that takes place over an evening. I’ve only just started it, but apparently it is a beautiful book.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Osteria del Tasso, on the Guado al Tasso wine estate in Bolgheri. I ate a tagliata of venison with rosemary and drank a delicious bottle of Bruciato, the red table wine of the same estate. Piero Antinori just opened this place last year and it’s chock-a-block every day – it’s fantastic. osteriadeltasso.com

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Caravaggio. Unfortunately, unobtainable.

My style icon is the late David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort, who was godfather to the mother of my children. David was incredibly good-looking; he was a master art dealer, a chairman of Marlborough Fine Art who sold Freuds and Rothkos like you and I wash our hands; and the way he kept [his family seat] Badminton – I know it intimately, as we used to rent a cottage on the estate – was impeccable. The only other person to my mind of that calibre is Charles March [11th Duke of Richmond], who is probably my living style icon. If my funds were much less limited, I’d want to be one of them – from all angles, really.

My favourite websites will never compare with my library, or ideas and leads from like-minded friends, which is what I rely on far more than the internet.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a psychoanalyst – something I have practised as an amateur most of my life – in order to understand my fellow humans.

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