Julia Muggenburg talks personal taste: Part Two

The founder of Mayfair’s Belmacz gallery concludes her list of likes with Seville hotspots, rarefied chocolates and Gottfried Benn’s goosebump-inducing poetry

Julia Muggenburg at home in south-west London
Julia Muggenburg at home in south-west London | Image: Jude Edginton

My style icons areGreta Garbo and Pablo Picasso. They both loved the mackintosh, so they have that in common. Picasso was somebody who stood proud, whatever he was doing or wearing. He had a singular vision and liked to play with fashion in his many outfits as sailor, artist, political infiltrator. And I am fascinated by Greta Garbo’s combination of her cold, brittle exterior and her passion for colour in her private life – she loved Valentino pink and 1950s turquoise.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a bronze fig by sculptor Joel Tomlin to a friend for his birthday. He travels a lot and I thought he would like to have the perfect travelling sculpture, something small that can be with him in his luggage, but that he can take out whenever he sits and writes and thinks. In German we call it a Handschmeichler, which means “hand caresser”. You hold it and it’s the perfect fit. www.joeltomlin.co.uk.

Pierpont Morgan’s study at The Morgan Library & Museum
Pierpont Morgan’s study at The Morgan Library & Museum | Image: Graham Haber

And the best one I’ve received is a Victorian specimen ruler that a friend found in a shop in Suffolk. It’s made of combined cuts of semiprecious stones, each around 5mm. The colours are so me, the gold and agate with a bit of rust, and the black and the white like day and night. Snape Antiques & Collectors Centre, Bridge Road, Snape, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 1SR (01728-688 038; www.snapeantiquecollectorcentre.com).

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Sicily. I hadn’t been for 20 years and went back with my family; we were like gypsies, moving around from Palermo to Catania, Noto, Syracuse and Mordica. I felt deeply inspired by the abundance, variety and total sophistication of the architecture, and especially loved the Palazzo Abatellis, refurbished by my favourite architect Carlo Scarpa, who is a huge inspiration for my jewellery design. 4 Via Alloro, Palermo (+39091-623 0011).


An object I would never part with is my Max Jacob drawing of an abstracted bird – it looks incredibly unhappy, but I saw it and loved it. I bought it in 1998 and it was the first artwork I bought from a dealer, Simon Hilton. Previously all the art I owned had been swapped or given to me, and it was the beginning of establishing myself as a collector and somebody immersed in art. It was a foundation stone. Simon Hilton, Fleming Hill Farm, Common Lane, Dunmow, Essex CM6 2ES (01279-850 107).

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is antique Mediterranean coral from Venice, Tavallo and Trapani, which I collect whenever I go to Italy. It’s natural, sophisticated, charming and quite sexy – red and slightly glazed. I put the sculptural beads on gold chains and wear them as necklaces.

Muggenburg’s Victorian specimen ruler
Muggenburg’s Victorian specimen ruler

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Seville. I love the Museum of Fine Arts, with its paintings by Velázquez and Zurbarán, and the old town with the Alcázar and cathedral, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. El Caballo, an atelier by the bullring, has great leatherware, from saddles to shoes, and there’s also a wonderful restaurant just outside the city called Alhucemas, which I’ve heard is where Ferran Adrià goes to see how they deep-fry. I love Andalucía – it’s super-elegant and modest and people there live life fully. Alcázar de Sevilla, Patio de Banderas (+3495-450 2324; www.alcazarsevilla.org). Alhucemas, 4 Avenida del Polideportivo, 41800 Sanlúcar la Mayor (+3495-570 0929; www.restaurantealhucemas.es). Catedral de Sevilla, Avenida de la Constitución (+3495-209 9692; www.catedraldesevilla.es). El Caballo, 16 Calle Adriano (+3495-421 8127; www.elcaballo.com). Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla, 9 Plaza del Museo (+3495-554 2931; www.museodebellasartesdesevilla.es).

The books on my bedside table are Philip Guston’s Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations, Federico García Lorca’s Gypsy Ballads and the collected poems of Gottfried Benn. Guston was a great artist and thinker, Lorca was such a singular person and Benn is my favourite German poet, a doctor who wrote expressionist poems. He strips everything back and gives me goosebumps. I need to read German to stay in touch with my mother tongue.

Greta Garbo as Grusinskaya in the 1932 film Grand Hotel
Greta Garbo as Grusinskaya in the 1932 film Grand Hotel | Image: Getty Images

The people I rely on for personal grooming and wellbeing are Emma Earnshaw, who has just opened her minute, eccentric salon, The Flying Hare. I will let no one else near my hair; Emma has effortless style and looks after me wonderfully. I also do Pilates twice a week in South Kensington with Ellie Ioannidou, who I’ve been going to for 20 years. Body Control Pilates, 17 Queensberry Mews West, London SW7 (020-7589 1497; www.bcpilates.com). The Flying Hare, 2A Murray Street, London NW1.

My favourite room in my house is my dining room, because it combines the functional with the misty English light and is where friends come together. I don’t spend much time in there, so it’s like a holiday place. The walls are grey and there are wild bits of art, beautiful sculptures and also some Henri Gaudier-Brzeska drawings.

A bridge over the canal in Plaza de España, Seville
A bridge over the canal in Plaza de España, Seville | Image: Getty Images/Cultura RF

In my fridge you’ll always find Auer chocolates from Geneva: treats from a friend that are very luscious, incredibly rarefied and far too expensive. They are the real diamonds of Geneva; you only need one every three days. Also, fresh sauerkraut pickles, boquerones and as many Sicilian lemons as my fridge can fit. I am a lemon addict; I have them in water, suck them and drink the juice when sweet lemons are in season. Auer chocolates, from SFr29 (about £20), Rue de Rive 4, 1204 Genève (+4122-311 4286; www.chocolat-auer.ch).

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Mayfair, exactly where Belmacz is. There’s Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens for clothes; McQueens at Claridge’s for flowers; Taylor St Baristas for coffee; and a post office just at the end of the street. And there are copious wine shops for gifts – at Hedonism, I once found sparkling sake. Belmacz, 45 Davies Street (020-7629 7863; www.belmacz.com). Hedonism, 3-7 Davies Street (020-7290 7870; www.hedonism.co.uk). McQueens at Claridge’s, 49 Brook Street (020-7629 1508; www.claridges.co.uk/mcqueens). Rick Owens, 64 South Audley Street (020-7493 7145; www.rickowens.eu). Taylor St Baristas, 22 Brooks Mews (020-7629 3163; www.taylor-st.com). Vivienne Westwood, 6 Davies Street (020-7629 3757; www.viviennewestwood.com).


The artists whose work I would collect if I could are Matisse and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Matisse for his tranquillity, joy and calm, whether sculpture or works on paper; and Kirchner for his vigour and restlessness.  

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a librarian at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, in charge of the neo-Assyrian and Babylonian stone-engraved cylindrical seals. What I do now is extremely active – I move around between artists’ studios and goldsmiths’ workshops to dealers’ and clients’ homes – so the idea of being in a very protected, calm, monotonous environment, surrounded by things that are thousands of years old, would provide a total antidote, and one I would thrive on. I love nothing more than being surrounded by antiquities; it gives a totally different perspective. The Morgan Library & Museum,225 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (+1212-685 0008; www.themorgan.org).

Discover the personal style files of jewellery and accessories designer Lara Bohinc, or fine artist-turned-jeweller Theo Fennell.

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