Last year, while cleaning objects in Villa Finale, I occasionally ran into a problem that occurred mainly with the vases and vase-like vessels: there were remnants of Christmas greenery in the very bottom-most tips of these objects, evidence of USE. This was pretty exciting, because a lot of collectors don’t actually use their things. Mr. Mathis did. Even though it was very difficult to remove the stuff, despite the creation of several different forms of poking devices, I enjoyed knowing he had live greenery and flowers around at the holiday time.
Now that the holidays are here, I can only imagine the grand display Mr. Mathis must’ve had. I never saw it first hand, but I know that he purchased dozens of red poinsettia plants that he would pile in the kitchen to give away to his party guests and other friends and family. Also, hanging in the kitchen was this wreath made of hunting gear, including bullets and the prey, happy together!
Naturally, in proper Mr. Mathis form, sideboards and and other surfaces would have decorations in bowls and urns along with live greens and flowers set atop ribbon-festooned tables. One of the most amazing Christmas related things I catalogued was a group of Meissen figurines Mr. Mathis had artfully arranged in faux greenery. The little guys were all attached to the greens so all you have to do is take it out of its box and put it on a table. To the left is one of the fat little musicians. For his holiday parties, there was always plenty of food set up in the kitchen and on the dining room sideboards.
The piece de resistance was his tree, which was his own creation. It was comprised of a metal frame in which Mr. Mathis would stick Noble Fir branches to create a very long lean tree suitable for his center hall. Here is a picture of it circa 1975.
Later, when the large tree became too much trouble, he would place tabletop trees throughout the house.
On display on his dining table was his International Santa collection, which, along with 276 ornaments, we have already numbered and packed away carefully for the future when we attempt to replicate Mr. Mathis’s Christmas extravaganza. To the right is one of Mr. Mathis’s Santas, of no particular nationality, but looking very pleased with himself. In order to accurately recreate the Mathis holiday house, we will rely on photographs from parties, oral histories and some written documentation.
Luckily, the exterior was more austere and we’ve heard he had only a simple green fir wreath on the door, with ribbons, and would also plant poinsettia in his formal garden for a splash of color.
Now, does anyone out there have any other stories or pictures of a Mathis Christmas? We have a sprinkling here and there, but would like to get our Christmas just right when we eventually go completely crazy all out and decorate. Please let me know.