A MAN AND HIS COLLECTION
Tony Clesi’s historic Victorian cottage is a virtual tour of the world.
Interior designer Chet Pourciau recently had the pair of wingback chairs covered in a burnt velvet fabric, in keeping with the rest of the elegant living room. A collection of Russian Icons hangs above the couch.
A collector’s jewel box would be a good way to describe the home of attorney Anthony “Tony” Clesi. Located on a quiet Uptown street, the historic Victorian cottage is a virtual tour of Clesi’s travels around the world. “I have a passion for collecting,” he says.
In the living room he points to the Russian Icons over the couch. “These are truly my treasures. I lovingly carried one of them with me on the plane to New Orleans from a visit to Russia. It will always be my favorite.” Then he turns around and walks over to his favorite antique chest in the room that is topped with 54 Halcyon Days tiny porcelain boxes. “Each one has a story to tell,” he explains as he gently picks up one and holds it closer to provide a better bird’s-eye view.
Clesi then steps inside his study where he has completely covered one wall with photographs and memorabilia from his years of being active in the Republican Party.
“Here are my invitations to both of George W. Bush’s inauguration functions,” he says as he points to the matted and framed invitations and photographs. While the wall tells of his interesting life, it’s special photograph of his parent, Palma and Anthony Clesi, that he singles out with a special tenderness. “Here’s my parents on their wedding day in 1921,” he says, noting the young couple in their wedding regalia.
Even his bedroom reflects his passion for collecting. “I have the work of more than two-dozen New Orleans and Louisiana artists and photographers hanging in this room. I love each one, but maybe the big one in the center by Jean Seidenberg is my favorite.” Then he begins to list their names as he proudly points to each one as he scans the four walls of his bedroom: It is a “who’s who” list that includs Henry Casselli, Allison Stewart, Ida Kohlmeyer, Steven Forster, Carole Leake, George Dunbar, Robert Rucker, Rolland Golden, Robert Gordy, Clementine Hunter and Enrique Alferez.
The walls of the sunny side hall that overlooks a garden and walkway are adorned with antique and contemporary Chinese woodcarvings that he has collected over 35 years on his visits to Hong Kong and mainland China, while the adjoining library-den has a three-wall gallery of famous Japanese printmaker Ando Hiroshige’s (1797-1858) prints. “I acquired the first one in 1994 when a friend was stationed in Japan working. He knew I was interested in the work of the famous printmaker and he had a dealer in Japan fax me photographs of some of the artist’s work. I soon became a serious collector and even traveled to Japan in search of more of his work.”
The dining room reveals Clesi’s eclectic taste for both contemporary and traditional art. The breakfront is filled with more treasures of his travels, including a collection of semi-precious stone carvings from China.
The home also reveals that each room exhibits an envelope of color, “You can see I’m not afraid of color,” he says. “I think painting the walls and ceiling of a home in different colors makes it feel warm.”
He credits Chet Pourciau with the interior design. “It has been a pleasure working with such a talented young designer,” he explains. “Chet is full of wonderful ideas, and I have learned to trust everything he wants to do.”