As a butler, it is very important to have a basic appreciation for fine art. You will be working in homes that often are filled with rare and beautiful things. Fine art collections are indeed a status symbol and a form of self expression. Collections you will work with may include paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, firearms, weapons in general, pottery, porcelains, currency, and metal works. These objects are rare, unique and are of an extreme value.
Those who are truly passionate collectors see themselves as stewards of historically-significant works by the famous and not-so-famous artists and craftsmen of any given era. In this stewardship, one does more than simply own a piece of art, but rather provide exceptional care for it a period of time before it goes on to the stewardship by the next owner. You, too, should see yourself as a steward of great art. You will likely spend more time with these marvelous works then your employer who actually owns them. It is important for you to understand what art is and what it conveys. It is very important for you to know how to care for fine art, how to ship it, and store it.
One of my late employers had such a large collection of Italian Renaissance sweeping landscapes that much of the collection was archived in vast offsite vaults and was switched out quarterly in the homes and apartment in which they lived, rather like having one's own museum. Another one of my late employers had the most significant private collection of impressionistic and post-impressionistic paintings and sculpture in the United States. With both employers, I, as butler of the house, was responsible for
overseeing the production of fine art being crated, inventoried, and moved from home to home,
home to storage, and home to galleries and museums around the world asking to borrow a particular piece of art for a particular retrospective being curated.
I will never forget one sunny morning when my employer came through The Grand Salon (This is what one calls the living room in historic New York apartments on Fifth Avenue) and called out my name. I was awaiting his arrival to the breakfast room so that I could adjust his neck tie under his collar and serve him his daily bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt for his breakfast. I Immediately went into The Grand Salon and he was standing next to one of his Rodin sculptures. He asked me if I had moved the sculpture. I had, and I told him so, “Yes, Sir, I have moved the sculpture in order to polish the plexiglass pedestal.” It was a life-size nude of a female curled into the classic fetal position (in fine art the fetal position is expressing passivity and surrender, typically surrender in a sexual context). Just the same, my employer asked me to help him turn the nude 180 degrees, which we did, so that her buttocks were facing south rather than north. He then said, “I like coming through here in the mornings just so I can caress her ass.”
He then told me to close my eyes and gently run my hand over the metal that formed her buttocks. I did as he asked me to do. I closed my eyes and gently ran my hand over her body. I felt exactly what he felt. The cold bronze under my hand felt delicate and supple. It was as if the nude woman was alive and she was surrendering herself to the fondling of her body. A rush went coursing through my spine and I felt for a brief moment like an amorous intruder upon this delicate surrendered female. In that moment, I actually realized the power of great art. I stepped away understanding that my employer enjoyed his collection
not as a display of his status, but as an enrichment to his everyday life. I hope you will one day come to have a deep and visceral experience with art. It can be sensuous, erotic, and impactful, all at the same time.
At Potter Poppins Academy, our Elite Butler Training students visit the world-class Philadelphia Museum of Art. They are privately guided through the halls of this outstanding and privileged museum by our own personal docent, who shows examples of truly fine art in all of its ages and materials. We then are guided into the private and secret world of a museum, the curation and conservation departments. These departments are never seen by the public. There, we receive an explanation of proper handling, cleaning, conservation, crating, and moving of priceless fine art. Additionally, the museum directors escort us through both the museum's on-site and offsite storage vaults, another experience not accessible to the public. Potter Poppins Academy ensures that when the day comes that an Elite Butler is in a significant home, he or she will know how to be excellent stewards of fine art, with all of the knowledge of what to do and why.
In learning about fine art, one acquires a new lens through which to see the world, because all fine art has one uniting theme: Tamed Nature. All art seeks to interrupt a nuance, a moment in time, a feeling deep in one's soul. And fine art succeeds at this. The day I actually understood the simple three letter word, ART, was the day something inside me woke up. All of my life since has been a grand symphony of color, line, direction, textures, and beauty. I see the beauty in the underside of a plump snail slithering along on a wet pavement to the glint of color that shines on the hair of the women sitting in front of me on the bus. From the shadows on a barren white wall in a holding bay in the emergency room, to the soft undulating surface of a field of wild grass moving gently in a breeze on a warm summer's mid-afternoon. Come, walk with me a while. I will share with you the world of Art. To see and feel all that will come alive in your mind and in your heart will be a day you too never will forget.
Potter Poppins Academy is a butler training school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The Academy, led by esteemed head butler Ken Horne, offers courses such as Elite Butler Training, Hotel Butler Training, classes for principals new to managing household staff, courses in etiquette and protocol for business professionals, manners courses for children and young adults, and bespoke service consulting.