Monday, September 29, 2008

"Darling, Should We Call on the Pig Today?"


With the wind-down of the Westminster Elections of 1784 there was not enough supply for the gossip-demand. The quack doctor spectacle seemed to be simmering down, and you could only make fun of Perdita for so long. Luckily enough for the people of England, a pig came to their rescue. There was once again fun news to talk about!

A learned pig was put on display and wowed audiences with its ability to arrange cards with numbers or letters on them. The pig could probably count but it was also advertised in The Daily Universal Register (today, The Times) as being able to tell time, cast accounts, and read ladies minds. That's some pig! Well, this naturally drew much attention and the pig was the talk of the town.

Rev James Woodeforde recorded that he paid a shilling to see the pig and praised its sagacity, stating that it arranged its cards to spell and do arithmetic.


The poet, William Cowper joked in a letter that, "I have a competitor for fame...in the Learned Pig! Alas! what is an author's popularity worth, in a world that can suffer a prostitute on one side and a pig on the other, to eclipse his brightest glories?"


Even Samuel Johnson was mesmerized by the pig, "The pigs are a race unjustly calumniated," rather than killing a piglet, we should "allow time for his education."

Thomas Rowlandson illustrated the beau monde's interest in the pig with the above satirical print. Which, if he hadn't documented it, it would more easily have been forgotten. The truth be told, Rowlandson was just catering to the gossip and fads of the time as he usually did in order to make his money, I'm sure he thought the whole spectacle was ridiculous. The pampered pig is depicted with a ruffled collar to differentiate it from normie pigs. On the wall the poster reads, "The surprising PIG well versed in all Languages. Perfect Arethmatician Mathematician & Composer of Musick."

But I suspect not much has changed considering I was watching this show, Hog Genius, a few weeks ago. Johnson was right, pigs kind of rock.

Feather Fanatics

If you recall the post on feathers a few months ago detailing Georgiana's notorious love of feathers you might like what Lauren posted today. I am forever amused in the many ways Louis XVI passively attempted to curb Marie Antoinette's fashion appetites.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review: Doctor of Love

After I wrote about the ever-interesting Dr James Graham last month, I was kindly alerted to a copy of Lydia Syson's new book, Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed. I instantly dove into it, as there are many conflicting accounts of Graham's celestial bed, or even Graham himself. I was hooked at once but I must admit I was totally won over when Syson explained a contraption Benjamin Wilson designed with a Star Wars reference,

"Wilson disposed of this difficulty in just the way George Lucas did when filming the opening of Star Wars exactly two hundred years later, moving the camera rather than the spaceship…"

Yes, I know that is an extremely superficial reason to enjoy a book but I commend Syson for stepping out of the normal constraints to better explain something on the academic level. Of course that's not the only reason I enjoyed Doctor of Love! Syson has a talent for creating an atmosphere with her detailed descriptions. This skill turns out to be an essential aspect needed for successfully explaining to contemporary readers the ostentatious contraptions that Dr. Graham invented. His mix of theatrics and medicine are hard to conceive in our modern minds but are colorfully described so as you feel like you are indeed walking in his Adelphi temple among the sparking golden dragons to the soft sounds of a glass harmonica.

Because I usually get caught up in the frivolities of London ton life, it is rare for me to read up on the medicine (or lack thereof) of the times. This book is chuck-full of 18th century theories and developing theories on medicine and healing. Since Dr Graham advertised himself as an expert in sexual healing there, of course, is a abundance of interesting information of theories of procreation. For instance, some believed that both men and women had to orgasm and ejaculate in order to produce a child. I can only imagine those powdered wigs heatedly debating that topic!

One of the most utterly amusing things in the book is the documentation of Graham's self-promotion. Although Syson will give him credit where credit is due, you feel as if she is laughing with you on the bloated poems Graham would write and publish about himself and his love of using CAPITAL LETTERS to express his points (Anyone who has read James St James should appreciate that). But then again how could you not laugh at a quack's shameless self-promotion?

I recommend checking out this book which hits shelves 2 October. Not only do you learn about a central and essential celebrity figure in 1780's London but because of Graham's connections and travels you find yourself reading about a plethora of interesting facts. This includes, medical colleges; celebrity relations and, of course, scandals; and even some tidbits about life in the American Colonies right before the Revolution. It is apparent how much research went into this but the transitions take you from one topic to the next harmoniously that the research flows together nicely which makes for a book that is hard to put down.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tea for Two


Lauren and I were discussing the dinnerware of our favourite ladies which turned into an exchange of china. But why should we hog all this fabulous information to ourselves? There has got to be others out there who would also like to see Marie Antoinette and Georgiana's respected dining sets. The above is what I ran across at a visit to Chatsworth and you will find Marie's Petite Triannon set here.

Think " Sex and the City," three centuries ago

Finally! It's about time someone wrote about the fashion in The Duchess. Although this article is mostly about Kiera Knightly I found it to be a good read. It also implies that every one of her movie characters starts a fashion trend. So does this mean we'll be seeing some Georgie false maternity stomachs soon?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Gordon Riots


In the first week of June 1780, over 300 people were dead and a good portion of London was either burnt or in ruins. The madness stemmed from a bill that had passed 2 years before and left the residents of London, Bath, and the rest of Great Britain in fear. It was known as the Gordon Riots.

In 1778 the Catholic Relief Act was introduced by the Whig, George Savile, and passed. Although Whigs were traditionally professors of religious tolerance this bill was actually to get more people in the army to fight the American Revolution. The bill absolved Catholics from taking a religious oath which had, until then, prevented them from joining England's forces. The spoilt younger son of the Duke of Gordon, George Gordon was a strong Protestant who had strong feelings against giving Catholics equal rights. He organized the Protestant Association in 1779 in order to upturn the relief act and in June of the following year he marched his followers to Parliament to petition. The group quickly turned into a mob of (at least) 40,000 strong and things quickly got out of hand. Whether this was Gordon's intention or not, we have no idea.

The crazed mob marched onto the House of Commons and then, with their "No Popery" banners and then proceeded to Newgate Prison and the Clink which were both mostly destroyed. The Clink, which had housed religious prisoners since 1151, was never to reopen. The prisoners were released and joined the mob. For a week while the mob raged and grew worse, Catholics and Protestants alike were prisoners in their own homes while London burned. During the day there was some peace but every night the riots reignited and the injured and drunk could be found among the corpses and ashes. Aristocrats' houses were targeted and some barely escaped with their lives. Edmund Burke, George Savile, the Marquis of Rockingham, Lord Mansfield, Lord North (the Prime Minister) and even the Duke of Devonshire narrowly escaped their wrath. An explosion at a Catholic distillery in Holborn sent gin and rum into the streets. People who went down on their hands and knees to drink the free booze from the cobblestones soon crumpled and died in the streets from the deathly acidic concoction. Reports from the time relate the flames of the city to that of volcanic explosions which reached to the heavens.

The army was finally called in on June 7 and ordered to fire on any group of 4 or more who refused to relinquish. It is estimated that 285 were shot dead, hundreds more were wounded, and a couple dozen executed. Although Gordon was charged with high treason he was found not guilty. He later was imprisoned for badmouthing Marie Antoinette and was thrown in Newgate, the same prison his mob almost destroyed. Ironically, he converted to Judaism shortly afterward while London was still was rebuilding (years later) from the week-long riots.

This site has a great map of the damage done in the riots.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Georgiana the Poetess

I came across an interesting article about Georgiana on Jim and Ellen Have a Blog Too which is a great blog that I always find amusing. Although I don't necessarily agree with all their statements in the article (chiefly the one made about her love, or lack thereof, of her illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney) I think it is worth a read especially because it focuses on Georgiana as an author and poet which is usually overshadowed by the other amazing aspects of her life. Check the article out here.

Movie Review: The Affair of the Necklace

Based on the true events of the Diamond Necklace Affair, The Affair of the Necklace follows the central woman, and brains of the operation, Jeanne St Remy de Valois as she dupes the Cardinal de Rohan and French monarchy.

This film takes a different perspective of the events of the affair. Perhaps this is because it is from the vantage point of Jeanne. Of course Hilary Swank's Jeanne de la Motte is a modern woman who is strong-willed and is only contriving the affair to reform the family name of Valois to its former dignity. Not only was this portrayal not very convincing to me, it was kind of annoying. Swank went through the motions as a strong-willed hero, rather than the cunning heroine. I felt like the character gives the writers a great opportunity to create a really smart female lead, but failed in this.

The portrayal of Marie Antoinette was new to me. I think one of the appealing aspects of the true Marie Antoinette is that she wasn't a strong-willed queen; she was a naive party-girl who hadn't the opportunity to develope into a ruler in her short reign. The portrayal of her in this movie, as done by the beautiful Joely Richardson, seemed like a stereotyped queen. She was nasty, demanding, and confident (for lack of a better word). It wasn't the Marie Antoinette that we all know and love.

I did like the introduction of Count Nicolas de la Motte, Jeanne's rakish husband, as portrayed by Adrien Brody. His dashing good looks and dandy charm left you fanning yourself. But this quickly diminished leaving me very dissapointed. All of a sudden Nicolas was being bossed around by his adulteropus wife, and you are left wondering why he would put up with it.

Even the Cardinal de Rohan seemed a little more diabolical than the dummy I had always imagined him. In this case, however, I felt that this portrayal was likely more true to form.

Luckily the wardrobe was fabulous. The hats especially stood out to me. Who doesn't like to see a great hat?

Overall, I was disappointed by the main character, and I wasn't sympathetic to her plight, which I think you really need to be in order to fully enjoy the movie. At first I thought I was just biased but my friend Katie, who wasn't as familiar with the true story, felt the same way. I believe that more could have been done with this movie, and it's lack of success proves that others felt the same way.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tart of the Week: Elizabeth Lady Craven


Let's talk of a pure London girl this week. Who doesn't love those? They're cute and fun and have great outfits. Sure, there might be some complications with men and you can't cross them on a bad day but that is part of of their charm. Lady Elizabeth Berkeley was born in Westminster in 1750, the daughter of an earl. Not much is known of early life, but at 17 she married the Honourable William Craven who became the 6th Baron Craven two years later.

As is typical of these aristocratic tarts, Elizabeth's marriage was a rocky one. She had an affair quickly after her marriage with the Duc de Guines, a French ambassador. Despite this, she managed to pop out six children. But Elizabeth wanted more than just that and settling into the boring life of a docile wife left a bad taste in her mouth. Her true calling was writing and she produced many notable plays, books, and even a memoir. Her writing pursuits introduced her celebrities like Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Horace Walpole, and lasting friendships were established. Meanwhile, Elizabeth was developing quite the reputation as a bona fide party-girl. She gambled, drank, and slept around. In fact, it seems as though she was the life of the party although I would love to know if that novelty went away with age. One of Elizabeth's affairs was with Christian Friedrich Karl Alexander, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach who was the grandson of the King of Prussia.

By 1780 the earl had had enough of her affairs and partying (despite him having his own affairs) and the couple divorced. Now, here is an interesting little fact. At the time of the divorce (in a means of self-consolation?) Lord Craven decided to build a home on the old hunting grounds of Anne Boleyn. This woodland retreat was dubbed "Craven Cottage" and although the original structure has been replaced by a football pitch, it still remains the name of Fulham FC's home stadium. I have had the luck of seeing not one, but two of my clubs defeated by Fulham on this historic Craven ground. But that's what being a Newcastle fan gets you....

But I digress! The newly divorced Elizabeth traveled the continent, writing and partying along the way. One of her more notable works was A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. Also, being a party girl she had rivalries with other tarts. She referred to Grace Elliot as 'Glumdalclitch' -the giantess from Gulliver's Travels. In 1791 the wife of her longtime lover, Alexander (the Margrave), died. Later that year in September, Elizabeth's ex-husband died as well. By Halloween her and Alexander were wed. The two lived an lavish life together (he had already built her houses before they were married) but were ostracized by high society for their scandalous pasts. This didn't stop them from throwing parties in their Hammersmith home. Elizabeth continued writing plays at this time and sometimes would be seen in the theatre on the stage alongside Mrs. Abington, rather than in the audience. Elizabeth also was not allowed to share her husband's rank and title although in Enlgand they were refered to as the Margrave and Margravine. Eventually, she was given the title of Princess Berkeley by Emperor Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire. A few years later, Alexander died.

After her husband's death in 1806 Elizabeth withdrew to her home, Craven Villa, in Naples. She died in 1828 after writing her Memoirs but her spirit is immortalized in Hammersmith with two streets named after her, Margravine Gardens and Margravine Road.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Enlightened Family Portrait, Part 3 The Enlightened Family

The family portrait is not highly unusual in art history although it is still a rarity; especially in displaying fathers and young daughters together. The new trend in portraying yourself as Enlightened not only began an increase in the family portrait but in depicting the family as actually interacting with each other. This was further proof to the viewer that, here you are in the act of participating in family life, which you enjoy on a daily basis because you are a forward thinking person. Anyone could sit for a formal portrait with their family but a painting of the family being active together is visual proof of their general enjoyment of each others' company...at least for the amount of time it takes to sit for a painter. Here are some of my favourites.


Henry Walton, Sir Robert and Lady Buxton and their Daughter Anne, 1786



Joseph Wright of Derby, Rev D'Ewes Coke, his wife Hannah and Daniel Parker Coke, 1782


Joshua Reynolds, The Marlborough Family, 1777


Joshua Reynolds, George Grenville, Earl Temple, Mary, Countess Temple, and Their Son Richard, 1780


George Stubbs, The Wedgewood Family, 1780


Johann Zoffany, Henry Knight of Tythegston with his Three Children, 177o
(It should be noted that Mr Knight was divorcing his wife at the time of the sitting)


Women and Children
Husbands and Wives

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chatsworth: The Library


Now every grand home needs a library. Chatsworth has a few. This stunning display of books is off-limits to visiting guests and can only be peeked at through the entrance. This Gallery was a ballroom in Georgiana's time but by 1815 her son needed more room for his vast collection of books so he transformed an oddly-lighted ballroom into his new library. The shutters to the windows stay closed now which isn't to make the library cozy-looking but to actually shield the contents from fading. Comfy couches saved from Devonshire House and dim lighting make for an inviting setting for cookies, tea, and a good read. The library holds some impressive volumes like that of Henry Cavendish's scientific research. Hints as to the room's previous life as a room of entertaining is revealed in the ceiling. Among the white and gold molding in roundels are depictions by Antonio Verrio of Apollo, Athena, and Hermes (gods associated with spreading knowledge) with the muses.

At Christmas figures are added to the libary to give the impression of a holiday party. The sight sends you back in time to the exciting parties that Chatsworth once held. One can only imagine the fun had within the gallery walls, the extravagant food, and the scandelous gossip exchanged.

Amanda Foreman's Book-Signing, I was there!

Tonight was very exciting for me because I got to meet the illustrious Amanda Foreman, esteemed author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I was a big, awful mess about our brief encounter but she was very courteous and nice as I babbled on about god knows what. Actually it was like those 80's teenage flicks where I finally worked the courage up to ask a guy out and then spent the rest of the day lamenting how stupid I must have sounded. But, on to the goods!!

Dr. Foreman was introduced as the author of "Diana-er-Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire" (doh!) but this opened up the window for her to talk about the controversy of the awful Princess Diana trailer that was used in the UK marketing of the film. Apparently, it's been getting a lot of press. Foreman went on to say how they are marketing the two Spencer ladies as having parallel lives when in reality, it hasn't been unusual in history for a man to have an affair and cheat on his wife. Good point! She went on to say how it is unusual for that person to live in your house with you. She closed the topic by noting how it is amazing that the Spencers have produced two extraordinary women within the last 200 years and that is the only parallel that should be talked of.

The next topic of discussion was whether she liked the film or not which she decided to bring up since it's been a question she's been receiving a lot lately. Yes, she does like the film. (She really does! I asked her later if she honestly had any complaints and she said no!) But she warned, if you go in expecting to see her book on the screen you will be disappointed. The two things (the book and the movie) are two separate entities and they are both great in their own rights. Foreman talked of how she had seen the movie four times now, and still cries at the end for about ten minutes even thought she (obviously) knows the ending. So basically, what I grasped from this, is that the movie has to be viewed with new eyes. This is not the Georgiana we know and love, but an interpreted, Hollywood version that tells a similar tale that peaks the interest of an unknowing crowd.

Foreman then went on to reiterate what she wrote about in the September edition of US Vogue. How, when she wrote the book (age 25) she saw Georgiana's life full of possibilities and opportunities, kind of like where she was in life. Now that she is older and has five children of her own she would have probably taken a different route in the way she wove the story of Georgiana. A story of mother and her sacrifices for her children. It is this vantage that the film adopts. I remember reading this in Vogue and getting a little shell-shocked because that's what I really focused on as a reader as well and possibly what attracted me to Georgiana.

I also found it funny when Foreman then went on to say, I wish the publishers would just let me add a few more pages to it now that I'm in this perspective, which was basically the question I had been planning on asking her. I asked anyway, wondering if she had found any more juicy tid-bits after the publication that she would have liked to put in. She said mostly no, although she did find out that Georgiana had translated Italian operas during (or after, I can't remember!) the time of her exile which surprised her because she didn't know Georgiana's Italian was that good.

She was so nice as to sign my ratty old copy of the book and not make me buy a new one. I didn't even have to ask her. This morning when I was planning this whole excursion I carefully looked through my books with Foreman's name on the spine. I could have brought my nice hardcover copy of the book, with barely a dent in the spine but I looked at my paperback that I bought while I was researching my dissertation. It has rings on the cover from where I put my teacups while I sat in my bed at night and various tabs and dog-eared pages marking important facts which I can't even identify now. But this copy is what got me through my research and it is what I still grab when I need to look something up. Basically it's been my companion for most of my Georgiana-journey. Now it has a new mark of that journey, just as the Foreman book as a whole has a new mark too, with the release of a movie based on it's content.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

America's Pastime, England's Game

A new report from BBC News claims that Baseball was being played in Surrey, England 40 years before it it was said to have formed in the US. This report surfaced after Tricia St Johns Barry discovered the diarist, William Bray had written repeatedly about "Base Ball" when he was a teenager in 1755. The earliest note of the game being played in America was 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Jane Austen had also mentioned playing "base-ball" in her novel, Northanger Abbey which was written between 1798-1803.

BBC News

Friday, September 12, 2008

Beyond Limits Video

I wish I could embed this on the blog because it is purely fabulous; a video via The Chatsworth blog about the upcoming Beyond Limits exhibit. Not only can you see all the amazing art Sotheby's has displayed at Chatsworth this year but you get a glimpse inside of the house itself. It's a little more helpful in displaying the house than my blurry tour photos! Go and see what all the fuss is about!

Beyond Limits presented by Sotheby's

Tart of the Week: Mary Wollstonecraft


Mary Wollstonecraft began her life in humble beginnings in London in 1759. Her family was not poor but her father squandered their money which forced the family to move to several places. He also turned out to be a drunken brute and was abusive to his wife. At the age of 19 Mary had had enough and moved to Bath to be a paid companion to a crotchety old lady. She was forced back home two years later to care for her dying mother.

Her return home rekindled her friendship with Fanny Blood, who would become her best friend. Together the two women conspired to living together and being financially independent. This was next to impossible for a woman to do at the time and the plan didn't work. However they did manage to open up a girls school. Mary got her sister Eliza involved in the school as well as a means of escape from her abusive husband. By doing this Mary doomed her sister to social crucifixion but saved her life by hiding her from her awful husband. Is it no surprise that at this point Mary became disenchanted with the whole idea of men?

She began to look at her surroundings and think about complete idiots guys were and how they were only good for sex now and then. Part of the problem, Mary thought, was that women were brought up to just accept this crap from men. She began teaching her students in a more empowering manner that she felt was more beneficial for the sex. The radical publisher Joseph Johnson was impressed by Mary's ideas and commissioned her to write Thoughts on the Education of Girls.

Unfortunately, Fanny got married and her tuberculosis worsened, forcing her to warmer climates. Mary immediately dropped everything and followed her friend to nurse her. The school the two ladies worked so hard on fell to ruin and Fanny unfortunately did not survive the disease. Her death inspired Mary to write her only novel, Mary which was loosely based on Fanny and criticized young woman who imagined themselves to be sentimental heroines. I guess that means she wouldn't have liked Austen's Northanger Abbey. Or would she??

A rebirth seemed to happen after this. Mary sought to better herself academically, learning different languages and attending intellectual dinners; consequently she began building a radical name for herself as society watched in horror. The French Revolution was a hot topic at the time, and Mary heavily disagreed with Edmund Burke's conservative views of the Revolution and in response wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Men which horrified Burke and made her a household name. She followed up with her most famous book, The Vindication of the Rights of Women which is regarded as one of the earliest feminist writings.

Her wanderings brought her to France during the worst of the Revolution. Here she met the American adventurer Gilbert Imlay and fell head over heels for him. He was a dashing freethinker like Mary who fulfilled her need for companionship. She gave birth to his daughter in 1791 and named her Fanny. Having a child seemed to open up maternal feelings in Mary and she seemed to appear smothering to Imlay, even referring to herself as Mrs. Imlay to protect her daughter. Imlay left her, promising to return. When he did not Mary went to England looking for him and was met with his clear rejection.This was devastating to Mary and she attempted to kill herself but was saved by Imlay. Her life in crisis, Mary decided to travel the continent, but only in the icy peaks of Scandinavia, which no one ever went to. Mary went there only with her daughter an a maid. She wrote a series of fictional broken-hearted letters to Imlay which were latter published.

She returned to England only to attempt suicide once again. Like a ghost, Mary wandered in the rain to make her clothes heavy before jumping into the River Thames. Once again, she was saved, much to her disappointment. She slowly returned to her old life in which she was in the comfort of other radical authors. One of the authors was William Godwin, Mary's soul mate. He admitted falling in love with her in her fictionalized love letters, "If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book." William and Mary had very similar ideas and a certain understanding of each other. However, Mary's distrust of William's sex caused her to wait a while before a courtship could begin. William was persistent and he doted on Fanny and soon enough Mary realized he was the ideal man for her, someone who looked on her as an equal and who was a friend before a lover. Despite both parties not believing in marriage, the two were married in 1797 when it was discovered that Mary was pregnant.

Mary gave birth relatively easily to another daughter. Sadly, she contracted septicemia due to complications from the birth and after several days of agony she died. 'Devastated' does not even begin to describe William's sadness. He later went on to commemorate her in a biography.

William, being a good father, raised both his daughter and Fanny with the best childhood he could give them. He named her Mary after her mother and she went on to marry a Percy Shelley and become a famous author like her parents, writing the novel, Frankenstein.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mother Knows Best

"As a sister you have the most obvious obligation of guiding minds younger than your own and attached to you by the tenderest ties, into every sentiment of virtue and duty, and never to lead them by your example or your conversation into vice and folly."


Lady Spencer
April 14, 1775

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Enlightened Family Portrait, Part 2 Husbands and Wives

Originally when I began this post I intended to do it with a jumble of paintings. But of course, once I got carried away with the portraits I realized I had to divide the paintings up by categories. The portraits of husbands and wives served a new purpose in the 18th century as previously discussed. Instead of showing the man's vast wealth and property (wife included in that) these now displayed the sitter's Enlightened sense of family values and even love for his spouse. With the rise in the sense of woman's rights by ladies such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson, these portraits displayed the new sense of unity between husband and wife. Showing affection toward one's spouse is something that shows one's superior character, not lack thereof. Take into account also how the couples are usually placed in nature; another Enlightenment sensibility.


Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. William Hallett, 1785


Henry Raeburn, Sir John and Lady Clerk, 1790


Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 1750


William Hogarth, David Garrick and his Wife, 1757


Women and Children

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lessons in Physiognomy, How to Indentify a Georgiana in the Wild

A key aspect of 18th c gossip is total anonymity. When the great portraits were hung in the Royal Academy the titles would only be listed as "a man" or "a woman," etc. Crowds would gather and test each others' pop culture based on whether they could identify the sitter or not. The tabloids of the times, satirical prints, kept their subject anonymous many times too, despite the newly freed press. Sometimes, for gossip's sake, instead of listing the subjects name the satirical artist would just drop a subtle hint, "A certain dutchess..."

Because Georgiana was a leader of the ton and a leading female celebrity most everyone knew who she was and what she did. Therefore, artists developed a means of identifying Georgiana in their work so viewers would know who the anonymous scandalous lady was.

The most popular identifier was Harriet. If a work contained two tall, poufy-haired, fashionable ladies next to each other it was Georgiana and her sister. Despite Bess being Georgiana's best friend, society found the two sisters to be inseparable (they were) and they would constantly be seen in public together. Just like in this print by Rowlandson:


The second article of identity was a dog. Yes, dogs were popular in the 18th century, but their biggest fan was Georgiana's husband, whom was called Canis by his friends. There is a family tradition of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire being obsessed with their dogs and still remains true today -their furry family is usually part of their portraits. The association of Cavendish/Dog made for another identifier for Georgiana as can be seen in this print Robert Dighton did of the 1784 Westminster Election:


Feathers, feathers, feathers! Can you imagine if you popularized shoulderpads in the 1980's and you were still being depicted wearing those awful 80s blazers today? What a nightmare. Well, if you recall, Georgiana popularized the fad of huge ostrich feathers in the late 1770's. For ever afterwards she was depicted as wearing them in her hair.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"I Don't Think He's a Villain"

Have I mentioned yet how I love Ralph Fiennes? That was his response when the dumbass interviewer asked him about playing "the villain" in The Duchess. Pleb. Check out the interview here.

In related news, the Toronto premiere of the film was last night and although Knightly was wearing a very pretty Alexander McQueen gown she's been getting some criticism about her weight. Yikes!! I can see why. Someone feed that girl a croquembouche! It puts me to mind about Georgiana's battle with bulimia. However, I can safely assume she wasn't this thin at her unhealthiest.

On the Duchess of Devonshire...

"...if the Dss had been married to --- or to any man who had shown her proper attention and done justice to her merits she would have been one of the most perfect women in England."


-Dudley North as quoted by Thomas Pelham

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Enlightened Family Portrait, Part 1 Women and Children

There were many means of expressing a sitter's sense of Enlightenment in portraits. One of the most popular accessories a sitter used was their family. Family portraits in the 18th century weren't necessarily commissioned because the sitter wanted to immortalize their children or save money with a group portrait, it was a means of immortalizing yourself as a creature of Enlightenment. Of course, not everyone had selfish motives by getting a family portrait, but the rise in their popularity can be attributed to this trend. The painters who thought outside the box with the composition and the sitters' interactions with each other produced some of the greatest paintings in this genre. After all, anyone could snap a family portrait at Sears but is that who celebrities go to when they want theirs? No, they tend to want something creative that shows a hint of candour and love. The same concept went for artists in 18th century and it is what made painters, such as Joshua Reynolds. See why these painters made the big bucks:



Joshua Reynolds, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Her Daughter, 1784

John Hoppner, Harriet, Viscountess Duncannon and her Two Sons, 1787


George Romney, Jane, Duchess of Gordon and her Son, the Marquis of Huntly, 1778

Joshua Reynolds, Lady Cockburn and Her Three Eldest Sons, 1777

Joshua Reynolds, Lady Smith and Children, 1787


George Romney, The Gower Family, 1776-7

Joshua Reynolds, Miss Cocks and Her Niece, 1789