Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Lauren at American Duchess emailed me to alert me to a giveaway that just may interest you. But then again, who doesn't enjoy a good giveaway! She just launched her own clothing brand, American Duchess, and to celebrate, is giving away a t-shirt from the newly begun line to one lucky reader. Check out her blog for details. In the meantime you can check out her other products in Etsy, including my personal fav, a shirt that just screams 'Foxite!'
Goodness! The majority of you were quite vocal with your dislike of Maria Luisa's play on a 90's version of court dress. The end result was a big Nay on her panniers and fancy embroidery. Mayhap you were hoping for something a little more new age? Something daring? Something we should be very careful about our criticisms with since they concern a certain emperor's beloved sister?
Robert Lefèvre paints the upper portion of Pauline Bonaparte (1806) in her classical and revealing muslin gown, glitzy shall, and unique renaissance head-wear. Yay or Nay?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I know we often think of pilgrims and Native Americans when Thanksgiving rolls around, but let's give it a colonial perspective this year. After the original Thanksgiving in 1621, other thanksgivings would be held by various communities throughout the year. These celebrations of thanks usually marked a military victory and were more about reflection than stuffing bellies. It wasn't until 1777 that the colonies celebrated a nationwide thanksgiving. This thanksgiving, proclaimed by General George Washington and backed by the Continental Congress, was held in December to give thanks for the defeat of British troops at Saratoga, New York.
George Washington must have really liked the idea of having a national thanksgiving because when he became president, he established the first Thanksgiving as a national holiday. On 3 October 1789 President Washington proclaimed,
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.And thus, the November holiday was born. Another one was proclaimed by Washington in 1795, and then President Adams continued the tradition. It was that slacker, Thomas Jefferson who would let it totally slip his mind. Various presidents would continue to proclaim the holiday, and various states had it in their law books to observe it on a specific date. It wasn't until 1941 that Thanksgiving was had a designated annual date to celebrate.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war...
Happy Thanksgiving citizens of the Colonies!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Calling all makeup junkies! I received an email from MAC cosmetics (I signed up for the free shipping) about their newest collection which I just have to share. It's called Baroque Boudoir and this fabulous collection has just been unleashed today. How I would love to get my hands on that powder and the pink lipstick! I'm not just saying that because the packaging is fabulous either! Ah well! The holidays are nigh, so you might just want to add this to your wish list, perhaps some rake would lovingly bestow it on you.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Royal, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia; these were the six daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte. It's easy to get lost among the fifteen children of the king and queen but in Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III Flora Frasier attempts to give voice to these women who have often fallen into the shadows of history. While many girls today grow up dreaming of being beautiful princesses, these girls probably wanted nothing more than an independent life in a country cottage.
Much of what is known of George's daughters is that he was so over-protective of them, they weren't allowed to marry until they were well into spinsterhood. Although marriage didn't always mean freedom, it did mean getting out of Mum and Dad's house. Each princess reacted to this repression in a different way, Royal with rebellion, Sophia with men, Mary with passiveness, etc. Frasier records each of their stories chronologically in amazing detail in order to grant each one individuality.
I found though, that in reading this six-person biography that it was hard to actually give the princesses individuality. They may have been raised by the same people, and they may have had their own unique personalities, but they still all led very boring lives. I found that it could become difficult to keep track of all the different princesses (a personal matter perhaps) and had to create a little cheat-sheet sticky note on the inside cover to aid me in the issue. If it was difficult for me to keep track of all these daughters, I'm sure researching their lives was quite the endeavor! Frasier demonstrates her impressive skills in revealing information, but I feel like much of the details she includes could have been omitted. The truth of the matter is that the princesses' boring sheltered lives make for many details about things that aren't as interesting as, say, causing a scandal, making discoveries, or creating significant rifts in history. Family tiffs just don't measure up to those fun biographical details in my opinion!
While no one can deny Frasier's storytelling ability and the amount of work that went into this impressive endeavor, it still wasn't my favourite biography. The less interesting tidbits outweighed the interesting ones. However if you do have a passion for that crazy royal family your opinions might differ from mine!
Monday, November 23, 2009
A certain Rococo artists seems to have taken New York City by storm. Everywhere I went last weekend it was Watteau, Watteau, Watteau! Three different museums had three different exhibits where Jean-Antoine Watteau was a key player.
Watteau to Degas: French Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection, The Frick Collection
Our first stop on our Watteau walk was to The Frick. I enjoy the Frick; it has a fabulous collection housed in an amazing turn of the century house. This leaves little room for exhibition space. Exhibitions are held in the two rooms of the collection's basement. The first room contains various drawings and sketches from Watteau and his contemporaries. Then you walk in the second room and suddenly it's works from the following century. Whoa, wait, huh? Oh yeah, it's called Watteau to Degas. Strangely enough there is only one Degas and it was in the style of the Italian Renaissance. It was almost as if they couldn't fill their exhibition space completely with Watteau's contemporaries so they spanned into the 19th century. I love the Frick Collection but this exhibit was not a show-stopper.
Watteau, Music, and Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This exhibition is nearing its close which is too bad because it was quite amazing. Why the Met decided to only host it for two months, is beyond me. Anyone who is familiar with Watteau is aware that music an theatre were the man's muse. This exhibition helps to explain his inspiration with not just Watteau's paintings (from collections all over the world) but with other works such as prints of ball scenes and operas and instruments from the era. If you have to opportunity to see this exhibition before it ends on 29 November, I highly suggest racing over to the Met. Lauren wrote a rave review of it and the show was my favourite of the three Watteau exhibitions we attended.
Rococo and Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings, The Morgan Library
Yes, it doesn't have Watteau in the title but the Morgan's exhibition of 18th century French drawings has no shortage of the artist's work. Also containing works from Fragonard, Lancret, Boucher, David, and many others, this exhibition takes up a large, open gallery in the Morgan Library. There is a lovely variety in the subject matter of the drawings ranging from still-lifes to interiors, to human form studies, all done with the delicate lines we tend to think of in Rococo art. The best part of the exhibition is it housed in the same venue as A Women's Wit, the Jane Austen exhibition, so you will be able to check out there two amazing shows at once!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Well it came close, but the overall vote on Princess Anna's shimmery silver getup was a Nay. We would like to actually see the fine details of the gown, not be blinded by them! Speaking of details, let's look to another royal who seems to enjoy them gracing her gown.
Zacarías González Velázquez paints Maria Luisa of Parma (1790) in all her embroidered splendor reminiscent of the early 18th century. Yay or Nay?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
God bless those brave Chinchillas.
Before we had Glenn Close to exercise her great acting skills in the film, Dangerous Liaisons, there was the novel, Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos. The book was published in multiple volumes in 1782 and was popular due to the scandalous content. Of course the content was probably only scandalous to those who weren't aware of just how true to life it could be!
When the 1796 edition of the book came out it had its own version of a star-studded cast. The saucy painter, Fragonard was a perfect pick for an illustrator. He was well-known, his art sensual, and his pencil could tell a story. Here are some of his illustrations for Liaisons Dangereuses.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
As every good Janeite* is probably aware, The Morgan Library in New York City is currently having an exhibition titled, A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy. I had the opportunity to see this once in a lifetime display, and Janeites, I was not disappointed!
One of the first things you may notice about this exhibition is how small the space is. Everything is contained in one room, which gives the appearance of it being a small display, but do not be fooled, there is much to be seen. A complaint I would have about the space would be that the displays are too close to each other which makes for a crowded experience. My advice is to avoid the exhibition on the weekend if possible, otherwise you are crowding around small documents with three other people.
The exhibition consists mainly of Jane Austen's letters which are accompanied by visual aids. James Gillray's satirical images serve as tour guides throughout the exhibit seeing as he was a witty contemporary of Austen's. They also serve as a visual breath of fresh air after all the reading you tend to do! The majority of the work on display is from Pierpont Morgan's personal collection. Yes, the Industrial-age banker was quite the Austen fan! He went through leaps and bounds in order to get his hands on anything Jane touched. For years Mr. Morgan searched for original manuscripts and was told more than once that these had all been destroyed. He was finally able to acquire the manuscript to Lady Susan as well as a partial one to an unpublished work. It is these side stories about how Jane Austen's work that affect other's peoples lives that is part of A Woman Wit.
On the opposite spectrum, there are also examples from people who influenced Jane. She was great fan of Fanny Burney, as evidenced through her name appearing in a subscription list -the only occasion in her lifetime when it would appear in print. Jane was also a fan of Lord Byron's poetry which is represented by one of his manuscripts written in his artful hand.
Other items on display were a selection of the various illustrations that would accompany Austen's novels, various book editions, and personal records from the authoress. One of the things I most enjoyed was a print of William Blake's portrait of Mrs. Q which Jane saw and reported to her sister that it was how she pictured Jane in Pride and Prejudice. I also am always entertained/tortured by letters censured by prudish Victorian relatives. One letter is censored right as Austen is about to describe Edward Bertrum. Fill in the blank here: I find Edward to be...
I didn't entirely know what to expect from A Woman's Wit but I left the exhibition very pleased. The Morgan Library does our witty author justice in displaying these small snippets from her personal life in which her snarky, funny, and loving nature come to life. The experience of a non-visual art display is also quite unusual and some may find all the reading (of both the work and descriptions) quite exhausting. But never-fear, that is why The Morgan serves Tea in their cafe; leaving you the perfect opportunity to discuss the experience with your companion. If you are in town up until March 14, this is an exhibition not to be missed.
*One of the many things I learned at this exhibition is that the term "Janeite" has been around since the last century.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Ever wonder why you are such a good friend, tight with your money, or very religious? Well Franz Joseph Gall has an answer for you! It's all due to the shape of your head.
The German physician developed Phrenology in 1797 to explain people's personalities. If you had some sort of dent on your scalp, and therefore skull, this was connected to your brain which was connected to your mind, which is what determines that personality trait. Or so the theory goes.
Let's see, I have one on the back right of my skull. Let me get out my charts and diagrams...oh, here it is: compulsive shoe shopper and drug addict. Hmm, that only seems half-right.
Phrenology became popular in the mid-19th century and the United States found it especially useful. For the most part today the practice is dismissed as quackery but surprisingly enough it is still used by some some believers all around the world.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Sorry to interrupt your usual Sunday critique. For those who are interested, Lauren and I are on a joint exhibition venture in New York City today. There is just too many art exhibitions to do with the long eighteenth century to pass up!
I will be attempting to keep you updated in real time about the excursion via my Twitter account. Don't get too excited, I'm sure that a lot of it will consist of how much I hate the metro system, and a spare picture of window-shopping could get thrown in (aren't you glad my mobile in England couldn't Twitter? What a mess that would have been!).
The exhibitions I hope to get to are as follows-
A Women's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy at the Morgan Library and Museum
Watteau to Degas at the Frick Collection
Both American Stories and Watteau, Music and Theatre at the Met
Heather on Twitter @GeorgianaGossip Lauren on Twitter @MarieGossip
Prince Heinrich was met with another Yay despite a few criticisms. Some people hated his lumpy way of buttoning his coat while others appreciated it. This week we have a Princess who also missed a button in the process of dressing. I think this could have been because she was blinded by her own clothing.
Antoine Pesne paints Anna Amalia of Prussia (as an Amazon) in what can only be described as 'silver.'
Friday, November 13, 2009
Sometimes the best tarts are the products of tarts themselves. Lavinia Fenton was the result of her mother's late night rendezvous with a sailor. Things were rough growing up in Charing Cross in the early 1700s. Lavinia, like so many young women, turned to prostitution as a child. From there she took the usual prostitute promotion and became an actress.
Her first recorded appearances on the stage happened while she was still a teenager. It was when Lavinia joined the production at Lincoln's Inn Fields that she became noticed. Of course this could just be because she was a pretty face. Either way, people flocked to see the divine Miss Fenton on stage. One of those people was Charles, Duke of Bolton.
The Duke was in a loveless marriage and much older than Lavinia but that wouldn't stop the two from shacking up. Nor would Lavinia let shacking up get in the way of her career. It was her performance as Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera that earned Lavinia the most success. It also earned her a depiction in a Hogarth painting portraying the play. Now Lavinia was a full-out star: the papers followed her, prints were made of her, and she became the reason people would see the play.
After her initial success as Polly Peachum, there was a demand for Lavinia to play the character in just about any production of The Beggar's Opera. In the meantime she had three sons, all with the Duke. It wasn't until the death of his wife in 1751 that the Duke made an honest woman out of Lavinia. Nine years later, Lavinia died, having lived her celebrity life with a happier ending than its beginning.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The 1780s saw an extreme change in high fashion for the ladies. The 1770s was marked with high hair towers and robe a la francaises. A dramatic change followed, with clothing veering toward leisure and comfort. Hair finally became so high the only new thing to do with it was to grow it out horizontally in loose curls. Women dismissed their panniers and opted for the false rump, the predecessor to the bustle.
Now instead of emphasizing hips, clothing was all about T&A. The robe a l'anglaise and redingotes were the daydresses of choice. Underneath the skirts were false rumps which would be made out of cork so they could be lightweight but firm enough to hold shape. In 1783 both Georgiana and Harriet were pregnant and experimenting with fashion. They conceived having not only false fronts but false stomachs which disguised pregnancies. The trend caught on, much to the shock of satirical artists. Chests were also emphasized with pads and a multi-layered fichu called a 'buffon.' Although the robe a la francaise was still worn for formal events this 'more natural' was the outfit of choice for the day and a favourite of Georgiana.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Lauren just brought to my attention that a book series I enjoyed in my carefree years, Horrible Histories, is now producing shorts and putting them on Youtube. I totally geeked out. Here is Georgian Doctor and The Four Georges.
Meanwhile, the book series should grace history-phile's library. They mix fact with humor. My copy of The Groovy Greeks is practically destroyed due to frequent reading. Books in the series that are a little more appropriate for this particular blog would probably be England and Gorgeous Georgians.
Now there have been rumors forever about how many baths Marie Antoinette took a year and the amount of powder used to cover unpleasant scents. That leads me to believe the 18th century had a reputation for being quite stinky! And the truth is...yeah, it kind of was. But the reason we know that is because contemporaries of the time would describe, in detail, how bad certain individuals smelled. I suppose that means, not everyone smelled bad! Yes there was glitz and glam, but that came with the use of a lot of glitter and what lay underneath could be quite repulsive.
Peoples of a Notorious Stink
- John Wilkes complained that women's "nobler parts are never in this island washed...they are left to be lathered by men."
- The stuffy Charles Geville said he only took the future Emma Hamilton as his live-in mistress because she was "the only woman he slept with without offending his senses."
- The Prince of Wales only slept with his wife one time because he couldn't get past her smell and the "marks of filth on the fore and hide of her."
- Most people would only occasionally wash their hands, feet, and or faces.
- Prince Leopold was forced to take a bath before his wedding to Princess Charlotte because his hygiene was so bad.
- Mary Wollstonecraft stated women had no regard for cleanliness.
- Charles James Fox and the Duke of Norfolk were known to not change their clothing often. Especially personal linens.
- Toothpicks were the only form of dental hygiene; breath was putrid due to decaying teeth and gums. Women tended to loose teeth after pregnancies due to calcium deficiencies.
- Some countries smelled better than others. A French proverb was, "The more a ram smells, the more the goat loves him.
- Lice would be killed with mercury. Safe!
- Pock-marks were covered up with white makeup, which was made out of lead. Hmm also safe!
- Perfume, essences, oils, and powders would be used as deodorants.
- Marie Antoinette supposedly introduced polished iron bed frames to Versailles in order to cut down on bed bugs which tended to enjoy wooden bed frames.
- Black silk beauty marks were used to cover up blemishes and pock marks.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
BibliOdyssey had a great post a while ago on satires of hair towers. I think I spread word about it on Twitter (but I'm a scramble-brain, so maybe I didn't!) which I know not everyone follows. However, I've had multiple people email me about the post so that tells me I must do a better job about spreading the word and give the fabulous post the recognition it deserves.
High hair reached it's height (ha!) in popularity in the 1770s due to trends in France as well as a young debutant Duchess popularizing three-foot tall hair towers and feathers. The fashion trend caused a trend in mocking the extreme coiffures which became so grand they surprised many a social-observer.
Check out BibliOdyssey's great collection of coiffure satires here.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Well, it appears that you were as won-over with Mrs. Newbery and her buttons as I was. If only would could see the whole gown; what a tease! This week, we will focus on outerwear. Will our latest selection make you feel all warm and fuzzy or chill you to the bone?
Anton Graff paints the perfectly posed Prince Heinrich (1789) as he takes off his tricorn hat so as not to distract us from his hunter green coat. Yay or Nay?
Friday, November 6, 2009
I finally had the opportunity of seeing the classic film, That Hamilton Woman (aka Lady Hamilton) starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. The 1941 British film has only recently been re-released and is now available on DVD, or in my case on TCM, what luck!
First of all, I'll begin by saying I am biased toward Leigh, since I became a Gone With the Wind fan at the same time as I was watching Disney Movies. The lady can do no wrong.
That Hamilton Woman portrays the legendary romance of Lady Emma Hamilton (Leigh) and war hero Lord Nelson (Olivier). The movie opens with a lady-street urchin walking into a wine shop in Calais (wow Calais hasn't changed much in 100 years) and sneakily stealing a bottle of wine. The authorities spot her and a fight breaks out, resulting in the culprit and a woman who came to her defense landing in jail. Once in jail, the clepto reveals herself as Emma Lady Hamilton and tells her tale beginning with her arrival in Naples. You know how it goes; teenage Emma gets dumped with Sir William, they marry, she meets Nelson, they fall in love and conduct their affair in front of everyone.
Like I said, I am biased. I love Leigh, even though her British accent (which is real) is very similar to her southern drawl. I love the chemistry between her and Olivier; very steamy. They are convincing in their affection for each other and stay true to their characters. Leigh portrays a strong Emma Hamilton, and at the same time makes sure to include the elements of Emma's poor background. The costumes on the other hand are disappointing in the sense of accuracy. If you are a fan of early 40s movie fashions you will not be disappointed, but otherwise they didn't even try to be accurate like they did in the 1938 Marie Antoinette. I was even delighted to see that Georgiana's brother plays a role and, of course, wears a Spencer!
One of my favourite scenes of the movie is when Emma introduces Nelson to the Queen of Naples (Norma Drury), whom Emma was close with. The two enter a room of chaos: screaming children, barking dogs, and fretting servants. Among all this is the glittering blonde vision that is Queen Maria Carolina who is rapidly yelling in Italian, adding to the chaos. If it weren't for all the glitz and glam you would have thought you ran into a family in a trailer park. No wonder Emma and the queen bonded so well.
As a whole the film is great. It doesn't stray too far from the truth and keeps your interest. It has the classic flair, complete with running in giant dresses and emotional embraces. So take advantage of its release and enjoy the nice, clean film restoration.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
One of the pitter-pattering sets of little feet scampering around Devonshire House were those of the future Lady Caroline Lamb. Caro was the youngest child of Harriet, Georgiana's beloved sister. Therefore much of Caro's childhood was spent with Aunt Georgiana, Uncle William and the rest of the Devonshire Progeny.
Caro's odd behaviour, which was to make her notorious, didn't just spring up in adult-hood. There was always something a bit off about the child. First of all, she differed greatly (in fact, she looked impish), in appearance and otherwise, from her two brothers; which is likely due to her actually being their half-sister. Although this cannot be solidly proved, it is a likely explanation for the differing personalities.
The formidable Lady Spencer described her granddaughter as "one of the most difficult children to manage." She was bratty, unpredictable, and needed constant attention or else she would become increasingly difficult in order to achieve it, asking silly questions and so forth. At least one time this earned her a spanking from grandma! Even Georgiana recorded that she was tempted to slap Caro after she was rude to Harriet on one ocassion.
A lovely reader, Kristi, and I have discussed Caroline's unique personality and she brought up how Caro had many autistic traits, which I found to be a brilliant theory and one that made a lot of sense. Once when Caro was a young teen, she was traveling by carriage with her parents. Somehow the party got lost in the dark and like many a family vacation of mine, Bessborough (Caro's er...Dad) got angry at Harriet and Caro for being frightened. Shortly afterward the horses got spooked and while Bessborough went to calm them, Harriet realized they were about to fall down a pit, hence the frantic horses. When the dust cleared, figuratively speaking, Caro was gone. She was running through the dark fields to the closest town to get help. The papers had a field day.
Caro was very close to her mother and her dutiful brothers were protective of her. Her unpredictable personality made it difficult for her to make friends. The closest Caro seemed to come with childhood friends was Georgiana's daughter Harryo and Bess' daughter Caroline St Jules, who were all very close in age. Both girls had little patience for Caro's antics and commonly found themselves stuck with Caro on long trips across the continent. It was noticed that Caro seemed to behave better when around Caro St Jules' good influence.
When Harryo got married she neglected to invite Caro, who was very put out. Meanwhile Caro St Jules would forever be glued to her foil when the two both married the Lamb brothers. But that part of Caroline's story is of a more tartly nature.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Toilet or Toilette paintings appear throughout the centuries and in varying cultures. They show a woman at her toilet, that is, in the multiple stages of dress: awaking, clothing, applying makeup, etc. This genre of painting was especially popular in the Dutch Golden Age and in the 18th and 19th centuries. It allowed artists to show the nude form in interesting positions while at the same time allowed the artists some freedom in creating a somewhat titillating scene. Many of these toilet scene from the 18th century come from France and have a voyeuristic quality with the lady being unaware of her viewers or coyly making eye contact with them. Common elements include disheveled backgrounds, attendants, animals, and peeping lovers which insinuate the lady at her toilet has just had an amorous engagement.
Antoine Watteau, 1717
Fancois Boucher, 1742
Francois Boucher, 1751
Francois Boucher, 1758
Louis Leopald Boilly
Michel Garnier, 1796
Monday, November 2, 2009
Famous Inhabitants: The Barons Foley
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Huzzah! Elijah Boardman was able to successfully represent the Colonies is a positive light. Sometimes simplicity with just the right colors is the best combination. Is that the case with this week's selection. I apologize for the teasing size which is due to the sitting being too cheap to pay for a larger size. Perhaps you may feel she cheapened out on her outfit as well?
George Romney paints the earthly Mrs. Newbery (1782-4) in her simple brown gown, complete with fabric buttons, pale green ribbons, and plenty of white muslin.