Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Video: Recreating Madame Récamier's Coiffure

Friday, September 21, 2018

Chinard, Mme Récamier
Loretta reports:

I have mentioned Madame Récamier before, mainly in connection with furniture (here and here). She is quite well known among Regency/Napoleonic era aficionados, both for her portraits and her salon.

The Gérard and David portraits of her will be familiar to many. However, being mainly interested in the chaise longue, I hadn’t really noticed the marble bust by Joseph Chirard, until I came upon Janet Stephens’s video. Ms Stephens has posted several YouTube videos explaining Greek and Roman hair styles, which in turn help us get a better sense of the powerful influence of Greek and Roman statuary on this period of fashion in Europe and America.



Image: Bust of Juliette Récamier by Joseph Chinard, in "Musée des Beaux-arts" of Lyon (France), photo by Philippe Alès, Creative Commons license.
Please click on images to enlarge.
Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be. To watch the video, please click on the title to this post (which will take you to our blog) or the video title (which will take you to YouTube).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Moral Poison": The Evils of Reading Novels, 1864

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Susan reporting,

Loretta and I have written so many posts for this blog over the years - nearly a decade's worth! - that we've forgotten a good many of them. Fortunately, our readers haven't. This one surfaced yesterday on Twitter (thank you, Lucy Paquette), and I thought it deserved another appearance here as I wallow through deadline-itis.

In an earlier post, I shared an 18thc warning against women reading romances. By 1860, those who worried about everyone else's reading habits had expanded their concerns, including all novels read not only by women, but by men as well. Apparently novels were dangerous.

The warnings below come from a religious tract published in New York in 1864. A Pastor's Jottings; or, Striking Scenes during a Ministry of Thirty-Five Years was printed anonymously because, as the prefatory note explains, the author "could thus write with more freedom." That same note assures us that "the statements of this volume are all literally true."

Among the many things (this book is nearly 350 pages long) that distress this unknown pastor, novels - that "moral poison" - are right there at the top of the list: "The minds of novel readers are intoxicated, their rest is broken, their health shattered, and their prospect of usefulness blighted."

But he doesn't want us simply to take his word for it. Apparently even novels by Charles Dickens are suspect, and he quotes the famous educator Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame to prove it:

Childishness in boys even of good ability seems to be a growing fault; and I do not know what to ascribe it, except to the great number of exciting books of amusement, like Pickwick, Nickleby, Bentley's Magazine, etc...that leave [a boy] totally palled, not only for his regular work, but for literature of all sorts.

Nor are women exempt from the terrible influences of novel-reading. In fact (remember, this is all LITERALLY TRUE), according to the pastor, women suffer even more:

Listen to the evidence given by a physician in Massachusetts: 'I have seen a young lady with her table loaded with volumes of fictitious trash, poring day after day and night after night over highly wrought scenes and skillfully portrayed pictures of romance, until her cheeks grew pale, her eyes became wild and restless, and her mind wandered and was lost – the light of intelligence passed behind a cloud, and her soul was forever benighted. She was insane, incurably insane from reading novels.'

But insanity is only the beginning:

Not very long since, a double suicide was committed...by a young married couple from Ohio, who were clearly proved to be led to ruin and death by these most pernicious books....Police officers too in London and some of our own large cities, have given mournful evidence of the results of some of these novels when dramatized and performed on the stage, as leading to burglaries and murder.

Suicide, madness, burglaries, and murder! As an unrepentant novelist, I clearly have much to answer for. While for obvious reasons, I don't want you to see the error of your ways, but if you'd like to read more of the Unnamed Pastor's edifying work, here's the link to his book, available to read for free via Google Books.

Thanks to Clive Thompson, who shared quotes from A Pastor's Jottings on Twitter.

Above: The Pink Domino; print made by William Henry Mote after Frank Stone, c1833-1835. The British Museum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ladies' Facilities in the 1700s to 1900s

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Loretta reports:

In the course of trying to get a bit more information about this Victorian era public urinal, at the Museum of London, I wound up in a dead end. All I know about it is more or less what I’d learned about the public facilities in Paris.

However, I did discover more about how and where ladies answered Nature’s call during the 18th and 19th centuries. The short answer: It wasn't easy.

These days, we are frustrated by the long lines outside ladies’ lavatories: Why don’t they install more stalls? But at least we can find rather nice facilities. In London, for instance, I found such interesting and elegant ones that I started photographing them.

In the time of my stories, ladies’ public facilities were not so elegant, to the extent that they existed at all.

According to the Museum of London’s feature on Vauxhall Gardens:
“Respectable’ women, in particular, were suddenly in a situation where access to a discreet and reasonably hygienic toilet facility could not be taken for granted. In Vauxhall, a communal women’s privy appears to have existed, and was illustrated in a satirical print by the artist Thomas Rowlandson, although this may be an exaggerated representation – Rowlandson was known for his scatological and titillating images of women. Still, many women – and men – must have taken advantage of the garden’s dark corners and convenient plants.”
The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788)
Susan has discussed this Rowlandson illustration in detail here. You can read the full Museum of London article here.

It's rather shocking to discover that it wasn’t until the 1920s that busineses began providing accommodations for women . This was also, I notice, about the time that women got the vote.

Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784),
Images: Victorian urinal at Museum of London photograph by me; Rowlandson, The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788), courtesy Yale University Library; Thomas Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784), courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.



Sunday, September 16, 2018

From the Archives: A Beautiful (and Romantic) 18th c. Man's Shirt

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Susan reporting,

Today I'm reposting one of the breathtaking examples of needlework from The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, & Ornament, a 2014 exhibition at Winterthur Museum. 

Hung against a dark wall, this 18th c. man's linen shirt was almost sculptural in its pristine perfection. I've written other posts about similar shirts here and here, so I won't repeat how they're made, how often they're laundered, or who wore them.

So why write about another one here (except, of course, because it's so stunningly beautiful)? While most men of every class purchased shirts made by tailors (remember that at this time, the primary cost of any garment lay in the fabric, not the labor), shirts were one of the few garments that wives and mothers could, and did, make at home. The economical geometry of 18th c. shirts made them comparatively easy to cut out and sew, and the voluminous shape did away with any challenging issues of fitting. The simple construction focused the attention on the stitching, and an accomplished seamstress could display her gifts for perfect tiny stitches and neat hems, left. Fancy needlework was admired, but skillful plain sewing like this was almost considered a wifely virtue.

Shirts were also intimate garments, worn next to the skin, and for most men at this time who still had not adopted the new-ish fashion for underdrawers, the tails of shirts also served as underwear. All of these reasons made a well-stitched shirt a popular gift from a bride or newlywed wife to her husband, and they are often mentioned in letters and diaries of the time. A new wife could happily clothe her husband with her own labors and romantically think of him with every stitch, while he in turn would also be proud to wear a shirt that showed his new wife was accomplished and frugal.

Although the curators at Winterthur don't know either who made or wore this shirt, their guess is that it was one of these "newlywed" shirts. Not only does its sparkling condition hint at a shirt that was perhaps put aside as a keepsake, but the stitcher also added a small, sentimental touch: at the bottom of the neck-opening, serving as a reinforcement, is a small appliqued heart, right. Awww....

Above: Shirt, maker unknown, linen, probably made in America, c1790-1820. Winterthur Museum.
Photographs © 2014 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of September 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Why don't more boys read Little Women?
 Aretha Franklin, and the only hat that matters.
Paths of glory: the road to lasting fame and fortune rarely runs straight.
• The Georgian Post Office played a major role in espionage,  doing what the Secret Services do today.
Dreams and telepathy at the end of the American Civil War.
• An Indian chintz gown: fashion, status, and slavery in 18thc America.
Image: An exquisite hairnet of gold, a superb example of a Hellenistic goldsmith's talent and skill, c200-150 BC.
• Coffee houses, taverns, tea, and chocolate in Restoration London.
• An extended family of stay-makers (corset-makers) living and working in 18thc London.
• Real estate history: when Trinity Church ruled lower Manhattan.
Image: Silk damask gauze shoes from Chinese royalty that look surprisingly modern - yet are 800 years old.
Imposters in history: sixteen famous con-artists and pretenders.
• Culture in the early American classroom: a failed attempt at assimilation.
• Fashion + competitive masculinity = the codpiece.
Elizabeth Keckley: businesswoman, philanthropist, and dressmaker to a president's wife.
Image: From these drawings, it's clear that 19thc artist Gericault had a very bite-y cat.
• The dipping and drinking wells of Hyde Park.
• Film star: a classic Baltimore movie palace shines again.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.
 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket