Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Video: Dressing an 18thc Gentleman for "Reigning Men" at LACMA

Friday, March 16, 2018

Susan reporting,

This week I've been attending the Costume Society of America's annual symposium in Colonial Williamsburg. One of the more fascinating presentations was given by Senior Curator Sharon Takeda and Assistant Curator Clarissa M. Esguerra from the Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), who described the process of creating the 2016 major exhibition Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015. Featuring pieces drawn largely from the museum's own collections, the exhibition challenged the assumption that fashion is only for women, and instead - as the program described it - "celebrated the rich history of restraint and resplendence in menswear, traced cultural influences over the centuries, and illuminated connections between history and high fashion." (The exhibition also received CSA's Richard Martin Exhibition Award.)

This short video offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the show's preparation. Dressing and moving mannequins in rare and delicate 200-year-old clothing is clearly not an easy task - but the beauty and craftsmanship of the menswear glimpsed here makes the video well worth watching. For more information and other images, see the LACMA blog dedicated to the exhibition.

Attention to our lucky readers in Australia: the Reigning Men exhibition has traveled from Los Angeles to Saint Louis in 2017, and will soon complete be on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney from May 2-October 14, 2018.

If you received this post via email, you may be seeing a black box or empty space where the video should be. Please click here to watch the video.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Regency Satire: The Triumph of the Whale

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Cruikshank, The Prince of Whales 1812
Loretta reports:

On this date in 1812 the Examiner published Charles Lamb’s poem “The Triumph of the Whale,” which inspired this George Cruikshank satirical print of 1 May 1812. The image appeared in Cruikshank's satirical magazine, The Scourge.
The caricature and poem about the then Prince Regent (later King George IV) remind us all that mocking the great and powerful, in picture and print (and these days, in internet memes), is nothing new. Given the libel and sedition laws of the time, it’s amazing what Regency satirists got away with. And let’s not forget one of the Privileges of Peers I reported on a while back:
“3. To secure the honour of, and prevent the spreading of any scandal upon peers, or any great officer of the realm, by reports, there is an express law, called scandalum magnatum, by which any man convicted of making a scandalous report against a peer of the realm (though true) is condemned to an arbitrary fine, and to remain in custody till the same be paid.”

Scandalum magnatum notwithstanding, the faces in this caricature would have been familiar to the audience of the time, and everybody would understand the political implications. We, however, need a translation, which the Brighton Museums website provides succinctly:

“Portrayed as a whale in a ‘Sea of Politics’ George spouts the ‘Liquor of Oblivion’ on playwright and Whig supporter Richard Sheridan, and blows the ‘Dew of favour’ on Spencer Perceval the Tory Prime Minister. The prince ignores his former lover, Mrs Fitzherbert, and looks lovingly at his mistress Lady Hertford, who is shown next to her cuckold husband.”
The figures on the right—the Tories—viewed as the fat cats of the time, expect to profit further by the Regent’s decision to shun his Whig associates. The Marquess of Hertford is wearing cuckold horns. You can read a much more detailed description at the British Museum website (please click on "More" for the full description and check out the curator's comments as well). Clearly, this is pretty strong stuff, though not as strong, I think, as Lamb’s poem.

The 1812 blog offers a concise summary of Charles Lamb’s life and the poem. Most of the references are clear enough, although I haven't yet figured out why the muse Lamb summons is Io, one of Zeus’s many loves, who was transformed into a white heifer.

Update: As I hoped, a reader provided the following clarification—
"It's a song. 'Io' is an exclamation you find in Latin songs, and probably in Roman life as well, but spoken words don't survive. It means something like 'Hurray' or even 'Yay'.
In my country a Latin student song still survives. Its first line is 'Io vivat' which translates to 'Hurray, long live'. It dates to the days when all subjects at the universities were taught in Latin."

These pages are from The Poetical Works of Bowles, Lamb, and Hartley Coleridge Selected 1887

Image: George Cruikshank, The Prince of Whales, from the Scourge of 1 May 1812.
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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

High Style in Rural New Hampshire, c1835

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Susan reporting,

This week I'm visiting Colonial Williamsburg to attend the Costume Society of America's annual meeting. If any of you are attending as well, I hope you'll say hi.

I saw this portrait yesterday in CW's DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, and felt she definitely deserved a post. Loretta has written many posts (and books!) that feature the exaggerated fashions of the 1830s - an era of big hair, bigger skirts, and the biggest sleeves. You can see examples here, here, and here, all from trend-setting English magazines of the time.

But American women have always possessed a stylish flair and a gift for making European fashions their own. Fashion magazines and trends traveled across the Atlantic as swiftly as clipper ships could bring them. The young woman in this portrait isn't from Paris or London, but from Milton Mills, New Hampshire, a village on the Salmon River bordering Maine.

Martha Spinney Simes (1808-c1883) was in her early twenties when this portrait was painted. She's shown sitting on an elegant (if a bit strangely proportioned) red sofa - the matching portrait of her husband has him sitting on a similar sofa or chair, facing her - that serves to enhance the emerald green of her dress. Her hair is pinned into the most fashionable of glossy knots and twists, with a short braid over one side of her forehead ending in a corkscrew curl.

And her jewelry! Martha has clearly embraced the idea of "more is more." In addition to two cuff bracelets and multiple rings, she wears an elaborate double-strand of glossy black beads, perhaps jet, and what is likely a cameo brooch. Her drop earrings are the real stars, however, over-sized gold drops with pale blue stones (opals, chalcedony, or agate?) that frame her face and help to balance her hair.

What I like best about this portrait is how all this finery doesn't overshadow Martha. Unlike the fashion plates and many European portraits of the time, she doesn't simper or glance sideways. Instead her expression seems forthright, direct, and intelligent, with just a hint of a smile. She's fabulous, and she knows it. And who's going to argue?

Portrait of Martha Spinney Simes (Mrs. Bray Underwood Simes), artist unknown, c1835, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Elegant Bookcase for a Fashionable Regency Library

Monday, March 12, 2018
Library Bookcase March 1812
Loretta reports:

I set quite a few scenes in libraries, mainly because, by the time of my stories, they had become a family gathering place. Furthermore, in many great houses, these were large, comfortable rooms, often fitted out less formally than say, the drawing room. The one I used in A Duke in Shining Armor is a good example.

While bookcases, complete with writing desk, might appear in various rooms, this one seems to need quite a large room. And even if the library already has miles of bookshelves, those of us who love books can always use storage space for more.

I was particularly struck by the tambour circular cupboards, because (a) while horizontal tambour is fairly common, the circular vertical style is much less so, and (b) one of my own favorite pieces of furniture is a mid-20th century dressing table that has this feature.

Bookcase description

Images from Ackermann's Repository for March 1812, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, via Internet Archive.

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.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of March 5, 2018

Saturday, March 10, 2018
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• An 1870s Turkish-inspired fancy dress costume from the House of Worth highlights the transition into women wearing trouser.
• "I desire you would Remember the ladies": read Abigail Adams's most famous and treasured letter to her husband John, written in 1776.
• The strange saga of George Washington's bedpan.
• Quick book quiz: can you spot the titles borrowed from other books?
• Online resources for palaeography - the art of reading old handwriting.
• How new research helped tell the story of Chance Bradstreet, an enslaved man living in 18thc Massachusetts.
Image: The gilded weathervane of St Mary's church, Kingsclere, is in the shape of a bed-bug.
• How 18thc British women deployed the teapot in the campaign against slavery.
Abraham Lincoln visits New York's Greenwich Village.
• Despite overwhelming odds, American Edmonia Lewis found international success as a sculptor in 19thc Rome.
• What the history of food stamps reveals.
• Online exhibition traces 150 years of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Image: Black women in Early Modern cameos.
• Strikingly detailed images of historic cathedrals each took up to a year to create.
• The story of Brooklyn's fabulous, forgotten Fulton Ferry terminal.
• The 18thc fashion for false rumps.
Ida Wilson Lewis, lighthouse keeper and fearless Federal worker, who saved 25 lives.
• Creating the next generation of readers: "Children fall in love with reading as a result of falling in love with being read to."
Video: Beautiful: a rare snowfall covers Rome's ancient monuments.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection
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