Monday, June 18, 2018

Being Elsewhere

Monday, June 18, 2018
Loretta reports:

I have no report. With apologies, there will be no Nerdy History Girl blog post from me today, because it's too late at night to pretend to be intelligent about history. This is because I didn't come back soon enough from where I was away to. Instead I offer all the preceding prepositions in places some people will say are wrong.

And the pictures are from where I was late coming back from, on the Maine coast in paradise. So maybe you won't blame me for not hurrying back.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of June 11, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A cup of tea, made the 18thc way.
• The rebozo: fashion, feminism, and death.
• Lily of Liberty: Amelia Bloomer at 200.
• Thomas Bewick's cat.
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, 17thc poet - and perhaps a pre-Romantic?
• Face of a suffragette: previously unknown footage of Emily Wilding Davison discovered.
Faith Trumbull: the artist was a young girl.
Image: The Silver Streak Iron, c1946 may be the most beautiful iron ever made.
• Did 18thc heiress Mary Blandy poison her father's oatmeal?
• Rainbow-colored beasts from a 15thc Book of Hours.
• Murder on the Titanic: the nightmare one survivor from Rhode Island never forgot.
• Blue moons, honeymoons, and moons made of green cheese: lunar language.
• Early Modern memes: recycling and reusing 17thc woodcuts in popular print.
• Catching up on Beatnik fashion.
Image: "The latest style of ladies' muff is provided with a pocket for the owner's pet dog" 1895.
• When Connecticut led the nation in the production of pins.
• An x-ray of a Civil War wound? A hapless re-enactor accidentally shot himself with an 1860s gun.
• Might we interest you in a dog-powered velocipede?
• Quick quiz: can you match these archaic names for animals with their modern names?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Video: Wilma Rudolph, the Unstoppable

Friday, June 15, 2018
Wilma Rudolph wins in Rome 1960
Loretta reports:

My husband, who also is a Nerdy History Person (although suffering from a less virulent form of the disease), sent me this article: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman. Not being a Sports Person, I had only recognized her name—something to do with Olympics? That’s as far as it went. Then I read her story, and kept on looking for more and more. She survived and conquered ordeals that would have crushed many of us—well, me, definitely. How about polio and poverty, to start with?

Biography Channel Video: Mini Bio: Wilma Rudolph

You can find many bios online, including this one and this one.

Image: Image: Rudolph convincingly wins the women's 100 meter dash at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

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, June 13, 2018

A Formal Ball Gown from the French Court, c1780

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Susan reporting,

For fashion historians, there are some garments from the past that become celebrities in their own right, featured over and over in books, exhibitions, and on Pinterest. These garments have earned this status for a number of reasons: because of the fame of the original owner or maker, exceptional craftsmanship, rare textiles or embellishments, or simply because of their beauty.

(As always, please click on the images to enlarge them. I know these photos are a bit dark, but the galleries were low-lit to preserve the textiles - a fair trade-off.)

The dress shown here qualifies on every count. It's currently on display through July 29, 2018 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789 exhibition (see here, here, and here for my posts featuring other objects from the exhibition.) This exquisite ball gown, or robe parée, would have been worn at only the most formal occasions at the French court at Versailles in the late 18thc.. Once linked to Queen Marie-Antoinette herself, the gown is still attributed to the queen's dressmaker, Marie Jeanne "Rose" Bertin (1747-1813).

The gown definitely belonged to a woman of very high status at the court, and it's exactly the kind of luxurious and costly garment that would bring the ire of French revolutionaries a decade later. Not only is the surface design - featuring draped ribbons, flowers, and peacock feathers - sophisticated and elegant, but the execution of the embroidery on the cream-colored silk satin is extraordinary. The list of the elements on the exhibition placard shows the complexity of the the needlework: silk embroidery, appliques of satin, metallic threads, chenille, sequins, and applied glass paste. Everything was designed to sparkle by candlelight, and make the wearer the center of attention as she danced.

What to me is even more extraordinary is that the gown remains a showpiece even though it has been significantly altered. Originally worn over the wide hoops (pannier) required for 18thc court dress, a later owner had the petticoat (skirt) narrowed to a bell-shape and the bodice remade to conform to mid-19thc tastes, and likely to make it more wearable and lighter as well. The ruffles shown are also later additions. No matter: it's still breathtakingly beautiful.

Formal Ball Gown, attributed to Marie Jeanne "Rose" Bertin, c1780s, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photographs ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

From the Archives: They Do It Differently in France, Part One

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Frances Trollope ca 1832
Loretta reports:

[Note: This post is from 2010, when I was researching my Dressmakers series. In light of recent discussions about the differences in the way married and unmarried women dressed, it seemed worth a return engagement.]

I had occasion to reopen my yellowed copy of Fanny Trollope’s  Paris and the Parisians recently, and was reminded what a delightful account she offers of Paris in 1835.  I suggest you read the entire Letter XXXV —which I have had to hack up mercilessly below.  It points out a very interesting cultural difference.

By this time, in England, arranged marriages were a thing of the past, but not in France.  This led to some interesting differences in social behavior.  In France, Fanny tells us, the unmarried girls are the last to get dancing partners.  It’s the married women—and many of them no spring chickens—to whom all the young gallants flock.  She discusses this oddity with an unnamed French woman of her acquaintance, who asks, "Will you then have the kindness to explain to me the difference in this respect between France and England ?"

Fanny: " The only difference between us which I mean to advocate is, that with us the amusement which throws young people together under circumstances the most likely, perhaps, to elicit expressions of gallantry and admiration from the men, and a gracious reception of them from the women, is considered as befitting the single rather than the married part of the community."

 " With us, indeed, it is exactly the reverse," replied she,—" at least as respects the young ladies. By addressing the idle, unmeaning gallantry inspired by the dance to a young girl, we should deem the cautious delicacy of restraint in which she is enshrined transgressed and broken in upon. A young girl should be given to her husband before her passions have been awakened or her imagination excited by the voice of gallantry.…When a girl is first married, her feelings, her thoughts, her imagination, are wholly occupied by her husband. Her mode of education has ensured this; and afterward it is at the choice of her husband whether he will secure and retain her young heart for himself. In no country have husbands so little reason to complain of their wives as in France ; for in no country does the manner in which they live with them depend so wholly on themselves.”

Marie J. Lafont-Porcher ca 1835
After politely debating which country has got it all wrong, the Unnamed Lady concludes:  “…as we go on exchanging fashions so amicably, who knows but we may live to see your young ladies shut up a little more, while their mothers and fathers look out for a suitable marriage for them, instead of inflicting the awkward task upon themselves?* And in return, perhaps, our young wives may lay aside their little coquetries, and become mères respectables somewhat earlier than they do now. But, in truth, they all come to it at last."

*Italics mine.

Images: Frances Trollope, by Auguste Hervieu circa 1832, courtesy National Portrait Gallery NPG 3906 via Wikipedia. François Kinson, Portrait of Marie J. Lafont-Porcher circa 1835, courtesy Groeningemuseum, via Wikipedia.
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