We've shown you numerous English prints that make fun of ladies' vanities and follies, so it seems only fair to do the same for the gentlemen. The 18th c. artists certainly didn't spare them. This was the age of dandified macaronis, gentlemen who affected powdered wigs, jeweled snuff-boxes, and embroidered coats of pastel silk brocades, and there was considerable concern in London and beyond that the once-proud and virile English male had deteriorated into an effeminate, Frenchified peacock, fit for nothing but preening.
Thus we present The Old Beau in Extasy, sitting in his flowered banyan before his looking glass with the ever-knowing, eye-rolling attendant (is there any other kind in these prints?), a Continental hairdresser with his comb tucked in his own hair. And check out the beau's queue (ponytail) of false hair: so prodigiously long that it must be wrapped and clubbed into a bundle.
Here's the caption:
Behold this Wretch! a Fop at Sixty-two, A true conceited, ugly, worn-out Beau, Whose Toilet boasts of every scarce Perfume With Chinese Paint for Artificial Bloom: A half-starv'd paltry Thing so strange all o'er That England ne'er beheld his like before. The Girls all hate him, and at their request Up hands the Cap they think will suit him best.
The cap that "suits him best" is, of course, the pointed dunce's cap hanging over his head, complete with a pair of ass's furry ears. The clock's drawing close to midnight, and like Cinderella, this beau's time is nearly done. I can't quite make out the classical painting (doubtless a memento of his long-ago grand tour to Italy) hanging on the wall, but I think it shows Narcissus, leaning over the stream to admire his reflection – entirely appropriate!
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.