This is one of my favorite satirical prints of the late 18th c, and what's not to love? It's pure fashion foolishness at its best. Of course in 1788, when this print was published, Englishwomen didn't suddenly lose their booties.
But fashion was changing: the big hoops and false-rumps of the earlier 18th c had fallen from fashion, and the narrower, high-waisted gowns of the Regency era are just around the corner. The shoes with curving high heels that had been in style for over a century have been replaced by flat slippers. Balancing out the new, narrower lower half are oversized hats, kerchief-draped bosoms, that enormous fur muff, and full, frizzled hair.
Yes, it's doubtful even the most dedicated Georgian fashionista was dressed to this extreme. Portraits and surviving clothes from this period are actually quite pretty and feminine, even to our modern eyes. But satirical artists made their living by exaggeration, and in an era that loved women of physical substance, an artist couldn't go wrong ridiculing a too-slender figure in a tight skirt, or accusing women of deception in dress, either.
The caption: Both bums and rumps are now no more. With merry thoughts the fair are blest. Their beauties now you may explore. All bare and therefore all express't.
Although this print has been attributed to James Sayers, scholars now believe it's the work of one of the best caricaturists of all time, Thomas Rowlandson (who incidentally died on this day in 1827.) Given the many - and often erotic - drawings Rowlandson made of robustly endowed women, he clearly wasn't enamored of the new fashions. Don't you wish he could be miraculously transported to modern times to draw Kim Kardashian?
Above: The Bumless Beauties by James Sayers/Thomas Rowlandson, published by S.W.Fores, London, 1788. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
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.