This 1873 painting by James Tissot (1836-1902) has always been one of my favorites. Titled Too Early, it's exactly that: those anxious minutes that seem like hours before guests begin arriving. From the dresses of the ladies and the orchestra in the corner, it would seem that this party will be a ball, with dancing on those well-polished floors. The mother has a final word with the musicians while the unmarried daughters of the house stand about their father, nervously opening and closing their fans as they wonder when, when, when (not if!) the hot guys they invited are going to show up.
Or...perhaps this isn't an innocent scene featuring an affluent London family. Perhaps those beautifully dressed young women instead belong to the Parisian demi-monde, and they've been invited by the white-haired gentleman to entertain his friends who've yet to arrive. Perhaps that's not their mother, but an infamously boisterous singer from a music hall, deciding which bawdy song she'll sing first. Perhaps in two or three hours, this will turn into a scene of wild revelry and debauchery, with those elegant coiffures and gowns falling down and the black velvet neck ribbons being worn as trophies by drunk young men - a raucous scene more suited to be painted by Toulouse-Lautrec than Tissot.
But right now, it's still too early to tell for sure. What do you think? Or do you imagine something else entirely? Here's a link to a larger version of the painting.
Above: Too Early, by James Tissot, 1873. Guildhall Art Gallery, London, UK.
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.