Friday, January 18, 2013

Casual Friday: Too Early, 1873

Friday, January 18, 2013

Isabella reporting:

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.

11 comments:

Hels said...

Tissot only lived in Britain for one decade (1871-82). So if the date of the painting is correct, 1873, it seems probable that he was depicting an image from the London world he was part of, not a Paris scene that he remembered from his earlier life. He seemed, from all reports, to have a gay old time in London!

Pearl* said...

Every picture tells a story...

Anonymous said...

{Perhaps the young ladies and their father have made the faux pas of arriving on time at the ball, only to find that nobody else has arrived yet: they are all waiting to be fashionably late, the girls are Too Early!

Maggie Robinson said...

Tissot is one of my favorite painters. What he can do with a ruffle is genius. I used to have most of his paintings saved to my old computer...off to download again. :)

Isobel Carr said...

I'm fascinated by the couple in the doorway. Their posture, the way they lean, is so negligent and speaks volumes about how comfortable they are in the space and with each other.

NancySGoodman said...

Look at those dresses!!! To die for! And I wonder about the girl in the hallway, what was she doing on the floor? The young girls look too discreet to me to be part of the demi-mone

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I like the scenario of the daughters anxious about when people will arrive. Two of the young women resemble each other -- sisters, no doubt.

DLM said...

The fate of the young lady in pink - it is too early to tell. She is in a posture almost of penitence, if not pensiveness, bowed, awaiting society's judgment on her (... for what?). She is the focal point.

The white-haired gent has hand to chin, looking at her, concerned, and the lady behind him with the red neck ribbon appears to be looking at her with some doubt. The lady next to him, whose body should position her to be looking at the young lady in pink, is looking studiously away. Even the two faces in the doorway, and the gent seated, are speculatively peering her way.

It's too early to tell what will happen to her - will she be disgraced for some scandal? Will she be accepted? She is bowed with nerves ... they will all know soon.

Lady Wesley said...

The young ladies look entirely too proper to be members of the demimonde, but one must wonder why the lady in pink has her head bowed while her sisters(?) are discreetly looking elsewhere. I think the white-haired gentleman is their indulgent papa, and their mama is having a last word with the musicians while the maids sneak a peak through the door.

The extremely casual posture of the couple in the doorway is puzzling. Perhaps they are just taking the opportunity to relax before the crowds arrive.

Someone mention the girl in the hallway on the floor. It appears to me that she is ascending the stairs.

This is a delightful painting.

Melody said...

Feel like this is a bit of a spoiler in light of the above fun interpretions but - for those slightly OC types like myself...
thefashionhistorian.com (blog for 8/17/12) quotes Louise Jopling, a Tissot cohort, that the work was a "witty representation of modern life" involving the faux pas of guests (she speculates nouveau riche) arriving too early. Attribution is not given but I suspect she quotes from Jopling's 1925 volume Twenty years of my life, 1867-1887. The above blog entry also discusses Tissot's related 1875 canvas Hush! which may depict later on at the same event.
I relish your blog

Reina M. Williams said...

A lovely painting. I wonder who the two peeking in from the pocket door are--servants or younger siblings? And my eye is also drawn to the relaxed-looking couple by the door.

 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket