Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Video: Recreating Madame Récamier's Coiffure

Friday, September 21, 2018

Chinard, Mme Récamier
Loretta reports:

I have mentioned Madame Récamier before, mainly in connection with furniture (here and here). She is quite well known among Regency/Napoleonic era aficionados, both for her portraits and her salon.

The Gérard and David portraits of her will be familiar to many. However, being mainly interested in the chaise longue, I hadn’t really noticed the marble bust by Joseph Chirard, until I came upon Janet Stephens’s video. Ms Stephens has posted several YouTube videos explaining Greek and Roman hair styles, which in turn help us get a better sense of the powerful influence of Greek and Roman statuary on this period of fashion in Europe and America.

Image: Bust of Juliette Récamier by Joseph Chinard, in "Musée des Beaux-arts" of Lyon (France), photo by Philippe Alès, Creative Commons license.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Moral Poison": The Evils of Reading Novels, 1864

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Susan reporting,

Loretta and I have written so many posts for this blog over the years - nearly a decade's worth! - that we've forgotten a good many of them. Fortunately, our readers haven't. This one surfaced yesterday on Twitter (thank you, Lucy Paquette), and I thought it deserved another appearance here as I wallow through deadline-itis.

In an earlier post, I shared an 18thc warning against women reading romances. By 1860, those who worried about everyone else's reading habits had expanded their concerns, including all novels read not only by women, but by men as well. Apparently novels were dangerous.

The warnings below come from a religious tract published in New York in 1864. A Pastor's Jottings; or, Striking Scenes during a Ministry of Thirty-Five Years was printed anonymously because, as the prefatory note explains, the author "could thus write with more freedom." That same note assures us that "the statements of this volume are all literally true."

Among the many things (this book is nearly 350 pages long) that distress this unknown pastor, novels - that "moral poison" - are right there at the top of the list: "The minds of novel readers are intoxicated, their rest is broken, their health shattered, and their prospect of usefulness blighted."

But he doesn't want us simply to take his word for it. Apparently even novels by Charles Dickens are suspect, and he quotes the famous educator Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame to prove it:

Childishness in boys even of good ability seems to be a growing fault; and I do not know what to ascribe it, except to the great number of exciting books of amusement, like Pickwick, Nickleby, Bentley's Magazine, etc...that leave [a boy] totally palled, not only for his regular work, but for literature of all sorts.

Nor are women exempt from the terrible influences of novel-reading. In fact (remember, this is all LITERALLY TRUE), according to the pastor, women suffer even more:

Listen to the evidence given by a physician in Massachusetts: 'I have seen a young lady with her table loaded with volumes of fictitious trash, poring day after day and night after night over highly wrought scenes and skillfully portrayed pictures of romance, until her cheeks grew pale, her eyes became wild and restless, and her mind wandered and was lost – the light of intelligence passed behind a cloud, and her soul was forever benighted. She was insane, incurably insane from reading novels.'

But insanity is only the beginning:

Not very long since, a double suicide was a young married couple from Ohio, who were clearly proved to be led to ruin and death by these most pernicious books....Police officers too in London and some of our own large cities, have given mournful evidence of the results of some of these novels when dramatized and performed on the stage, as leading to burglaries and murder.

Suicide, madness, burglaries, and murder! As an unrepentant novelist, I clearly have much to answer for. While for obvious reasons, I don't want you to see the error of your ways, but if you'd like to read more of the Unnamed Pastor's edifying work, here's the link to his book, available to read for free via Google Books.

Thanks to Clive Thompson, who shared quotes from A Pastor's Jottings on Twitter.

Above: The Pink Domino; print made by William Henry Mote after Frank Stone, c1833-1835. The British Museum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ladies' Facilities in the 1700s to 1900s

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Loretta reports:

In the course of trying to get a bit more information about this Victorian era public urinal, at the Museum of London, I wound up in a dead end. All I know about it is more or less what I’d learned about the public facilities in Paris.

However, I did discover more about how and where ladies answered Nature’s call during the 18th and 19th centuries. The short answer: It wasn't easy.

These days, we are frustrated by the long lines outside ladies’ lavatories: Why don’t they install more stalls? But at least we can find rather nice facilities. In London, for instance, I found such interesting and elegant ones that I started photographing them.

In the time of my stories, ladies’ public facilities were not so elegant, to the extent that they existed at all.

According to the Museum of London’s feature on Vauxhall Gardens:
“Respectable’ women, in particular, were suddenly in a situation where access to a discreet and reasonably hygienic toilet facility could not be taken for granted. In Vauxhall, a communal women’s privy appears to have existed, and was illustrated in a satirical print by the artist Thomas Rowlandson, although this may be an exaggerated representation – Rowlandson was known for his scatological and titillating images of women. Still, many women – and men – must have taken advantage of the garden’s dark corners and convenient plants.”
The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788)
Susan has discussed this Rowlandson illustration in detail here. You can read the full Museum of London article here.

It's rather shocking to discover that it wasn’t until the 1920s that busineses began providing accommodations for women . This was also, I notice, about the time that women got the vote.

Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784),
Images: Victorian urinal at Museum of London photograph by me; Rowlandson, The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788), courtesy Yale University Library; Thomas Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784), courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

From the Archives: A Beautiful (and Romantic) 18th c. Man's Shirt

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Susan reporting,

Today I'm reposting one of the breathtaking examples of needlework from The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, & Ornament, a 2014 exhibition at Winterthur Museum. 

Hung against a dark wall, this 18th c. man's linen shirt was almost sculptural in its pristine perfection. I've written other posts about similar shirts here and here, so I won't repeat how they're made, how often they're laundered, or who wore them.

So why write about another one here (except, of course, because it's so stunningly beautiful)? While most men of every class purchased shirts made by tailors (remember that at this time, the primary cost of any garment lay in the fabric, not the labor), shirts were one of the few garments that wives and mothers could, and did, make at home. The economical geometry of 18th c. shirts made them comparatively easy to cut out and sew, and the voluminous shape did away with any challenging issues of fitting. The simple construction focused the attention on the stitching, and an accomplished seamstress could display her gifts for perfect tiny stitches and neat hems, left. Fancy needlework was admired, but skillful plain sewing like this was almost considered a wifely virtue.

Shirts were also intimate garments, worn next to the skin, and for most men at this time who still had not adopted the new-ish fashion for underdrawers, the tails of shirts also served as underwear. All of these reasons made a well-stitched shirt a popular gift from a bride or newlywed wife to her husband, and they are often mentioned in letters and diaries of the time. A new wife could happily clothe her husband with her own labors and romantically think of him with every stitch, while he in turn would also be proud to wear a shirt that showed his new wife was accomplished and frugal.

Although the curators at Winterthur don't know either who made or wore this shirt, their guess is that it was one of these "newlywed" shirts. Not only does its sparkling condition hint at a shirt that was perhaps put aside as a keepsake, but the stitcher also added a small, sentimental touch: at the bottom of the neck-opening, serving as a reinforcement, is a small appliqued heart, right. Awww....

Above: Shirt, maker unknown, linen, probably made in America, c1790-1820. Winterthur Museum.
Photographs © 2014 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of September 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Why don't more boys read Little Women?
 Aretha Franklin, and the only hat that matters.
Paths of glory: the road to lasting fame and fortune rarely runs straight.
• The Georgian Post Office played a major role in espionage,  doing what the Secret Services do today.
Dreams and telepathy at the end of the American Civil War.
• An Indian chintz gown: fashion, status, and slavery in 18thc America.
Image: An exquisite hairnet of gold, a superb example of a Hellenistic goldsmith's talent and skill, c200-150 BC.
• Coffee houses, taverns, tea, and chocolate in Restoration London.
• An extended family of stay-makers (corset-makers) living and working in 18thc London.
• Real estate history: when Trinity Church ruled lower Manhattan.
Image: Silk damask gauze shoes from Chinese royalty that look surprisingly modern - yet are 800 years old.
Imposters in history: sixteen famous con-artists and pretenders.
• Culture in the early American classroom: a failed attempt at assimilation.
• Fashion + competitive masculinity = the codpiece.
Elizabeth Keckley: businesswoman, philanthropist, and dressmaker to a president's wife.
Image: From these drawings, it's clear that 19thc artist Gericault had a very bite-y cat.
• The dipping and drinking wells of Hyde Park.
• Film star: a classic Baltimore movie palace shines again.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Video: A Young Dutch Woman Dresses for Day in 17thc Delft

Friday, September 14, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's the latest lovely fashion history video from our friends at Crow's Eye Productions. The layers and layers of clothing worn by an elite Dutch woman in the 17thc served not only to display her family's wealth, but also kept her warm in a damp, unheated house. I found myself thinking of the Dutch immigrants in New Amsterdam (later to become New York City) at the same time, and how welcome those layers must have been in the New World, too.

There's also a wonderful surprise ending to this video that delighted the nerdy-history-girl-art-historian in me. Wait for it!

Many thanks to costume historian Pauline Loven and director Nick Loven of Crow's Eye Productions for sharing their work with us.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Goodwin's Court, London: A Little Time Travel

Thursday, September 13, 2018
Loretta reports:

I’ve just been reading a history of Kensington and Chelsea and shaking my head over the numbers of old buildings that have disappeared. So have streets. While my imagination is strong, trying to get a strong visual sense of an area is sometimes very difficult. The world in which my characters lived is long gone. In London one can certainly find pre-Victorian houses as well as venerable public buildings (St. Paul’s doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere) but they’re surrounded and often overwhelmed by, primarily, late Victorian to 20th & 21st-century architecture. Streets have to accommodate automobiles—zillions of them—and they are not traveling at horse-and-carriage speed.

Standing inside Apsley House, with tour guide Kristine Hughes Patrone, I had to really work to get a sense of what the Duke of Wellington saw from his window. For instance, Hyde Park isn’t the same; neither is Hyde Park Corner; and the Marble Arch is not where it used to be. However, the once-controversial statue of Achilles (which I’ve used more than once in my books) is right where it’s supposed to be. So one starts with the existent and mentally paints in the rest. It works, but oh, wouldn't I like to travel invisibly in a bubble, and actually be there.

Sometimes one can come close, though. One day, following a reader’s suggestion, I made my way to Goodwin’s Court in Covent Garden.

Here was a little slice of my characters’ London: the kinds of shop fronts they might have gazed into, and the gas lights that would have illuminated (not very well) the place at night.

Though it’s one small court in London, it’s easily the kind of space I can imagine, say, a lot of troublemakers bursting out from, or a pair of friends stepping in to, in order have a conversation at a time when the streets would have been extremely noisy. There are other quiet little corners that don’t seem to have changed very much from the early 1800s. A step off the beaten track sometimes does seem like a step through a portal into the past. Goodwin’s Court is one of the better examples

You can see more images and read more about Goodwin’s Court here and here.

All photos copyright © 2018 Walter M. Henritze III
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Silk Vest Honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, c1824

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Susan reporting,

Yesterday marked the 241st anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, a pivotal confrontation in the American Revolution between General George Washington and his Continental Army and General Sir William Howe, commander of the British troops. I've written posts about the battle several times before (here and here. Aside from Brandywine's significance as the largest land battle of the Revolution, it also marked the debut in the war of a young volunteer from France.

An aristocratic idealist with a military background, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) was only nineteen when he met General Washington in August 1777. Already commissioned by the American Congress as a major general, Lafayette was not at first given troops to command, but instead became a member of Washington's staff. At Brandywine, he saw his first experience in the field; he was shot in the leg, yet still was cited by Washington for his "bravery and military ardor." Lafayette went on to play a key role in the war, not only as an officer and close friend to Washington, but also as a diplomat who helped secure the French ships and soldiers that ultimately tipped the scales for an American victory. He was celebrated as one of the most popular heroes of the Revolution, and remains so to this day. (How many of you began singing Guns and Ships in your head at the mere mention of his name?)

Lafayette is included in a wonderful small exhibition currently on display (through July 9, 2019) at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Through a well-chosen selection of paintings, maps, and artifacts, The American Revolution: A World War explains how the Revolution was only part of a global shift in the balance of power, war, and conquest that marked the 18thc world. As a Frenchman fighting the British with the American forces and Spanish allies, Lafayette is prominently featured.

But it's not only his wartime exploits that are highlighted. Lafayette's triumphant return to America in 1824 is also included. To quote from the exhibition:

"In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe. Over fourteen months, he visited all twenty-four states....[President Monroe's invitation came as America] approached the 50th anniversary of its independence. He hoped the general's iconic presence would help rekindle the nation's "revolutionary spirit" and commitment to unity, which seemed to be slipping away. The trip was a smashing success, but it did not moderate the divisive 1824 presidential contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson."

Americans celebrated Lafayette's visit with all kinds of souvenirs. Much like modern Americans wear t-shirts printed with the names and faces of their heroes, Lafayette's portrait was emblazoned on ribbons, dresses, and gloves, as well as the vest shown here:

"Hosting the Marquis de Lafayette at a New York banquet, Revolutionary War veteran Matthew Clarkson wore this vest covered with the general's image. During his sojourn, Lafayette attended hundreds of banquets, balls, and celebrations."

Though the Marquis was far too well-bred to record his thoughts about his host, I wonder what it must have been like to sit through a banquet across from a man wearing your face and name all over his chest....

Above left and detail right: Vest worn at banquet for Marquis de Lafayette, 1824-1836, National Museum of American History. Photos ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.
Lower right: Le marquis de La Fayette en capitaine du régiment de Noailles by Louis Léopold Boilly, 1788, Musée national du château de Versailles. Image ©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource NY.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fashions for Sometime in 1896

Monday, September 10, 2018
Walking Dresses 1896
Loretta reports:

My searches online produced a wealth of 1890s fashion plates. Unfortunately, nobody ever saved the fashion descriptions. However, what turned up in the Met collections is, despite the lack of documentation, unexpectedly enlightening.There are descriptions, in French, which I leave you to translate. But what’s unusual about these images is that they appear to be colorized photographs: in other words, these aren’t the stylized images that portray anatomically impossible women’s bodies (please compare and contrast with images in my post of October 2016). I imagine some 19th century version of photoshopping went on, but at least these offer a much better sense of the clothing.

La Mode Pratique was a lovely magazine. If you’re interested in 1880s-1920s French fashion, you might want to look at this blog for samples of the pages. At the bottom of the page are links to more posts about the magazine.
Evening Dress 1896

Images courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dresses 1896

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