Saturday, March 31, 2012

Breakfast Links Week of March 26, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012
Served up fresh for your browsing delight: our favorite links of the week to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, collected from around the Twitterverse.
• Brief history of royal barges, including Eleanor of Provence's being pelted with stones from London Bridge in 1263.
• The onager, a fabulous beast, and symbol of the devil, who brays 12 times on the spring equinox.
• Artist at the window: 18th c French painter Marie Victoire Lemoine.
• Who was Casanova - history's greatest lover, a cad, or a misunderstood intellectual?
• Breathtaking pink silk satin evening gown by Liberty c 1910 - esp. like the open sleeves & tassels.
• An "angel in a top hat" or "a great meddler"? Henry Bergh (1813-1888) inspiring founder of ASCPA.
• Few artists are as sharply cruel as caricaturist James Gillray: his 1807 take on Lady Hamilton, "greatly enlarged."
• The original "Mad Men" office building 1957.
• Rare archival photographs of everyday life on board the Titanic by fortunate passenger who disembarked early.
• Who killed Alexander the Great? New theories about his death.
• Grim way of punishing outspoken women in the 16th-17th c: the scold's bridle.
• The education of an 18th c squire: John Wilkes (1725-1797.)
• The donkey born in a First World War trench that became a mascot for British troops.
Caroline, Byron, and Annabella, in the same house on the same "fatal day."
• So cool! Virtual tour of Victorian chemist shop at Hitchin Museum.
• Garden history: 19th c White House gardens and grounds.
• A view of London: Tottenham Court Road, 1812.
Self-Murder: The Sad Case of Mary Hunt (1767-1792.)
• An unusual Italian Renaissance mansion on NYC's Upper East Side survives relatively unchanged.
Fannie Farmer & Cooking: fantastic list/links of historical cooking & recipe sources.
Automaton: The Turk-The Grandmaster Hoax.
• "The wisdom of Solomon"and a stone pyramid, in the yard of a Hawksmoor church in London.
• Elegant black lace mitts from 1830s, not 1980s.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Video: Buster Keaton in the ring

Friday, March 30, 2012
Loretta reports:

I've incorporated early 19th C gentlemen's fondness for fisticuffs in several of my books.  For an idea of what boxing was really like back then, take a look at Georgian Boxing at Horrible Histories.

Fortunately for the squeamish, we don't have actual Regency era fisticuffs recorded on film—but here's Buster Keaton, my favorite silent film actor and comic genius, demonstrating his brilliance in the ring.

Cruikshank illustration from Pierce Egan's Life in London, 1821

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are These Marie-Antoinette's Shoes?

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Susan reporting:

Some things from the past are valued for their intrinsic worth (a diamond ring, set in gold) while others become valued for what they represent (the original Declaration of Independence) or who created them (any painting by Rembrandt.)

These 18th c mules, left, don't fall into any of those categories. They're faded and worn, they're not remarkable in design from many other surviving 18th c women's shoes, and their maker is long since forgotten. But because they were said to have been worn by the French Queen Marie-Antoinette, they recently were sold at auction in Toulon, France for a staggering 43,225 euros, or $54,800 - far exceeding the pre-sale estimates of 3000-5000 euros.

The provenance (history) of the shoes is unsubstantiated, and even the auction organizers admit that the pair only "may" have been worn by the queen. The main evidence seems to be that they're the same size (about a modern 36.5) that Marie-Antoinette is known to have worn. They're also reputed to have been worn to the Fete de la Federation on July 14, 1790, marking the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. While the first Fete was supposed to be celebrating the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France, in time it came to be called Bastille Day, a holiday with very different connotations that supporting any sort of monarchy.

Even if none of this is true, there's an undeniable poignancy to the idea of these white silk shoes with their much-faded tricolor pleated ribbons being worn by Marie-Antoinette. None who attended that long-ago celebration could have imagined the horror of the coming years in France, or the significance that the tricolor ribbon would acquire. As symbols go, these shoes have it all: white silk mules with high heels perfectly exemplify the "let-them-eat-cake" decadent luxury of the ancien-regime, while the tricolor ribbon adds that innocent yet tragic foreshadowing. Just like the questionable legend that these shoes belonged to Anne Boleyn, another doomed queen, it's the story that gave this pair their value - all $54,800 worth.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Sunday Visit to Hyde Park in 1835

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Loretta reports:

Following is an excerpt from Sketches from Real Life, published in The Court Magazine in January 1835.  The entire piece is interesting reading, & you might have fun guessing which people the initials & dashes & asterisks refer to.
We will enter Hyde Park by the gateway of the beautiful screen we have just glanced at . . .It is Sunday ; and we are accompanied on our entrance by streams of well dressed pedestrians, throngs of well mounted cavaliers, and strings of well appointed equipages, all tending to the same point of popular attraction, — the northern portion of that irregular shaped Ring which it is now our business to describe, with all its extraneous chasing, and all those temporary adjuncts which it wears so profusely on this its weekly jour-de-fête.

On first passing through the Screen which separates Hyde Park from the point of junction between the western extreme of Piccadilly on the one hand, and the great western road on the other, we find ourselves in an angular area, of irregular shape, and branching off, on the left, into two long and spacious carriage roads, running parallel with each other to an extent that (in our misty metropolitan atmosphere) the eye can scarcely take in. To-day these two roads are enlivened at intervals, "few and far between," the one on the left by various unpretending equipages, rolling steadily along in both directions, as if willing to avoid the vulgar noise, bustle, and dust of the public road on the one hand, and the aristocratic gaiety and splendour of the crowded Ring on the other. . .
The other still broader and more stately road,* running parallel with that just referred to, finds its spacious solitude enlivened by a few quietly disposed equestrians alone: for carriages are interdicted there, save those of royalty itself, and of one favoured exception, His Grace the High Falconer of England . . . Certain it is, his Duchess does not fail frequently to avail herself of this imaginary approximation to royalty. Nor can we blame her for so doing. To pay a hundred thousand a year for a turnpike ticket entitling one to travel the eight furlongs of "royal road," between Kensington and London, and then not to use the privilege, were a superfluous piece of magnificence. The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblée, 1835

*Rotten Row

1833-Smollinger-Hyde Park section of "Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace." (with my notes)

Rotten Row and Hyde Park Corner, London, England, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Fashions for the Gentleman: 1700 vs. 1800

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Susan reporting:

Loretta's post yesterday about poufy pants set me to thinking of other masculine fashion foolishness. Modern men are often let off the hook regarding fashions, as if they're somehow above that particular frivolity - or, others would argue, far beneath it. But in the past men had no qualms about playing the peacock and following fashion, even to its most extreme.

This print, left, is one of my favorites. (Click on the image to enlarge.) A century separates these two stylish English gentleman, a hundred years of evolving styles. Yet unlike most caricatures of male fashion (like our old friends Son Tom and the Young Macaroni), the attire of these two gentlemen isn't really exaggerated for their times. Judging by portraits of their respective contemporaries, both of these men could have walked down a London street without anyone turning to gawk – except perhaps at their handsomeness.

In addition to their clothes, I also like the men's different affectations. The difference between clothes and fashion often lies in the accessories, and what the wearer chooses to reveal of himself along with his taste. The earlier gentleman displays his studied nonchalance by tucking one hand in his open waistcoat and the other in his pocket. His wig is a virile mane, his stockings are purposefully slouchy, and he wears his sword – always ready to defend his honor  – hung impractically low (reminding me of how low certain rock stars will likewise sling their guitars.)

The later gentleman has traded a sword for a romantically rustic walking stick. Instead of the earlier nonchalance, this fellow is scrupulously tailored, his stockings and breeches snug-fitting and his neck cloth tied just so. At his waist are dangling seals with antique cameos, demonstrating his (possible) knowledge of antiquity. He wears his own hair instead of a wig, though the over sized cocked hat cancels that out. With his quizzing glass at the ready, he's prepared to examine the world instead of challenging it with a sword.

One more thing to note: in light of last week's post about wearing the proper socks, both gentlemen are wearing stockings with clocks – the decorative designs running vertically over their ankles.

Left: A man of fashion in 1700: A fashionable man in 1800, drawn, etched & published by Dighton, Charg. Cross, London, 1800. Copyright Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Men in poufy trousers

Monday, March 26, 2012
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Loretta reports:

Susan recently shared with me this image, whose description at the Met Museum site had me scratching my head.  I knew I’d seen this wasp-waist-&-full trousers-look earlier than the 1830s.  In fact, I had in mind an 1816 caricature—by Cruikshank, I think—of a dandy dressing.  His valet is helping him tighten his stays, and he’s wearing the full trousers.  Unable to put my hands on that caricature, I offer a group of 1818 fashion victims, with directions to the full-trouser wearers.

The Cruikshanks love making fun of this style, as in this excerpt from a poem in The Universal Songster, 1825:
Some folks, in the street, by the Lord, make me stare,
So comical droll is the dress that they wear;
For the gentlemen's waist is a top of their back,
And their large cossack trousers that fit like a sack.

Later, comparing to women's shortened skirts and huge hats, the poem continues:
But, on the contrary, our very smart beaux,
Wear large cossack trousers quite down to their toes;
And a little brimmed hat, that wo’n’t cover their face,
Oh! Lunnun, this Lunnun’s a wonderful place!

Clearly it wasn’t the fashion, but a style that persisted alongside sleeker looks, according to the author of The whole art of dress,1830

But still the fashions, as may be remarked, are various, tight-kneed and full being worn almost indiscriminately. . .Nothing can more improve the look and fit of trousers than double straps; these, with very full cossack trowsers, are more indispensably requisite when the legs are particularly crooked or ill-formed.
The look never seems to die.  Decades ago I wore men’s vintage pleated wool trousers (with cuffs).  Susan thought the look was right for DeBarge.  I thought of M.C. Hammer.
Note straps

Photo info:
Date: ca. 1833; Culture: British; Medium: silk; Dimensions: Length at CB: 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm); Credit Line: Catharine Breyer Van Bomel Foundation Fund, 1981'; Accession Number: 1981.210.4;
Cruikshank caricature courtesy  Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

B&W illustration comes from a German collection whose record I've lost.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of March 19, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012
Served up fresh for your browsing delight: our favorite links of the week to other blogs, web sites, pictures and articles, collected from around the Twitterverse.
• Magnificent Kensington Palace reopens after renovations.
Edwardian adolescence of 8th Lady Berwick - wonderful photos from family album.
• Slideshow of Charleston, SC doorways, of every color and description.
• Georgian shopping: Handwritten receipt for teas and spices bought at Vale's in London, 1767.
• Spectral imaging of a possible Shakespeare signature: is it his?
• A 23-year-old socialite in Georgian England contemplates vegetarianism, c 1741.
Tudor graffiti from the Tower of London.
• Drawing the Civil War - forgotten battlefield artist Edwin Forbes (1839-1895.)
• Photo of proud woman college graduate in Belfast in the 1880s - blog of old Irish photos.
On the road in Shakespeare's England: travelling players, mistrelsy, and spies.
• So you know: where the word "snark" originated, via Lewis Carroll.
• This week in 1812: the Morning Post publishes an article calling Prince Regent "Prortector of the Arts" & Maecenas of the Age."
• Cover of first English Vogue, September 1916.
• True status bags! Purses of office, those splendid & strange symbols of power.
• Photo may be key finally to what happened to lost aviator Amelia Earhart
• "It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder": Napoleon had duc d"Enghien shot 3/21/1804.
• A 200 year old corner grocery store in Greenwich Village, NYC.
• Early 19th c Boston camellia craze.
• More about women wearing handkerchiefs in the 18th c.
ª Titanic in the movies: from Nazi propaganda film to blockbuster.
• The Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth, plus dogs, 1938 & 1985.
• This week in 1812: Bess Foster advises her son, Byron scandalizes, & another war looms - and they're all connected.
Lovers, sympathetic & otherwise, by Woodward & Rowlandson, 1797-98.
Serious beds! The upward thrust of the baroque, as seen in the state beds at Beningbrough Hall.
• Inadvertently hilarious news clip warning against perils of 70s platform shoes.
• Hoard of 30,000 silver Roman coins discovered in Bath.
• For a special Edwardian evening: wear this 1912 tunic dress & this 1910 coat.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Video: Boarding School Girls at Coney Island, 1905

Friday, March 23, 2012

Susan reporting:

Although it's still March, the temperatures in the Northeastern U.S. this week have been as balmy as early June. It's certainly been warm enough to dream of a jaunt to the beach. Why not join these young ladies of 1905 from Miss Knapp's Select School as they head out for a day at the seaside resort of Coney Island, NY? This silent clip proves that girls do just want to have fun – and manage to have a wonderful time in spite of their elaborate dresses and hats, swimsuits with long socks, and, of course, corsets.

Video posted to YouTube by The Travel Film Archive

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wearing the right shoes & stockings in 1811

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Loretta reports:

Be the foot eminently handsome, or the reverse, it alike requires to be arrayed soberly...On brilliant assembly nights, or court drawing-rooms, the spangled or diamond-decorated slipper has a magnificent and appropriate effect. But for the raiment of the leg, we totally disapprove, at all times, of the much ornamented stocking.
The open-wove clock and instep, instead of displaying fine proportion, confuse the contour; and may produce an impression of gaiety; but exclude that of beauty, whose rays always strike singly. But if the clock be a coloured or a gold one, as I have sometimes seen, how glaring is the exhibition! how coarse the association of ideas it produces in the fancy! Instead of a woman of refined manners and polished habits, your imagination reverts to the gross and repelling females of Portsmouth-point, or Plymouth-dock; or at least to the hired opera-dancer, whose business it is to make her foot and ancle the principal object which characterizes her charms, and attracts the coup d'œil of the whole assembly.
If I may give my fair friends a hint on this delicate subject, it would be that the finest rounded ancles are most effectually shown by wearing a silk stocking without any clock. The eye then slides easily over the unbroken line, and takes in all its beauties. But when the ancle is rather large, or square, then a pretty unobtrusive net clock, of the same colour as the stocking, will be a useful division, and induce the beholder to believe the perfect symmetry of the parts. A very thick leg cannot be disguised or amended ; and in this case I can only recommend absolute neatness in the dressing of the limb, and petticoats so long that there is hardly a chance of its ever being seen.
One cause of thick ancles in young women is want of exercise, and abiding much in overheated rooms. Standing too long has often the same effect, by subjecting the limb to an unnatural load, and therefore to swelling. The only preventive or cure for this malady is a strict attention to health You might as well expect to see a rose-bush spring, bud, and bloom, in a closely-pent oven, as anticipate fine proportions and complexion from a long continuance of the exotic fashions of these days.  —The Mirror of the Graces, 1811

Illustration from An analysis of country dancing, 1811, courtesy Library of Congress American Memory, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The 'Progress of a Woman of Pleasure', 1796

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Susan reporting:

Just like Fanny Hill (1748) is erotica pretending to be a cautionary tale by a fallen woman, this print of the Progress of a Woman of Pleasure (1796) is less a moral warning then an excuse to display the protagonist's voluptuous attractions, and her remarkably extensive wardrobe, too. Even near death in the last image, she still hasn't exactly wasted away. (She's also one more example of the robust female ideal of beauty of the late 18th c.) There's none of the graphic illness and physical decay that appear in William Hogarth's earlier Harlot's Progress (1732), nor any of the next generation's guilt and remorse that would drive fallen women in Victorian art to hurl themselves off bridges. Instead this woman reminds me of the little cartoon "playmates" that decorated the pages of vintage Playboy magazines: a stylish, pneumatic male fantasy of a good-time party girl.

If there's an adolescent obsession with bared breasts in the Progress, it could be because the artist was only nineteen. Richard Newton (1777-1798) was the boy-prodigy of the great Georgian caricaturists, publishing his first satirical drawing at age 14 for London publisher William Holland. Just like his subject, Newton's own career was sadly meteoric; he was dead of 'prison fever' (Typhoid) at 21.

While you can (and should) click on the image above to enlarge it, the hand-written captions aren't easy to read. But because they're meant to be satirically amusing, I've transcribed them below, plus added a few explanations.

• Your first step for preferment will be to a great Lady in King's Place.*
• I see you now waiting in full dress for an introduction to a fine Gentleman with a world of money!
• You are now in high keeping and you accompany your Adonis to the Masquerade in the character of a Bacchante.
• Not being used to Champagne and not possessing the sweetest temper in the world in liquor, you give your Keeper a sample of it in flinging a glass of wine in his face!
• You are now turned off, and your only consolation is that your Hair Dresser promised to marry you.
• He loves you to distraction but he thought you'd have an annuity of 200 a year! I heard you roar out - "You dirty rascal I could get the smartest Linen Draper's Man in London with that money!"
• You now move to Marybone** and exhibit yourself in the Promenade in Oxford Street.
• Having met with a Crown customer, you tell him to go treat his Wife and Brats at Bagnigge Wells – you expected Five Guineas at least from him!
• You take a bumper of Brandy to comfort you after the disappointment and you drink 'bad luck all scaly fellows!'
• You now dance away at the Hop in Queen Ann Street East, and captivate all the men with your airs and graces!
• You wind up the evening with a Boxing match and a Warrant and Two Black Eyes salute you in the Morning.
• You are now over head and ears in debt in Marybone Parish and I see you shifting or removing your little wardrobe to Covent Garden***.
• You are glad of a Half Crown customer now, in a Prentice Boy who has just robbed his Master's Till.
• You are now the Mistress of a Player, who principally lives by Gambling; you ride out with him, cut a dash, and run him in debt; and to give him a sample of your spirit before you part you exercise a Horsewhip on his shoulders!
• You are now in a Spunging House****, heart sick at disappointment from all your Friends, and you stupify yourself with Gin.
• Having in a few years been the Mistress of Two Highwaymen, a Qui Tam Attorney*****, and two Shopmen who were Transported, I know see you at your last shift pawning your silver Thimble for a groat to purchase a Breakfast.
• Your Sun is now setting very fast, and I see you're the Servant of a woman who was formerly your Servant, you live on Board Wages, which seldom affords you more than a Bunch of Raddishes and a Pint of Porter for your Dinner.
• You take sick in the service of this female monster and she turns you out of doors fearing your Funeral expenses should fall upon her.

* King's-Place was the location of an infamous, high-class brothel run by the notorious madam Charlotte Hayes.
** Marybone (Mary-le-bone) was an area of London bordered by Oxford Street, and known for pleasure gardens, prostitutes, bear-bating, & prizefights.
***Covent Garden was the center of lower-class prostitution in 18th c London.
****A Sponging House was a place of temporary confinement for chronic debtors.
*****A Qui Tam attorney specialized in disreputable qui tam cases
******Board wages were wages paid, usually to servants, in the form of board (food) & lodging, generally of poor quality.
Above: Progress of a Woman of Pleasure by Richard Newton, 1796, hand-colored etching printed by William Holland, London.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Lord Duke

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
First Duke of Wellington
Loretta reports:

When a commenter on my Footman post noted the writer’s puzzling use of the term “My Lord Duke,” I assumed this was a case of either ignorance or disrespect.  This was because I’d learned that a duke is addressed as “Duke” by persons of rank and “Your Grace” by members of the lower orders.  He’s never “Lord So-and-So” or “Your Lordship” or “My Lord.”

“My Lord Duke,” however, is another matter.

Neither Manners and Rules of Good Society nor Whitaker’s Peerage mentions the term, but further sleuthing quickly produced it.  Unlike lower grades of the peerage, according to my vintage (1978) copy of Debrett’s Correct Form,  in conversation, “a Duke is always so described,” i.e., he’s never referred to as Lord So-and-So.   But he can be “My Lord Duke," as in the following examples:

Formal    My Lord Duke
Social        Dear Duke
        Dear Duke of Hamilton may be used if the acquaintanceship is slight

But note:

Formal        Your Grace
Social            Duke
Employee status    Your Grace

Note, too, the difference between addressing royal and not-royal dukes in this excerpt from Blackie's Modern Cyclopedia Of Universal Information, Vol 1, 1890:
A royal duke should be addressed as Sir, not My Lord Duke; and referred to as Your Royal Highness . . .
Duke and Ducal Family.—His Grace the Duke of—- ;My Lord Duke, Your Grace. Her Grace the Duchess of —-;Madam, Your Grace.

Here’s one of many examples from the Despatches, Correspondence and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, Volume 1, 1867:

Sir W. Congreve to Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington.
My Lord Duke,                                       13, Cecil Street, London, 9th Aug., 1822.
     Having had the honour of exhibiting to you the accuracy of direction to which the rockets are now brought, and the facility of manœuvring and bringing them into action, one point only remains for demonstration, which is not in itself so apparent to the observer as those above alluded to, and which I therefore think it my duty to take this mode of stating to your Grace.

Letter writing advice from The Christian's Accomptant, 1831, advises:

To His Grace the Duke of S—- ,
My Lord Duke, or May it please your Grace.

I hope that clears everything up.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breakfast Links for Week of March 12, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012
Better late than never! Technical difficulties made these more accurately Brunch Links instead of Breakfast Links today – apologies for the delay. The silver lining to the difficulties is that the links will now appear in a more reader-friendly bold-face format. But the important things haven't changed: you'll still find our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles collected for your perusal from around the Twitterverse.
• Some truly mad, some simply beautiful: March Hares
• Young soldier in Civil War photo, long unidentified, finally gets his name back.
• A True Lover's Knot, 1801
• A visit to the waxworks run by Mrs. Wright, America's first sculptor, a spy, and "queen of sluts."
Beau Brummell & Apollo Belvedere: The Turn of the Leg.
• New notes from the trial of Lizzie Borden discovered.
• Very early photographs of the Crystal Palace, 1854.
• "Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down"- six tips on writing from John Steinbeck.
• Extreme food recycling in Paris, 1854.
• Grant, Lincoln, & the Jew from Paducah: twists & turns of religious intolerance during and after the Civil War.
• This 1930s satin evening gown gives a touch of elegance to a green St. Patrick's weekend.
• Restoration of 18th c inn at Stowe allows visitors to enter the gardens as originally intended.
• Behind the Mask: The Plague Doctor.
• Gettysburg Natl Park (finally) drops giftshop bobblehead of Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth, complete with handgun.
Overgrown Church at the Heart of a Lost English Village.
• The Fleet prison: the "largest brothel in the metropolis."
• Hamilton Fish's 1902 "vainglorious" NYC mansion, later used by Adolph Hitler's Consul General.
• Raphael Holinshed, Shakespeare's historian.
• Construction workers discover 18th c wall under Fulton Street, NYC.
• This week in 1812: Charles Lamb publishes his poem "The Triumph of the Whales", a vicious satire on the Prince Regent.
• Oldest veteran of the Crimean War died just 8 years ago (really!)
• An unusual patient goes to the hospital: using x-rays to investigate an 18th c bodice.
• For anyone confused about the phrase "Black & Tans."
• The Lady Anatomist: amazing sculptures of Italian artist-scientist Anna Morandi Manzolini.
• Notorious visionary architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux & the All-Seeing Eye.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Dog Ate Our Breakfast Links!

Saturday, March 17, 2012
Susan reporting:

Well, okay,so  the dog didn't really eat this week's links (though he sure looks as if he did, left, doesn't he?)

But Evil and Mysterious Things did happen to my server, which has stubbornly refused to accomplish the cut/paste/repeat quick-step that creates the Breakfast Links. I'm sorry about this – I know the Links have become a Sunday morning habit with many of you – but I'll try to get the problem solved, and will post on Sunday night instead. Arrrggghhh....

Left: Pug Dog in an Armchair by Alfred Dedreux 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Video: A Portrait of the Regency

Friday, March 16, 2012
William Elmes, Triumph of Love and Folly, 1812
Loretta reports:

Usually on Friday, we offer short video clips.  This one, recommended to me by one of our readers, is definitely not short—and it’s only the beginning of a fine series.

But Lucy Worsley, who’s entertained us before, does a marvelous job of bringing history to life, and—perhaps more important for Nerdy History People—she goes behind the scenes, talks to experts, and even dresses up like a Regency dandy (with the aid of Ian Kelly, the author of one of my favorite biographies, Beau Brummell:  The Ultimate Man of Style).

This is Part One of a three-part BBC series: Elegance and Decadence - The Age of the Regency.

Illustration courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Please click on caption to view the LOC page.

 Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a black rectangle or a square where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on this link to the  Two Nerdy History Girls blog.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Looking West, Looking East: A European Lady & Gentleman by Way of China, c 1740

Thursday, March 15, 2012
Susan reporting:

I like pictures, which is why my favorite kind of internet search is one that brings up images. A keyword, a date, and boom! There you are, the exact visual inspiration you needed, in mega-pixels to show every detail.

How very different it must have been for writers, artists, and other such creative folk living in the days before photographs, let alone digital imaging. Imagination took the place of precise representations, and while the results sometimes have a fanciful look (remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant), they can also be quite wonderful, too.

When direct trading began between Europe and China in the early 16h c, much more was exchanged between countries than just spice and tea. "Foreign" couldn't begin to describe the vast differences between countries and people on the opposite sides of the world. Drawings, paintings, and written descriptions could convey just so much; the elaborate pagodas that sprouted in English gardens and the "Chinoiserie" that decorated London drawing rooms would likely have befuddled a proper citizen of Canton.

The stylistic cross-pollination is evident in this handsome porcelain couple. (Click on the photos to enlarge.) Made in Jingdezhen, China, about 1740, the pair was created for the European market. They're large pieces (about a foot tall), with considerable detail. The unknown Chinese artist most likely had never seen either a European man or woman. Without Google, he had to rely on European prints for inspiration, and when that was exhausted, supply his own interpretation of fashionable clothing. The fluted ruffs, the lady's lace cap and full sleeves and the gentleman's wide-brimmed hat and beard look very much like those seen in Dutch portraits in the 1630s like these, lower left. 

But the porcelain lady also seems to be wearing an early 18th c petticoat, apron, short cape, and little pointed shoes that must have come from a later, more windswept fashion print. (Her apron strings are tied in a neat bow exactly like the mantua-maker's apprentice from Colonial Williamsburg.) Not understanding the construction of a low-cut European decolletage, the glazer has painted the lady's chest yellow, as an extension of her bodice. While the gentleman's stylized sash could be a 17th c English or Dutch style, his long open robe and gown in place of breeches are not. Or is he wearing an early version of a banyan or wrapping gown, garments that were themselves imports from the East? The clothes of both figures are patterned and colored like Chinese textiles, the most fashionable silks that would be imported to Europe – and again East meets West meets East meets West....

Above: European man and woman, made in Jingdezhen, China; c 1740, Winterthur Museum.
Lower left: Detail, Family Portrait, by Frans Hals, c 1635, Cincinnati Art Museum

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Window fashions for March 1819

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Loretta reports:

It’s been a while since I’ve offered Regency era interior design examples.  Here’s what fashionable windows were wearing in March 1819.


This suite of draperies is adapted to a bow-window with considerable taste and elegance; they are fancifully suspended from carved devices, relating to vintage and the splendour of the year; indicative of which, the central ornament is a golden peacock, whose displayed plumage being delicately coloured in parts, so as to imitate the richness of its nature, the effect is considerably increased.

The swags are arranged with an easy lightness, and the festoons with unusual variety of size and form; they are composed of light blue silk, and lined with pink taffeta.

The jardinière forms a proper ornament for such a situation, and is rendered particularly interesting by a font of gold and silver fish, and by a small aviary for choice singing birds: the style is French, and the article similar in design to those executed at Paris under the direction of Mons. Percier, the architect.

We are indebted for the materials of the annexed plate to the liberality of Mr. John Stafford, an eminent upholsterer at Bath.
Ackermann's Repository, March 1819

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What a Woman Blacksmith Wore, c. 1775

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Susan reporting:

We've seen many stylish women's clothes that have come from the talented needles of the mantua-makers in the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg. Whether a ball gown for Lady Dunmore, a pink silk gown copied from a portrait, or the everyday block-printed cotton gown for a fashion-conscious apprentice, these replicas of 18th c clothing have been impeccably cut and sewn by hand, exactly as their Georgian predecessors would have done.

But while fine ladies, women of the middling sort, and shop owners represent the most style-conscious women of the American colonies, there were plenty of other women – tradeswomen, servants, the wives of soldiers, farmers, and others of the lower sort – who also needed clothes that suited their lives. Recently the mantua-makers were delighted to create clothes for a new member of the historic trades program. Aislinn Lewis, left, is the newest blacksmith's apprentice at Colonial Williamsburg. She's not there just to fulfill an equal-opportunity clause; there were documented women silversmiths, tinsmiths, whitesmiths, and blacksmiths working in 18th c. Britain and in the American colonies. (For more about these women, see this article from the CW Journal.) Aislinn is an accomplished ironworker, too, a graduate of the American College of the Building Arts who specialized in forged architectural ironwork.

Shown here at work in the forge, Aislinn's new clothes show what an 18th c woman engaged in physical labor would have worn. Unlike the fitted gowns of the middle and upper classes, Aislinn wears a short red wool bedgown, a loose-fitting, T-shaped garment that allows plenty of room for movement. The bedgown wraps in front and is pinned in place, and is further secured by the strings of her checked linen apron. Her matching red petticoat and underpetticoat are also of wool, and around her throat is a blue linen neck handkerchief. Her hair is covered with a ruffled linen cap, not only for modesty and a bit of style, but also for protection. In fact all the fabrics of her clothes serve this purpose. While many modern synthetic clothes use fibers and dyes that are highly combustible, a spark that lands on wool or linen will smolder first, and are much safer for the wearer – especially a wearer who works around an open fire.

Photographs courtesy of the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The world of crime & criminals—Rowlandson & Weegee

Monday, March 12, 2012
Loretta reports:

We Nerdy History girls do a lot of compare and contrast between Then and Now, in fashion especially, but also in terms of human behavior.  While in New York City on Saturday,  I went to the International Center of Photography, to see, among other things, Murder is My Business, an exhibition of photographs by the famous mid-20th C tabloid photographer Weegee, one of my personal favorites.  As I walked through the exhibition, oddly enough, I found myself comparing and contrasting these stark black & white photos to the work of one of the great illustrators of the Regency era, Thomas Rowlandson.
Weegee, At an East Side Murder, 1943. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.
Now, let’s be clear here.  We’re not going to find Weegee’s blood and guts tabloid sensationalism in early 19th century art.  But what struck me, once I got past the starkly lit murder victims and pools of blood, were the spectators.  In some photos, we see people reacting to the crime or accident—tearful, horrified, fainting, laughing, smirking, blasé—every shade of emotion.  Looking at a photo of bystanders at a murder scene, it’s startling to see people shrugging it off, or glancing at a corpse over their newspapers, or even grinning at the camera.

Yet I saw as well a direct connection to one of the early 19th century’s chroniclers of London life, Rowlandson—and in particular, his many illustrations dealing with criminal courts and executions.  When executions were done publicly, they attracted mobs of spectators, and in Rowlandson’s works, we see some of the same range of emotions as in the Weegee photographs.  An example is An Execution at Newgate, 1803.    

Thomas Rowlandson, Dr. Syntax Attends the Execution, 1820, courtesy Yale Center for British Art
Weegee captured life in the not-privileged part of New York.  Rowlandson took on life high and low, yet his crowd scenes, at Newgate and elsewhere, show the same variety of behaviors and emotions.  It seemed to me that only the outer trappings—the clothes & the environment, have changed, though not as much as you'd think—but the people?  Not at all, it seems to me.

More about the Weegee exhibition, here and here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of March 4, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012
Served up fresh: our weekly offering of Breakfast Links! Our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
Nunhead, one of London's "Magnificent Seven" Victorian cemeteries:
• Second of two minor earthquakes causes panic in London,1750.
• The extravagant 1902 carriage house in NYC so large it became a private school.
• Pie Week ends with a classic of the genre: 17th c recipe for pork pie, plus how to pickle walnuts
Rebellious Virginian slave named Violet, executed & her head stuck on a pike as a warning,1780
• When Huckleberry Finn's Pap had the "delirium tremens", this is what he meant, c 1844:
• A churchyard memorial to Tiddles the cat in Fairford, Gloucestershire:
Whitework embroidery, cutwork , & draping embellish this stunning 1870s polonaise bodice:
• How do fabric samples provide a glimpse into the life of a colonial NYC businesswoman?
• The Shoe Project: stories of women who immigrated to Canada & the shoes that mean something to them:
• Le Baron de Besenval (1722–1791), the last commander of the Swiss Guard
• Princess Alexandra's Spinning School -
• Elizabethan clown Richard Tarlton. Part Tommy Cooper, part Marty Feldman & a dash of Lenny Bruce.
• The Boston Massacre in Black, White & Color
• This week in 1812: Lady Caroline Lamb writes anonymous letter to Lord Byron praising poem ‘Childe Harold’.
• 1862 - The true and tragic story of Mary Ramsdale and family
• First-hand account of London clothes rationing during WWII -
• How to make the perfect chair screen, 1850, from Miss Leslie's Ladies' Handbook:
• This is lovely. Good old Pierce Pennilesse: 8 kinds of drunkenness, 1592:
• This week in 1900: 1st plague death occurred in Black Death epidemic in Victorian SF:
• How do you rate as a husband or wife of the 1930s? Take the test and find out:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Video: The Story of 'Keep Calm & Carry On'

Friday, March 9, 2012

Susan reporting:

The slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" today appears on t-shirts, bumperstickers, and coffee cups, and it's been adapted in countless other ways to promote everything from cupcakes to Bob Marley. I knew that the slogan and poster had originated in Great Britain during the Second World War, but I'd no idea of its story or true significance. This wonderful short video is also an understated advertisement for what has to be one of the most delightful bookstores in the U.K. To us here in America, where independent bookstores are closing at an alarming rate, this shop in an old train station truly looks like a reader's heaven.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Barber of London in 1829

Thursday, March 8, 2012
Loretta reports:

Contrasting with the description of a footman, this presents the barber as offering a kind of paradise to his clients.
The members of this ancient and gentle profession—foul befal the libeller who shall designate it a trade— are mild, peaceable, cheerful, polite, and communicative: they mingle with no cabal, have no interest in factions, are "open to all parties, and influenced by none;" and they have a good, kind, or civil word for everybody. . . . Their small, cool, clean, and sparingly-furnished shops, with sanded floor, and towelled walls, relieved by the white-painted, well scoured shelves, scantily adorned with the various implements of their art, denote the snug system of economy which characterises the owners. Here, only, is the looking-glass not an emblem of vanity: it is placed to reflect, and not to flatter. You seat yourself in the lowly, antique chair, worn smooth by the backs of half a century of beard-owners, and instantly feel a full repose from fatigue of body and mind. You find yourself in attentive and gentle hands, and are persuaded that no man can be in collision with his shaver or hair-dresser. The very operation tends to set you on better terms with yourself; and your barber hath not in his constitution the slightest element of difference. The adjustment of a curl, the clipping of a lock, the trimming of a whisker, (that much-cherished and highly-valued adornment of the face,) are matters of paramount importance to both parties—threads of sympathy for the time, unbroken by the divesture of the thin, soft, ample mantle, that enveloped you in its snowy folds while under his care . . . The veriest churl is softened by the application of the warm emollient brush, and calmed into complacency by the light-handed hoverings of the comb and scissors. A smile, a compliment, a remark on the weather, a diffident side-wind inquiry about politics, or the passing intelligence of the day, are tendered with that deference, which is the most grateful as well as the handsomest demonstration of politeness.
—George Cruikshank, Robert Cruikshank, The Gentleman’s Pocket Magazine, Vol 3, 1829

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Myth of the Regency Sylph

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Susan reporting:

Seeing the fashions of 1810 featured in Loretta's blog yesterday reminded me of how fashion influences more than just silk and ribbons: it can also determine the stylish ideal of the body beneath those clothes.

Too often, however, the modern perception of what was hot in the late 18th-early 19th c is more a reflection of 21st ideals, especially as influenced by contemporary film versions of Jane Austen's novels. Our sylphs would not have been theirs. Keira Knightley, right, and Gwyneth Paltrow would have been pitied as sad, scrawny creatures, even perhaps consumptive. The ladies that everyone was ogling in a real Regency ballroom would have looked much more like this caricature of the notorious Emma, Lady Hamilton, left, by Thomas Rowlandson.

While later in her career, Emma would be cruelly depicted as blowsy and obese, here she is shown as an eminently desirable and fashionable beauty, with high breasts and well-rounded thighs and bottom. The same kind of lush figure tumbles through countless other drawings by Rowlandson and James Gillray; Google either artist, and you'll see these women over and over. It's easy to look at this body-type and imagine it wearing the clothes in the 1810 fashion plate, or in this one from 1808

The more flattering portrait of Emma, below, also shows exactly how robust a stylish lower half must have been. With fashion dictating a temporary respite from boned corseting, narrow waists lost their importance as an erogenous zone. Instead the interest  shifted to the lush, voluptuous curves below the waist, revealed by the drifting drapery of light silks and linens. For men who had been raised in an era when these mysterious body-parts had been hidden by hoops and heavily draped skirts, the sudden change must have been...exciting.

Where did this different kind of body ideal come from? Just as ancient Roman and Greek art and architecture was influencing nearly every aspect of the decorative arts in the late 18th-early 19th c, fashion, too, took a classical turn. High-waisted gowns and draping shawls were designed to emulate ancient fashions, embroidery patterns featured classical motifs, and looped and knotted hairstyles showed a classical influence as well.

But the undressed bodies of ancient nude statuary also set new standards of physical beauty. While Georgian aristocrats on their Grand Tours were busily checking out naked marble goddesses all across the Continent, one of the must-see statutes was the Aphrodite Kallipygos, right, on display in Naples. This much-admired statue is thought to be a 1st c BC Roman copy of an earlier Greek bronze, and her provocative pose must have left a definite impression of classical booty on countless young Englishmen.

The statue may also have influenced Lady Hamilton, living with her husband Sir William in Naples. For special guests to their villa, Emma performed her "Attitudes," a series of graceful poses inspired by classical art – the same "Attitudes" satirized by Rowlandson in the caricature at the top of this page. While Emma performed in a quasi-classical costume, not in the buff as Rowlandson shows her, there is a similarity between the pose – and the voluptuous figure.

Top left: Lady Hamilton's Attitudes by Thomas Rowlandson, 1790
Lower left: Detail, Emma, Lady Hamilton as Ariadne by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1790
Lower right: Aphrodite Kallipygos, artist unknown, 1st c BC, National Archaeological Museum, Naples
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