Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tilting Hinged Parasols, c 1810

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Isabella reporting,

One of the more charming details in this painting that I posted earlier this week is the tilted parasols carried by two of the girls. Reader Mary O'Keefe Kellogg noted them, too: "The oldest girl's parasol has a hinge in the handle to tip it. Very practical! Has anyone seen one of these?"

I know that somewhere, somehow, in some collection, I HAVE seen one, and maybe more. Hinged parasols were popular from the late 18th c. until late in the 19th, and are occasionally called carriage or marquise parasols. But no matter how much hunting I've done this evening, I can't find an actual example photographed to show the use. This late 19th c. parasol from the Museum of Fine Arts has the tilting-capability, but alas, the image on the website makes it look more like it was awkwardly shut into a carriage door than used against the sun.

I did, however, come across a satirical print and a fashion plate that show tilted parasols. These images are both earlier than the Spitzweg painting, but it's entirely possible that what was high fashion in 1808 had filtered down to become an acceptable (and useful) accessory for young girls in 1841.

The lady on the left of this 1808 fashion plate, right, is obligingly holding her parasol tipped down to show the hinge in the shaft. The bell of the parasol could then be adjusted to best shield the user from the sun, whether directly overhead or rising on the horizon.

I hesitated to include the tiny, cropped image, lower left, since the web site on which it appeared included no identification or date; I'm guessing it's from a fashion plate of about 1810. But it does clearly show the tilt at its most extreme angle, standing upright to act as a definite shield against the sun, and from the little lady's expression, I suspect it might have also been used to avoid being seen, a fashionable diversionary tactic against unwelcome advances.

The print, top, also shows a lady with a tilted parasol. She's walking along the beach at Margate with a gentleman defined only as "Lord", and she may (or may not!) be his Lady. But she is using her tilted parasol not only to shield her face from the sun that must be rising over the water, but also perhaps to protect her delicate complexion from the morning breezes off the water as well - even if it looks like a giant pinwheel in her hand.

The print humorously depicts a small social misunderstanding between an aristocrat (who seems to have been given the Duke of Wellington's distinctive profile) and his dandified tailor; the print proves how clothes truly did make the man. It's titled A Meeting at Margate, or a Little Mistake, and here's the amusing caption:

{A Polite Bow from both Parties}Lord: Sir, your face is quite familiar to me. I must have seen you somewhere before, will you do me the honor to tell me your name? Taylor: Yes, my lord, I have had the honor. I - I - I - made your Breeches. Lord: Oh! Oh! Major Bridges, I am very happy to see Major Bridges."

Top: A Meeting at Margate, or a Little Mistake, 1803, by Robert Lauries and James Whittle, publishers. Horace Walpole Library, Yale University
Right: Morning Walking Dresses, 1808, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblée.
Bottom left, Detail of a fashion plate, c. 1810.

UPDATE: Two of our readers have sent me links showing 19th c. tilting parasols in their own collections.
Here's a link to an 1860s carriage parasol from Ithilwyn:
And another 1860s marquise parasol used with a reproduction mourning dress from Samantha McCarty:
Thank you both for sharing!


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post.

I suspect that most of the tilting parasols we see now are large ones, for tables in gardens or on restaurant terraces. Occasionally, I see Japanese tourists protecting themselves from the sun (although usually with an umbrella), but the tilting seems to be done by the lady, not by any hinge.

Parasols for attaching to a baby's stroller, or pushchair often bend, but not by a hinge, rather a flexible part of the shaft.

There is a (very extensive!) Wikipedia article on the history of umbrellas (to which the term parasol links):

Under the section on ancient Rome:
"One gem, figured by Pacudius, shows an umbrella with a bent handle, sloping backwards."

On a quick read-through, I'm not sure that there's any mention of hinges, per se, although lots of people have thought of ways to have the umbrella holder shading someone else!

Merrian said...

Sabine from 'Kleidung um 1800' has collected a number of plates showing the tilting parasol and made one for herself. As always she has lovely photos and explanations of her process. dated 3 July 2014

Ithilwyn said...

I have a vintage carriage parasol from mid-century that also has the tilting mechanism. You can see detailed photos here:

ChinaDoll said...

I own a tilting parasol. It has a patent date on the frame of 1866. It is covered in black silk that is shreading and black Chantilly Lace. It is not very large under 18" and pretty flat as opposed to parasol shaped and was described as a tilting or fan parasol when I purchased it.

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