Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Miniature 18thc Fashion Merchant - in Porcelain

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Clues to life in the past can turn up in unexpected places. Discovering the interiors of long-ago shops for our characters to visit has always been a particular challenge for Loretta and me. While there are prints and a few paintings that show shop interiors, descriptions can be maddeningly vague. Just as today, shops were so ordinary and commonplace that few people sat down and described them in detail in letters or diaries. When was the last time you documented your local Target for posterity?

All of which is why I found this little (only about six inches high) porcelain so delightful. According to the sign on the front, it shows a marchand de mode, or fashion merchant, complete with a well-dressed shopkeeper ready to serve his customers. I'm not quite sure if the woman represents a customer, or a shop assistant; while the man is firmly behind the counter, her body ends vaguely right on top of it.

The diversity of the goods on the shelves makes me think this is something of a milliner's shop - that is, by the 18thc definition, it contains a variety of small, fashionable goods instead of just hats. There are hats, hanging on the wall, but there are also handkerchiefs and bolts and bolts of fabric, in prints and stripes, checks and solids. I think I can also make out cloaks, or perhaps they're some sort of fancy-dress dominos in the upper left.

Then there are items that I'll have to guess as to their purpose. The cone-shaped items with the red
decoration may be the shields that people held up to protect their faces while their hair was powdered, but then again, they could be folding fans. On the right wall appears to be a display of black silk bows with false curls or queues. I'm also not certain about the black crosses on ribbons, either; are they necklaces, or rosaries, or something else altogether? I know our readers are a well-informed bunch, so if you know better than I, please let me know!

This little shop was made in the Ludwigsburg Porcelain Manufactory, c1765. Apparently the shop was part of a much more elaborate market scene, composed of numerous porcelain shops and figures, and commissioned by Charles Eugene, Duke of Wüttemberg (1728-1793). Apparently the set was inspired by the Duke's visit to Venice, and was used as a table centerpiece for banquets.

Hmm, a formal banquet with an entire Venice street-scene in porcelain strung along the table beneath the candelabra - that sounds like it belongs in a story, too, doesn't it?

Above: Venetian fair shop with two figures, Ludwigsburg Porcelain Manufactory, 1765, Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Hels said...

Porcelain is beautiful because, apart from any other reason, it is delicate and refined enough to show the hats, handkerchiefs, fabrics, the man's buttons, the woman's dress pattern etc etc. It is a magical material.

Yve said...

How lovely, I can't help you identify the mystery items but just had to comment on how adorable this is! :o)

Sarah said...

How delightful! it looks just like our last proper haberdashery shop in Ipswich ... and maybe I should record my memories of old fashioned shops that were probably much the same in the 1960s to the way they had been 200 years before, save that the cobbler had an electrically driven machine to sew leather, not a treadle of the previous century and hand sewing of the century before that.
As to this draper, I have seen a picture of a man with a bag wig tied with a cord ending in a similar cross-shaped knot, and I wonder if the white items above are wigs?
I think the red-decorated things are probably for probably for holding between the face and the fire to stop it causing thread-veins, whilst actually getting warm. They don't look to me quite the right shape to be powder protectors, and are more solid than fans.
thank you so much for sharing this lovely piece!

Chris Woodyard said...

This is charming! The idea of an entire street scene as a centerpiece is a wonderful one and reminds me of "Mon Plaisir," the miniature village/Puppenstadt of houses and shops created by Princess Dorothea of Schwarzburg Arnstadt. At least one of the Princess's vignettes shows a lady shopping at a "modemagazin" in design very similar to this porcelain shop, although without quite as much merchandise.

Unknown said...

When was the last time you documented your local Target for posterity?

Well, I HAVE seen someone make an epic poem about a trip to Whole Foods.
No. Really. I have.
See? Thor's Second Epic - Or, The Grocery Run

Stephieface said...

Maybe the woman is not a woman, but a mannequin which is why she is on the counter? That would be my guess anyway.

Jessica Mcneil said...

I love porcelain dolls! They looks really pretty and fashionable. Nice idea for gift.

Richard C. Lambert said...

I'm wearing this lovely print dress from TK Maxx that I got ages ago paired with a nude blazer and nude accessories! this content

lena said...

Beautiful piece.

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