05.08Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 05.08

May 31, 2008

A Beautiful Death

"In cases where the law shall pronounce the death penalty against a defendant, the form of execution shall be the same, whatever the nature of the crime of which he has been convicted. The criminal shall be decapitated with a simple mechanical device." DR. IGNACE GUILLOTIN

The Machine
Guillotin wanted a machine that could be repeatedly used and was quick and painless means for death. He was a physician-philanthropist, and his solution was a machine built with two fourteen foot planks which held a blade by a pulley system. The blade, which use to be rounded on the edge, was changed to a 45 degree angle, and was guided down the cross beams by greased grooves. The machine was originally built on a platform twenty four steps high, making it perfectly viewable for crowds below.
"Although similar devices had existed for hundreds of years, none was built with the attention and care of the French machine."
Scale Model of French 1790 Guillotine
In 1791 a law was passed so that everyone condemned to death would be executed by the Guillotine. But it was not known as the guillotine until the 19th century. At the time it was called la louizette and le louison sometimes la veuve, the widow.
"The worst of the ordeal for the condemned man will be his own fear of death, a fear more painful to him than the stroke which deprives him of life."
CHARLES-LOUIS SANSON official executioner of French Revolution

Here we have a Tricoteuse of 1790. These ladies, known as Knitting Women, during the Terror were seen at the executions by the guillotine, as often as some ladies shop or watch Maurry. There attendance has been described as ghoulish.

May 22, 2008

Femme of the Week: Jeanette Du Barry

"After all, the world is but an amusing theatre, and I see no reason why a pretty woman shoud not play a pretty part in it."

First tart, we are going with the inevitable Jeanette Du Barry (Jeanette Vaubernier). Mistress to Louis XV, she walked into the court knowing nothing of the strict etiquette it upheld (or at least pretended to uphold).

It was said, her first visit to court as she dinned with Louis XV, that if she held her self in the manners of the ladies at Versailles, Louis would have been bored with her at an instance and dismissed her after the dinner. She did not know how to act 'properly' at court so she acted in her typical bubbly, talkative manner. She knew how to tell a story and keep her listeners attention. Sheer affability and wit, and a charming smile was so unusual behavior that Louis was captivated. Before long she lived in the Petite Cabinets above the chambre of the king.

Pre-Louis however, she was a shop girl who worked at the milliner's shop of Madame Labille, which was situated on the corner of the rue Neuf-des-Petits-Champs in Paris. Easy going and light hearted, she attracted attention from many boys that passed by. And as far as I know her first love was a baker!

Ladies, Please!

In the 18th century it was not uncommon for a lady to suffer hysterics....but what was she suffering?

Apparently, hysteria had a muddled definition extending to ''hysteric fits'' ''distemper'' ''nerves'' ''hypochondria'' ''vapours'' and ''convulsive disorders." It was also generally thought that hysterics were an overtaking of emotions, emotions that were not directed by the individual them self. Uncontrollable emotions that would temporarily take over oneself.

I think the term Vapours is a great way to understand 'hysteric fits' of the 18th century.
A doctor of Louis XV, Pierre Pomme, had coined the term Vapours,
"These nervous vapours, arising as they did from the uterus, could ''derange all the functions of the brain.''
And therefore the poor women of the time were born prone to the overwhelming fits of hysteria, because vapours would no doubt rise from the uterus. Thankfully snuff boxes were of the fashion, and every lady should be grateful to have one near, just in case her emotions get the best of her.

“The concept of ‘Vapours’ or ‘Hysterick Fits’ which was popular in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries illustrates one of the pitfalls of tracing the history of mental illness down the centuries by terminology.” Hunter and McAlpine (p. 288)

Set the mood with 18th century beauty spot placement

Beauty Spots

A few simple rules & facts, of the 18th century beauty spot.*
Black taffeta adhesive spots are quite good quality!

May 16, 2008

Links & Such

This is just an assortment of fun links to check out.

This girl does amazing work with her hair and has cute corsettes.
If you like her corsette you can have one made here
I love jewelry inspired by portraits, those are just a few.
The Louvre is fabulous gifts that I am missing (second Parisian devistation I have suffered this year already) and they have Lalique earrings inspired from a LeBrun portrait of Marie. Gorgeous!

May 10, 2008

Affaire des Poisons

Sephora emailed me to let me know about Dior's new color this season, Poison. A super dark color that sparkles like a corvette. This lady over here is La Voisin, and I bet she would have loved Dior's color.

La Voisin (Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin 1640-1680) made a living for herself selling poisons, well love powders and 'inheritance powders' to many at the French Court. Her extraordinary client list included Olympe Mancini, comtesse de Soissons, (her sister was a favourite of Louis XIV), Louise Duchesse de la Valliere (a mistress of Louis XIV), Francoise-Athenais, marquise de Montespan (Louis XIV’s infamous mistress) and the comtesse de Gramont (A beauty of her time, charming and witty.) Inheritance powder became popular because of the Marquise de Brinvillers.

The Brinvilliers do not belong to this century, rather the 17th century. Marie-Madeleine-Marguerite d’Aubray, Marquise de Brinvillers was charged with poisoning her family, father, mother and sisters to gain inheritance along with her lover. Her particular end was phenomenal complete with torture: forced consumption of 16 pints of water, decapitation and finally to be burned at the stake. She was executed in 1675, and this sparked the Affaire des Poisons in France.

Marie Antoinette’s great uncle Louis XIV became concerned of being poisoned himself and hired foretasters, to make sure his food was safe. He started an investigation to discover killers who used poisons by way of their dealers, who sold them “inheritance powders.”

Many were arrested, and would turn in their list of clients. La Voisin was quickly arrested on the grounds of witchcraft and she willingly named her popular clientele. She was burned at the stake and the reputations of her clients were ruined.

May 09, 2008

Meet Marie Antoinette

To start things off, I present the antagonist of late 18th century France, Marie Antoinette. Of course there is much hype about the Queen currently with the Coppola movie, and fashion trends, but knowing she said "let them eat cake", spent a lot of money and wore feathers in her hair does not mean much.

November 17, 1755 Marie was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna. She grew up in a very conservative religious family in Austria. At 14 on May 15, 1770 she married Louis-Auguste and became dauphine of France. And she did possess the many graces and beauty desired of the time. Her complexion alone was striking compared to the tones of lilies and roses.

This was when the rumours truly began and her defamation rocketed through the next few years. Underground cartoons and pamphlets shred any positive reputation she once possessed, with intent to vilify her over things such as ridiculous expenditures on frivolities and merely being of Austrian decent. Interestingly enough, she was more French in blood than her husband, but that is just irony.

Fabricated stories were not uncommon and it became know of her infamous apocryphal “Let them eat cake” quote when in question of the starving country. In a whirlwind parade of events that seemed to lack any breaks this historical figure was held in prison until she fell apart in spirit and health.

Before her captivation was a period when there was paranoia of an attack on the household of the royal family, and those around her feared for her life if an assailant broke in. Marie always kept a small basin of powdered sugar on a table in her room, and would put a spoonful of it into her water if she wanted a drink. (Just a step behind Kool-Aid) To prevent an assassin from poisoning the unattended sugar, one of her ladies would secretly switch the sugar for fresh every so often, just in case. One day the Queen caught her lady switching the sugar, and told her not to bother herself with such a task.
“Remember, that not a grain of poison will be put in use against me. The Brinvilliers do not belong to this century: this age possesses calumny, which is a much more convenient instrument of death; and it is by that I shall perish.”
And there we behold our great villainess of the 18th century, Marie Antoinette Queen of France.