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December 09, 2009

The Fashionable Male: Nicolas Châtelain

Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, Nicolas Châtelain.
1791, oil on canvas.  Neue Pinakothek.
Nicolas Châtelain was born of a French family in scenic Rotterdam on November 23, 1769.  He was an author who wrote, what some call imitation literature, imitating the styles of others.  This, he claimed, was merely literary exercise for his own pleasure, in hopes that others received pleasure from it as well.  His works, so well written and so convincing, had experts duped as to the true author!  Some of those he imitated were Voltaire and Madame de Sevigny.  They were all done without malicious intentions, and many found them entertaining.

He settled in Rolle, Switzerland during the Revolution, and entertained many who were escaping France.  Those in Rolle included some friends of the Duc de Noailles, and those close to Madame de Staël's then popular circle (she had  spent some time there).  He spent his time with friends and an ever changing circle of people traveling from town to town, but also reading and, of course, writing. He lived to 87, passing away at home on 27 September 1856.


Monsieur Châtelain casually leans against a stone wall for his full length portrait by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein.  He is twenty two years old with a keen interest in the fine arts.  He is wearing a high crowned and cocked hat in black, a frock coat with turned down collars and no cuffs.  The turned down collars expose his cravat, which ruffles just right under the chin.

His waistcoat is most likely silk, and to wear stripes was the height of fashion.  This one has green trim with burgundy touches. These details match the frock coat.  The pockets are also detailed in green.  Also very popular were laced shoes, which would later give way to the boot.  His breeches, although not skin tight, still cling close and go just to the knee; they are gathered with buttons over white stockings.  This shows off a well turned leg, a sight for ladies, dare I say, gentlemen as well?

8 comments

  1. It looks like he's being eaten by his hat! I wonder if that style for men's headwear was a response to women's penchant for towering hairstyles.

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  2. I always have loved this portrait. Yumm!

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  3. Gotta love a fashionable man with a walking stick and big hat!

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  4. The hat is OTT in my opinion but otherwise a lovely portrait of a very stylish boy. Never heard of him so thanks for telling me! :)

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  5. Yes, please, to the well-turned leg in tight breeches. I'm still trying to convince my husband to wear breeches, but to no avail . . .

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  6. lovely - got this portrait on my laptop-background actually...
    great to get to know him better

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  7. Dress of this period was so charming...

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