07.09Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 07.09

July 27, 2009

Dressing in Comfort: Marie Antoinette

Till then the Queen was not only very plain in her attire, but very economical; a circumstance which, I have often heard her say, gave great umbrage to the other princesses of the Court of Versailles, who never showed themselves, from the moment they rose till they returned to bed, except in full dress; while she herself made all her morning visits in a simple white cambric gown and straw hat. This simplicity, unfortunately, like many other trifles, whose consequences no foresight would have predicted, tended much to injure Maria Antoinette, not only with the Court dandies, but the nation; by whom, though she was always censured, she was as suddenly imitated in all she wore, or did.

Lamballe, Marie Thérèse Louise de Savoie-Carignan, and Catherine Hyde Gouvion Broglie Scolari. 1901. Secret Memoirs of Princess Lamballe: Her Confidential Relations With Marie Antoinette. Washington: M. Walter Dunne.

July 25, 2009

A Trend Setter You Say? Oh Watteau

When Antoine Watteau began his career as a painter he was very much influenced by Rubens. No big surprise there, most modern painters of the day loved Rubens, if you were in you liked Rubens! Watteau took is love for art and began painting in Paris around age 18.

After arriving to Paris he worked with Claude Gillot. Gillot's occupation was mainly in theatre design. He painted scenes and ornaments to be used for show and was innovated with the rococo style. Claude Audran was another painter of the same variety the young Watteau worked with. The advantages of this relationship were great, as Audran was the Keeper of the Palais du Luxembourg, affording Watteau the chance to study up close the Marie de Medici cycle (24 amazing paintings commissioned by Marie.) (*jealous*)

From these early experiences he brings to his paintings style, characters (for a more detailed look at his theatre inspiration read this great post by Heather on such characters!), and details yet infuses the works with a bit of a personal touch. His characters have personalities and something like life within them. He was afforded commissions by the financier and art collector Pierre Crozat. For some time Watteau actually lived at Crozat's residence and was afforded the luxury of developing his works even more. It was an ideal learning environment full of collected art from master artists, inspiration abound!

Along with a great studio environment came friends and patrons. He had fans in the merchant class. He had fans in the aristocracy. His work was modern and different. Now he even had a connection with the Regent, who was also a fan of good art.

So the next step was getting into the Academy where any artist who is anyone went! Admission required a work to be produced and hopefully it would pass and the artist would be admitted. Typically there was direction for this work but things had changed a bit and for Watteau, he could chose a piece of his own desire. The ever popular work you may know, Embarkation from the Island of Cythera, was his golden ticket. He was admitted and even noted for creating a new genre of painting!

Une Fete Galante.

The demand for these pleasing pieces was great, and Watteau was there to help meet this demand. He kept clients happy by giving them what they wanted, and his style continued to mature with each piece.

He blends his inspiration; theatre styles and characters, use of color, his experience with the rococo style and ornamentation and the Rubenesque style of interlacing of these characters and decorations together. It is a lot of influence and yet not at all!

Together his work creates a almost comforting personal look, where the characters feel real, feel individual and not in anyway forced or typical. The overall style was a major success with the tastes of the market, he even landed a commission from the Regent himself!

To get a feel of just how Watteau's style differed from other contemporaries of his, compare these pieces. Here is a piece by Lancret, another painter who produced lovely fete galante paintings and was widely popular, titled Concert in the Park and a piece by Watteau, titled The Concert. What differences do you see? (click to enlarge)

July 23, 2009

Feather Fashion

Inspired by Heathers fun Yay or Nay posts I have to ask you all something here!

Georgiana was notorious for beginning fashion trends. One of these was the introduction of the large ostrich feather. She would drape 3 foot feathers over her hair, they added bounce, height and style to the up-do's.

Antoinette also jumped on the feather train, wearing similarly tall plumes atop her head. The look caught on and soon enough a fashionable crowd would appear to be merely a sea of feathers bobbing up and down.

It looks like some designers are dipping into the possibility of bringing feathers back en vogue. Check out this feather design from Bebe. What do you say to this? Yay or nay? Should feathers come back?

July 21, 2009

Your Conversation Piece

What 18th century furnishings do you want in your living room? When you see a piece like this one, it really stands out as the perfect conversation piece.

Guest come in, look around, see it, go through the usual chit chat, maybe mosey over to it and finally pop the question: This is amazing/so different/unique where did you get it! or what is this!?

Yes a conversation piece that leads to a conversation you would just love to have! You can unleash your inner love for the 18th century and their beautiful decorative arts, discuss styles and inspirations! Impress them with your exquisite taste. Not to mention when you are not entertaining it would be a lovely accent to your relaxing room.

The 18th century conversation piece. What would you have in your living room??

My 18th century conversation piece!

July 20, 2009

Art du Jour! Bernard Tartinville

I wanted to share a set of photographs by photographer Bernard Tartinville. His images for this set were inspired by the (well it is obvious...) 18th century! I just love them! The style, settings, hair and accessories used for these shots are just stunning! They just need some gilt frames and a posh wall to hang on. What do you think of them?

>To view the full set of images go to his website at http://www.bernardtartinville.com/ -Click to Enter, then -Click FASHION. It is the first set of photographs! (you wont miss the poufs!)

July 17, 2009

The Progress of Love: The Lover Crowned

After a delightful stroll and possibly delightful encounters in the gardens at Louveciennes, guests would re-enter the Salon du Roi through a set of two large glass doors. Upon entering the room they would see on the wall opposite the garden the final two pieces of the Progress of Love by Fragonard. Again, each piece depicts a scene unique to its frame, with unique characters, settings and situations.

The setting, as in all the pieces, is a lush overgrown yet planned garden. The two main figures sit among the concealed architecture with a statute over their shoulders. Flora grows around them and a third figure is seated in the lower corner. The girl, sits looking up and over her shoulder as she holds out a wreath of flowers above the head of the boy. The boy sits at her lap and holds her hand and with his other hand holds her arm. With a smile on his face he looks up at her face adoringly. Above the two is a statue of cupid sleeping (or a generic putto.)

The figure in the lower corner is an artist, who is sketching the scene before his (and our) eyes. This implies that we have not entered on some planned or unplanned spontaneous liaison, but rather an arranged scene for the purpose of art. The artist most likely has set the couple up in this dynamic setting for the purpose of a pleasing composition. An instrument and book of music sit next to them as props, still opened to the last song 'played.' Even the color of the garments both figures wear tell us this; the warm and bright colors make them stand out from the cool earthy garden.

The scene is prearranged for the sake of good art. So technically the scene has been set to display something - display a part of the progress of love. Don't get confused with this one! Our figures, and we do not know their back story as we have not met them before, are posing to mimic a familiar 18th century motif (actually the motif goes way back but was well known in the 1700s.) In the 18th century the idea of the lover crowned had to do with the idea of marriage and consummating a marriage. So our lovers are demonstrating their love by having the artwork created. The artist is making a permanent record of the couple at a particular stage of love (or of their love.)

Even cupid has been premeditated here, for he is sleeping because he has nothing to do, they are already in love and they know it! So the little statue of cupid sleeps the day away while the lovers go on making floral garlands and doing flirty things. Ah young love!

The Progress of Love: The Pursuit

The Progress of Love: The Meeting

July 15, 2009

The Short Story of Powder: France & England

In France, powder was all the fashion. Powder your wig before you go out, or else! The trend was pushed into a corner when the Revolution arrived, because it appeared that those who used it for style were "taking the bread out of the peoples mouths." Powder now had a negative association with the old regime.

It was however, still worn by some. Mostly sticklers who liked the old way of doing things, and insistent coiffures. Also the Swiss guard wore powdered wigs for some time. Eventually it became socially unacceptable and instantly out of fashion. The death of powder in France was quick. Now a more natural look had been adopted, that's right, long, flowing, natural locks were all the rage!

Hair Powder in England did not die so quickly! Even with the revolution and Pitt's genius idea to place a Powder Tax, the trend still remained strong. It was a guinea for everybody who used powder. You received a certificate, and if you used powder sans certificate you would be slapped with a £20 fine! ouch!

Who was exempt from this tax? The daughters of families. But not the 2 eldest daughters (Lizzy's and Jane's everywhere were out of luck!)

"The Duke of DEVONSHIRE has paid five and thirty guineas for his family. The Duchess of NORTHUMBERLAND a single guinea for herself, powder is under interdiction among the rest of that family, though not from motives of disaffection. Her Grace assigns a more justifiable motive; namely a scruple of contributing in any unnecessary way to the present scarcity"

John Ashton, Times June 12 1795

July 13, 2009

Le 14 Juillet 1789

A few quick bits about the Bastille.

It was built in the 14th century and served to guard one of the principle entrances to Paris.

Voltaire was imprisoned at the Bastille twice.

Thousands were involved with the storming of the Bastille, and near 100 people did not survive. Of everyone only 650 were named 'Conquerors of the Bastille' and just 1 was a woman.

Rumors and images were circulated at an incredible rate, adding to the reputation of the event.

Only 7 prisoners were found inside and two were certified. (insane)

A famous character who dwelled in the Bastille was The Man in the Iron mask. He was forced to wear a  mask and not even the guards knew who he was. His story was somewhat fabricated, whereas records indicate that there was indeed a man kept in a mask for a few years, the mask was made of velvet not iron.


July 10, 2009

Femme of the Week: Madame de Tencin

If ever a girl grew up with a thick cloud of scandal about her, Claudine Alexandrine Guerin de Tencin, was one. Born into a proud yet poor family, she found herself forced at an early age to join a convent. This path of life, while chosen by many, was not the direction she saw herself take, nor did she want to, and resisted it while she could. She was unable to marry "suitable to her birth" and the only other option the family saw was to become a nun.

Reluctantly she gave in and took her vows to the church. Possibly it was a blessing for her, that she resided in a convent in a prominent social area. It was located at the far end of a popular and fashionable promenade, and friends would often come to visit. Claudine Alexandrine was sociable, pretty and talented, and she afforded no shortage of friends. The visitors were not wholly welcomed and as the convents' cardinal noted the girls vowed to leave the world behind not bring the world to them.

After so long she decided she could not go on living the life she had accepted, and began work to leave the church. She had to renounce her vows, and five years after that she was moved to Lyon as a Cannoness. But she was still unhappy and wanted full freedom. She moved in, I believe, with her brother (right), who was not the best example for an impressionable young lady. (I know he appears as a Cardinal in the portrait but we will get to that later!) While living there she made her leave from the church permanent.

Along the way she picked up some tricks and developed some talents! For starters, she was quick with her words and could manipulate people to seeing things her way. A very useful skill to possess! She was both charming and graceful and with this type of charisma it was rather easy to do so. Once at her brothers place she immediately found herself amongst a few new suitors! His friends could not help but be infatuated by, and desired, his beautiful younger sister. What a prize!

She did fall in love at one point with a different fellow, leaving her brother's friends in the dust. This was the type of love that blinded the ambitious Claudine, and by accident, she got pregnant. The pregnancy would have been an incredible scandal, ruin for her and her brother if it were found out so she had the baby in secrecy at home. The baby was soon found on the steps of Saint Jean le Round and taken in by another lady. Crisis adverted!

More Scandal!
Well perhaps not fully adverted, this little spot in her history would be a dark one for years after her death, and a major spot on her reputation. The scariest maybe weirdest point in her life was when an ex-lover came over to her house, and shot himself in the head. As if that was not tragic enough for her, things got worse! He left a note explaining that Claudine Alexandrine had plotted to kill him and had robbed and cheated him. She was immediately arrested and sent to the Bastille! After a few days of investigation she was released as there was no real evidence of his claims, and the note was so bitterly written it looked as if he was the one plotting her ruin!

Aside from this scandal she was very active and intelligent and wanted her voice heard in the world of...politics! At one point she started hanging out with the Regent, and during one conversation she brought up the big pink elephant in the room. Philip, so taken aback that this charming and lovely lady had the audacity to talk politics gave a snotty short reply, to which she dropped the subject.

She later found herself having an affair with Dubois (Cardinal), from whom her and her brother reaped the benefits. (wealth and titles).

Later in life she put politics on the back burner and began to write. She published novels but tried to remain anonymous,even writing up fake dedications in her texts. She was rather good, I recommend Mémoires du comte de Comminge which is said to be somewhat autobiographical!

July 09, 2009

Let me guess- Gaultier?

Heather alerted me that Jean Paul Gaultier's Fall 2009 line is out and I LOVE the pieces in it! Let's just stop and admire this one.

It is like someone said, Hey, check out the antique frame around Marie Antoinette's Portrait at Versailles and create an ensemble.

July 08, 2009

July Love Bugs

In the summer of 1774 Antoinette and Louis were often found together, outdoors, talking, walking and hanging out. Antoinette was recently in receipt of the Petit Trianon, a place she wanted "to do just what I like in it."

That summer the couple enjoyed, with a bit more freedom, the relaxing pleasures of an ideal rural lifestyle. When it was warm and breezy they would be found wandering through the terraces at Versailles and all the while arm in arm.

They would sit out of doors in soft grass together, yes, Marie and Louis! They loved this stuff! There they would talk about things...from whatever Marie wanted to talk about I'm sure, but also about France and political work. I imagine being away from the desk and outside in a beautiful area is rather good grounds for gaining a fresh perspective on work at hand. Sometimes they would eat strawberries with cream and talked about building a dairy near by!

July 06, 2009

Fancy Dress du jour!

I just love walking into museum gift shops and seeing jewelry that is inspired from historical portraits. So I am really loving these outfits and accessories that have been inspired from 18th century fashion!!

Vivian, of Candy Violet, has put out a line of fashion called Visions of Versailles which features pieces that are inspired from some fabulous tarts and femmes of the 18th century. Her creations combine the styles and shapes from the 18th cent. and modernized them for 21st century debutants!

My favorite pieces? I love the hats! It is almost race track season making it the perfect time for me to be thinking about hats....as if they never cross my mind...! I hope she puts more out in this line!

July 03, 2009

Outside of Versailles: Stepmothers

Beating the game of life was tough in 18th century France, with all the obstacles: birth, growing up, marriage, children and making money to survive- your time was limited. Of course the infant mortality rate was higher 200 years ago, but even if a baby survived their first trip into the world, there was only a 45% chance the child would make it to age 10!

The struggle to live didn't stop there, next came marriage. Marriage was a happy time of joining new families and maybe gaining a sweet dowry! But after the knot was tied french couples only had about 15 years of happiness to look forward to. Where marriages today last an average of 30 years, in the 18th century they only lasted about 15 years, and this was not due to divorce!

There were, of course, added risks to women, who gave birth most likely more than once. This lead to many widowers, which in turn led to many stepmothers! What about the stepfathers? Well there weren't many! Only 1 in 10 widows were like 'Lady Susan' the rest remained single.

So was it good for the men to remarry? Not for wife #1's children! When a father remarried, and the new wife had more children of his, the divisions between the parents' assets (think land) was greater, making it harder, or at least a bit more challenging, for the children to continue their adult lives. Times were tough enough as it was! All the stepmothers floating around made the game of life more difficult for the heirs.