09.09Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 09.09

September 30, 2009

Art du Jour! Costume Study

Costume Study by Watteau, in ink.

I love this one because, aside from the pretty and simple garment, the wearer really looks like she has something to say, or to laugh about.  Pointing her fan gives her character! I imagine I might walk around pointing my fan in a similar fashion!

September 29, 2009

The Case of 1771: Part 2

Welcome Back! We are discussing the trial of the comte de Morangies Vs. the Verons.  This case really picked up popularity as it happened because of the subjects - regular citizens vs. the nobility.  The case was an early example of a cause célèbre and reports of it spread quickly about town.  Most everyone was routing for the Verons, and against the noble. If you have not read the first part read it here:   (Part 1)

Part 2
The lieutenant immediately had both Dujonquay and his mother in custody and they were cross examined about the matter.  There was some controversy here, as it seemed they were tirelessly questions and possibly endured some violence when questioning occurred. In the end they both confessed that the receipt's had only been given to them for negotiations, and were not in fact proof of payment.

It did not take long after giving a confession for both mother and son to take it back! They brought the case to the Paris courts to pursue the comte.  The trial was long and drawn out, and the Parisians followed it with peaked interest.  The debate became public, there were pamphlets, and everyone had an opinion. 

It took twenty months to reach a verdict.  The winners of the case were the Verons.  The comte was ordered to pay back the 300,000 livres, as well as interest and extra charges for damages.  This was ridiculous to the comte and he brought the case to the higher Paris courts (let the great debate continue!)

As a result of his ambition to fight these rulings he spent the next four months on trial.  After four months the comte was cleared of charges! An effort well spent!

In addition to being cleared of having to make the enormous payments he was to receive 1000 livres in damages. The Verons (sans grandmother who had passed away in the midst of the debacle at 88 years of age from distress over the whole pickle) received sentences. The boy was banished from the city for three years and the mother had to pay a small fine.

And that concludes the case of 1771!

September 28, 2009

The Case of 1771: Part I

In 1771 a court case caught the attention of the Parisians and they followed it every day like the Clinton trials. It all started with a noble, Jean-Francois de Molette, comte de Morangies, who was a field marshal in the royal army. The comte owned a bunch of land in the south of France and he wanted to invest in it and make it better - fix things up a bit.

He decided to borrow the money to do this, and he was recommended to go to Francois Liegaurd-Dujonquay. Dujonquay was a young man who worked both with his mother, Genevieve Gaillard-Romain and grandmother who was known as the widow Veron. The boy worked as a money broker and with his family agreed to meet with the comte about a business transaction.

Molette needed a lot of money to put into the land and the parties agreed on 300,000 livres. (This was in September) Shortly after the deal was struck, the comte was unhappy, claiming he was despaie, and had only received 1200 livres of the 300,000! He said that the young Dujonquay (his party referred to as the Verons) had in fact delivered part of the sum, the 1,200, but that had been all. Dujonquay protested and produced 4 receipts, billets a ordre, which showed he had made the full delivery.

Astonished and horrified, the comte took the case to the police lieutenant of Paris...

(Continued in Part 2)

September 25, 2009

To Each, Their Own

Court commissions were the best way to stay afloat as a working artist in the 18th century.  Next to that any commission from someone of rank would do.  Fragonard found himself working amongst the court and had years that pulled in 40,000 livres.  For such sums he would work every day, aside from Sundays. 

Even though some years paid off, there were other years that did not go quite as successful - and that is just a truth about arts.  If the commissions were not there, finances would plummet.  Fragonard had his fair share of slow times.  For example if there were a lack of history painting commissions he would not sit idle but paint to a different taste - whichever taste was in the market. 

Opinions on his painting varied.  There was the thought that he was just poorly trained.  Well trained artists would stick to classic work, fantastic history paintings with moral undertones.  Paintings that educated.  Fragonard however, did not receive this "proper training" and as a result he no longer produced "serious work." He was too easily influenced by fashion and bad taste."

Others found that by allowing the fashion of the times influence him and even guide him; he created works that appealed to a large population.  Thus he created commissions for himself, and a demand for the work.  Mastering a style that was current, with an emphasis on playfulness and frivolity, he was able to adapt and survive.  Reinventing his style - like Madonna!

September 23, 2009

Vanity Fair: Toujours Couture

If you have not picked up the September issue of Vanity Fair, then you must read the piece by Amy F. Collins, Toujours Couture.  She takes a look at the life of couture and its future.  With the help of Louis XIV and Antoinette, the world of couture was born.  Rose Bertin made a (and lost) a fortune and late Charles Worth pioneered seasonal collections.  You can read the article here, but pick up the issue to see the many, many wonderful images of couture throughout the years.
"Earlier, in 1945, Diana Vreeland had implored an assistant to bring back a fabric rose from Paris, as post-diluvian proof that couture had survived World War II..."

September 22, 2009

September 20, 2009

Hidden Gems: Courone d'or

In the darker hallways of the Metropolitan Museum you might find some surprises.  Once you enter the lovely French rooms found in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts section you might just stumble on a few gems or two.

One hallway in particular, you could walk through and almost not notice the 18th century shopfront you walk by. Displaying fancy silver and gilt table-wears in large front windows, with ruched, heavy draping falling from behind, and lit merely by candle glow is a spectacular shop front.  The shop was the Courone d'or (Crown of Gold) and was located on the Quai Bourbon.  I wish my sad little phone could have taken an image but it was so dark nothing came out!

In my mini sweep through the museum (I do not encourage mini-sweeps through the museum) I recall reading that the old wooden shop front had been built over by more modern stone shop front. (This image of the shop is also displayed) There is a bit of info at the Met, but I have yet to find much more. Any tips are appreciated.  I stayed until the guard shooed me away.   :o)

I also wonder what the 2 doors were used for! (aside from front door of course!) If you happen into the met and have not already discovered it, check it out. They also have authentic 18th century hardware from a large shop sign. It looks much like that of the shop Madame du Barry once worked at. I will look for an image!

September 18, 2009

Fragonard Friday: Rejection

As a boy, Fragonard took a keen intersest in art above all things.  The love he expressed toward drawing and painting did not go unoticed and his parents brought him to a fellow by the name of Boucher, who took on apprentices. 

He was probably around 14-15 at the time.  Boucher noted right away he really had no formal training, and decided he would let his friend Chardin deal with the kid, if he wanted to.  Chardin took young Fragonard and gave him an apprenticeship doing really fun tasks! Coffee, bagels, and making copies! He copied the works of masters, a tedious, time consuming task (also quite effective) but nonetheless all too boring for Fragonard. 

Chardin eventually gave up on him and let him go! He was clearly bored and Chardin did not see him going far. But after being associated with the two top talents one could ever wish to be, at least in 1748, Fragonard knew he could not just walk away from a possible art career.  It really stung, but what else was he to do? Haberdasher? No way!

This was a tough time for him, and he had to act fast.  Rejection never looks good on the CV and to fix it drastic measures had to be taken. Besides, he really slacked when it came to school, so he needed to find a niche in the art world. 

He put together a portfolio of drawings he had done from great works in Parisian churches, and headed over to see Boucher.  In a tense 'interview' moment he presented his portfolio to the master painter hoping to recieve an apprenticeship from him. To his great relief the artist took him on! (It's like designing for Dior then jumping to Chanel!) The two became friends after working together for a bit, job security....

Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Idol, Fragonard age 20

September 16, 2009

Quotables: of the modern sort

"Dress cute wherever you go, life is too short to blend in."

-Paris Hilton, Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
And how true!  

September 14, 2009

Exhibition: Napoleon III and Paris

Tuileries Palace, Burned, 1871, from Les Ruines de Paris et de ses Environs 1870–1871

If you missed the Napoleon III and Paris Exhibition then do not fret! You can view select images from it on the Metropolitan Museum website.  Here is the link.

"This dossier photography exhibition will focus on the changing shape of Paris during the Second Empire, when the city’s narrow streets and medieval buildings gave way to the broad boulevards and grand public works that still define the urban landscape of the French capital."

Napoleon III and Paris Exhibition, Met Museum

September 11, 2009

Out of the Salon

Been called to town on business, hope everyone has a lovely weekend.  Here are some visual updates of my own:
click on any image to see it a bit larger!
This one is great, click on it and you can see (a little better) the folding card table and game laid out!


September 09, 2009

Change in the air: 19.4.1778

19 Avril 1778

Marie Antoinette writes to her mother that things have changed. It was spring, and the air was still fresh and cool. Perfect time for change! From now on, she wrote, she will take care of herself much better- her health is of most importance. Admittedly she never cared to do so before, but that was the old Antoinette!

She also went to Louis about another matter of concern. She asked if he would distribute 4,000 francs to the poor of France. She also made a special note for him to offer 12,000 francs to debtors who were currently in prison.

This was only if they were in prison for one reason: failure to pay their monthly nurses. A monthly nurse was a lady who took care of both a new mother and baby one month after birth. This sudden concern for these ladies and families stemmed from a new concern of Antoinette's, motherhood. Of course Louis went forth with her wishes, and distributed the funds as asked!

September 08, 2009

The Pox

April 27, 1774 Louis XV woke up and just didn't feel right. He shook it off and rolled out of bed, there were plans to hunt that day, as usual, and he was not going to miss that! He had felt feverish in the morning, but well enough to go out, but by the end of the hunt he was so sick that his doctors sent him back to Versailles!

His fever had worsened by the time he returned home, and he was sent straight to bed to rest while doctors planned their next move. Unsurprisingly they chose to bleed him, and they bled him a lot! This was the King after all, and such a quick illness needed a quick fix. 

After a stressful day, the loss of blood did not do the king any favors and his fever did not reduce for 2 days! On the 29th things took a turn for the worse.

Louis broke out into a rash and someone suggested smallpox. This however, could not be the answer because Louis had caught the pox when he was younger, therefore he had been immune to the disease his entire life.  He had always lived in comfort due to this fact, and had never considered the disease a threat. He refused this answer on that condition. But no matter what, he did have the pox and the doctors knew it.  His pox was so bad that the, "pustules overlap and form a single scab." *shudder*  After asking for a mirror he finally admitted that it was indeed smallpox, and added that no one his age would survive it.

All the while Madame du Barry was nursing him, but after this revelation Louis had her leave. His body continued to decline, and was said to have turned almost black over the skin, and gave a sickening smell. The King, although older in age, was active and strong. As a result of his previous health he lived through 11 days of the disease. This was when rumors of his recovery began, he made it through the worse and had beaten it! What the people spreading the rumors did not know was that although alive, he had not been conscious for a few days.

On May 10th he died, his body had been consumed for days by the disease. The rot that had already begun to occur was so bad that, "one of the workmen who placed [his body] in their lead coffin is said to have died from uncontrollable vomiting." Whether or not that is true it is a grim reminder of the severity of which this disease had affected that once strong bodied King.

September 04, 2009

Love it? Art

"The Excavation of a Roman Ruin"

Just had to share this work by Jean Honoré Fragonard!
2 quick questions:
  1.  What do you think of it?
  2. How much money do you think this watercolor sold for at auction?

September 02, 2009

From the Frick´s conservation intern: Meet Jill

The Frick Art Reference Library was founded in 1920 to serve “adults with a serious interest in art,” among them scholars, art professionals, collectors, and students.
-The Frick Reference Library Homepage

So everyone is aware the Frick Reference Library has re-opened to the public as of September 1st. It is worth checking out even if you are just doing some casual research!  The catalog can now be accessed via Arcade online catalog, along with those of MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum. Now I would like to introduce Jill who spent some time at the Frick as a conservation intern!

Hello everyone! I’m Jill and Lauren asked me to guest blog today about my experience as a Conservation Intern at the Frick Art and Reference Library. Many of you have commented on how much you love the Frick for its museum collections and artwork, but did you know this institution also contains an art research library? How about an archive containing papers from Henry Clay Frick himself? Read on to find out a little bit about this prestigious library and my own personal experience working in the conservation lab of the archive.

As an undergraduate at Wells College, I was enrolled in a Book Arts program as a minor. I learned book binding and letterpress skills and this was supplemented with my conservation internship at the Frick. Book conservation and restoration in laymen terms means repairing books to prevent their deterioration over time and housing them in ways so they can remain around for more years than expected. Think of how modern day medicine keeps people living longer than their expectancy: the same is done with books, papers and other items. Some damaged items are easy to repair, such as a torn page, but others items need some serious TLC to get back into a proper condition for handling (such as a burned book).

The Library
I remember the library being an intricate maze, to put it simply. The main reading room of the Frick where patrons can conduct research is possibly the quietest spot in all of New York City! You can hear if someone even turns their head slightly so, or at least it seems that way. Walking through the reading room on a tour, I felt even my whisper was too loud and disrupting the patrons. The wood furnishings are very dark, almost a cherry finish, an d you feel transported into an 18th century feeling library, even with the computer terminals resting in their proper carrels.

As for portions of the library off-limits to patrons, the stacks are cramped, but full of information that is kept dust-free by the housekeeping staff. The library itself is monitored under HVAC standards, with a temperature of 70ºF and relative humidity of 50%. Many floors make up the library, with the archives and conservation areas taking up the 5th floor. This is where I had my internship.

A larger portion of my duties at the Frick was repairing a handful of the 80,000 auction catalogs that the Frick houses. I say handful since 80,000 is a large amount of catalogs, and also taking into account the 1,500 that are added to the collection every year. The Frick collects catalogues from auction houses all over the world, including Europe and the collections has catalogues that date all the way back to the 18th century. The catalogs I was assigned to work on were mainly 20th century.

Most of these catalogs underwent treatment to remove adhesives that were left on the pamphlets from binders that had tape in the spines (I’m sure we’ve seen similar binders in libraries, yes?). Non-archival adhesives like those found on these binders contain acid that is damaging to paper and causes it to color and stain overtime.

To remove adhesive, we used several different treatments: heat, poultice and even water. The poultice was made up of a substance called methyl cellulose which removes adhesive. Poultice is applied as a thick layer to where the adhesive is to loosen up the sticky stuff, then a metal spatula gently scrapes the poultice and loosened adhesive off the paper, ever so carefully however so the paper does not rip. In order for the paper to dry, we would place it between blotter and holytext papers under weights, sometimes in the drying press, similar to the one pictured here
If you have any questions for Jill about The Frick or Conservation in general please feel free to send her an email!