11.09Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 11.09

November 26, 2009

Sharing a Meal & Giving Thanks

John Blake White (1781–1859), General Francis Marion Inviting A British Officer to Share His Meal. Museum of Fine Arts

The above image is of General Marion extending a dinner invitation to a meal of roasted sweet potatoes to a British officer.  The work was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1837 and the catalog entry notes:
After the business has been arranged, Marion invited the visitor to take dinner with him. The moment chosen by the Artist is when they approach the table, which was composed of pieces of bark, bearing a dinner of sweet potatoes. The expression of surprise on the countenances of the stranger and Marion’s men is finely expressed. The scenery is said to be perfectly characteristic of a South Carolina swamp; and, altogether, it may safely be pronounced one of the best pictures of American history ever produced in this country.
  "General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His M...." U.S. Senate. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2009.

I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving today has a lovely one!
Here are some related posts:
On the origin of the holiday (in the colonies)
Jane Austen's Thankful prayer
Family Dinners: Regency Style

November 22, 2009

Exhibition: Rococo and Revolution

Louis Nicolas de Lespinasse (1734–1808), View of Two Banks of the Seine, Paris. Pen and brown ink and watercolor, heightened with white, over preliminary drawing in graphite; fine ruled border in pen and black ink. The Morgan Library & Museum.

The Morgan Library & Museum is now showing Rococo and Revolution: Eighteenth Century French Drawings, and it is on display until January 3, 2010. This past weekend I had the chance to check out the show featuring works from the Morgan's permanent collection. The artists varied from Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard (tempted yet?) Greuze, Drouais and David.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), Interior of a Park: The Gardens of Villa d'Este. 18th century, Gouache on vellum. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum.
It is downstairs in the Morgan Stanley East Gallery across from their Blake exhibition (also open until January 3). The whole exhibition is in one room set up with display cases down the center, holding plenty of pieces. I was immediately excited to see Fragonard's The Gardens of Villa d'Este and of course the Watteaus!

The fabulous rococo.

The style developed during the reign of Louis XIV and the exhibition covers the end of his reign through that of Louis XVI, until neoclassicism was favored at the wake of the Revolution. The journey from the Sun King to Louis XVI is described through drawing. The show begins with the rich, often irregular compositions of the rococo, made up of intricate and flowing line which forms space and figures. The imagery is very pleasing to the eye, lush landscapes, rolling alleys, private parties and innocent conversations. It is all very attractive.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755), Rendez-vous au carrefour du Puits du Roi, Forêt de Compiègne, or Le Botté du Roi. 18th century, Pen and point of brush and black ink and gray wash, over black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper faded to light brown. The Morgan Library & Museum.

Pomp and Ceremony

I was caught by a pen and brush drawing by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. The piece is called Meeting at the Carrefour du Puits du Roi, Compiègne forest, or Le Botté du Roi (The Booting of the King). The King in question is Louis XV, and the ceremony (booting of the king) was common. Here we see Louis has stepped down from his coach and is having his boots put on so that he can mount his horse for the hunt. He is attended by his Grand Veneur (Grand Huntsman) on the left and a large party of hunters who watch with apparent delight.

The booting of the King was a ceremony and those who had the privilege of chambre entree could attend. Typically le Botté du Roi occurred when the King changed his coat on his way to or from a hunt/walk. If you were of appropriate family/status/background all you had to do was ask the first gentleman of the chambre if you could attend. He could allow up to five suitable persons in, so you would need to get there early!


Jacques Rigaud (1681–1754),  Les Dômes. 18th century, Black chalk, pen and gray ink, gray wash. The Morgan Library & Museum.
Les Dômes today. Unknown photographer, c 2009.

Also on display among the drawings is a volume of a series: Recueil choisi des plus belles vues des palais, château, et maisons royales de Paris et des environs by Rigaud. The book contains images of some of the most beautiful sights at Versailles by Rigaud, who was a talent at topographical scenes. The Morgan displays Les Dômes, which was created in preparation for the book. As noted on the website, this image let's us see what is no longer there, the two marble pavilions. And, of course, all the silk.

Charles Joseph Natoire, (1700–1777), The Cascade at the Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati. 1762, Pen and brown and black ink, brown wash, black and red chalk, heightened with white, on light brown paper. The Morgan Library & Museum.

In the mid to later years of the rococo, one artist, Charles Joseph Natoire became director of the French Academy in Rome. Fond of landscapes and the importance of practising them, he encouraged his own students to do the same. The Cascade at the Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati is a beautiful example of a pen and ink landscape, shaded with brown washes. It is absolutely lovely.

Jacques Louis David 1748-1825, Study for Exécution des fils de Brutus. ca. 1785-1786, Pen and black ink with ink wash over black chalk, on laid paper. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum.


Towards the end of the show, or the other side of the room as I viewed it, were some later works, including Jacques Louis David's Exécution des fils de Brutus. Now neoclassicism is clear, and we have moved a long way from the carefree gardens of Fragonard in style, but also in context.

The drawing shows Brutus at the execution of his own sons. Brutus led a revolt against the last King of Rome and was a leader in creating the republic. His sons plotted to restore the throne, and upon discovery he oversaw their executions. A grave subject yet compelling image. How far we have come indeed.

If you will not be in town before January, you can see selected works from the show (including all of the above images) on the Morgan's website.  The Morgan Library and Museum is on Twitter and updates often with events and fun links:@MorganLibrary (I am @MarieGossip1.) So who is going to the show?

November 18, 2009

Unknowns: 1771

Jean François Colson, Portrait of a Woman, 1771. Formerly in the Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence.

November 17, 2009

Exhibition: Watteau, Music & Theater

The Metropolitan Museum is currently showing the exhibition: Watteau, Music and Theater. The curators explain the time period, the reign of Louis quinze, was a period of "lush artistry," and the works selected show just that and more.

If you are familiar with the museum you will find the show immediately to your right when you enter the European Paintings Galleries.  Along blue walls you will find wonderfully entertaining examples of entertainments!  Theater characters get dramatic on stages both indoor and outdoor, while crowds look on eagerly - and with satisfaction - while private concerts invite you into 18th century homes. 

And that is what I love.
Watteau began his career working with a theater painter, Claude Gillot (1673-1722). Gillot drew many scenes from the Comedie Italian and his La Scène des deux carrosse is in the exhibition.  The drama is intense, both in emotion and absurdity.  The expressions on the characters' faces, their exaggerated poses, drawn out with hasty lines, give the impression  that the drawing could have been done right on the scene (or in the theater).

It is important that we can see the type of work Watteau was surrounded by and taught when he was developing as an artist.  You may recognize his images of Pierrot, a sad figure but always elegantly done, and he appears at least three times throughout the exhibition.  I found him particularly intersesting in the Foursome - just what are you showing those ladies sir? Other notable characters are Harlequin and Crispin.

Although I was prepared for many Watteau's (and was very satisfied with the result) I found myself particularly pleased with the Lancret's that were on display.  His Concert at the Oval Salon of Pierre Crozat is beautiful up close, from the expressions on the faces to the tiles in the floor. The stage is set!

Other notable pieces of his are Crozat's Chateau at Montmorency and Concert in Paris Home of Pierre Crozat both done in 1720.  If you could guess, Crozat was very much into art and collecting (not to mention of some fortune.)  Crozat's great-niece was Louise-Honorine Crozat, and Watteau actually stayed with the family under his patronage for a bit.

The exhibition has a mix of paintings, prints and even some porcelains.  Some popular pieces include Watteau's The Island of Cythera and his Mezzetin.   It has everything you might want in an afternoon, masquerades, opera, comedy and private concerts with rosy-cheeked boys. 

The show was so well done and I insist you go if you are in the area.  It is on view until November 29, but if you can't make it you can purchase the exhibition catalog here and you can view selected works from the show here!

Side Note: I also had fun posting updates on twitter, you can follow me, MarieGossip and MetMuseum.  If you have been to the show, or plan to go let me know how you found it! I would love to hear your thoughts!

November 15, 2009

Out of the Salon

Today I will be visiting three exciting shows and will post some updates on Twitter. If you want to check them you can find my page here: MarieGossip and Heather at GeorgianaGossip.

Here is the agenda!

A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy, The Morgan Museum & Library

Watteau to Degas: French Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection, The Frick Collection

Watteau, Music, and Theater, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I will post more on each show when I return. If you have been to the shows be sure to leave a comment on how you found them!

November 09, 2009

About Him: Benjamin Franklin

While Mr Franklin visited Paris in March of 1778, there were many celebrations in his honour.  But not everyone was impressed with the man.  At a supper, Madame de Créquy found herself appalled with the presentation and behavior of Mr. Franklin.  The first thing that caught her eye was his long hair! She goes on to describe him:

"'like a diocesan of Quimper,' brown coat, brown vest, brown breeches 'and hands of the same colour;' a linen cravat; but most remarkable, of all his way of eating fresh eggs.

He took five or six eggs, broke them into a goblet, put butter, salt, pepper, and mustard; and then 'nourished himself with little spoonfuls of this joli ragoût philadelphique.' He bit his asparagus and took a knife to his melon."

Her final assessment was that he was an unpleasant savage!  Mdm de Créquy clearly did not approve of breeches in etiquette, and etiquette at the dinner table was most important.

November 06, 2009

Fragonard's Fantastic Figures

Fragonard, The Goddess Minerva. c. 1772. The Detroit Institute of Arts.

Here I shall supply the art, and YOU supply the stories!

Today I wanted to share the mythological and fictional figures that Fragonard painted. I am not going to give the background story to the figures here, but you can leave the story in the comment section.  Let me know what you think of his treatment of the figures!

Fragonard, Procris and Cephalos.  Musée des beaux-arts.

The 17th and 18th century saw a rise in the popularity of painting mythological and popular figures. They could be read into and represent the fate of man or even man himself. Louis XIV was known to liken himself with Apollo, hence the sun king was as grand as the sun god.

Fragonard, Psyche Showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid. 1753. National Gallery, London.

Artists also had no problem depicting these figures in a most sensual and idyllic way. The result is a pleasing combination of fantastic story and soft alluring imagery.

Fragonard, Grand Priest Coresus Sacrifices Himself to save Callirhoe. c. 1765. Louvre.

November 04, 2009

False Hips and What Not

Let's discuss panniers, aka false hips! In the first part of the century women were still wearing their panniers in a pyramidal or cone shaped fashion. The cone morphed into a bigger, full dome shape, and in 1711, as one male observer noted in The Spectator, "The hooped petticoat is made to keep us at a distance."

This style soon changed into a more defined cascade, where the hooped petticoat extended from the hips allowing fabric to fall down at the sides. The front and back became flat, rather than a general dome shape. The silhouette was dramatic and the waist looked tiny. In 1739 you could find panniers reaching 2 3/4 yards in circumference (over 7 ft around!)

Passing through a doorway was not an easy task when donning an enormous hooped petticoat. Ladies would sometimes do an elegant turn to the left or right to glide through gracefully. Another option was to press down on the hoop and make it collapse enough to get through. But double doors were a welcomed architectural feature, making passing through easy and proper.

Another feature that was sometimes used to make life a bit easier for ladies of fashion, were curved banisters along walk and stairways. The slight C curve of spindles allowed ladies to reach the railing better, allowing more room for billowy skirts!

November 02, 2009

Happy Birthday Lady!

Happy Birthday Antoinette! (254 yrs!)

In the spirit of birthdays and gift-giving, one commenter on this post will win a cute handmade Marie Antoinette Bookmark from the lovely Etsy shop, Joli Papier

"Beautiful Marie Antoinette bookmark. I've digitally collaged an image of Marie on a lacey background, added a few flourishes and some pink roses. Bookmark measures 2 1/4" by 6 3/4"."

Everyone is eligible!

**Thank you for entering This give away has ended but look out for more giveaways soon!**
I also wanted to say thanks for all the spirited entries! I can't tell you how many times these comments make me laugh out loud in the most inappropriate places, such as...incredibly quiet libraries! Oh the shame.....