01.10Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 01.10

January 28, 2010

Croquembouche & Fragrance

"The name comes from the French phrase croque en brouche, which means "crunch in the mouth"...."  Read the Full Post here!

YSLGuy, of Let Them Eat Cupcakes, has recently posted on croquembouche, a very fun and delicious dessert.  I enjoyed his post and now I find I am very curious about the fragrance he mentions which is inspried by the dessert!  I have also found a fragrance inspired by the same, and I am interested in comparing the two.  Has anyone else come across a fragrance like this? Would you try it? I am looking for suggestions based on the sweet scent!

YSLGuy's post:

Ironically I cannot find a link to the fragrance mentioned by YSLGuy and the Croquembouche I have by Demeter Fragrance Library, well it was knocked over and spilt everywhere! Now their site seems down. le sigh! I did find the body lotion though:
Demeter Croquembouche body lotion

More on croquembouche and it's history

January 26, 2010

Fashion du jour! Mob Cap

The mob cap came en vogue in the 18th century.  The style was popular for decades due to its simplicity.  I love this first image, The Coquette at her Toilet. It is a scene of a modiste showing off her latest mob cap, in hopes of a sale at a young woman's toilet.

It was typically made of a white gauze or a light muslin fabric, and the edges would curve around the face.  Often gathered, with a puffy crown, the edges would be left as ruffles or frill.

 The tyre or tire was the string or band used to fasten the cap.  This term may have come from the Greek tiara or french tirant (purse/boot string).  The sides of the cap were left to fall down along the side of the face, and it could be tied under the chin.  Another option was to put a straw hat on top of the cap, which could be decorated with feathers, flowers etc.

The overall effect of the cap, especially if it were very ruffled, was a soft look about the face.  The sides were usually left down and covered much of  the face.  Believe it or not, these masking qualities left it quite desirable with women who were "conservative or plain."  This appeal of the cap kept it popular for many years.

In 1762, a mob cap which "crossed under the chin, fastened behind with ends hanging down," took off among the women in the Ranelagh Gardens.  So many women would flock to walk through the gardens in this style that it was promptly declared the Ranelagh Cap. Even the middle class, if they could not afford caps, would fashion the style from handkerchiefs. 

What did the men think? Some found the mob cap "more plain than becoming."  This view of the cap was wide-spread and as late as the 1820's American women were noted for shunning the fashion.

The mob cap could easily be decorated with colored ribbons and flowers.  Antoinette also sported the style, as seen in her portrait by Vigee Le Brun.  What do you think of the mob cap?

Would you wear one?

January 22, 2010

Unknowns: Boucher

François Boucher, Young Woman with Flowers in Her Hair. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

January 20, 2010

Quoteables: Pitt

Gainsborough Dupont, William Pitt the Younger. Burrell Collection.
"The foulest and most atrocious act the world has ever seen."
William Pitt on the death of Louis XVI

January 18, 2010

Exhibition: Objects of Luxury

The Victoria & Albert Museum is now showing the exhibition Objects of Luxury: French porcelain of the eighteenth century, through June (the website says May and June... I will go with June!).  The show features (surprise!) French porcelain pieces, created throughout the 18th century.

The French pieces rivaled all others created in Europe in beauty and color.  Due to the production process, more colors could be used on French porcelain than other types;the soft white of the material was unique, if not very translucent. The white has been described as, "a fine, solid white grain like squeezed snow." How lovely!
The end of the 17th century saw an increase in the manufacturing of porcelain on both the continent and in England.  French porcelain, as it would become known, was very difficult to make and was created with a soft paste rather than hard paste.  It was also considered artificial porcelain, but the costly pieces were kept in demand for most of the century. Likewise, a different type of porcelain was developed in Germany, (German porcelain) and later on the English would profit on their bone-porcelain.

French porcelain was difficult to make, thus it became very pricey.  So costly was the entire production of the porcelain that the demand in many countries diminished rather quickly.  English manufactures took to adding bone-ash to the paste, and soon there were no English manufactures creating the soft-paste French Porcelain. 

Why did the popularity of this expensive form of porcelain remain so strong for so many decades in France?  The glittering court, of course.  The court of Louis XV spent plenty to acquire the delicate pieces, and their patronage kept manufacturers in good business.  Eventually the modest porcelain factories gave way to the larger elite manufacturers such as Sèvres, which received incredible patronage from Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour.

Sèvres had the best of the best working for it, as it was under the royal patronage.  The result of the royal patronage were pieces of amazing quality, detail, style and beauty.  The exhibition Objects of Luxury takes these creations and puts them together to present the impressive products of French porcelain manufacturers.  The pieces, fit for the most dazzling courts, will give you an idea of the time, quality and thought behind each work.  The show also features the different factories that were in production at the time such as Saint-Cloud, Vincennes and Chantilly.

It is easy to see why this French Porcelain was so in demand. If you visit the exhibition you will notice the wide range of colors the pieces are decorated in.  See if you can pick out any pieces colored with the popular: rose-Pompadour.

If you will not be able to make it to the exhibition, be sure to pick up the exhibition book.
French Porcelain of the 18th Century in the Victoria & Albert Museum which is released February 1, 2010 on Amazon.
If you are a UK customer you can  get it now from Amazon.uk
Or from the Victoria & Albert Museum shop

January 17, 2010

For your château? Wall Brackets

Anonymous, Wall Brackets, 1750. Gilded wood. Fine Arts Museum of San Fransisco.

A fine set of wall brackets, light weight, yet durable enough to hold a large candle or small porcelain figurine.

January 15, 2010

What Would Marie Do? Fashion (open to readers!)

Dear Antoinette,

I am in an unfashionable quandry! I am a woman of 21 years, and I have a petite 5'2 frame. However, resting upon this adorably tiny framework is a rather, how do you say, Rubenesque figure. While I am trying to lose weight this year (it is one of my resolutions after all), I am faced with this problem: I am unable to find fashionable clothing! It has been this way for many years, and I have had to make do with t-shirts and jeans, every season, for about ten years now. I still have shirts from ten years ago that I am still wearing (horrors!!!)

Do you have any advice or tips on how I can look cute and fashionable while I am losing weight? Your assistance would be greatly appreciated!
Most sincerely,
Mdm. K-----l

Excellent question! There are many things you can do to keep fashionable!  To really feel like you are making a change with  your wardrobe is to get a bag, and rid yourself of items from the past.  Of course if you have any key pieces you must keep them.  Consider cuts that flattering and A shaped.  Or pieces with lines that give illusion to the shape you desire.  Accessories such as adorable shoes can make even the most casual outfit stand out and fashion-forward.

In Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, she discusses the time period when Antoinette refused to wear a stifling corset, and later on she of course went for more comfortable wear.  Wearing pieces that you feel comfortable in are key.  Sometimes belts or ribbon will accessorize and offer shape to otherwise unwieldy clothes. Antoinette might also insist you carry yourself upright, walk gracefully and keep your head up, as all fashionable ladies should.

You have a great New Year's resolution,  I would like to open this question to all readers so we can hear everyone's advice, and even fashionable tactics that have worked!   Georgiana is visiting and has some input, being a fashion-conscious historical figure who had self-image issues:

Pannier, pannier, panniers! Emphasizing hips is in right now which is perfect, because than gives the image of a mini-waist. There are many cute blazers you can pick up which should do the trick also! Here is a little preview the kind of things I am thinking about, http://www.polyvore.com/curves_baby/set?id=14958434. That is my humble opinion!

January 13, 2010

Unknowns: 1760

Pietro Rotari, A Girl with a Flower in Her Hair, 1760-1762. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art.

January 11, 2010

Wedding Festivities

"The fireworks were less beautiful than had been hoped because the smoke obscured the general effect: but the illuminations, as well as the spectacle of the ball were of the greatest and most superb magnificence."
Mdm. du Deffand to M. Walpole

January 10, 2010

For your château? Secrétaire

Desk/secretary, 1730-35. Gilded pine, paint, varnished linden wood, decoupage prints, mirror. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This Italian secretary is ideal for storage, and writing letters. It contains the most delightful scenes of seasons, travelers and various modes of transport. The drawers below feature pastoral scenes, and the inside has been more recently lined with silk.

January 07, 2010

18th Century Inspired: Accessories

Danielle at Rococo en Fleurs has started a line of 18th century inspired accessories: flowers! We have all seen portraits of the period where ladies wore flowers in their hair, on their gowns or simply presenting them in a basket; Danielle uses the color palettes and delicate brush strokes as inspiration. 

Her blooms are available in three sizes and she also makes headband blooms. Each piece can be customized when you order it, if you would like it for your hair she will affix it to bobby pins or a clip of your specification, or if you want to throw it on your gown just specify a pin!  The blooms are embleished with details such as faux crystals and pearls for a little sparkle and shine. Lovely!

I am quite certain she would be more than receptive to suggestions of flowers you may have noticed in a portrait, so do take advantage of the "Order custom item" request form.
My favorite? The du Barry bloom!
What would I like to see? A Rose Bertin Headband!

You can view her creations at her shop Rococo en Fleurs , she keeps a blog of her new work and she is also on twitter: @RococoFleurs

January 06, 2010

For your château?

Here is a series on decorative arts, which I have a particular fondness for.  The idea is simple; I present you with an object for your lovely 18th century estate.  Would you place it in your home or leave it for the tacky Duc of Dunkirk or Madame de Plunge (who has very ill taste)!

Chimney-piece and Over-mantel, c.1750. Pine, glass, mirror, marble. Victoria and Albert Museum.

So, here we have chimney piece complete with an over-mantle made of pine, marble and backed with mirror. The mirror is visible through the interlacing and ornate carved details.  The base of the chimney is marble. What do you say? For your château?

January 04, 2010

Family Tree: Meet Marie's Sister Marianne

Archduchess Marianne was born second to Maria Elizabeth in 1738.  Unfortunately for the family, it was the second daughter and not a son.  It was said that Maria Theresa acknowledged that she would be destined for a convent, when at birth she was born with a slight deformity.