03.10Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 03.10

March 31, 2010

Quoteables: Gambling

Photo by Jeff Hirsch/NYSD.com. A collection 18th century gambling purses each with its personal embroidered coat of arms. Kraemer Collection, Paris.

"The Comte d'Artois and the queen played so high that they were obliged to admit to their society every damaged reputation in Europe to be able to make up a game."

Boigne, Louise-Eléonore-Charlotte-Adélaide d'Osmond, and Sylvia de Morsier-Kotthaus. 1956. Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne, Vol. 1, 1781-1815 London: Museum Press.

March 29, 2010

The Language of Fashion

The Fashion Poll votes are all in and accounted for. The entire time I was shocked at how close each gown was in number of votes...there was never a difference over eight!

Total Votes = 84
Robe à l'anglaise 40 (47%)
*Robe à la française 44 (52%)*

Looks like the tradition french court gown is only slightly more preferred than the practical English styled gown.  Seems clear that we love both equally!

While on the subject of fashion, I wanted to share a description of a gown Mademoiselle Duthé wore one evening to the Opera in Paris, mind you she was always to be seen in remarkable fashion as she could afford it and didn't mind showing it off:

“...wearing a dress of withheld sighs (split with an underskirt), adorned with superfluous regrets (a gathered looped band of material), with, in the middle, some perfect naivety (knots of lace); it was garnished with indiscreet complaints (appliqué silk flowers) and ribbons of marked attention (wide bows); her shoes were hair-of the-Queen color (ash blonde), embroidered with diamonds in perfidious attack (a ray-like design) with the come-hithers (embroidery on the back of the heels) in emeralds." 

Now isn't that a lovely vision? I happen to have a pair of shoes that have the come-hithers in silk (well maybe in cotton)!  Can you imagine reading the fashion blogs of the 18th century?!

*I included the above picture to demonstrate emeralds in perfidious attack

March 26, 2010

Femme of the Week: La Duthé

"Let us say to the glory of Alençon that the toffee was accepted with more joy than la Duthé ever showed at a gilt service or a fine equipage offered by the Comte d'Artois."
Balzac, Honoré de. An Old Maid

Catherine Rosalie Gérard (La Duthé), in 1748, was born to win the hearts of many, become the talk of many, and be mocked by many.  She was a dancer at the Opéra in Paris and a star of the Champ-de-elysses.  She also dabbled with the aristocracy.  She had a charming laugh that rang through the halls, and charisma to match it.  Famously blond, she spoke with a pleasant ring to her voice which never sounded annoyed. 

She developed her own signature when performing on stage, a long pause after delivering lines.  She did not do this every time but often.  It certainly made an impression on the audience, and perhaps she aimed for a dramatic effect.

After a few performances, however, it led to the assumption that she was not all there, or possibly just could not remember her lines?  She took on the role of an assumed goose, and as author Joanna Pitman put it, she was empty headed and could not hold a conversation for anything!

But not everyone was interested in Rosalie's conversational skills.  She was captivating and happened to catch the eye of the duc d'Orléans.  In a scandalous instance it is said that he, in one way or another, asked or requested that she might spend some time with his son.  The purpose of the rendezvous would be to, "teach him the facts of life."

Her greatest catch was Louis XVI's brother, the Comte d'Artois.  The affair was short and sweet.  The Comte was slightly younger than Rosalie, and married.  And of course, she was not his only fling. The affair heated up sometime in 1775, and Rosalie received gifts and surprises from her generous Comte.  He "gave her a house in the Chaussée d'Antin," and even had the court painter Spaendonck hired to paint her boudoir.  Her new place, lavishly decorated, had cost the Comte three months and 80,000 pounds; all well spent on his pretty friend.

All the sparkle of her life led her to go around town flashing wealth and fabulousness to anyone who looked.  She called herself a sylph and her motto was: l'arc et le carquois de l'Amour.   Her acting career continued but she was becoming such a topic among gossips, she was soon the main character of a one act play. The play, debuting in Paris, while she was in residence, satirized Rosalie and her stage performances (the long pauses....the silence...etc).  It was called Les Curiosities de la Foire (Curiosities of the Fair). 

Three years prior to the Revolution she moved to England living off the generous sums she acquired from her French suitors.  When the Revolution began her property in France was confiscated. Around this time in 1792 she sat for a painting where she posed as she had seen a woman do in another painting she owned.  The artist, Danloux, chose to place her against a blue background, to him it was the color of blonds. He found the piece "very handsome, and above all a good likeness of the sitter."  

March 19, 2010

Out of the Salon

I am out of the salon and off to les musées! I will be periodically updating via Twitter so if you want to follow along, the feed below will automatically refresh.  Be sure to check back for new updates! If you want to contact me while I am away just leave a comment on this post!

Now I am off to whatever adventures I may happen upon! And yes, I am traveling with an assortment of handsome men, pooch and fabulous gown. Not to mention the gold berline *snaps fan

March 15, 2010

Robe à l'Anglaise Or Robe à la français

Robe à l'Anglaise, 1770-75, Silk, metallic. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The wonderful Robe à l'Anglaise, a pannier-less dress! Full skirt, and 'robe' which closes in the front but is open over the skirt. The back of the bodice comes to a point and is sewn into the skirt. This one is made of silk and has floral embroidery.  The name means it is an English-styled gown.

Robe à la française, 1760-70, Silk, cotton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here is the ever flattering Robe à la français, which provides a most attractive figure to any woman.  The skirt is full and rest on panniers and when coupled with a corset the waist appears very tiny.  It also required the open-front robe, but the back was pleated and draped down over the skirt.  This was also known as 'Sack-back'.

Which do you prefer and why?

March 12, 2010

Sibling Ref: Antoinette & Joseph

In someways, Joseph was not very smooth, such as voicing his opinion on sensitive subjects.  On the matter of his little sister, Marie Antoinette, he held a variety of opinions. He had an opinion on her marriage, her behavior, her country, the state of her courts affairs, and Versailles etiquette.  Sometimes his opinions were shared with the wrong audiences because he did not always make the best judgment in who he was telling.

One instance that provoked Joseph to make a comment rich enough to make its way to this blog today occurred while visiting his sister at Versailles. Antoinette made plans for her brother to meet her in Paris, at the Italian opera.  Fun!

She wrote to him detailing the plan.  When the day came Joseph made his way there to meet up with her.  Unfortunatly, in a very last minute decision, for whatever reason, she decided to have him meet her at the French Opera instead!

As he was already at the Italian Opera, she had a messenger sent to there to let him know plans have changed and direct him where to go. Upon receiving the message, and surely he was quite befuddled (I mean to say, obviously annoyed) over the very last minute switch, he noted out-loud, “Your young Queen is very thoughtless, but, fortunately you French do not mind that.” Fair enough?

March 09, 2010

The Fashionable Male: A Green Suit

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni.  Portrait of a Man in a Green Suit, oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art. 

Today's fashionable male is actually an unknown subject, however he knew his style.  Offsetting his fair complexion and blue eyes, Monsieur Unknown has opted for a green suit of velvet lined with a matching satin.  The jacket is lined with gold trim and numerous gold buttons.  Exaggerated buttons (size and number) were  a trend in the later 18th century.  There were even caricatures made emphasizing the ridiculous nature of large, flashy, (unsightly?) buttons! 

His waistcoat matches the jacket, and also boasts buttons and contrasting gold details.  The pockets are highlighted and (surprise) even more buttons can be found below them. So maybe the tailor went a bit overboard on the buttons...  

Another popular trend of the period was the muslin stock worn around the neck, light weight and cool. The lace on his sleeves tells us the shirt is a dress shirt, and the rich fabric of the coat also lets us know he is going somewhere important! A narrow ruff on his shirt; he certainly works the delicate fabric. In-fact the lace is a nice contrast to the hardware on that coat!

March 07, 2010

For your château? Meissen Vase

Meissen Factory. Vase, 1750. porcelain with ormolu mounts. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

This lovely porcelain vase was made at the Meissen Factory around 1750.  When the item was made the factory had been illustrious for 4 decades, and their pieces were de rigeur for the first part of the century.  This vase features two exagerated handles on each side decorated with gilt vines and flowers.  This motif is mimicked on the base of the vase.  The dynamic flow of the base is very organic and implies the body of the vase is floating or balancing, quite gracefully, upon the growth (roots). 

The body of the vase is also organic in shape and covered in very small and well detailed blooms.  The texture is apparent and the blooms frame a miniature of a couple strolling through a pleasure garden.  The nature of this piece, with all it's floral motifs and organic bulbus shapes may just be found within an exotic pleausre garden. 

But what about your chateau? Perhaps it would sit upon the wooden end table in your living room? Or on your night stand in your private apartments? What do you say?

March 03, 2010

Intuitive Style: Princess Elizabeth

Robert Peake the Elder, Princess Elizabeth. c. 1606, Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In this portrait of Princess Elizabeth by Robert Peake, you might notice a rather impressive poof.  Truly before her time style-wise, the young princess has her hair piled high and offsets it with pearls, rubies and emeralds.  Lovely!

With killer eyes and a nice sense of style Elizabeth would become the Queen of Bohemia, but only for a short period. She and her husband were quickly exiled and became royal refugees.  Their residence of choice was The Hague and she remained in Holland for the rest of her life, aside from travel!

March 01, 2010

Lecture: Music and Theatre in Watteau's Paris

"Antoine Watteau's art would be unthinkable without the culture of the Parisian musical theater from which it sprang."

Have you ever been to a lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?  If not, here is a 'chance'!

I have posted below the lecture given by Professor Georgia Cowart, on Watteau in reference to the recent exhibition Watteau, Music and Theater.  If you have 50 minutes to spare it is well worth it.  I know it sounds like a long time, but it will pass quickly!

She briefly covers his early background, when he lived with Crozat (a major patron of arts), as well as the works he was producing at that time.  Watteau was often in the company of musicians and he was no stranger to the opera!  She really makes it easy to imagine Watteau's Paris, particularity the changing realm of opera and it's influence on society.  Her slide show of works in the exhibition highlight all the little details and ways Watteau found himself influenced by both the theater and, of course, music!

The second half discusses theater, with a focus on the Comédie-Italienne and Comédie-Française.  You will learn about characters such as Pierrot (above) Harlequin and even his fetching female counterpart: Harlequina.  This is well worth the watch whether or not you were able to view the exhibition.