06.10Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 06.10

June 30, 2010

The winners of La Cour Parfumee Giveaway....

Thank you all for entering the Giveaway for a bottle of Pimpernel fragrance for men, eau de toilette.  The winners have been drawnWell technically there are three!

The random number generator (random.org) landed on the following winners...

For the bottle of fragrance by Pimpernel Clothing:
Our winner is

"Comptoir Sud Pacifique Eau De Toilette - Matin Calin for its warmth and milkiness, reminiscent of tranquil country days at the Petit Trianon."

The two runners up will receive a code good for 10% off are:

"I believe a wonderful fragrance for 18th century Versailles would be D&G's Anthology collection. There are 5 scents all named after tarot cards, in French! Le Bateleur, L'Imperatrice, L'Amoreaux , La Roue De La Fortune, and La Lune."

Congratulations! Please contact me at marieantoinettegossip -at- gmail.com with your mailing details (email for the discount).  Please contact me by July 7, after that date I will select another entry for the item.

June 28, 2010

Marie Antoinette in Cake

S. Brett Kaufman, Marie Antoinette in Cake. 2001, archival ultra-chrome ink on cotton rag.

Fine artist S. Brett Kaufman plays with the celebrity image and the associations the world at large has pinned them with.  He selects iconic portraits we can all recognize and playfully portrays them in ironic ways; such as Marie Antoinette in Cake.  Click here to visit his artist page.

June 26, 2010

Out of the Salon: Wedding festivities

I will be travelling this weekend for wedding festivities! Very exciting. Must pack dress, shoes, hair supplies &c... Staying in a historic hotel which should be posh. 

Do enter the giveaway if you have a chance, and you can always catch me on Twitter. 

June 23, 2010

Giveaway: La Cour Parfumee

During the reign of Louis XV, perfume reached new heights of popularity at court. The term la cour parfumee was used to describe Versailles due everyone’s generous use of the luxury item. Although doctors warned that inhaling too much fragrance was bad for the mind and soul, fragrance clung to bodies, dresses, hair and wafted through hallways.

Preferred fragrances went in and out of popularity over time. The scent of bitter orange blossoms inspired Louis XIII, he loved neroli. Naturally the popularity of any perfume with notes of neroli soared. Unique fragrances were made solely for Louis XIV, and Louis XV’s mistress Madame du Pompadour was a great patron to perfumers.

Marie Antoinette favoured flowers – loved flowers! She had a passion for their beauty but importantly, their fragrance. During her early years at Versailles, the hallways and rooms of the palace were peppered with fresh blooms, constantly cared for and replaced. As you could imagine, it was quite an experience to walk through the hallways, a fragrant experience!


Pimpernel Clothing, a company that makes lovely period inspired garments, has just released their first line of fragrance: Pimpernel fragrance for men, eau de toilette.

Made and inspired by the “oldest perfume house in France… a supplier of fragrance to King Louis XV and his court at Versailles” this eau de toilette is:

“perfect for a nocturnal visit to a lady in waiting at le Petit Trianon, and reminiscent of those lazy Summer afternoons sipping champagne on the lawn while evading hawk-eyed chaperones.”

 Oh la la!

One winner will be drawn to win a 100ml bottle of the fragrance, which is presented in a period style glass bottle with an atomiser spray.

Two additional winners will receive 10% off on a bottle.

I find the fragrance to have a very nice twist- timeless yet modern enough to wear and not overpowering.  Surely the court would have clamoured for it.  Winners will be announced on Wednesday June 30, 2010. 

To Enter:
To enter, please leave a comment on this post and answer the following:
What modern day fragrance do you think would have been a hit at the court of Versailles and why?
(thanks Heather!)

June 17, 2010

Sport: Fox Tossing

South German School, A Fox-Tossing Match With Elegant Company Spectating. 18th Century, oil on canvas. Christie's, London. Old Master Pictures.  October 29, 1999. [auction catalog].
One sport that really took off among many European courts was Fox-tossing.  Yes...fox-tossing.  As the name implies, the sport is simple, yet challenging and to some- extremely fun.

To begin, you need a number of foxes. They would be caught and kept in small boxes.  Then in a field, an area would be enclosed with thick canvas.  This was a sport that court ladies took a large part in, (yes ladies could play!) and it requires teams of two.  Sometimes two ladies would team up and sometimes couples would be a team. Teams that were made up of couples had the tendency to be very competitive with their husband and wife rivals.

Detail from A Fox-Tossing Match With Elegant Company Spectating
Each team was assigned a place within the canvas enclosure to stand, and they would hold between them a long 'sling' or piece of canvas (much longer than wide).  The end of this sling had wooden handles for each team member to hold.  The center of the sling rest on the ground between them.  Once all teams were lined up with their slings, the boxes of foxes would be opened.

The panicked creatures would spring from their dark box, into the sun and surrounded by the noisy onlookers.  They ran between the team mates leaping over the canvas slings which lay on the ground.  This was a sport of skill and coordination.   At just the right moment, as a fox leaped over the canvas sling, both team members needed to give a great tug on their end, tightening the sling between them, and if done properly catching the fox at the right moment so it was propelled upwards into the air.

Adolf Van Der Laan (1684/90-1742/55), Fox tossing: Elegante Dwarfs Playing in a Garden on the Occasion.  18th century, ink (grey), grey wash, pen, pencil/paper. Christie's, Amsterdam. Old Master Drawings. November 10, 1999. p. 58 [auction catalog].

With enough practice you could toss a fox quite high, a team of men could get a fox up to twenty five feet in the air.  (over 7.6 meters!)

The ground was coated with a soft sand or sawdust material to give the fox a more cushioned  landing, and ensure the game last longer than one toss per fox.  Once the fox landed, it would either start to run again or be stunned momentarily.  The foxes that were stunned were slaughtered on the spot.  Once all the animals were slaughtered, the game was over.  Points went to couples who had successful tosses.

"'At the Saxon court, which was then the most pleasure-loving in Germany, Elector Frederick Augustus....was the first to introduce this amusement. This monarch, while mentally one of the most vacillating of rulers, was physically one of the strongest men of any age...It was he...who introduced heavier animals, such as two-year-old wild boars and even wolves. At a famous fox-tossing in Dresden there were tossed 687 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers, 21 wild cats, and at the end 34 young wild boars and 3 wolves were turned into the enclosure "to the great delectation of the cavaliers, but to the terror of the noble ladies, among whose hoop-skirts the wild boars committed great havoc, to the endless mirth of the assembled company". That injuries on such occasions were not infrequent need hardly be mentioned, and more than one young tosser was marked for life by the claws of a wild cat or the tusks of a young boar."¹ 
The sport later morphed, and ladies and gentlemen dressed up in masquerade like clothing to participate.  Even the foxes were dressed in costume, with tinsel and fabric.  Some were disguised as unpopular persons of the time.  After these elaborate games (or would you say shows?) the members of the court would have a masquerade ball or extravagant play.  Quite the sporting experience.

¹Christie's, London. Old Master Pictures.  October 29, 1999. [auction catalog].

June 14, 2010

The Fashionable Male: Buttons

Suit. Fench, 1765-75. Silk, metallic, metal, cotton. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Buttons were worn on garments as early as the 14th century, for decoration.  Two centuries later, they became more popular; liberally adorning garments- very expensive garments.  The button was a luxury ornament.  Buttons were covered with cloth during the reign of Louis XIV,  and would be manufactured in steel, and later gilt.

The 18th century was a great period for buttons.  Matthew Boulton, an engineer and inventor,  perfected his machinery to manufacture them efficiently and quickly. Buttons for all!


I love this description of the buttons on the suit above from the Metropolitain Museum of Art:
"The distinctive buttons on this 18th-century suit characterize the flamboyance with which French men dressed to match the opulence of their female counterparts. The liberally applied buttons would have been a lively pink color and glittering in candlelight next to the elegant textile and salmon-colored lining. The slim silhouette is emphasized by the narrow shoulders, curved front opening and elongated pocket flaps."

June 07, 2010

Aurora and Cephalus

Boucher, François and Maurice Jacques. Aurora and Cephalus, 1775-76. Wool and silk tapestry, Hofburg Palace, Austria.

Boucher worked with Maurice Jacques on several tapestries.  The two co-created this piece, which is part of a set including which also includes Jupiter and Callisto, Vertumnus and Pomona, Cupid and Psyche and Venus Rising from the Waves.  The set was given as a gift to Marie Antoinette's older brother Joseph II from her husband, Louis XVI in 1777.  In this image, they can be seen in the Alexander Room at Hofburg Palace.

The two artist had worked together on art before.  In this piece, Boucher is resopnsible for the scene of Aurora and Cephalus.  Aurora, who is in love with Cephalus can only stare at his mortal body from her cloud.  Unlike her, he is earthbound.

Outside of the scene, are decorative elements such as an elaborate frame, damask background, floral garlands draped about, candle stick holders and a vase.  Jacques is responsible for the decorative elements which are suppose to give the illusion of a decorative wall.  Once the tapestry is hung, it really brings something to the room, art, beauty and illusion!

To get an idea of color, click here for an image of the Cupid and Psyche tapestry.

June 04, 2010

Reading Material: Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and...

"...soon 'there would be no king and it would be worse than in France."
November, 1792

While authors of scandalous French libels escaped France for the safety freedom of Grub Street, England would soon be taking a closer look at their own press. Hanoverian rule during the early part of the 18th century was a time of freedom for the English to discuss politics and have opinions openly and without fear of (severe) punishment. A slap on the wrist and a fine for saying the king is a turd does not seem too bad considering the woes of earlier offenders.

Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England, by David Cressy, takes you on a walk through medieval England and Tudor England before dropping you off in the 18th century where progress and a return to censorship converge.

Each time I opened the book was instantly transported into a sweaty pub or dusty street, surrounded by neighbors discussing the latest in politics, and not in the best light. Some conversations are ignorant, some are palpable, and most are drunk. Dangerous Talk is an eye opening view of what people thought outside of the tower gates and how the monarchy chose to handle them. Each monarchy took a slightly different approach to punishing offenders, creating new laws and resurrecting ancient ones. The unsuspecting or vehement citizens expressed their opinions, feelings and ideas which we, two hundred years later, revisit thanks to Cressy's rich research.

Like those in Middlesex, who knew of Margaret Hicks, you will not soon forget her scandalous story. In a conversation with her neighbor, she flat out cursed King George, with no remorse. Sensing the heated and treasonable words, her thoughtful neighbor reminded her to watch her tongue, but to no avail. The insufferable Ms. Hicks then continued to curse the king, offered threats with her flatware and dismissed any concern over being punished for it. Imagine the gossip after she was sent…well let’s just say 1719 was not her best year.

And who could forget all the talk about Elizabeth Tudor's lovers and bastards? Not Thomas Holland of Essex. After hearing a little rumour about her majesty's pregnancy, his urge to share the news with the town overcame him. But would the penalty be both ears, one hundred pounds, or something worse?

Even with characters like Anne Boleyn sitting on the throne, your words could cost you. That is what Margaret Chaunseler learned after calling Anne a "goggled-eyed whore."

Cressy brings to light friendly and fiery conversations from behind pub walls. You may safely assume that to be drunk and speak politics is never a good combination, especially with the neighbors! I carried this one around for a while, revisiting the historical world Cressy has put together for us quite often. Scholarly in nature and light in tone, Dangerous Talk is an intriguing glimpse into the private thoughts and public punishment of neighbors in pre-modern England.

Cressy, David. 2010. Dangerous talk: scandalous, seditious, and treasonable speech in pre-modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199564804

You can get a copy of Dangerous Talk from:
Oxford University Press

June 02, 2010

Marie Antoinette: Height Issues?

Joseph Ducreux After French, 1735-1802,  Marie Antoinette as a Young Girl. Dates not recorded, oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

How tall was Marie Antoinette?