07.10Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 07.10

July 30, 2010

Innovation: Greuze

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Self-Portrait. c. 1769, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

The talented painter was born in 1725 in Tournus, his family was not rich, but lower middle class. He began to draw when he was very young, and would leave his drawings all over the place! But the idea of earning a living as an artist was not well received by his father (naturally).  It seemed entirely out of the question.  As a nice compromise, as his son clearly had a bit of artistic talent, the boy was set up to be an apprentice to an architect. You can guess how this worked out.

One day he gave his father a gift, a portrait of St. James' head.  (To be fair it was given on St. James' Day).  The portrait showed the command of young Greuze's talent, full of life and dimension.  It was a lucky day for the young artist, his father knew then his son had the gift of 'genius'/ true artistic talent!

Jean Baptiste Greuze, Head of a Young Woman ("Contemplation"). Mid-1770s, Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He was set up with an apprenticeship at the workshop of the artist Grandon in Lyons, where he jumped into his training program.  He took full advantage.  All the drawings created at this workshop were sent out and sold, and there was less emphasis on fine art and more of a push for marketable art.  Quick sales, mass sales.  As soon as his time there ended he headed off to Paris.  This could easily have gone either way...like a modern New York, you could loose everything or gain everything.  He was quite determined to climb the ladder of success.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Dead Bird, or A Child Hesitating to Touch a Bird, Fearing That It Might Be Dead. c. 1800,  oil on wood.  Musée du Louvre, Paris.

While in Paris he practiced great industry, attended the academy everyday, took lessons from Charles Joesph Natoire, and in his spare time created works to be sold so that he could afford to live. He did not make much money but was doing what he loved, and he believed he was growing as an artist.  One day, as the story goes, Natoire gave him a critique of his work, which he did not want to hear.  Sharply, Greuze responded something along the lines of oh you only wish you could paint figures like this!  *shock *gasp

As you can imagine, Natoire was not a big fan after that.  In fact, he was not well received anywhere! In 1755, at the age of 30, he finally caught the attention of the academy.  Works such as Aveugle trompé and Le Père de famille expliquant la Bible à ses enfants. Why did these works catch the eyes of the art community?

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Wool Winder. Probably 1759, oil on canvas (lined). The Frick Collection.

Greuze was painting in a style uniquely his own at the time.  He took a little from Boucher, a little from Watteau, and added a bit of Rousseau and Voltaire in the mix.  Rather than creating light-hearted scenes of pleasure and frivolity, his images focused on human spirit.  Even in a very subtle way, his figures conveyed thought, feeling, and emotion.

His subjects, the class portrayed, were not often found in fine art at the time.  This very fact made his works genuine and unique.  They were milkmaids, laundresses, working class people.  They were decorated, stripped down, and thoughtful.  His figures suffered, felt sorrow, felt joy, and laughed.  They were well received by aristocrats who had begun the desire for a new style.  A more simple style, back-to-basics way of life. In this way Greuze was not only innovated but a trend-maker.

July 28, 2010

About Him: Robespierre

Anonymous, French. Maximilien Robespierre. Oil on canvas.  Musée Carnavalet.

 "This man will go far because he believes everything he says."

July 26, 2010

Mozart & Versailles & Second Life: Movie!

There is a large 18th century court that has existed and is continuously being developed on Second Life.  A recent achievement is the new Chateau de Versailles, which is being constructed with incredible detail, all the way to the texture of stone work.

Interestingly enough, the owners of the Chateau de Versailles in Second Life have allowed a movie to be filmed there.  Based on Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" there Mozart fans will be pleased to know a new film is going to be released soon! This August we can expect to be the first to watch Amadeus like you have never seen it before.

Check out the teaser trailer below.  Things I noticed right away: attention to detail! The afternoon tea looks amazing and the lady holding the fluffy dog is amusing.

July 23, 2010

A Letter from Marie Antoinette: Part 2

While the French Revolution unfolded, it was increasingly dangerous for the members of the aristocracy to stay in France.

Many became emigres and fled to places of refuge such as Coblentz or London.  While Marie Antoinette was separated from her best friend the princesse de Lamballe, she would often write her letters, tinged with a certain lack of hope.

The following is a letter from Marie Antoinette to the princesse de Lamballe dated 13 October:

"I am broken-hearted at what I see passing around me, and can only entreat you not to come back. The present moment is too terrible. Although I have courage enough on my own account, I cannot help feeling uneasy for my friends, more especially for one so precious as you. I do not, therefore, wish you to expose yourself uselessly to danger. It is already as much as I can do to face circumstances calmly at the side of the King and my children. Farewell then dear heart! Give me your pity, since, from the very love I bear you, your absence is perhaps a greater trial to me than it is to you."

Collection of M. Feuillet de Conches 

July 21, 2010

Petit Trianon: Older views

Here are some old photographs that were taken of Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. There is something quite interesting viewing old photographs, even though they are one hundred and fifty years older than the architecture itself. This first one is a particular favourite of mine!

 Interior view of Marie-Antoinette's bedroom, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa 1885-1905, gelatin silver prints.

Petit Trianon Staircase, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa 1945 and 1970, photograph. Wayne Andrews Archive.

Petit Trianon Salon de compagnie, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa1945 and 1984, photograph. Wayne Andrews Archive.
Petit Trianon Exterior, facade and fountain. Photograph. National Gallery of Art.

July 19, 2010

Out of the Salon: Seaside

It is that time of year, when I make my pilgrimage to the warm waters of the seashore.  Best way to enjoy the sun.  Will be away for a week! Will anyone else be traveling?

July 16, 2010

Fragonard: The Stolen Kiss

Jean Honoré Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss. 1756-61, Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And I ask you, what were these three doing right before the kiss was stolen? 

Playing a card game! High stakes?

July 14, 2010

Library Hours

As  Queen of France, Marie Antoinette had spent a lot of her time enjoying lazy days at her Petit Trianon.  Walking through the gardens and visiting the Petit Hameau were just some activities she would take part in while there.  Inside Petit Trianon she had her own library, a modest collection of classic and modern titles.

For some time she would schedule a small part of her day aside to spend in the library.  It was her hope to cultivate her mind, and supplement her education by studying and reading.  The idea was noble.  After several failed attempts to be secluded and uninterrupted, she gave up on her scholarly pursuits.

July 12, 2010

A Visit to England

The princesse de Lamballe took a trip to England in the summer of 1787, in the wake of the revolution.  While there she spent time with Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire, the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

In Slough she was able to see the telescope designed by William Herschel.  She visited Bath, and tasted its warm healing waters.  At Richmond she supped with the Duke of Queensberry.  She also visited Brighton to enjoy the sea.  Her arrival created a stir, and did not escape the tabloids. 

She dined with England's bon ton, travelled with them and attended their parties. She was certainly more warmly welcomed than the duchesse de Polignac, as seen by this article:

"July 21st:
The Princesse de Lamballe with her suite accompanied by the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Duncannon, and other ladies of distinction, conducted by his Grace the Duke of Richmond, the principal officers of the Artillery and others of high rank, and attended by Sir Peter Burrell and other gentlemen of fortune known to her Highness abroad visited the Royal Academy at Woolwich and was present at a field day of the Royal Artillery After seeing manoeuvres with guns small aims mortars &c., they visited the Prince, 90 guns, a new man of war, just completed and ready to launch. Her Highness expressed the utmost admiration at everything shown her on that magnificent ship."
Gentleman's Magazine

Surely the duchess de Polignac would have expressed the utmost boredom at being shown a war ship! 

July 07, 2010

Modern Art du Jour! Marie Antoinette...

Meyer Vaisman, Untitled Turkey XVII (Marie Antoinette). 1992, synthetic hair, steel wire, moths, stuffed turkey, mixed media, wood base. From exhibit at Leo Castelli Gallery.


July 02, 2010

About Him: Louis XV

"His look and the coat of cloth of gold which he was wearing that day combined to form, in my imagination, the ideal of a great king."
Duc de Lévis