01.11Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 01.11

January 31, 2011

The Fashionable Male: David Charles Read

D.C. Read, Self Portrait. Etching, c. 1830.

I have been fortunate enough to convince @Discombobul8r, or as you may know him, D.C. Read, to take some time and tell us a little bit about the artist that was, David Charles Read (and who better to do so!) Please enjoy this excellent glimpse into the life of a talented artist!

A Short Autobiographical Sketch by the Ghost of Mr. David Chas. Read

Oh look! I find myself in the FRAGRANT BOUDOUIR of a beautiful Mademoiselle! Again. But hold fast! For once I am NOT engag'd in finessing th'Entente Cordiale, but rather have been most kindly invit'd to scriven a few lines which may enlighten ye as to my much neglect'd life and works!

Born in the village of Boldre, Hampshire, in the year 1790, as a youth I was apprentic'd for a number of years to Mr. John SCOTT, an Engraver of some note, in London, and drift'd hither & thither before finding employ as a Drawing Master in the City of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1819. Inspir'd by the works of Salvator ROSA, CLAUDe & Sir Joshua REYNOLDs, 'twas here that I commenc'd a series of paintings in oil with th'ambition of exhibiting at the Royal Academy. My good friend, the estimable artist Mr John LINNELL, noted that our mutual acquaintance, Mr John CONSTABLE, found these early works “so good that he was fond of repeating it, even tho' somewhat aginst himself.*” Mr CONSTABLE's friendly opinion, howe'er, soon turn'd to emnity; in his correspondence with Archdeacon John FISHER, he delight'd in defaming, “wretch'd Read and his wretch'd pictures”. And worse! Gah! Thus, after exhibiting just once at the Academy, in 1824, and having become disillusion'd by such artistic in-fighting and politics, I return'd to my forté and resolv'd to become the finest English Landscape Etcher of th'Age.

D.C. Read, Landscape with Cottage Gable and Figures. Etching, c.1831-5.

Which I did.

I produc'd a prolifick 237 plates over a period of 25 years, tho' ye would not know it from supposedly 'learn'd' tomes upon the History of Art, wherein I am too often IGNOR'd entirely, or DISMISS'd as a mere Footnote! I was one of a handful of Artists instrumental in keeping alive the almost forgotten technique of dry point, following in the footsteps of that magnificent Old Master, and perhaps the greatest influence upon my work, th'incomparable REMBRANDT. My mode d'emploi was encapsulat'd in the dedication to my 'Views of the English Lakes' Series in 1840, wherein I note that 'twas always, “more my study to catch the grander features of the Landscape than to embody those minute details which are incidental rather than necessary..”; th'evidence of my noble intentions may be clearly seen in the bold expression of line and form with which I imbued my charming bucolic landscapes, much against the prevailing “microscopic finish” so favour'd at that time.

D.C. Read, Water's Meadow.  Etching, 1844.
Counting their Most Excellent Majesties Queen Adelaide, Queen Victoria & H.R.H. Prince Albert amongst my admirers, a close friend of the talent'd architect A.W.N. Pugin, and flatter'd by the Encomia of such esteem'd fellows as GOETHE and MENDELSOHNN, I moved easily amongst my illustrious contemporaries, my path even crossing that of the Great English Visionary Mr William BLAKE. Yet, since my death in 1851, posterity has been cruel, and my Works and Reputation have drift'd ever further into the Void of Obscurity. Thus have I risen from my unquiet grave, to set right this Great Injustice!

'Tis a hard task indeed to distill my essence in so few words, but if I have whett'd yr. Appetite, ye may learn more of my REMARKABLe LIFE & of my STRUGGLEs 'gainst OBSCURITY & NEGLECT upon the pages of my own Journal, 'The Cogitations of Read'.

DC Read on Twitter: @Discombobul8r
Blog: The Cogitations of Read

January 26, 2011

Same Dame?

Louis Boilly, The Artist's Wife in His Studio. Oil painting. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Great catch!
I just recently featured a Young Woman Ironing, painted by the artist Boilly, and reader Sara aka @lili_bird noticed that the lady in Boilly's painting of his wife looks very similar. 
What do you think? Is it the same dame?

January 24, 2011

Cire Trudon Candles: The choice of Marie Antoinette

Birthday scene from Marie Antoinette, 2006.
I have been on the hunt for candles that wont leave dark soot marks on my ceilings.  (Although it may be nice, my walls are not stone so I really need to keep them clear of such marks!)  I asked around on Twitter to see if anyone had any suggestions and @wwmariedo pointed me in the direction of the historic candle company, Cire Trudon.

The company was founded in 1647 when a shopkeeper, Trudon, sold candles, constantly working to improve the quality of each one. His craftsmanship of the candles did not go unnoticed and by 1719 Trudon was creating candles for French nobles and the royal family.

The business was a success and the family was able to carry on the company.  The company famously catered to the court of Louis XIV and supplied candles for Versailles, commissioned by Marie Antoinette herself.  Today the company still makes high quality candles in their historic tradition.  The vegetable based wax burns for a long time and they use a pure cotton wick.

The scents of the candles are almost like recipes, they are layered and sometimes blended.  I am particularly fond of the historic varieties.  The company has made candles for Dior and also supplied the candles that decorated and lit the screen for Sofia Coppola's 2006 version of Marie Antoinette. Did you notice the candles in the film??

The picking of jacinth, roses, white flowers, wild herbs from the meadows and graminaccous plants, this bunch of flowers reminds us of an ideal nature, that of the Nouvelle Heloise and the country life dreams of Marie Antoinette. vibrating with the memory of a summer evening and the warm musk scent of torches, this candle is a homage to the Queen of taste who inspired so many candles to Maison de cire Trudon.
Head: Galbanum, cyclamen. Heart: Jacinth, Rose white flowers. Bottom: Musk

La Marquise
The cheerful and powdered air of a delicious boudoir: verbena and lemon stimulate the sensuality of the white flowers and the rose. This perfume at once tender and clever, keeps up all the sharpness of Madame de Pompadour's conversations and the voluptuous charms of the Rocaille chic.
Head: Verbena, lemon, citronella. Heart: Rose. Bottom: Cedar, Rosewood.

Roi Soleil
Fragrance of the Mirror Gallery and the vast wooden floor of the Chateau de Versailles, vapours of wax, candelabras and palace. This kingly and solar perfume blends a green and wooded wake of coniferous trees to the sumptuous dizziness of incense with a light ray of citrus.
Head: green leaves, eucalyptus, orange. Heart: fir's bark. Bottom: cedar, incense.

Versailles has recently begun selling Let Them Eat Cake Coconut candles, and I wanted to buy a few but they have already sold out, so I can't report back on them...yet.  But They are selling a bust of Marie Antoinette in candle form, by Cire Trudon! How fabulous is this!

There are several other fragrances and candles that look quite divine so I encourage you to check out the website at http://ciretrudon.com/.  Some other brands that I like include Voluspa candles and Bluewick.  If you have any other suggestions please let me know. If you try any of these candles I would love to hear what you think!

January 19, 2011

18th century inspired: Playing Cards

I wanted to share this great find! Pimpernel Clothing is offering a line of playing cards recreated after historic decks.  If you get a chance take a look at all the sets. Some of  include "Fortune Telling" and "Arms of English Peers" (always useful!)

I think they would make not only great gifts, but would be perfect to set out at a party!  There are seven sets of cards in total and on the website each set comes with its own mini-history and many images.  These are some of my favorites, I love their descriptions!

South Sea Bubbles Playing Cards

Financial scandals and faulty projects were epitomised by the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, as commemorated in this deck of cards. (1720)

What a unique contemporary record in cartoon form of' the feverish activities of traders in stock! Speech balloons are used to report the speech of those portrayed and each card has a pithy verse describing the situation. (Some of these verses may not be suitable for children!)

The cards offer not only a marvellous record of' fashions of dress of the period but also commentary upon those who were tempted and fell as a result of the apparent gold rush - cobblers, reverends, lawyers, "a Brisk Young Gentleman", and so on. (Full description and images here)

Marlborough's Victories Playing Cards 

Published in 1707, these are pictorially the most elaborately engraved set of playing cards ever issued, and demonstrate fully the adulation at that time accorded to the first Duke of Marlborough during his overseas battle campaigns.

Although primarily intended as a compliment to the Duke's successes, the pack deals with a variety of European political issues and includes several portraits of royalty connected with the campaigns. The spade suit comprises almost entirely a series of savage, not to say scurrilous, attacks upon the French king, Louis XIV. (More images here)

I am always looking for 18th century inspired items to share with you, so if you find anything let me know!

January 17, 2011

Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France

 Francois Boucher, La Toilette (A Lady Fastening Her Garter). 1742, oil on canvas.  Fundacion Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza.

I am so excited to tell you about this exhibition catalog, because the minute I opened it I saw a painting by Nicolas Lancret I had never seen before! It did not take long before I found several unknown treasures; the beautifully illustrated catalog was put together to accompany the exhibition Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France.

Although the show is over, you can visit it through more than 75 works of art by 39 artists.  The book contains five short essays that walk you through the history of genre painting, the artists, women of fashion and scholars that influenced it and opposed it, while making connections between various forms of art.

Intimate Encounters encourages us to consider the role of genre painting in France. In the 18th century it existed in stark contrast to the more traditional historical style that dominated the Royal Academy.  The soft colors and intimate subjects of genre paintings challenged the tastes of the period and they challenged the artists that tried to present them.

They remain popular even today. This genre reflects the world of various classes, particularly the bourgeois. They even made witty remarks on society during a time when privacy became increasingly more important to many classes.

The genre painting existed as a window to a private setting, where a viewer probably should not be.  Even in scenes of public frivolity the viewer may gaze unseen, spying all the details and scandalous ones at that which occur before them.  Intimate Encounters is wonderfully presented and offers many fascinating approaches to understanding the demand for, popularity and beauty of intimate encounters in art.

The five sections include:
"Love, Domesticity, and the Evolution of Genre Painting In Eighteenth-Century France" by Richard Rand discusses the style and subject of genre painting as a comparable and even challenging style in a society when the highest valued art was traditional and historic painting.

"Hidden from View: French Women Authors and the Language of Rights, 1727-1792" by Virginia E. Swain is a wonderful piece on French women of letters and novelists, including Madame Riccoboni, Madame de Tencin and Madame de Lambert.

"The "Bourgeois" Family Revisited: Sentimentalism and Social Class in Prerevolutionary French Culture" by Sarah Maza discusses the changes in society at various levels; a new desire for privacy in the home is demonstrated in many genre paintings of the 18th century.

"Intimate Dramas: Genre Painting and New Theater in Eighteenth-Century France""Genre Prints in Eighteenth-Century France: Production, Market, and Audience" by Mark Ledbury introduces some of the connections between 18th century genre painting and the 18th century stage; not always obvious, the two art forms share more than you might expect!

"Genre Prints in Eighteenth-Century France: Production, Market, and Audience," by Anne L. Schroder is the last essay in the book.  It focuses on the genre prints of the 18th century, which were more easy to afford as well as create than paintings, yet appealed to members from all ranks of society.

The second half of the book contains the catalog of works from the exhibition.  Several prints accompany the many full color images of works by artists such as Boucher, Chardin, Watteau, Lancret, Greuze and Fragonard.  The works are accompanied with a description and discussion of the work in context.

Rand, Richard, and Juliette M. Bianco. 1997. Intimate encounters: love and domesticity in eighteenth-century France. [Hanover, N.H.]: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. ISBN 9780691016634

Intimate encounters is available from:

January 03, 2011

Skating into the new year

Arnaud, A. d', The Sleigh. 1776, Drawing.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and was able to rest up a bit.  I did a lot of lounging around- it was wonderful!  Now it is on to more important things, such as following through on new year resolutions! Wish me luck on that.

Anyone make a good resolution? Perhaps brush up on your 18th century history?? There, I will leave you with this lovely drawing of a winter scene in France, later half of the 18th century.  from this image you might find it is the ideal sport for the bachelor, ice skating.  Certainly a winter activity for the Dutch, Parisians were know to slide about on the Seine when it was frozen over and the ice thick enough to hold them.  But sliding about is not skating, and there was much playfulness and many tumbles!

The main focal point (besides the man who has fallen on his bottom with pooch desperate to aid him) is the lady in her best winter robe, with pup.  rather than risking the possible busing of skating, she has chosen the more popular and safe route! She can still have fun and enjoy the winter while showcasing her assets for the bachelors.  Fashionably smart.