03.11Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 03.11

March 30, 2011

Quoteables: Pope Clement XIV

"His [Louis XV] death makes me shed tears, but the manner of his death dries them up."

Clement XIV when learning of the death of Louis XV

Clement, and Louis-Antoine Caraccioli. 1777. Interesting Letters Of Pope Clement XIV. Transl. Revised. London: T. Becket. 

March 22, 2011

Exhibtion: The Strange World of Albrecht Durer

I finally had the opportunity to view explore The Strange World of Albrecht Durer, on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute through March 13th.   I discovered a few things from the show: Durer’s unique storytelling, imagination and his amazing hand.

I started at the beginning of the show, and each room leads you through various sets of prints and symbols such as The Apocalypse, War and Suffering and Gender and Anxiety.  Soaking up the images and the creatures found in them, I breezed to the back room where a video about Durer’s studio is featured. 

I knew a little about printmaking before entering the show but in only a few minutes the video explained in detail just how he created his works, the amazing tools and more amazing skill that went into his woodcarvings was fascinating.  Almost before the movie ended I realized I had to head back in to the show.

This time I went backwards, and used the magnifying glass I had been carrying around.  I was taken by each shadowy mountain cliff he carved.  I could not believe the detail of the stacked stones that created crumbling architecture and his almost porous wooden beams.  These features, although mainly set in the background not only set the stage for his creatures but help create a reality for them.  He placed them in a world just like his own, and the figures although often more fantasy begin to lean towards the real.  I can only imagine what his 16th century audience felt when they saw the prints!

March 18, 2011

Historical Passion Party!

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is hosting an exhibition straight from the Louvre titled Antiquity Revived: Neoclassical Art in the Eighteenth Century. The exhibition opened March 20 and is on through May 30, 2011.

Featuring over 150 pieces of art, the show attempts to display the inspiration of the classical world on 18th century artists. The exhibition outlines the historical influences on neoclassic art as well as the imagination and sensibilities (or lack of) of the 18th century artist!

Vien, Joseph-Marie Vien, Girl Selling Cupids (or Cupid Seller). 1763, oil on canvas. Château de Fontainebleau.

Of the works in this show, I wanted to share this painting by Joseph Marie Vien, who was head of the Académie Royale in Rome. Vien's painting is set in a large room which is decorated with pilasters along the wall and a large Grecian urn as a centerpiece. A table sits against the wall with a rose silk cloth draped over it, holding a vase of spring flowers and a golden decorative box. The room smells of warm and spicy incense, which we can see burns in a large incense burner just behind the vase.

Three figures are profiled in this work, and a beautiful aristocrat woman sits in the center on a golden chair. Her companion stands behind her and both women are giving their full attention to the young girl who sits on the floor with a basket of cupids. She selects a cupid with blue wings and holds it up by he wings for the lady to see.

In the image the girl appears to be mid-sentence, explaining something about the little item to the women. The cupid extends an arm, in a suggestive gesture. The woman in peach and green tugs at her skirt. What we have here is a passion party! Complete with sex toys. A perfect example of a classically inspired work with a bit of 18th century touch.

If you are interested in the exhibition but can't make it, the catalog is available now for 45

March 15, 2011

New Book: Royal Pains

I received a cute notice on parchment the other day from author Leslie Carroll announcing her newest book (which had me at the title) Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds.

It sounds like this is another must page turner type book for the shelves! Tag line: In a world where sibling rivalry knows no bounds and excess is never enough, meet some of history's boldest, baddest and bawdiest royals.

A world where excess is never enough? Sounds perfect for us!  So I will have to pick it up soon.  Let me know what you think of it you get it!  If you want to talk to Leslie about her book or your favorite saucy royals she is @lcarrollauthor on twitter!

Carroll, Leslie. 2011. Royal pains: a rogues' gallery of brats, brutes, and bad seeds. New York: New American Library. ISBN 9780451232212

Available from:

March 10, 2011

Brothers are better than Mothers!

In a letter to the Empress Maria Theresa, the comte de Mercy accounted for a conversation Marie Antoinette had with him.

The topic of conversation was her mother, and she explained that although she loved her mother, even when separated by distance she feared her.  The great intimidation she felt by her mother made her even more uneasy to tell her of anything that went wrong in her life.

She continued to talk about how different things were with her brother the Emperor.  With him she felt completely at ease, and knew she could joke around with him as they had in the past.  She didn't mind telling him her troubles, and would tell him if he said something she disagreed with. 

Mercy took to his pen to tell the Empress what the young Antoinette had explained and expressed his optimistic opinion that he had "confidence that a character so full of truth sincerity and candour will preserve Marie Antoinette in a whirlpool as dangerous as this is."

1 February 1773

March 08, 2011

Gerrit Dou: Sleeping Dog

Gerrit Dou, Sleeping Dog. 1650, oil on canvas. Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection.

I will apologize for making anyone melt due to pup cuteness, but when I saw it, I had to post this lovely painting by Dutch painter Gerrit Dou.  Dou began his career working in the studio of Rembrandt and became highly skilled in illusionistic paintings.  His works were highly sought after and highly paid for.  He had a successful career in Leiden, was commissioned by various courts, and was a popular teacher.

March 04, 2011

The Talented Artist: Monkey as a Painter

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Monkey as Painter. 1740. Musée du Louvre

Hurrah! Tis Friday! Before you all take off for your fabulous weekends, I thought I would share some artwork with you.  This piece is by Chardin, who clearly had a great sense of humor.  Here our monkey is displaying his talents by painting a finely set up still life. 

The still life includes marble sculpture, glass and fabric, all textures are meant to show the range of his skill.  Our little painter also portrays his care for the accurate as he rests his wrists to steady his hand, clearly a skilled life painter.

Below the still life you will see his large portfolio of works. This addition suggests that he has been painting for sometime and his talent apparent.  Similar motifs can be seen in later works such as the following portrait of Madame du Pompadour who also had a passion for art. Notice both artists used blue satin ribbons to tie their portfolios, I think I would do the same!

 Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Madame de Pompadour. 1752, pastel. Musée du Louvre.