06.11Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 06.11

June 27, 2011

The Letter by Garnier

Michel Garnier, The Letter. 1791. Minneapolis Institute of Art.

I love this painting: The Letter by Michel Garnier.  The young lady has just received a letter and with excitement she jumps up from her practice, her thin skirts still clinging to the velvet chair.  Her blue sash falls down her her side as she reads the letter, letting the envelop fall hastily to the floor.  She shows off the miniature that was sent with it to her companion, a token sent by her lover.  In all the excitement caused by this letter a cup from the tea service has tipped over!

June 23, 2011

Out of the Salon: visiting the countryside

Heather and I will be away for the weekend, taking a much needed break in the country!  We have a party of five and will be joining two more at a fabulous early century farmhouse. Posh! See you all on Monday!

June 22, 2011

Family Tree: Meet Marieˈs Sister Maria Christine

Self Portrait, Maria Christine, Archduchess of Austria (1742-98). Oil on canvas, 1776.  Kunsthistorisches Museum or Schönbrunn Palace.
Maria Christine was the second eldest daughter of Maria Theresa, and was often noted as the empress' favorite daughter. Known as Mimi to the family, she grew up with a keen passion for fine arts, and developed her own skills in the art of drawing and painting.  Her taste for the arts would follow her through adulthood, and she was fortunate enough to share this love with her husband, Albert of Saxony.

Alexandre Roslin, Archduchess Marie Christine, 1778.
Albertina, Vienna (on permanent loan from the Austrian National Library, Vienna)

Her marriage also struck a sore note with her other siblings, as she selected her own husband.  Maria Theresa had many designs for her children, and arranging marriages was a priority.   The first choice for the archduchess was Prince Benedetto of Savoy, but her preferred prince was Albert of Saxony. She may have pulled her favorite daughter card, or perhaps the timing of her entreaties to her mother pulled heart strings (shortly after her fathers' death).  One account mentions the wedding celebrated with black decor, as it was the morning period after the death of Francis I.  Others mention the effort Maria Theresa put forth to make the celebration a happy one, in such a sad time, particularly for the empress.

Anonymous, Albert of Saxe-Teschen, 1777.  Albertina, Vienna.
 Albert, who was four years her senior, and took the title Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen.  By 1780 they were governors of the Netherlands, only to move to move back to Vienna in 1792. The couple's passion for art led them to own a great art collection which is now housed at the Albertina Museum in  Vienna.  We are fortunate that in 1816, Albert added a bit to his will about the collection, naming [the collection] an "inalienable Habsburg family inheritance."

Rococo Room at Albertina Museum, Vienna. Photograph by Anna Blau.

June 20, 2011

Unknowns: Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress

Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress. Oil on canvas, 1710-1714. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center.

June 15, 2011

Kings of France Madame, they are always Louis

 "His forehead was large and his features strongly marked, he had rather a down cast, though a steady, look. His eyes were blue and large...he had full cheeks, a well proportioned mouth and regular teeth."

M. Montjoye on Louis XVI from Adolphus, John. 1799.  Biographical memoirs of the French Revolution. London: T. Cadell, jun. and W. Davies

Well they were not all "Louis" to be fair, but France had its share of Kings Louis on the throne.  Here are some of the later ones by artists Fouquet, Perréal, de Champaigne, Le Brun, and Duplessis.

If the portraits themselves are not pleasing to you, (who said all Kings were handsome?) perhaps the fashions and accessories, or complimentary reds and greens will be!

Jean Fouquet, Portrait of Louis XI. Oil on panel. Image Source.

Jean Perréal, Louis XII. c.1514. Windsor Castle. Royal Library.

Philippe de Champaigne, Louis XIII (1601-1643), King of France. Oil on canvas, 17th century. Musée Carnavalet.

Charles Le Brun, Portrait of Louis XIV. Painting, late 17th century.  Musée du Louvre.

Joseph Siffred Duplessis, Portrait of Louis XV, King of France (wearing breastplate and the Order of the Golden Fleece). Oil on canvas, 18th century. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Joseph Siffred Duplessis, Louis XVI. Oil on canvas, 1777. Musée Carnavalet.

June 14, 2011

Yay or Nay? 18th Century Fashion at Royal Ascot 2011

Image and quote source
Well, hats certainly are in this year and two designers have teamed up to create a historical inspired look that débuted at the Royal Ascot today.   It is a near literal interpretation of fashion with an obvious 18th century flair for height.  For 1711 I am a bit confused, but the creation remains impressive never-the-less.

June 13, 2011

Exhibition: Venet à Versailles

Bernar Venet, 86.5° Arc x 16 at the Place d’Armes. Photograph by Philippe Chancel. Palace of Versailles garden.
Versailles has been sparking controversy as well as the delight of art enthusiasts with their contemporary art exhibitions.  Previously they hosted a variety of installations by Jeff Koons,  Xavier Veilhan and Takashi Murakami.  The centuries old palace will now feature works by artist Bernar Venet.

Bernar Venet, Euf lignes obliques at Marly Estate. Photograph from the Archives Bernar Venet, New York. Marly Estate.
Venet is known for his monumental sculptures and the works he has planned for the palace are no exception.  He has designed custom works of art to fill the wide spaces and gardens.  With so many open areas to view from various perspectives, the large scale sculptures will constantly change as one approaches and moves around them.  They will frame and showcase elements of the palace giving visitors a unique view of the space and existing details.

The scale of his work prevents pieces from being shown within the chateau, but they will pepper the grounds and gardens.

I am thinking about the sunrises and sunsets, and the golden light that steeps the Corten steel in red and brown hints. The curves on my sculptures will contrast with the angular geometry in the gardens, and espouse the circular edges around the Basin d’Apollon and Grand Canal. 
-Bernar Venet
 In short, his works intend to enhance and compliment the views so familiar to visitors of the palace.

Berner Vernet, Effondrement : 225.5° Arc x 16 at the Apollo Bassin. Photograph by Philippe Chancel. Palace of Versailles 
The exhibition will be on from June 1 through November 11, with eleven works to see, and it is free! Would  love to hear your impressions if you do get to see the works.
Exhibition website 

June 10, 2011

A master of the still life with flowers: Jan van Huysum

Jan van Huysum, Flowers in a Terra-Cotta Urn on a Marble Ledge.  Pen and brown ink, watercolor, over black chalk, with traces of gum arabic. Joan Taub Ades Collection.

Jan van Huysum, Vase of Flowers.
Oil on panel, 1722.
The Getty Center at Los Angeles.
Just wanted to share this beautiful drawing by Jan van Huysum.  This Dutch painter was trained by his own father.  His specialty was to paint flowers, and he did so from life.  His attention to floral detail as well as light, color and shadow were combined to creating glowing and vivid images, so exact, the flowers seem to burst off the canvas.  He often began his works with drawings as studies before painting the final image.

A rather entertaining story is said about Huysum, from the Getty Museum site:
He once wrote a patron to explain that her painting would be delayed a year because, unable to obtain a real yellow rose, he could not finish the picture.
 Imagine!  Surely she knew, and if she was paying for a van Huysum, that it was well worth the wait.   Artists of this genre often created the most fantastic bouquets, by using flowers from all seasons, often painted from other images as the bouquets were impossible to assemble in life. Van Huysum's  took the care to study and paint each bloom from life, making the story completely plausible.  You can see his attention to detail in these works.

Vase of Flowers, detail.

Jan van Huysum, Still-life with Flowers. Oil on canvas, mid-1700s. Galleria delgi Uffizi, Florence, Italy



Jan van Huysum, Flower study. Watercolor strengthened with gum on paper, early 1700s. British Museum.

Jan van Huysum, Bouquet of Flowers in an Urn. Oil on wood, 1724. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

June 09, 2011

A pre-revolutionary flight: Louis XVˈs daughters

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait de Adélaïde de France.
Pastel on paper, 1787. Palace of Versailles.

Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame
Victoire of France.
Oil on canvas, 1748.
Musée national des Châteaux
de Versailles et de
Trianon, Versailles.

Madame Adelaide and her younger sister, Madame Victoire, had lived in quiet retirement for some time before the French Revolution had fully developed. The women, who spent much of their time doing charity work and staying out of the public eye felt the dangers of the intense changing political thought.

They found it in their best interest to leave France for a while, until things quieted down. The ladies planned to travel to Rome where they would visit St. Peters, but ultimately they wanted to find a safe refuge. They secured their passports and with Louis XVI's permission, begun their journey.

The idea of members of the royal family leaving France, or fleeing France, was much discussed, and caused concern of planned escape of other members of the family, perhaps the king and queen, even plots of foreign involvement in the to-be revolution were considered.

The paper, Sabbats Jacobites, had written on the subject with much sarcasm:
"The Ladies are going to Italy to try the power of their tears and their charms upon the princes of that country.  Already the Grand Master of Malta has caused Madame Adelaide to be informed that he will give her his heart and hand as soon as she has quitted France, and that she may count upon the assistance of three galleys and forty-eight cavaliers, young and old. Our Holy Father undertakes to marry Victoire and promises her his army of three hundred men to bring about a counter-revolution."
 As a result of all the buzz, soon after they left, the daughters of Louis XV were detained at Arnay-le Duc, and awaited a decision from the National Assembly over whether or not they could proceed out of France.

Joseph Ducreux, Jacques-Francois
Menou (1750-1810). Pastel, black chalk,
blue paper on canvas, late 18th century.
Versailles National Museum of Versailles and Trianon.

The decision was not made in haste, and the National Assembly spent good time on the matter.  The matter was resolved after Jacques-Francois Menou made the following observation:
"Europe will doubtless be much astonished, when it learns that the National Assembly of France spent four entire hours in deliberating on the departure of two ladies who would rather hear Mass in Rome than in Paris."
 With this, the National Assembly permitted them to leave the country, much to the dismay of many.  Violent riots broke out in Arnay-le-Ducpreventing their departure for days.  Paris too saw its share of rioting over the decision.  When the mobs approached the Tuileries, where Louis and his family stayed, they demanded he order his aunts back.  Louis held his position, and did not grant their demand nor consider it any further, and the crowds eventually dispersed, and the women made their way to Rome.

June 08, 2011

New Showtime Series: The Dark Ages

This "preview" is for a historical drama series 'The Dark Ages' starring Robert Englund, Natalie Zea & Diora Bairdset.  'The Dark Ages' is set in medieval England, in the fashion of the series that have been hitting Showtime, HBO and Starz over the past decade.

Have you seen The Tudors? The Borgias? Rome?  (ps I love Rome!!) Whether you loved those historical series or did not care for them, you may find some humor in this! Englund has taken the more saucy dramatic(?) aspects of those to develop, The Dark Ages. [spoof!]

June 06, 2011

Exhibition: The Age of Elegance: The Joan Taub Ades Collection

Louis-Léopold Boilly, The Happily Married Couple.
1807, Black and white chalk, with stumping on brown
paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
I recently stopped by The Morgan to view their exhibition The Age of Elegance: The Joan Taub Ades Collection. This intimate show is not to be missed if you are in the area. It is clear from the show that the collector truly has a passion for art and drawings. Each piece on display was very delicate and beautiful from material to style.

The exhibition is in the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, an incredibly intimate room. I was fortunate enough to visit when there were only a few people in the gallery, all moving from left to right then right back out the door. The works are hung along each wall, smaller works directly above others. If this layout does anything it  enhances certain prominent pieces such as Boucher's Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arm and Jean-Baptiste Greuze's Head of a Sorrowful Woman. Other notable artists include Jean-Francois Millet and Francesco Panini.

Francesco Fontebasso, A Scene of Sacrifice. Pen and brown ink, over black chalk, on two
 pieces of paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
Some of the drawings feel unfinished, as if the artist has just stepped away after a preliminary sketch. There is a particular image of a woman sewing that seemed this case. The view is a profile where the subject sits in a wooden chair, simple yet elegant.

There is a suggestion of a background, very little furniture and nothing on the walls. Her neck is bent down over her work, and you know if she has been at work for a while she aches. She wears a simple bonnet and cotton garment, completely focused on the project at hand. She is not alone in this show. There are not grand ladies and princes (nay they can be found at the next exhibition over, "Illuminating Fashion") but everyday men and women, even children.  

Achille Michallon, Peasants Gathering Fruit near Naples, 1822, Pen and
brown ink and wash, over traces of black chalk.  Joan Taub Ades Collection.

Jean-Baptiste Pillement, River Landscape
with a Goatherd and Goats. 1797/98,
black and red chalk with watercolor.
 Joan Taub Ades Collection.
 One particularly captivating piece is River Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats by Jean-Baptiste Pillement. The painting was completed in 1797/8, inspired, no doubt, by the artist's new surroundings. When the French Revolution began, Pillement moved to south France, a move that proved not only to be an escape, but also inspirational.

The calm river flows through the landscape which is elevated by rocks and hills. Goats are herded across an uneasy bridge. The landscape is lovely and ideal, but incredibly muted against the reds and blues of the figures. The figures in the image pop, and only they stir, it seems, where no wind rustles trees, goats refuse to budge, and the river, lazy and slow, gently pushes a boat.

I moved along through the show at the same pace as the river, steady and slow. Absorbing all the fine details of line and shadow these artists have created. The figures in this collection are easy to connect with, and unless you are claustrophobic, you may find yourself wanting to take another turn around the room.  Their humble dress and settings suggest they were not all people of great elegance, but the compositions and presentation prove the period was an age of elegance.

The Age of Elegance will be on view until August 28, 2011.
 Exhibition catalog.

June 03, 2011

The Case of Gabrielle de Launay

Anonymous, Woman with Flowers.
18th century, Material oil on canvas.
Villa La Pietra.
And now for an 18th century tale of love, separation and death! Gentle reader, this may upset your sensibilities, but the case of Gabrielle de Launay  was brought to the High Court of Paris, and sparked a great public interest. I would love to hear what you think of this one. 

The story begins in the mid 18th century, with the beautiful Gabrielle de Launay, daughter of M. de Launay.  At just 18 years old, she was not only beautiful and elegant but also in love.  She was betrothed to Captain Maurice de Serres, and the couple were very fond of each other.  The wedding was to be a  happy affair and just before all was to take place, Maurice de Serres was called away to India for duty.

Fearing that he would lose his beloved daughter, or worse, she would not survive the trip, M. de Launay postponed the marriage until the Captain's safe return to Paris.  Both young lovers were devastated at her father's decision, and with tears and broken hearts, they parted.

Norry, Croquis de l'Église
de St Roch, 1787.

Two long years passed before word was sent to Paris that Maurice de Serres had died while in India.  Anxious that his daughter should marry, for she was now twenty years old, he arranged a match with a M. du Bourg. He was much older than Gabrielle (nearly 30 years) and a lawyer, who had both money and reputation. 

Five years later, a man arrived in Paris, Captain Maurice de Serres, his death, as it turned out, had falsely been reported. Shortly after his arrive he passed the church of San Roch, where a grand funeral service was being held.  He made inquiries as any curious party might, to discover the tragic funeral was for a young and beautiful lady, no older than 25.

Richard Wilson,  Head of a man. Drawing.
Victoria and Albert Museum.

She has fallen ill and laid sick for two days before perishing. She was Madame du Bourg, née de Launay! After making more inquiries he discovered this Gabrielle was his very own, and she had fallen ill two days ago resulting in a sudden death.  His heart sunk.

That night, the young captain, crazed with grief, approached the sexton of the cemetery.  He offered a large amount of gold, if he would exhume the recently buried box, only so that he could see his love's features one last time.  Unable to resist the bribe, the sexton agreed, and when they unearthed the coffin, they broke the locks to open it....