September 29, 2011

Louis XV: an early genealogical tree

Glokeur de Surchamps, The Fleur de France. Genealogical tree with thirteen miniature portraits. Museo Arqueologico Nacional, Madrid. Photo credit: Dominguez Ramos.

This is a really amazing piece, housed at the Museo Arqueologico Nacional in Mardid.  The elaborate gilt frame, titled Fleur de France (which can be seen towards the top) features thirteen portraits!

Underneath the royal blue veil of France, decorated with gold fleur de lis and crowned, is Louis XV.  Several putti act out scenes along his sides but I have not been able to figure out just what they are doing!  Directly below his portrait are his male heirs, and below the flower's belt, his most recent heirs.  His wife and six daughters fill in the petals and their portraits are decorated with garlands.

The frame is flanked by two watchful cockerels, symbols of vigilance.  The cockerel remained a symbol of France, appearing later on the currency of the Republic!

September 27, 2011

The Talented Gentlemen's Club or An Assembly of Artists!

Louis Léopold Boilly, Assembly of Artists in the Studio of Isabey. Oil on canvas, before 1799. Musée du Louvre.
By Louis Léopold Boilly, we have a rather large gathering at Jean-Baptiste Isabey's studio with several big names attending.  Just your typical Tuesday afternoon no doubt! I just love these paintings, so much going on, so many interactions, you really have to take a close look at everyone in the scene!  I have not been able to pick out everyone, but here are some. Who can you find?

Louis Léopold Boilly, Self Portrait. Oil on canvas. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France.
Anne-Louis Girodet, self-portrait. (ca. 1790), oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Portrait of Pierre-Joseph Redouté.  Oil on canvas, ca. 1800.  Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille.

Also, please note, if you are going to tote around your work, be sure your portfolio has blue straps! It is really the thing!

September 23, 2011

Social Parisians sans frills: Jean-François de Troy

Jean-François de Troy was born early on in 1679 in Paris. His father was a portrait painter, but Jean-François really had no interest in that. He grew up enjoying life, that is, creating scandals and living in leisure. On his fathers dime he traveled to Italy and spent some time there at the French Academy in Rome, and in the bed of a Judge's young wife. (tsk!)

He began a career in art, not painting portraits like his father, but large scale works of mythology and religious imagery. His talent seemed to exceed father's and he mastered another subject - depictions of everyday Parisian life. Images of the well to do doing well, and doing typical polite everyday things. This was different; his works represented a true glimpse into the lives of the upper class.

Jean-François de Troy, Reading from Moliere. Private Collection.

This is a painting called Reading from Moliere, and it shows a group of upper class Parisians gathered for an evening of good conversation and agreeable company. It is a perfectly natural and honest evening of friends being social in a private setting. Like a snapshot of the moment some of figures are engaged mid-sentence while others look up or turn their heads to acknowledge you. No one is plotting, or misbehaving.

What makes this painting particular is it's pure unbiased subject matter. Unlike a scene by Hogarth, there is no witty moral suggestion here nor is the scene enhanced by narratives. Even Watteau's images like these were often riddled with hints of the erotic. De Troy exuded professionalism in his work, and the images of these social scenes are nothing but polite. They are true records of the social life lived by the upper class.

These paintings seem to be some of the most believable historical records (visual records!) because, they are not a Hogarth or Watteau. Believable because there is no funny business happening! No exaggerated decoration, no lesson to be learned. Just a lesson in social history- the polite manners and life style of the more privileged life.

September 21, 2011

Art du Jour: A Parisian Fete

Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin, A Parisian Fete. Black pen and ink, black crayon with opaque watercolor and on cream colored laid paper, 1760-1770. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I know...it is only Wednesday. But that is no reason we can't anticipate having this much fun this weekend!   /gathers skirts and hits the town

Is it too soon to discuss weekend plans? What is everyone doing? There are several great exhibitions open this weekend, check out my exhibition calendar and see if any are near you!


September 16, 2011

Exhibition: Sin & the City

William Hogarth. Beer Street, 1751.
Etching and engraving.
Graphic Arts Collection,
Firestone Library.
Now here is an 18th century exhibition at a.....library! (yay love it!) The Firestone Library at Princeton University is hosting Sin and the City: William Hogarth's London, which is on view through January 29, 2012.  Seventy of Hogarth's prints are on display, depicting the city of London developing into the bustling 18th century town we know and love, all skillfully done with his witty social scenes and commentary.  The show is supplemented with works by several of his contemporaries, period maps and documents! So if you are in the area be sure to stop by!

Also, check out the website for the show. There is a little section about the London maps, and a list of included events in the next few months such as music, tours and discussions.


Firestone Library Exhibition
Main Gallery
Princeton University

September 12, 2011

Inspired by Herculaneum, styles fit for Marie Antoinette

Giovannia Battista Piranesi, Side Table. Gilt oak, lime wood, marble, 1768.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
As times changed at the palace of Versailles styles did as well. Madame du Pompadour as patron of the arts, loved the style of the Rococo, and its appeal lasted well through the first half of the 18th century.  With Madame du Barry filling her shoes, and the future king and queen Louis XVI, the Neoclassical style would become en vogue.

 The new trend had early roots in the 18th century, with a renewed interest in ancient Rome.  As early as 1738, a discovery was made at the site of Herculaneum.  The historic town had been buried by volcanic debris, and was twenty meters underground.  Excavation was not easy, but there was much to be discovered and great interest developed.  Buildings, paintings and styles were uncovered that sparked an exciting interest in the art of the past.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Strada Consulare with the Herculaneum Gate in Pompeii; detail of right half. Drawing, pen and brown ink with wash, 1772-78. British Museum.
This fascination with Herculaneum lasted about a decade, until 1749 when famous Pompeii was discovered.  It is not that Pompeii had more treasures to offer than Herculaneum, but it was much easier to access (not buried quite as much).  It was, however, the first exciting discoveries at Herculaneum that ushered in the popular new style which Marie Antoinette herself was such a fan. Soon motifs from Herculaneum were seen in the furnishings, art and even household items such as coffee pots and writing desks!

So what types of things were our eighteenth century counter parts seeing and being inspired by from this exciting excavation?

Scenographic wall decoration with phantastic architecture and drop curtain. Wall painting/ fresco, 1st century CE.  Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli.

College of Augustales, interior, general view. Primarily 1st century CE. Location: Herculaneum, Italy.

Nymph consulting the Oracle (or Conversation among Women). Wall painting/ fresco, 1st century CE. Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli.

Herculaneum, Terme del Foro, Apodyterium of Women's Baths, Triton.  Herculaneum. mosaic, 60-68 CE. SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Twig with peaches. Wall painting, fresco, 1st century CE. Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli.

House of the Skeleton, fountain. Location: Herculaneum, Italy. Photographer: Susan Silberberg-Pierce.

For more information on the amazing art of Herculaneum, check out this new book!

September 10, 2011

Same Dame? Madame Bergeret de Norinval

Jean Honore Fragonard, Madame Bergeret de Norinval. Musee Cognacq-Jay. Paris.

Have you seen this portrait in person? I do not remember seeing it when I was there, but I just adore it and am putting it on my ever growing list of must-sees!

Here is a more famous work, by Boucher. Same Madame Bergeret? She certainly had good taste in artists!

François Boucher, Madame Bergeret. Oil on canvas, 1746. The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).


September 08, 2011

First Architect to the King

Jacques-Ange Gabriel, Chateau Fontainebleau. France, 1754. Hartill Art Associates Inc.
Ange-Jacques Gabriel made quite the name for himself as First Architect to the King, King Louis XV that is.  He spent many years studying French architects and surprisingly enough, never set foot in Italy! His father was an architect and engineer so he had good training and talent to fill the post at court.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Portrait 
of Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782),
French architect. Oil on linen,
mid-18th century. Louvre Museum
While First Architect to the King, Gabriel designed many famous public buildings including the Place de la Concorde and the Opera of Versailles.  Other important projects that he worked on included those at the Louvre and Fontainebleau.

Gabriel even did work for Madame de Pompadour, his is the responsible architect for her very famous Petit Trianon.  Sadly, she did not live to see the project realized, but it was gifted later to Marie Antoinette who truly enjoyed the lovely building.

Jacques-Ange Gabriel, Château de Versailles, Petit Trianon. View of exterior facade, France, 1751-1768. Harris, Dianne Suzette.

September 01, 2011

Notes on Marie Antoinette

Notes on Marie Antoinette for the modern lady, the early 19th century lady, that is.

"How far this ill fated queen was led to transgress the bounds of decorum, we have no materials on which we can rely, that enable us to judge. The fabrication of the many gross calumnies, published against her character, by the most depraved of the human species, bear internal evidence of the vileness and atrocity of their authors, whose detestable minds are capable of.

The most diabolical suggestions, and who are therefore, not entitled to the smallest degree of credibility. In the relaxed morals of the court of France, and the feminine degeneracy and dissipation of the whole nation, we have, probably, the true causes of all the miseries with which that devoted country has been overwhelmed"

American lady's preceptor; a compilation of observations, essays, and political effusions. 1811. Baltimore: Coale.