November 23, 2011

America, Asia and Europe represented by ladies

Amerique (dressed print). French late 17th Century, Paper; engraved; hand-colored; with fabric added; mounted on wood.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The lady in this image is seated outdoors and represents America. She wears an exquisite costume and holds a parrot.  Her gown is blue, turquoise and brown, lined with colorful feathers (turkey feathers??) Her headdress mimics later poufs that Europe would see, but here it is entirely of feathers built up high.  She holds a bow in her left hand and has a pack of quivers on her back. 


Asie (dressed print). French, Late 17th century.  Paper, fabric, wood; engraved; hand-colored; with fabric added; mounted on wood. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Asia is depicted on a plush green sofa with a very elaborate headdress.  She wears a cloak over her gown and you can just barely see pointed shoes peek out from her skirts.  The lady does not have a weapon as in the image of America but she does have a ride waiting for her, a saddled elephant!


Europe (dressed print). French, Late 17th century. Paper, fabric, wood; engraved; hand-colored; with fabric added; mounted on wood. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Finally Europe is shown, the lady again seated outdoors, in a country landscape.  Europe has many more attributes than Asia or America, perhaps alluding to superiority in known history (for the artist).  She has a globe by her feet, and a rifle in her hand.  Music and the arts are represented by the objects laying on the ground in front of her, and her ride: a beautiful white horse.  She wears a regal gown lined with ermine fur, and her hair is perfectly arranged and curled.  Finally a large stone castle stands in the background of this portrait, as only trees did in the others.


November 21, 2011

A Queen's First Appearance or Marie Antoinette's hair

One of the most tragic figures of the 18th century was the young French queen Marie Antoinette, who only lived to be 37 years old. The beginning of her career as queen was also the beginning of her career as a fashion icon in Europe. Marie Antoinette was making major fashion decisions as early as the coronation of her husband, Louis Auguste in 1775. At just nineteen years old, Marie Antoinette had an important decision to make: what to wear!

The coronation ceremony for the new king and queen was traditional. The ceremony was ages old, even the official uniforms of the attendants were decades out of style but they were required. Keeping frugality in mind, the young Louis decided to cut some corners and keep things low budget. He cut out the double coronation part of the ceremony, and just had a single coronation for himself.

Album of the Coronation of Louis XVI, The King led to the Throne. Detail of Marie Antoinette and her ladies. French School of the eighteenth century. Source
A special seating area was built for Marie Antoinette to view the ceremony. In a way, this choice would keep Marie out of the spotlight at the actual ceremony, but it would also free her to wear something more contemporary as a spectator and guest of honor. This may not have been the top concern for the young dauphine at the time, but it certainly was an important choice and did not go unnoticed.
“Marie Antoinette” (film) 2006, Marie Antoinette in Coronation Gown. Screenshot.

For her husband’s coronation the young queen, with tears of joy, arrived in a dazzling gown in the modern style. The contrast between the old ceremonial costumes and her contemporary ensemble instantly set her apart. Her gown was created by her favorite dressmaker, Rose Bertin, and was covered in sapphires and gemstones. Although her gown shimmered from every angle, it was her hair that everyone was talking about.

Anonymous, The Coronation of Louis XVI.
Detail of Marie Antoinette with her
ladies in the grandstand. Illumination,
gouache, 18th century. Musée du Louvre.
That day she wore her tresses piled high and set with feathers. The tall pouf would become Marie’s trademark hairstyle. She would constantly pioneer new styles of poufs, each magnificent structure would hold various objects and scenes. The thought, time and craftsmanship (yes we are still talking about hair) that went into the poufs made them true works of art. The popular pouf aux sentiments was created with the hair piled up high and displayed objects that held great personal meaning to the lady. Trinkets, portrait miniatures, jewels, anything! Because every lady would select different objects, each pouf was unique. Marie Antoinette also made famous the pouf à l’inoculation, after her husband and his brothers received small pox vaccinations. This famous pouf included a serpent in an olive tree to symbolize the god of medicine and healing and a bright sun, representing enlightenment.

The poufs allowed ladies to be creative and in a way they were able to speak opinions and make statements through…hair! Just as the clothes we wear can let people make statements, during the 18th century and thanks to pioneers of fashion such as Marie Antoinette, hair did as well.

Joshua Reynolds, Georgiana,
Duchess of Devonshire
1775-1776, oil on canvas.

What about the Georgians? Didn’t Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire do this first? While hair was being piled high years before Georgiana and Marie were out, no one was wearing it quite as creatively. Georgiana pioneered all hair that was tall. Tall feathers, tall coiffures. A letter she received from Lady Clermont a few months after Louis’ coronation which discussed the differences between the French hairstyles from the English read, “the heads are not so high nor as many feathers…”

For lack of feathers the French ladies filled their hair with other ornaments. Not everyone may have said good things about how the new queen wore her hair on coronation day, but they were talking, and people took notice. Ladies adapted the queen’s taste for hair piled high, and mimicked her various ‘styles.’ For Marie Antoinette, her debut couldn’t have been more successful.

I originally wrote this post for Joanne Renaud at Joanne Renaud Writing & Illustration blog.  It is all about fashion, first impressions and most specifically Marie Antoinette's hair!

November 14, 2011

Books on the 18th Century

Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Music Library. Oil on two panels, 1720. Biblioteca musicale 'G.B. Martini' di Bologn.

Did you know that I have an awesome library taking over my living room full of books all about the 18th century? It is awesome and overwhelming all at once!

I have just finished putting together an awesome collection of recent publications on 18th century history (arts, literature, general history, etc.)  You can find this link at the bottom of the blog, I am not sure if anyone ever looks down there, but I keep some links there :o)

As I see more titles come out I will update the list.  I had been keeping the list going so I know what I want to read next but with all the questions regarding books coming in, I thought you would want to see what is out and what is good!

Check it out: Books on the 18th century!

If you are really just interested in Marie Antoinette, check out the link Books on Marie Antoinette.

November 09, 2011

Marie Antoinette's birthday giveaway winners!

Thank you all for entering my Marie Antoinette Birthday giveaway! The lucky winners are:

Katie Sue wins the Le Salon de Musique de Marie-Antoinette

Patricia wins a copy of Sofia Coppola's 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette.

*Winners please email me your postal addresses and I will ship the items out right away! Congrats.
If I do not hear from you within 2 weeks I will select another winner for the prize.

November 08, 2011

Outside of Versailles: November in the Fields

Master of the Months of Lucas, November. Tapestry, 1731-1743.

I love this early eighteenth century tapestry and wish I had a color image to share! The detail is amazing, several men and women work together to sow seeds. You can see prepped fields in the background as a man sows seeds in the perfectly lined soil.  Further back you can see a man tilling the soil behind his two horses.  In the foreground a woman sifts through a large sack of seeds and an infant mischievously plays with a second sack of seeds.

I am still trying ot figure out what the two men are doing climbing the tree in the background, unless they are gathering wood or harvesting some fruit....send me your thoughts on that!

I also love the way the artist treated the border of this tapestry.  It is extremely ornate, centered with an image of Sagittarius at the top (this is a visual representation of November after all!).  The corners each have a rosette wrapped with garlands fall harvest vegetables and fruits. Lovely!

November 04, 2011

The origin of 18th century fashion by an anti-fashionista

The 18th century author of Origin of the Whale Bone Petticoat believed the fashions were created simply based on female pride, greed and vanity. To clearly illustrate the ridiculous that was fashion of that time period, he re-accounts the story of Belinda, whom I can only assume the character of Madame de Plonge was loosely based on!

In his story, the beautiful and much sought after Belinda is stricken with the clap after a romp with a lover, and the disease causes her to waddle through the hallways of Versailles in discomfort. The lady, whom had planned dates with several suitors over the following few evenings, went to her doctor seeking a remedy.

Her doctor prescribed a course of treatment that would get her back to normal in a weeks time. This of course was far too long, as the men she was anticipating arrived within the week.  (Line up boys!) So the doctor came up with an alternative plan.

Order your mantua makers to attend
Tailors, et caetera, for I intend
Deep within circling ambuscade to hide your straddling gate
Madam I’ll built you like a pyramid!
By this device you’ll walk without much pain
And shine triumphant in Versailles again
If you but wear it all the bubbl’d nation
Will soon admire and bring it into fashion

Whale bone petticoats had their rise
To hide a filthy strumpet’s foul disease

And now fair ladies view well your monstrous dress and recollect
Think on the whore that was the architect.

Do you love this or what! The panniers and hoops all created to hide disease, and faults in women. Who knew! If you are interested in reading more on 18th century styles I suggest you check out
The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America by Kate Haulman.  Every chapter is full of interesting bits from the time period on fashion’s development in the city and in the country, for ladies and gentlemen, and fops too. 

November 02, 2011

Marie Antoinette's Birthday, let's have a giveaway!

It is that time of year again, Marie Antoinette's birthday! 256 years ago today the lady was born in Austria.  Twenty years later she was having fabulous parties to celebrate in France.  Really, is there any better time for a giveaway? So read on and enter my Birthday giveaway and of course *passes champagne*

One lucky reader will will a copy of Le Salon de Musique de Marie-Antoinette
"This enchanting disc is one to be enjoyed in tranquil moments. It conjures up the flavour of the salon of Marie-Antoinette, who counted music among her pleasures during the politically turbulent times at the court of her husband, Louis XVI. Aside from her penchant for the serious operas of Gluck and for the lighter ones of Grétry, Marie-Antoinette liked to play and listen to chamber music, an attractive, varied range of which is enshrined in this programme." Read full review here.

A second winner will receive a copy of Sofia Coppola's 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette:
If you haven't seen it yet, this movie is so lovely to watch. I often keep it on in the background when doing busy things around the house. The fashions, shoes, fabrics, interiors...all visually stunning!

Lucky readers, here is how to enter:
  • Leave a comment here with your favorite thing or bit of gossip about Marie Antoinette by Tuesday November 29th.
The winners will be selected at random and announced on Wednesday November 30. Everyone is eligible!

Good luck!