January 27, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Turns 200 years old

Seems like a good reason to revisit the book!

A fun fact regarding pride and prejudice:
The now famous miniseries of Pride and Prejudice featured a portrait that Lizzy saw at Pemberly of Mr. Darcy.  That portrait was of Colin Firth in his role as Mr. Darcy. Just recently, the actual portrait from the miniseries went up for auction.  It was estimated to fetch £7,000 but it actually sold for nearly double that! The painting went to a major fan (had to be, right?) for £12,000!

January 24, 2013

Marie Antoinette on fashion

"It is true I am rather taken up with dress; but as to feathers, everyone wears them and it would seem extraordinary if I did not."

In response to a letter from Maria Theresa March, 5 1775

January 17, 2013

Epiphany in Amsterdam, 1732

Bernard Picart, Star of the Magi paraded through Amsterdam (Epiphany). 1732, illustration/engraving. The Warburg Institute Library.

January 15, 2013

About Marie Antoinette

"[She] made jokes about those in whom she perceived anything ridiculous, without any ill intention, and purely through lightness of heart."
Comte de Mercy

I love this quote, pulled from Marie-Antoinette, Her Early Youth (1770-1774). The Comte followed up his assessement by finding that she made her jokes with a distinct cleverness rendering her witty and the comments piquant!

January 10, 2013

At seven we play cards till nine

The ceremonial rituals of daily life at Versailles were demanding, thorough and incredibly important. The 2006 film Marie Antoinette did a nice job recreating these rituals in a glimpse, as a montage of the dauphine waking up, being dressed, and later dinning with her husband. (see video below!)

As a means of recognizing one's rank, traditional rules of etiquette were followed regardless of any inconvenience they may have caused. There were minor rites, and major rites, but all had to do with ensuring privilege. 

This way of life at Versailles extended beyond dressing and dinning to leisure activities.  Take for instance, playing cards.  Marie Antoinette once wrote to her mother that it was part of her week-day routine to to play cards for up to two hours each evening.

Card games held at the palace were a big attraction, and many would turn up dressed and ready to play.  Evening card games were popular throughout Europe and as the royal family participated, it became an attractive past time among the ladies and gentlemen at court. 

Reproductions of 18th century playing cards (by Pimpernel clothing)
Although there were games open to many ladies and gentlemen, the highest tables were not. The highest card tables were those held in the rooms of the Queen or the Dauphine as well as those of Madame Adelaide. In a letter to her mother, Marie Antoinette mentioned that "when it is fine weather, I go out and walk, and then the card-playing is not in my rooms but in those of my aunts."  The players at a table were based on who hosted the game. So if Marie Antoinette hosted a game, only her inner circle of associates could play.

But the games were anything but intimate. Visitors could attend the game to look on and watch its progress.  It would be surprising if the members of court playing at these tables did not find the stream of onlookers distracting. To make matters worse, the strangers watching the game could actually place bets on the players!

January 08, 2013

18th century art: Morning and Night

Pierre-Antoine Baudoüin, Le Matin (Morning). (French, Paris 1723–1769 Paris) Gouache over traces fo graphite, paper pasted onto board. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierre-Antoine Baudoüin, La Nuit (Night). (French, Paris 1723–1769 Paris) Gouache on paper, pasted onto board. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.