Promenade in Style | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Promenade in Style

April 23, 2010

Promenade in Style

Spring time was a great time to head to the promenade in the 18th century.  There were promenades such as the Promenade de Longchamps in France and the famous Ranelagh Gardens in England.   Ladies of society would wear their finest walking gowns and new hats, to be seen and discussed.  A famous portrait by Gainsborough depicts non other than the Duchess of Devonshire herself walking along the Mall in St. James's Park with pup in tow, alongside (probably) her fashionable sister.

Here are a collection of images from promenades in the 18th century.  Artist have chosen to portray them in many different ways.  I have included the titles given to them so you may better see just what the artist was trying to share with us!  Maybe you will be inspired by the images to take a fashionable walk out in public this week! 
Paul Sandby, The Promenade in the Park. 1751, Etching. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Claude-Joseph Vernet, City and Port of Toulon. 1756, painting.  Musée du Louvre.

Louis-Philibert Debucourt, The Public Promenade. 1792, Etching, engraving, and aquatint printed in color. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thomas Rowlandson, The Promenade. 18th-19th century, watercolor. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bonnefoy, F. Jacques., La Promenade Incroyable. 1799, stipple engravings. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute


  1. Thank for this post. These pictures are lovely.

  2. What great pictures. It seems there were prominades for all different classes back then.

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  4. These are beautiful. Interesting how the sensations of tranquillity, well being & the majesty of the world around, is dominant in many of the paintings of the 18th century, regardless of which artist, in which country & almost regardless of subject matter, these three seem to be there.

    You don't always get such a collective prevalent mood in the various periods, covering most of the artists involved. A lot of the music of that time also seems to me to reflect the feeling that we see in the paintings, tranquillity, but with a vibrancy to it. When I find myself stressed I tend to look at 18th century works & listen to the music, it can be so very soothing.

    Looking at the works especially the pastoral scenes you can almost feel the warm summer air or cooler spring breeze on your face, catch the earthy & grass scents, hear the faint rustling of the leaves in trees, almost like it's purposely invoking those senses to make it somehow seem more real than other times captured on canvas, almost like it's transporting you there.

    In these, the light chatter of the ladies, the rustle of their skirts, playful yips from their lapdogs, rhythm of horse hooves & the delightfulness of such a lovely day to be out & about. Interestingly some of these artists were also equally good at capturing horrific subject matter & getting across that sensation when the work called for it. Turner's Slave Ship, comes to mind.

    There is a life & light unique to the 18th century so enchanting that it can be difficult to articulate into words & at times it seems to me it can only be "felt". It is magnificent!

    Thanks for posting these & sorry about babbling.

  5. I imagine promenades back then are no different than strolls along the boardwalk at beaches today, or through malls with friends and family, or at large entertainments, such as at the races. The difference is largely in the mode of dress, which was more circumscribed back then. It was once the custom to promenade at set hours during the day. We do things more higgledy piggeldy these days.