Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yay or Nay? Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

I believe we have had a Yay or Nay first! Everyone approved of Sarah Rodbard's simple white ensemble. However, I know how picky this crowd gets so I am curious to see how this week's fashion selection will do.

The former queen of Denmark, painted by Vigilius Eriksen, (1778) shows us around her apartment wearing her favorite color, white. Her majesty seems very conscious of ruffles being the latest trend.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Message for a Diva In Training

Dear Taylor Swift,

I know you're just a mini-diva (divette?) and have yet to achieve a gay following but you need to take a lesson from some icons who know what they are doing! Your eighteenth century performance (and video) lack lustre, making them appear half-assed. It's all or nothing, girlfriend! If you have a Georgian gown, please make it it well-crafted one (and for your attendants as well!). You have very pretty hair but it needs to at least be powdered in order for you to wear that gown. Plus Regency men and Georgian women don't mix well. You are talented but still have much to learn. Please, learn from the best:



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rococo Undies!

For any lady in need of new unmentionables, I have to recommend paying a visit to your local Victoria's Secret. I know the store is named after Queen Victoria but this season seems to be all about Marie and Georgie! I saw so many pairs of undies there that they would approve of.

If you are of the Antoinette persuasion pick up some cotton panties in the polka dots and fleur de lis pattern (celadon crest). If Georgiana is more your style she would be all over the lace-waist thongs in the ostrich feather and bow pattern, complete with spangles on the lace (I'm so sad there's no picture of these on the site yet! Check your local store, they're adorable). If neither of those are your style and you just need something that's invisible on a night out there's some pretty brocade pattern pants. If you take a peek on the site you will see more and more 18th century patterns in the different styles. And ladies, don't forget to supply your home phone number when you check out, I get a coupon for a free pair of panties every month or so!

More Modern Rococo

Another pretty Etsy find for bare walls! Amber Alexander has some lovely watercolor prints of animals. But some of my favourites of her work for sale are of animals and Georgian women. They remind me of fairy tale illustrations. Take a look, enjoy, and remember no money is ever wasted supporting artists!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Beautiful Duchess

Georgiana was often referred to as "the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire" but as multiple sources and her own mother have claimed, she wasn't physically beautiful. Historians base their opinion on her portraits, which just show how biased I am because I see a physically beautiful woman looking back. But the portraits could also be inaccurate because Georgiana was a very difficult person for artists to paint for some reason. Gainsborough was said to have thrown down his paintbrush in frustration because he couldn't properly capture her countenance, and even her son. Hart, would go on to say no painting ever really looked like her. Similarly, when Fanny Burney finally met Georgiana she was surprised how average the looks of "the beautiful duchess" were. But upon further meetings she changed her mind and decided Georgiana was indeed beautiful.

One thing everyone did state about Georgiana is that she was very charming and difficult to dislike. She was also said to have a smile that could light up a room. Many historians have claimed that it was because of Georgiana's personality that she was dubbed "the beautiful duchess." Fanny Burney was determined not to like Georgiana when they met, but was won over when she discovered her to be intelligent and sincere. It appears that Georgiana's beauty was of a radiating variety, it was so incandescent that you could see it on her in person, but couldn't capture it in art. Georgiana is one of the few "beauties" in history whose title was based mostly on personality with a small influence from physical looks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Family Guy does Amadeus

I caught this clip of family guy and had to share. For any fans of Amadeus you'll recognize this famous scene. A poor quality video of the whole clip can be found here.

Lady Harpists

The harp is a very ancient and beautiful instrument. It is also not the easiest one to master. One of the many ways a young woman of good breeding would "refine" herself was to learn how to play the harp so she could entertain in the evening. Georgiana was supposedly very skilled at the harp, although I'm sure faro games grew to take over practice time. Here are some paintings I've found of lady-harpists.

Francesco Bartolozzi, Assumed to be Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire

Francois Guerin, Mme. de Genlis Playing a Harp, 1791

Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux, Self-Portrait with a Harp, 1790

Monday, August 24, 2009

For Sale

Polonaise found a new ebay item for us all to drool over. This is a gorgeous mourning ring from the late 18th century that contains grief miniature. I'm curious to know where this is from because these mourning miniatures were popular in early America, specifically in the state of New York. They always contained a woman weeping under a (willow) tree and there was usually an urn in front of her, as there is with this fabulous and extravagant example. They were used to commemorate the death of a loved one. A museum I worked at had a great collection of these unique forms of mourning art so I am impressed to see one on ebay. I know the price seems hefty but it could actually be a steal!


First health, then wealth, then pleasure, and do not owe anything to anybody.

-Catherine II, Empress of Russia

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award Nomination

I was both surprised and delighted four days ago when I found a curious email in my inbox. It would appear that a very generous and lovely reader nominated for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award. A giant THANK YOU to whoever did that; I was so surprised and flattered. I was nominated in the category of Best Best Series or Feature for Non-Fiction, which could just be the Tart of the Week series if I infer correctly. I then had less than 24 hours to come up with five posts that best represented the blog, one of which had to be a book review, SUCH PRESSURE. Since I was on a time crunch I suspect I didn't pick the best posts to be judged with but I did pick two of my favorite tarts, Lady Lade and the Duchess of Gordon. So cross your fingers and stay tuned for updates!

In the meantime you should get familiar with the Book Bloggers Appreciation Week and its website. Appreciation Week will be held from September 14-18 this year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yay or Nay? Miss Sarah Rodbard

Last week we were almost close to a unanimous agreement: Yay on the outfit, Nay on the face. Poor Princess Luisa. Perhaps we've spent too much time with royalty, or maybe just Hapsburgs. Let's try something different and judge a title-less British lady on her ability to pull together an outfit.

George Romney paints Sarah Rodbard (1784), in a simple, long-sleeved white gown, complete with gold shoulder accents and a pale blue ribbon around the waist.

[National Museums Liverpool]

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tart of the Week: Anne Countess of Upper Ossory

It's strange that there isn't much information on Anne since she was both a tart and a best friend of Horace Walpole. For this reason I have also thought of her as the great (and please don't be offended by this title since there's no nicer alternative) 'fag hag' of the eighteenth century. In fact, Anne is best known for her gossipy correspondence with Walpole but today it is she that we will be gossiping about!

Anne was born around 1738, the only issue of her father, the first and last Baron of Ravensworth. She was clever and beautiful and was known for being quite the charmer. Like many a daughter of a peer, Anne entered the marriage market in her teens and was probably eighteen when she was scooped up by a duke. A duke, of course, was quite a catch for Anne who didn't have much to offer in terms of titles. This Duke just happened to be the well-rounded, youthful, and not bad looking, Augustus, 3rd Duke of Grafton. From the outside the couple looked almost ideal. They were both beautiful, young and successful. Anne immediately began having babies, one of which would grow up to be very hunky, and Augustus busied himself in politics and hunting. But below this facade of ideal living was a bored and unhappy duchess.

To amuse herself, Anne took up the national pastime of gambling, a pastime her husband was not exactly fond of. The Duke was especially not fond of Anne gambling when she began to loose large sums of money, this caused some marital tension. Their relationship only went downhill from there. The duke began taking up with a series of mistresses, and not even trying to cover this up from his wife. Five years into their marriage, the couple were living in separate homes and the latest mistress, Nancy Parsons was playing wife to the Duke, even hosting social gatherings and whatnot in Anne's former house. Skank! Anne was able to take her daughter but her poor little sons had to be left behind to live with their father and his mistress.

Now that Anne was separated from her husband she began to continue her partying ways that were formerly curtailed by her husband. First she had an affair with the Duke of Portland and then she moved on to John, the young Earl of Upper Ossory. A pregnancy was a result of the later affair and it did not take long for the Duke to find out. He promptly divorced Anne and then set out to marry some one else...who happened to not be Nancy Parsons. But luck was on charming Anne's side. Unlike many of our other pregnant tarts' stories, the Earl didn't leave Anne hanging and he married her, making her the Countess of Ossory.

The rest of Anne's life seems to be lived out in happiness with her younger, new husband. She had her fun and gossiped with Mr Walpole until the end of her days in 1804.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Temptations of Eden -or- The One that Got Away

We've made a few comments lately about Mr Prime Minister, William Pitt's sexuality or lack thereof. Well, did you know, there was a special lady in his life? There definitely was. In fact, Mr. Pitt had more than one brush with matrimony. Perhaps the brush that got him the most attention was with Eleanor Eden, a noted beauty. The public followed the courtship with much interest. After all, Pitt never appeared to show an interest in a lady before! Just call them, Weleanor? Well, whatever, the press had a field day with the stiff politician they loved to hate and the beauty who dared to love him.

But this love story was not to have a happy ending. While other men were drooling over Eleanor, Pitt was writing a letter of regret to her father,
"Having now at length reflected as fully and as calmly as I am able . . . I am compelled to say that I find the obstacles to it decisive and insurmountable . . . "
When Lord Auckland (her father) inquired into the specificity of these "obstacles" Pitt blew him off with a typical loser ex-boyfriend answer, "further explanation or discussion can answer no good purpose." *Rolls eyes* His loss! Eleanor moved on to marry the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire and Pitt remained the forever-bachelor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In the steps of Georgiana

Walking the grounds of Chatsworth with feathered friends

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


George Romney, Mrs. Georgiana Smyth and her Son, 1780

Hunk Alert: William Pitt the Younger

SWM, Politician

Yawn... *Walks away*

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yay or Nay? Princess Luisa

Who are we to judge a king's wardrobe? Barely anyone dared to question King Gustave's choice of garb last week and the overall consensus was a 'Yay.' This week, we continue to judge royal wardrobes as they near the new century.

Joseph Dorffmeister paints Maria Luisa (1797) in her rich mahogany library wearing a a muslin gown fit for a queen, complete with veiled, feathered headdress and pearl accents.

[The Kunsthistorische Museum]

Friday, August 14, 2009

For Sale

For any of you with a little extra spending money there is a great item up for grabs on ebay. A beautiful French miniature based off of one of our favourite portraits of Georgiana by Gainsborough. I would buy it myself but I'm on a budget after spending like a duchess lately so hopefully one of you can enjoy this beautiful piece. Bid now, only four days are left!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Always Sunny in the British Empire

The other day I caught this episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and it made me question why I don't watch this show regularly. I know those who do watch it will tell me this episode is old news but I still have to post this for latecomers like myself because there's some gems in it. I particularly cracked up when they talk about what a British noble looks like compared to a colonist. Enjoy!

[When you press the play button an ad will come up in a new window, just close it and press play again]

18th Century Opportunity

You know, being a bridesmaid gets a lot of flack, and with good reason. As a bridesmaid, your life is dedicated to someone else's for a good amount of months and don't even get me started on the thousands of dollars you end up spending. But when the day is done there are some major pluses to being a bridesmaid. Some of you may have noticed my absence this long weekend, if I did a good job, you didn't. I still have a lot of catching up to do but I wanted to tell you about how being a wedding attendant can be very eighteenth century. Let me set out a basic comparison for you.

Uncomfortable Gowns
While I am always lusting after a beautiful polonaise or robe a l'anglaise, I was still itching to get out of my roman style, empire-waist gown after a half-hour of wearing it. I'm also not used to needing assistance to get into clothing, it would be quite tiring to do every day. But that is the price of looking fabulous!

Impeccable Makeup
I can't complain about applying makeup because I like getting all dolled up every now and then. But wedding makeup needs to be able to deal with a lot of wear. I had to pick up waterproof mascara and Urban Decay's Primer Potion (which is awesome!) just for the occasion. This might also be a good place to pump up Miss Chievous' awesome youtube channel.

It's nice have an excuse to get a fancy updo, I wouldn't mind having one of those every day. I ended up with curls piled up on my head which would later end up with flowers and pastoral scenes as the night went on. My hairdresser also put in so much hairspray I was able to sleep with the coiffure and wear it a day or two later when I went to the race track. My personal hairdresser always recommends not washing your hair every day and instead putting baby powder in it. See, they knew what they were doing in the eighteenth century!

Champagne and Dancing
It's nice to have an excuse to dance your feet off and drink some bubbly. This especially holds true if you can do it into the wee hours of the night. If the ballroom reception hall closes, then you simply must find somewhere else to go. Most importantly, you must have a good time and dance as if no one is watching, because looking fabulous is the ability to look as if you didn't have to try at all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book Review: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

Now, I will admit when I heard that there was a Pride and Prejudice sequel coming out where my beloved Mr. Darcy was a vampire, I was skeptical. In fact, I went as far as "tweeting" about it, "Would be more open to Mr. Darcy, Vampyre if this massive vampire (cough cough Twilight) craze wasn't going around." That is when the publishers said give it a chance, so I did.

So I attempted to be in a neutral frame of mind when I opened Amanda Grange's book, but the silly concept was still in the back of my mind. Now, I'm quite the fan of vampire films and literature as well as Jane Austen film and literature but combining the two was not what I had in mind. I find vampire stories need three essential elements 1) A sexy vampire 2) Amounting sexual tension 3) A healthy dose of cheese (you can't avoid camp in vampire romances). Luckily for me Grange's book contained all three aspects.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre begins on the day of Jane and Lizzy's wedding when the two blooming brides are bubbling over with excitement. But as soon as Lizzy is in the carriage after the reception that things begin to get weird. Instead of heading for Pemberley the carriage takes a sudden turn for a honeymoon on the continent, much to Lizzy's surprise. So begins a strange series of events for the Darcys in which Mr. Darcy's mixed signals confuse the new Mrs. Darcy. She begins to think Mr. Darcy has grown indifferent to her. But could it be something else?

I was surprised at how quickly I became engrossed in this novel. Amanda Grange has a nice flow of words which I like. She also knows her settings and (very importantly, I might add) her period clothing. She made a gripping story that sucks you in; although I found it is not the same Lizzy and Darcy we came to know in Austen's work. Still, Grange's talent lies in her ability to tell a very entertaining vampire tale and for that she should be commended.

There was only a few things that bothered me. Darcy and Lizzy would constantly reflect and tease each other about their past which would consist of directly quoting Pride and Prejudice. Whenever this would happen it seemed forced, unnatural, and didn't seem to harmoniously work with the characters. It seemed as if it was inserted to remind readers that this book was, in fact, a Pride and Prejudice sequel. There was also a Je ne sais quoi at the end of the book where it seemed that Grange lost her momentum in the story in hopes to be able to neatly wrap up the ending.

My final consensus on Mr. Darcy, Vampire is that it is a good book and deserves a chance. The book is highly entertaining and well written. I tend to avoid historical novels like the plague because of confusions over what is true and what isn't, but Grange shows her knowledge in the many subjects she covers and harmoniously blends them with her storytelling.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Yay or Nay? King Gustav

Last week the Duchess of Parma's flair appealed to the masses and despite a few flaws, her ensemble was met with an overall, Yay! Although reader, Paul slapped together this creation which improves upon the flaws many of you pointed out (and what a good job he did too!). We continue the spangle spectacle into this week with King Gustav of Sweden who picked an outfit that not only fits well to form but to his personality.

Alexander Roslin once again lends his brush to paint Gustav III (1775) in his sparkly gold coat with blue sash. Yay or Nay?

[Nationalmuseum, Stockholm]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hunk Alert: George Duke of Grafton

SWM Sportsman, Politician, and President of the Eclectic Society of London. Dark and brooding male looking for a woman to spend the rest of my life with.
Likes: Foxhunting, tall hats, a brightly-coloured wardrobe, witty remarks, horse racing and breeding, and the, make that Whigs.

I like living the good life but avoiding gossip and scandal, I had enough of that in my childhood. I've been told I have a dry sense of humour which is probably why I get along with William Pitt so well, even if our opinions don't always match up. In my down time you can find me on my estate enjoying the outdoors.

I am looking for a woman pure in her opinions and personality. I'd like to settle down with a lady with class and who is in this relationship for the long haul. I don't judge a lady based on her parents' mistakes just as I wouldn't want others to judge me in the same way. If you like long walks and good conversation I would love to meet you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Catherine looks Great

Now you just don't get a "the great" after your name for doing nothing. Catherine II of Russia's story is quite a...well, great, one when you think about it. So when you see that ever so slight look of smug on her lips, you should smile back and give her a wink.

Let's review a small history of Catherine first. She was actually born with the name of Sophia but changed it when she converted to the Eastern Orthodox religion. She was a minor German princess who (like Marie Antoinette) wholeheartedly embraced her new country's culture when she married the heir to the throne. Her husband was a little wacky and not the nicest person to her. He lasted about six months on the throne before he was assassinated. Since Catherine took the throne after him (as more than just a regent) there were a few fingers pointing at her involvement in the assassination. But it was all for the best since Catherine turned out to be an AWESOME sovereign. She concentrated on catching Russia (or at least the court) up with the rest of Europe and before long the Russian Court became the "It Court" to travel to.

However, Catherine's ascension to the throne was a bit questionable, especially to those outside Russia, and she had to be very careful about her public appearance. The empress was very conscientious about how she was depicted in portraits. She walked a tight line for a while since not only was she a female ruler but a possible tyrannical one. Hmm, was there another woman in history with a similar background who was beloved by the people? How about the goddess of wisdom and sometimes war, Minerva. There are multiple depictions of Catherine as this strong Roman goddess. In an equestrian depiction Catherine is en militaire brandishing a sword to show that despite being a woman she could hold her own just like the former emperor, Peter the Great whom Catherine aspired to. Her state portraits hold to the same standards as those to the European monarchies. She is presented as a fashionable, Enlightened and modern leader with panniers that could take out two courtiers at once. The portraits sent out a powerful message. Catherine wasn't a consort or a regent, or even a queen. She was the empress of Russia, and that was not a birthright, it was a privilege.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Ladies Waldegrave

Joshua Reynold's iconic painting is probably familiar to many of you. Three heavily-powdered ladies in white sit around a table humming and hawing over their crafts. But before you get up to put the kettle on I'd like to share a bit about this painting.

The Ladies Waldegrave are specifically Elizabeth, Charlotte and Anna Horatia who were each 20, 19, and 18, respectively, when Reynolds painted them. Their mother was the vivacious and enterprising, Maria Duchess of Gloucester. It was she who commissioned this portrait, with a plan in mind. You see, Maria knew marketing and was a good PR rep, especially when it came to making sure her daughters married well, despite their mother's past sins. That's how The Ladies Waldegrave came to be.

The painting contains everything that would lead potential suitors to believe that these are the perfect little wifeys. First of all, they are all dolled up and pretty TO THE MAX. Take it easy on that powder Waldegrave sisters, you don't quite need that much! They are also in white for a reason, they're all virgins. To show that all sisters can employ themselves in a useful manner they are portrayed embroidering. If you saw them all gossiping and playing faro, I doubt that would make you want to jump up and marry them. Men date those girls they don't marry them!

Now exposure was no problem, that was the whole reason for getting Reynolds to create the depiction. Anything that came out of his paintbrush was considered gold and therefore, exposing the single man market to this billboard would not be a problem. It almost garenteed itself a spot at the Royal Academy exhibition where all the fashionable set would be.

Maria's plan worked. Elizabeth married the Earl Waldegrave (marrying your cousins allows you to keep your last name), Charlotte became a duchess when she married the Duke of Grafton (can you say: dark and mysterious hunk?), and Anna married Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour. Not bad catches to reel in with a painting! Art does speak volumes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yay or Nay? Maria Amalia Duchess of Parma

Another miss last week with the feathered frock that the Duchess of Saltykova sported. I thought it would pass the judging but our panel is made up of a bunch of Michael Korses! Hopefully this week's selection will not be a runway bore.

Alexander Roslin paints Maria Amalia in her blue polka-dotted, spangled gown. Yay or Nay?