Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Georgiana's Death

March 30 marks the anniversary of Georgiana's death. After battling with various health issues for years the Duchess of Devonshire succumbed and faded from the world at 3:30 the morning of March 30, 1806. If anyone had any doubts as to how beloved Georgiana was in her lifetime, the many reactions to her death speak for themselves.

"For no less than 33 years have we seen [The Duchess of Devonshire] regarded as the glass and model of fashion , and amidst the homage which was paid to her, she moved with a simplicity that proved her to be unconscious of the charm which bound the world to her attraction."
Morning Chronicle, March 31, 1806

"I am no longer calm, no longer soothed. I cannot describe my own feelings."

"You have never known what it was to loose a friend to whom your whole heart was open, to whom you loved with all the strong ties of natural affection and choice, habit, similarity of character added to it."

"The best natured and best bred woman in England is gone."
The Prince of Wales

Georgiana's body lay in state in the Great Hall of Devonshire House for five days. The same room which held many balls and grand social events now held her open casket among dismal black drapes adorning the walls. Thousands lined Piccadilly in order to pay respects, many of which had never known Georgiana, but still wanted one last glimpse of their favourite celebrity. On Easter Day the coffin lid was closed and people such as Harriet and Bess were overcome with emotion. The funeral procession would go through the throngs of onlookers of Piccadilly on its way to Derby Cathedral. Bess wrote her observations of Hart at his mother's funeral procession which bring back memories of the John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana funerals,
Never shall I forget Hartington's look & figure as I saw him in the Great Hall as if to attend on her poor Mother there & then on the steps, fixed without his hat, his innocent interesting countenance & looks bent to the last on the Coffin as it was carried slowly down the steps & on the Hearse as it was placed within. He did not appear to weep, but his whole soul seemed absorbed by what was passing. The morning just began to dawn, all was reviving to light & life, but her, her! who was our light & life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Country Homes: West Wycombe

Location: Buckinghamshire
Famous Inhabitants: Sir Francis Dashwood
Website: www.west-wycombe-estate.co.uk

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yay or Nay? Giovanna Baccelli

Once again kindness was bestowed upon our subject, in this case, Mrs. Boardman. She was greeted with a Yay, but still got many slaps on the wrist for clashing with her drapery. Bad play Mrs. B! Will you be just as kind this week with something more whimsical? We shall see.

Thomas Gainsborough paints Giovanna Baccelli in her pastoral costumes for the ballet, Les Amants Surpris (The Surprised Lovers).


Friday, March 26, 2010

Tart of the Week: Martha Ray

Martha Ray sounds more like the name of a jazz singer than a tart, but a tart she is. But don't worry, the name isn't totally misleading; with a name that jazzy Martha was born to be in showbiz.

Miss Ray was born into the middle class. In her teenage years she decided to follow in her father's (a staymaker) business, and was an apprentice to a milliner. But Martha's true talent did not lie in fashion, she had a natural talent for singing. This talent caught the attention of John, the Earl of Sandwich who was as much a lover of music as he was of beautiful, naive teenagers. At seventeen, Martha gave up her sewing career and moved in with a man many years her senior.

Lord Sandwich was no stranger to mistresses and whores, but he seems to have really cared for, and even loved Martha. He paid for her to live in France in order to receive a proper education in social graces, and more importantly, refine her musical ability. After her training was finished she returned to Sandwich. Meanwhile a still very much alive, yet mentally unstable Lady Sandwich began to show the signs of insanity. Her husband openly living with some harlot couldn't have helped her mental state. But in the egocentric world of the nobility, Lady Sandwich didn't matter. Martha, couldn't have been happier. She would go on to have five of John's children, whom he seemed to care for more than his legitimate ones. This new extension of the Sandwich clan may have been built upon immoral foundations but it was the picture of domestic felicity.

But all was not perfect in Sandwich Land. A soldier by the name of James Hackman was introduced to the couple and soon became a regular visitor and friend. He also fell deeply in love with Martha, and didn't consider her off limits since she was not legally married. Perhaps Martha led James on, perhaps they actually did have some sort of relationship, but Martha never left John for the young officer, although he proposed to her multiple times. James' attentions veered on stalking, but fortunately enough he was dispatched to Ireland before more problems could arise.

Martha was however, getting a little frustrated with John. He was a typical rake, building up more debt than fortune. He also wasn't getting any younger; quite the opposite in fact! As a live-in mistress, Martha and her children had no financial security, especially if John decided to kick the bucket any time soon. Receiving no allowance from her benefactor, Martha decided to work for her money and began a successful stage career. John was reportedly horrified but, whether from lack of money or backbone, couldn't stop Martha.

James Hackman reentered Martha's life, this time as a newly-ordained Anglican priest. He had hoped that this respectable career change would change Martha's mind about marriage and maybe even Lord Sandwich would comply. On the night of 7 April, 1779 Martha was approached by James, who inquired after where she was going. When she told him that it was none of his business, James automatically assumed she was visiting a new lover. As she left her destination (Royal Opera House) that night and stepped toward her carriage, two shots rang out. The first one missed its target but the second one hit Martha in the head, killing her.

Those in Covent Garden who looked to see where the shots sounded and saw James Hackman. He had two pistols, the second of which he put to his head...and only injured himself with the shot. Amazing to think, how a former army officer/current priest could mess up a suicide at point blank range. James was apprehended and convicted of murder. Despite Martha being a fallen woman, she was still loved by many and her premature death shocked the nation. John was devastated by Martha's death but gave James his forgiveness before he hung at Tyburn, but still reminded him that he, "robbed him of all the comfort in the world."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Georgiana on Count Fersen

Axel von Fersen, the Swedish soldier and count, is not known for any great victories on the battlefield or in politics. His celebrity came from the attention he received from a certain queen of France. Although there is no solid evidence of Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen's relationship being more than platonic, it was still a hot topic among the various European courts. In other words: Ladies, he is off limits.

Of course that didn't stop Bess from making out with him and then feigning guilt as she wrote to Georgiana about the dalliance. Georgiana, herself, couldn't really see what all the fuss was about when she met him in 1786:
"He is reckoned ugly here, because from the idea of Mrs. B's liking him, a great beauty was expected. He has delightful eyes, the finest countenance that can be, the most gentleman like air. Thank God I an't in love with him."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mother Knows Best

"I see you on the edge of a thousand precipices, in danger of losing the confidence of those who are dearest to you...I see you running with eagerness to those -must I miscall them friends?- Who tho' their intentions might not be wrong, are by constantly talking to you on subjects which are always better avoided imperceptibly your most hurtful enemies, all these and more keep me on the rack."

Lady Spencer
28 June 1782

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Joys of Pregnancy

Being a pregnant woman in the 18th century probably delivers frightening images to most people. But I will state, loosely, it wasn't too bad. New thoughts and inventions made the uncomfortable journey of pregnancy safer than it had been in previous centuries and safer than what pregnant women would face in the following century. The mother mortality rate was lower than the high it would go through in the Victorian era of about 40%. Of course, pregnancy still wasn't all fun and games.

Pregnant women were encouraged to remain active and even exercise rather than remain bed-ridden. Dr. William Buchan, in his 18th century version of What to Expect While You are Expecting, noted how poorer women aren't allowed a day off when pregnant and tend to have healthy births, and therefore recommended walks and carriage-rides for the privileged sect.

Comfort is always a factor during pregnancy and this doesn't hold any less truth for the 18th century woman. Unlike the women of the Victorian age who were given no excuse to go corset-less, Georgian women didn't let their underwear endanger their or their child's house during pregnancy. Pregnancy stays featured lacings on the sides in order to loosen up for expanding bellies. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough couldn't stand her stays when she was pregnant and opted for a man's waistcoat instead! When her Grace had to go out she stated that she, "never went abroad but with a long black scarf to hide me I was so prodigeous big." But not everyone wanted to hide that belly. Georgiana began the trend for false stomachs during her sister's pregnancy. So many women were walking around with a cork belly amongst real pregnant women who could let it all hang out due to this latest fashion trend. How convenient!

At the forefront of pregnancy scientific breakthroughs was William Smellie. While forceps had been invented previously, Smellie redesigned them to be more efficient in the task of difficult deliveries. This innovation saved the lives of both mothers and children. In 1754 with the help of Dutch artist, Jan van Rymsdyk, Smellie published an atlas of women's anatomy with some graphic images. The book was eye-opening to many and was advantageous to understanding the process of birth.

When a birth began to go horribly wrong, a cesarean section was the last option. This usually meant the death of the mother. There is one story of an American woman who begged for a C-section when she decided her death was imminent. Her doctor/midwife refused but her doctor-husband jumped in right away. He put her to sleep with a large dose of laudanum, opened her up and took out a baby girl, as well as his wife's ovaries in the hope that she would, "not be subjected to such an ordeal again." He then stitched her up and she survived the whole ordeal becoming the first person to survive a C-section in the United States.

Although some of the medieval tactics of pregnancies and birthing were still at large in the form of things such as bleeding a mother during labor, there was an obvious improvement in the process. Of course sweat pants, epidurals, and sanitation are a nicer improvement, but it was a start!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs. Elijah Boardman

My selections have been pleasing you lately! I am surprised, with this being a hard crowd to please. The Duke of Alba got another Yay last week. This week has been rather springy and today being the first day of spring, I can't help but post a dress for the seasons.

Ralph Earl paints Mary Ann Boardman (1796) in her persimmon gown and lace fichu with flowers in her hair. Yay or Nay?

[Huntington Library and Art Gallery]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quick Facts

What the heck is on Sir John Fielding's head? Just as many blind people have worn sunglasses to signal their handicap, Fielding did so with a black band around his forehead. Fielding was blinded at the age of 19 in a navy accident but that didn't stop him from being a successful magistrate. Rumor had it Fielding knew the voices of 3,000 criminals. I remain a little skeptical of the last fact though!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Watchmen

I hope everyone was good last night and there were no altercations with the authorities while you were out celebrating merrily! Now if this was the early 18th century, the banter of St Patrick's Day would be just another night on the streets of London which were polluted not only with garbage, but noise and shady characters. All this, and no police force! So how was justice upheld on the dangerous streets of London?

It may be hard to believe now with police officers' 20 years and then retirement incentive, but those who patrolled the streets of London were volunteers. You could compare them to a neighborhood watch today. At the head of this operation was a constable. This man or woman was assigned the year-long post, without pay and without usually knowing exactly what they were doing. No prior experience needed. The constables set up the night watch or The Watch which would patrol the streets and apprehend any wrong doers and put them before the Magistrate or Justice of the Peace. The Watch would act as our police do now, but did so without pay. By 1737 George II began paying some watchmen for their much needed services.

Believe it or not, this system was not without its imperfections. One of the people taking note of the shortcomings was author Henry Fielding, who had penned Tom Jones. When Fielding was elected London's Chief Magistrate in the late 1740s he took the position seriously and attempted to implement a better system of keeping London safe. Using Magistrate money supplied from the government, Fielding paid a small group of men to police London. They operated out of his Bow Street Magistrates office so they were given the name The Bow Street Runners. The monetary incentive seemed to make for a better night watch than The Watch. The Bow Street Runners are sometimes created with the title of the first professional police force. They even went on to undertake missions that would take them across the country to make arrests.

The Watch and Bow Street Runners remained up and running into the 19th century. It wasn't until 1829 that the a government funded official police force appeared, although I suspect both of the prior enforcement organization hadn't completely diminished everywhere. You could always use some veteran crime-fighters to show you the ropes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Robert Dighton, Geography Bewitched or, a Droll Caricature Map of Ireland, 1793

I hope you have your green on! Last year we celebrated with some Irish tarts. This year I thought we'd take a quick look into the 18th century view of Ireland via satirical prints. That way, you can be the judge.

James Gillray, Portrait of an Irish chief; drawn from Life at Wexford, 1798

James Gillray, Irish Gratitude, 1782

James Gillray, United Irishmen in Training, 1798

James Gillray, Horrors of an Irish Union, 1798

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pucker Up

Cosmetics is a popular topic of the 18th century of which there is ample information on. But I have noticed that while there is plenty of information on makeup out there, they focus mostly on the lead-based paint aspect of them. I want to know about lipstick!

Lip color was an important part of the package when it came to makeup. As you probably know, the snowy-white complexion was ideal and rouged cheeks. Darkened lips not only emphasized a fair complexion but it was an age-old means of attracting men because it mimics lip color during sexual arousal. In the 18th century, you could catch both men and women sporting lip color, figure that one out! Those crazy macaronis. Rouge was not only amply used on the cheeks in the 18th century, it was also used for lip color. Luckily lead was not used in this cosmetic. Instead carmine was used for the color and mixed with plaster of paris. I can't imagine that tasting very good. If you couldn't afford to rouge your lips there was a tasty alternative. Women in the colonies reportedly sucked on lemons to get the blood to flow to their lips so they were darker. Kind of like lip plumpers today!

Just for fun I was trying to match up my favourite lipstick brand, MAC*, with portraits of beauties of the time. Here is what I came up with.
*who happens to have free shipping until the 21st!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Newer Chatsworth

Georgiana's beautiful home, Chatsworth has been in the news frequently this week. It is reopening its doors for the 2010 season this month. But what is so fabulously wonderful about Chatsworth this season is that it has just undergone a huge face lift. This has been the biggest refurbishment of the house since Georgiana's son, Hart, decided to give the country estate some much needed attention about 200 years ago.

The facade of the house has gotten a good power wash so it should be sparkling clean for its new visitors. I also read on the Chatsworth blog that they reintroduced the dining room table that Hart picked out for the room during his improvements. In addition to the restoration of many rooms, two galleries dedicated to some famous duchesses will be opened. The first is to Deborah, the current Dowager Duchess. The second is to our favourite duchess. Unfortunately, I have attempted to contact Chatsworth to get more details about the new Georgiana Gallery, but to no avail. I will keep you posted if I do find out. In the meantime here are some of the recent Chatsworth articles I have found.


Daily Mail

Telegraph (an interesting article)

The Times

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yay or Nay? Duke of Alba

Naturally, Madame d'Aguesseau de Fresnes' ensemble met with a Yay. The lady's got taste, what can I say! Heck, I'd walk out of the house in that today, maybe sans turban though. Today we're going to take a look at menswear from Spain and see if that tickles our fancy.

Francisco Goya paints José Álvarez de Toledo (1795) in his interesting turn of the century ensemble of a salmon coat, slate pants, and some slimming black boots. Yay or Nay?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Those Pearly Whites

When I think of tooth care in the 18th century one of the first images that pops into my mind is David's sketch of Marie Antoinette as her cart was wheeled by on the way to the guillotine. It has been criticized by some as being inaccurate; David was biased in his feelings for the doomed queen and therefore portrayed her as haggard and the opposite of the many colorful portrayals of her during her rein. But in this case I believe bitterness did not fuel David's pen and we see the results of the stress Antoinette went through in her final years. This is most notable in her jawline which looks too haggardly for a 37 year old to our modern eyes. But the truth is that even the queen of France, like many people of the age was missing a few teeth.

Heads of Nations and Their Missing Teeth
Marie Antoinette was in good company with her dental dilemma. George Washington has long been known for having wooden teeth. The wooden part is a myth (Mr. Washington had ivory dentures) but the lack of teeth is quite true; poor George began loosing his teeth in his 20s. And so was the case for many due to lack of proper nutrients, vitamins (especially in the case of pregnant women) and of course, sweets! While the ancient Greeks were the first to discover the connection with sugary foods and bad teeth, this useful information was forgotten and it wasn't until the 18th century that dentist, Thomas Berdmore was the first to print his hypothesis about sugar being bad for teeth. So, like gout, cavities also plagued the well-to-do due to their being able to indulge in fancy foods.

Tooth Care
It wasn't like George Washington didn't take care of his teeth. He actually brushed them every day! Mount Vernon still has the president's silver toothbrush and tongue scraper. The first mass-produced toothbrush came from England in the 1780s although I can't tell you how popular it was. Bad breath was certainly unpopular and people were criticized for the unbecoming attribute.

Lack-of-Tooth Care
False teeth were a common solution for those teeth that wouldn't stay in place. They also were probably more ornamental than functional. Another 18th century invention was denture paste which came out of France in the 1790s. Nicholas Dubois de Chemant created the paste to go with his new porcelain dentures which were one solid piece, no separate teeth. Although this sounds quite frightful, the dentures were quite popular. If you were only missing a few teeth, you could have real or fake ones transplanted. Your tooth would be pulled and someone else's would be inserted into its place. A string or silver wire would then be used to anchor the tooth, by tying it to the others. Hopefully the root would take to the new location, in which case, you had to try another tooth.

A Visit to the Dentist
The word "dentist" was still not exactly being used in the 18th century, and it was more of a side-job still at the time. For instance, Paul Revere the silversmith also advertised his abilities in dental work. Why a silversmith? Well, cavities needed fillings after being drilled. The best and most pricey filling was a gold filling. Alternatives were pitch, beeswax, and even lead which I can't imagine as being too successful. Porcelain fillings seemed like a good idea since they were white and but their acidity killed the tooth nerve, leaving the filling white but the rest of the tooth black.
Without modern anesthesia, you might imagine a trip to the dentist to be far more unpleasant than it is today. Jane Austen described one such trip with her nieces in 1813 who had to get their teeth cleaned, filed, and fillings. Austen described hearing her niece's screams from an adjacent room while her teeth were drilled, going on to claim the dentist was "...a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischief."

Say Cheese
But usually these various treatments were all in vain and people like George Washington's teeth would fall out. This made for an awkward trip to get your portrait painted. Many portraitists found that the awkward dentures made for an equally awkward shape of the face. Padding would be put in your mouth to fill in the cheeks for a more natural, teeth-filled mouth look.

It may be surprising how advanced dentistry was in the 18th century. The century saw the first dental chair, foot powered drill, and even orthodontics. Thomas Berdmore recommended jerry-rigging a wire insert to adjust out of place teeth. At the same time, dentistry was also extremely painful and the improvements came with many risks. Perhaps I would have just let my royal teeth fall out too!

Further Reading:
Time line
A Visit to the Dentist
The 18th century dentist's guide to 'a brilliant smile'

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bitch Please!

Georgiana may have been an important presence in the nuptials of Maria Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales but that didn't leave a warm place for her in Maria's heart. For so beloved a duchess, there were three distinct hate-ahs of Georgiana: Jane Duchess of Gordon; her sister in law, Lavinia Countess Spencer, and Mrs. Fitzherbert.

Georgiana just didn't care for Maria's personality and when she found out the socialite's feelings about her, she decided she didn't much like Georgiana either. Truth is, she was probably just jealous of Georgiana and her celebrity lifestyle.

Tea times Maria shared with Mrs. Eleanor Creevy tended to become slightly awkward because they usually culminated with Maria going into tirades against Georgiana. Finding out about her illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney was like striking gold for Mrs. Fitzherbert. She proudly boasted the fact to Mrs. Creevy over tea, hoping the words would make it to the venomous tongues of gossipers. It didn't really catch on. Maria's jealousy didn't hinder up until Georgiana's final years; she was still bitching about her in 1805. Mrs. Creevy would go on to quote Maria as saying she knew all the dirt on the duchess because she would read all of her husband's letters. She slyly added as she slowly stirred her tea that the Prince knew everything about Georgiana.

Apparently not enough to ruin Georgiana though! Mrs Fitzherbert's gossip left Georgiana unscathed and she never seemed to pay any mind to the threats of her good friend's jealous wife. Georgiana gracefully avoiding the barbs while at the same time getting her vengeance on Maria: she paid no attention to her.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Fabultastic just pointed me in the direction of this article on the German artist, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Maybe some of you will recognize his iconic characterized busts. Messerschmidt sculpted these busts after looking at his own facial expressions in the mirror, I am sure you will recognize some from your own experience. As the story goes, in his old age Messerschmidt was suffering from the painful stomach ailment, Crohn's Disease, which caused him to be a little loopy. Or perhaps the loopiness was there to begin with. Either way, Messerschmidt found relief in pinching his side and his wild expressions were born. The results are quite fascinating.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.

-Madame De Pompadour

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Yay or Nay? Madame d'Aguesseau de Fresnes

Last week, Maria Francisca Bendita came out alive with her heavily embroidered creation, and she was met with a Yay, although a very cautious. Heidilea had me laughing with her comment that fashion goes to die in Spain, which I find fairly accurate in terms of the 18th century. But let us now journey to a place where fashion lives and continue our judgments there.

Elisabeth Vigée LeBrun paints Madame d'Aguesseau de Fresnes (1789) in her Turkish Harem garb, complete with red velvet, huge pearl drop earrings, and gold accents. Yay or Nay?

[Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tart of the Week: Hannah Lightfoot

Many mysteries surround our tart this week. So many so, that some even question her existence. Her portrait, for example, by Joshua Reynolds, has been attributed as Hannah Lightfoot but she is described in life as being a blond bombshell and the clothing is a little too luxurious. So her tartly tale is about 10% fact and 90% gossip; most of the gossip springing from the following century. But I know gossip shouldn't be an issue for this crowd.

Hannah Lightfoot was born into the middle class in 1730. Her family was Quaker and she was raised as such, growing up in extreme simplicity in an age of extreme outrageousness. Her father died when she was young which relocated the girl to live with her uncle, a linen-draper in Westminster. It was here than Hannah not only grew up but would work to earn her keep, much like a Cinderella story. Perhaps some day her prince would come?

At the age of twenty Hannah had had enough of the linen-draping business and secretly married a grocer, Isaac Axford. The young Quaker soon tired of her rebellious marriage and around this same point in her life we loose track of what is fact and what is fiction of the fair Quaker "maid."

Allegedly it was in this time frame that Hannah met up with none other than the Prince of Wales, the future George III, who was thirteen by many accounts. Of course, this doesn't add up since by the time Hannah married her husband, George would have been 15. Either way George was young, naive, and not yet the prudish person we now come to think of. Some tales chatter of him first seeing her in her uncle's shop window as he was leaving the Royal Opera, other, more daring tales speak of them meeting at a masquerade. Either way, the prince and the Quaker met, and despite the age gap, began an affair. Allegedly.

It is interesting to envision the young George having this affair. It is even more perplexing to think that the affair is alleged to have resulted in a marriage between the already married Hannah and the teenage George III. This is the same man who passed the Royal Marriage Act making it impossible for members of the royal family to marry without the king's permission. It is also the same man who flew into a rage when he found out his son married the Catholic widow, Mrs. Fitzherbert. A bit hypocritical if true, huh?

Supposedly the affair produced two, maybe even three illegitimate children. Oh whom descendants graves were found in 2000. Hannah herself conveniently disappeared into obscurity. Her own mother stated that she didn't know if her daughter was living or dead since she had not seen her for two years when she made her will in 1760. Isaac Axford remarried in 1759 with his certificate stating he was a widower. Yet there is no trace of where Hannah could have disappeared to. With the few sources citing she married George in 1759, had three kids with him, and then wasn't heard from again a year later, there are obviously many missing pieces in the mystery.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Johnny Weir is Marie Antoinette NOT Snookie

God Bless America. The land where figure skaters have the freedom to pouf (a la francaise ne Jersey Shore pas) their hair and have no regrets about it. Check out this interview with Olympic figure skater, Johnny Weir where he clears up those nasty rumors about who inspired his hairdo (about the :55 mark).

Country Homes: Althorp

Location: Lincolnshire
Famous Inhabitants: Lady Spencer, Harriet Countess of Bessborough, and of course, Georgiana
Website: www.althorp.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Census Time

Every decade America gears up for the census. Every household is mailed the 10 questionnaire page to fill out. This year we must do the same thing, or else you'll be hounded by the minions of the census bureau coming to your abode.

This isn't a new practice either! The United States has been having their citizens fill out this form for over 200 years, although I am sure they've changed some. The first census of 1790 tells us how many people were living in the United States. The results may surprise you.

The population was 3,929,326 people. That is about the same amount as the population of Los Angeles today.

Our metropolises of the east coast were already metropolises then too. They just couldn't boast the same numbers we have today. When the censuses were added up, these were the populations of those cities:

New York City: 33,000 (8,400,000)
Philadelphia: 28,000 (1,500,000)
Boston: 18,000 (600,000)
Charleston: 16,000 (127,000)
Baltimore: 13,000 (638,000)

200 years does allow ample time for cities to grow! I put the modern populations in the parentheses for you to compare. So when that annoying little envelope comes around in the mail you should find it your historic duty to fill it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Amadeus Rocks

Those who have seen this older post know that I am quite the fan of Amadeus. Recently I was on IMDB looking up fun facts about the movie, which was adapted from the play by the same name, and they just confirmed the fabulosity of the film. Let me share!

Sets and costumes for the operatic productions were based on sketches of the original costumes and sets used when the operas premiered.

The entire film was shot with natural light. In order to get the proper diffusion of light for some scenes, the DPs covered windows from the outside with tracing paper.

The performance of "Don Giovanni" in the movie was filmed on the same stage where the opera first appeared.

Prague was ideal as a stand-in for Vienna, as modern television antennas, plastic and asphalt had rarely been introduced under Communist rule.

Only four sets needed to be built: Salieri's hospital room, Mozart's apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theater. All other locations were found locally.

Several professors of music stated, after studying all of the musical keys struck on pianos throughout the film, that not one key is struck incorrectly when compared to what is heard at the exact same moment. In other words, what you see is exactly what you hear.

During the opening scene, where Salieri is carried through the snowy streets, he is carried past a large extravagant mansion-like building where a party is in progress. According to Milos Forman, this building is, in reality, the French embassy in Prague.

The screen-writer and creator of the play, Peter Shaffer shares his name with the original set designer (for the premier) of Mozart's opera Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute).

When shooting the scene in which Salieri is writing down death mass under Mozart dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn't able to fully understand the music he was dictated.

Meg Tilly originally was cast as Stanze but tore a leg ligament in a street soccer game the day before she was to film her first scene. Elizabeth Berridge replaced her.

Now go watch the movie with your friends and impress them with your knowledge of the film!