Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chatsworth Sale Begins Tomorrow

Are you going?

The Chatsworth Attic Sale is open for viewing starting tomorrow. I can only imagine what amazing things they are selling, although some of the finer items are on display on the site.  After four days of fabulous viewing the auction will be held.  So who is going, and more importantly who is going to take pictures that I can post for everyone to "ooo" and "aww" over?

A Social Essential

It's a known fact that the fan was an essential accessory for the eighteenth century woman.   How else was one to gossip without attracting much notice, not to mention, survive the stifling heat of a room crowded with the creme de la creme of society.

The fan business was booming in the eighteenth century, so much so that there were specialized fan makers, and consequently, fan maker guilds across Europe.  The folding fan had originally arrived from China a century beforehand and was now the gold standard. Fans would either be made of paper or silk and painted by artists with cheerful rococo scenes.  Paper designs would be painted or printed for mass production.  Hand-painted silk fans were more one-of-a-kind, and therefore more in demand. If you were willing to drop some major money you could purchase a  fan complete with spangles or intricate carvings on mother of pearl, tortoise shell, or ivory slats.  So you could say fans were kind of like the eighteenth century version of bling.  The more money you spent the more blinged out you and your fan-language was.  Considering a fan could be the first thing a person notices on you, it might just be worth your while to go beyond your means in the effort to make a stunning first impression!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lounging in Poufs and Not Much Else

The ever-wonderful Fabultastic seems to agree with my proclamation of the pouf making its comeback.  His addition to the mounting evidence is this lovely fashion shoot by photographer John Wright.  I can't tell you much about the shoot but I have the sneaking suspicion it is for underwear. My particular favorite is the last one. The model's serpentine pose (so very classic in art) gracefully reveals the finer qualities of the furniture she rests upon.  The unusual warm-gray fabric of the renaissance painting above her allows the veiwer's eye to travel up from the model and end on the classical art reference.  I can't help but enjoy a photographic romp among ancien coiffures and modern lofts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Did You Wake Up This Morning?

Louis XV greets the morning at his Levée
Voltaire struggles into his pants during his Levée
The Levée was a formal celebration ceremony of a royal's rising from bed in the morning.  If you think the concept sounds silly you are not alone.  Voltaire is great agreement with you.  When he had his portrait done in the early 1760s by Jean Huber, Voltaire chose to be portrayed at his levée, that is dictating to his secretary as he pulls on his breeches in the morning. 

The portrait was not only poking fun himself but mostly criticizing those who took themselves too seriously.  Even the dog in the painting is surprised by Voltaire's lack of modesty.  But that was Voltaire; always giving you the naked truth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs Wilbraham Bootle

Brr, do you feel that chill?  Either that is the newly arrived autumn or the lukewarm reception to Mrs. Musters' hat.  Although the votes we split right down the middle, the porcupine, fuzzy, family pet hat made it out with a Yay.  But it is time to bid adieu to hats and welcome in the cooler temperatures with some appropriate clothing.

George Romney paints Mrs. Bootle (1781) in her fur-lined cloak and simple green gown.  Yay or Nay?

[National Gallery of Scotland]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Overdraft Fees

With all of Lady Spencer's berating of her eldest daughter you would think she was the only Spencer with skeletons in the closet.  All three of her children had addictions that put them into debt.  Georgiana and Harriet had obscene debts due to their gambling addiction and George's debts pertained to his addiction to books!  Of course the Goddess of Wisdom, Lady Spencer herself, was no innocent, she herself, suffered from a gambling addiction making her no stranger to debt as well.

Lady Mary Coke on Two Women of the Aristocracy

"The Duchess of Gordon resembles my Lady Bristol, is like her in person, manner, contrivances, and like her, scruples nothing to gain her end, such a person must always be dangerous."
-Lady Mary Coke

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

George Stubbs Equestrian Portraits

There is perhaps one thing that comes to mind with the mention of the artist George Stubbs which would be the horse.  Like Monet with his flowers, Stubbs' had a fascination with his four-legged muses, and he was in good company.  Many aristocrats (the same people who commissioned his paintings) shared Stubbs' love of horses and requested their prize stallions and mares be immortalized.  Anyone who has visited the National Gallery in London can't miss Stubbs' portrait of Whistlejacket, the Marquess of Rockingham's prized racehorse, painted against a neutral background in order to not take away from the beauty of the horse.  The painting is placed at the end of the gallery so you see it from far away, adding more majesty to the stallion and more credit to Stubbs' talent.

Stubb's talent was not limited to horses, or even the many cherished pets he portrayed.  Overall, he was fantastic at portraying nature and his sitters' relationship to nature.  Those who commissioned Stubbs for portraits were the aristocrats who tended to trade city life and the gaming tables for their majestic country estates.  Portraits of sitters riding about their property do two essential things: prove the sitter is in touch with nature and display their wealth by portraying their ability to own thoroughbreds and large vasts of land.

Joseph Smyth Esquire, Lieutenant of Whittlebury Forest, Northamptonshire, on a Dapple Grey Horse, c.1762-64

Countess of Conings by Livery of Charlton, c1760

Laetitia, Lady Lade, 1793

John and Sophia Musters riding at Colwick Hall, 1777 
William Anderson with Two Saddle-Horses, 1793
Baron De Robeck Riding A Bay Hunter, 1791
Self-Portrait, 1782

Stubbs' lack of formal training adds a sense of folk art to the portrayals which make them all the more charming and appropriate to hang in those country homes.  Although there is a sense of portraying the animal perfectly, which is lost on other aspects of the painting, that same painstaking skill is used in rendering the sitter's face.  The true joy of painting can be seen in the background, in which Stubbs used a whole different technique in order to capture the landscape.  His ability to capture all these varying elements easily transforms viewers into the work. I particularly enjoy his equestrian portraits because you feel as if you could just ride away into the painting with the sitters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pop Up Video- Walking on Broken Glass

I've written before about my love of a good 18th century themed music video.  It takes a great diva like Annie Lennox to do our century proud.  The younger audience may not be familiar with Pop-Up Video which delivered great trivia while watching music videos; it personally made me undefeatable at Rock and Roll Jeopardy when that was still on.

The good people at Spin the Bottle have many of these pop-up classics, and we can thank them for the video below which contains both the amazing Walking on Broken Glass video and the fun trivia that goes with it.  I was surprised there was no mention of Hugh Laurie which shows America's general ignorance to his existence in the mid-90's.  Enjoy, and learn something in the process!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs Musters

Poor Madame de Genlis.  She wore her frilliest bonnet and it was panned, most everyone gave her a big Nay and labeled her a fashion victim.  Methinks bonnets are not this crowd's cup of tea, particularly ones will big bows.  Perhaps we can try some of the same elements of the rejected bonnet in hat form?

George Romney paints Mrs Musters (detail, 1779-80) in a white chapeau à la Marlborough. Yay or Nay?


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Opening Day: Gainsborough and the Modern Woman

Just a kindly reminder for those in the area Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman opens today at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  The exhibit is not one to be missed and what could be more fabulous than attending on opening day!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hunk Alert: Sir William Fitzherbert

SWM, Lawyer, Traveler, seeking wife to produce little baronets with

Being born in the lovely county of Derbyshire has given me a sense of adventure.  After graduating from Cambridge I dragged my neighbor, William Cavendish on the Grand Tour with me.  Beside being a lawyer I have also served as a Usher for the king, so you if you are fond of rubbing elbows with royalty, I got the connections.

You must understand then, if one is so close to the King and Queen, I will need a wife of the ultimate refinement; preferably an heiress.  Must be able to deal with my hectic schedule and be savvy with the various businesses of the household.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

His Highness Leaves Gracefully

Sad news, Doves.  His Highness did not leave the finale victorious.  So although the victor may have walked away with spoils Prince Poppycock will forever wear the crown.  He is a prince after all.  I think it is safe to say His Highness walked away with a much bigger audience and a much larger fan base.

Check out his duet with Donna Summer from last night.  It lacked all the stage spectacle and the opera but seemed to have Poppycock in his comfort zone and sounding fabulous. Let's dance!

His Highness' Finale

I have to be honest, I was expecting something more...grand?  Don't get me wrong His Highness sounded AMAZING, and the plumed helmet was something that could turn the Earl of Bellamont green with envy but I kind of saw where Morgan was coming from.  I still disagree with his statements and wanted to rush up and hug the visibly upset Poppycock.

I am still crossing my fingers for the handsome prince, but I would have liked a finale of Rococo splendor.  What say you?  Was his final performance too much talent and not enough show? Or was it everything you dreamed it could be?


Joseph Wright of Derby, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Coltman, ca. 1770-72

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Call to Court

I have been following His Highness, Prince Poppycock from afar (thank goodness for Youtube) but tonight is the night of his final performance on America's Got Talent.  You know it going to be good.  Brush off your silks and make sure you have your hairdresser booked so you can attend; America's Got Talent starts at 9 EST.

Oh No She Didn't! The Silent Treatment

The end of 1786 was a rough time for Georgiana.  In Autumn she suffered from spasms, which may of had something to do with her bad health later in life.  Lady Spencer arrived to nurse her daughter and Bess took it upon herself to take Georgiana's place and order around the servants who raised eyebrows at her.  When Lady Spencer reported Bess' behavior Georgiana refused to believe her mother.

After Georgiana's health returned she confessed some of her debts to her husband who flew into a rage (I would be upset too if I found out my spouse had the modern equivalent of a $6 million gambling debt) and screamed for a separation. Georgiana was reasonably upset and turned to her best friend for support.

For whatever reason, though, Bess gave Georgiana no shoulder to cry on.  In fact she refused to talk to her altogether!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Tyranny of Beauty

For anyone lucky enough to be in glorious Paris from now until 23 October you must check out a contemporary exhibit.  Yes, contemporary!  Jean-Charles de Castelbajac's newest show, The Tyranny of Beauty feature's some of our favourite Gainsboroughs, including an appearance by Her Grace, herself and her good friend, Little Po.

Castelbajac combines the images of famous art historical works with recognizable graphics from our contemporary culture.  The historical images are not prints but actually the oil copies of paintings that you can purchase from China (here is an example).  By devaluing the artwork by reproducing it so easily, Castelbajac adds further degradation by adding commercial imagery.  Here is a snippet from the artist statement:
The tyranny in question is that of an insatiable need to please, of youth's domination, of a quest for immortality and of the denial of time past.
Castelbajac adds trait, logo, sign or brand obliteration to classic master paintings. As if creams, capsules or other artifices could open up a path to eternal youth and stamp their radiant faces with indelible copyrights.
The exhibition sounds like a delight, I only wish I could finagle an impromptu trip to Paris.  Many thanks to Fabultastic for keeping me up to date on the exhibit.

Further images of the exhibit from TrendLand

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yay or Nay? Madame de Genlis

It was another Yay for haberdashery as Lady Taylor pulled in a victory for her high brimmed hat.  We have not seen what French couture has to offer in the realm of headgear. Perhaps we are overdue?

Adelaide Labille-Guiard paints Madame de Genlis (1780) in her bonnet of lace and ribbons.  Yay or Nay?

H.W. Blunt Collection

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Lovely Lady Salisbury

The Duchess of Gordon was a notorious rival of Georgiana's.  However, she wasn't the only Tory hostess Georgiana had to contend with.  Lady Salisbury may not have made it personal with Georgiana like her fellow Tory society hostess, but she packed a few punches.

Mary Amelia (sometimes written as Emily) was a dashing Irish rose.  Reynolds painted her in 1781 seductively slipping on her gloves while on a walk with her hyperactive spaniel (Walkies, walkies?! Let's go, let's go!).  It wasn't only a love for pups that Georgiana had in common with Lady Salisbury, they were both big gamblers and consequently both in large amounts of debt.  Lady Salisbury led the Tory women in canvassing during the 1784 Westminster election, but didn't receive nearly as much press as Georgiana's campaign. In fact, after reading about Lady Salisbury canvassing in March of that year Lady Spencer sent her daughters on mission to outdo the countess.  This would be the same Lady Spencer who begged her two daughters to stop their canvassing a mere two months later.

Unlike Georgiana, Lady Salisbury lived to a ripe old age.  Madame Guillotine has a fabulous post on her life which you should most certainly check out here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

His Highness Goes Revolutionary on Us

He's made it to the top ten and now our favourite fop put together a show meant to tug on America's heartstrings!  Enjoy and cross your fingers for his victory!

You only know if he makes it to the grand showdown he'll bring new meaning to Rococo. Let's hope we get a chance to see that show-stopper!

The evening post just came with the news: His Highness is going to finals! I can't wait to see what kind of show he will dazzle us with!

Another Famous Actress Who Portrayed Lady Teazle

Fans of Gone with the Wind or Vivien Leigh might be interested in this little factoid.  In 1941 Leigh and her husband Sir Lawrence Olivier starred side by side in The School for Scandal and later took the play on tour in 1948-9.  The benefit performance of 1941 was also the same year Leigh and Olivier had starred in another film taking place in the 18th century, That Hamilton Woman.

The School of Scandal if you recall, was a play written by Georgiana's friend Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  Sheridan based his character off his own friends and the main character of the play, Lady Teazle was inspired by Georgiana.  So in a way, the legendary Leigh played the legendary duchess!

For more info on Leigh and Olivier's performances in The School for Scandal check out this lovely site.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Teen Mom: Bess

If Bess Hervey was born into a normal middle-class family, she may have had the luxury of marrying in her twenties.  The average age for a woman to marry was about 25, but many well-to-do families rushed their daughters into marriage.  Bess was one of the unlucky girls who found herself married with a lack of maturity to handle her new life changes.  The new Mrs. Foster was also especially fertile and found herself at the age of 17 already with a baby.  Reading her notes from the period makes one feel as if they are watching an episode of MTV's Teen Mom, there is such an abundance of whining one has to wonder where the cheese is!

First, she whimpered about her new home in Dunleer being a "Dungeon."
Momma Hervey (Lady Bristol) wrote back to tell her to appreciate what she had and if it was so bad to do something about it! She recommended picking out some new wallpaper.

When Frederick was born Bess wrote again to her mother describing the horrors of labor.
Lady Bristol, having gone through the ordeal of labor seven times over, once again had little sympathy for the over-dramatization of the process and asked Bess to reflect more on the joys of motherhood rather than complain about the toils of the labor.

After a month of laying in, Bess was re-released to the world and all she could do was roll her eyes at it.  First she remarked on how she found all babies "much alike" and then bemoaned how her son was "dependent" on her.  Not being a mother myself, I noticed two-month-olds tend to do that.  One has to wonder how much mothering Bess was actually doing seeing as she had a wet nurse. 

It wasn't only Bess' son which bored her but now Dublin seemed just as odious as Dunleer.  While many contemporary accounts rave about Dublin's ability to be a thoroughly diverting metropolis Bess wrote, "je m'ennuie à la mort" [I am bored to death].  Besides finding the city "dirty" and "dull" she found the women "ill educated & indelicate."  But perhaps Bess' real beef with Dublin was the fact that her flirting wasn't reciprocated.  According to Bess the men were "too much engrossed by Politicks to engage much in society..."

Season 2
Lady Bristol was quick to tell Bess to stop complaining

When Bess was three months pregnant with her son, Augustus she had enough of her boring life and ran away.  She then met up with a Mr. Churchill and attempted absconding to Scotland with him.  One has to wonder if Bess was so bored by Dublin if Scotland would have been much better? In any case she never would reach the amusements of Scotland for her husband caught her in York.

The year was now 1782 and Bess was staying in Bath with her sister, Mary.  Both ladies were poor, separated from their husbands, and ostracized from public (I bet Dunleer wasn't looking too bad anymore!).  It was here where Bess was to be introduced to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who befriended the two fallen women.  However, Bess only too easily left her sister in the dust when the Devonshires invited her to accompany them out of Bath. Bess' sob story of her lost children had pulled on their heartstrings more than Mary's, whose child had been allowed to stay with her after the separation.

The truth of the matter is, Bess only really experienced being a "teen mom," for by the time she was in her twenties her husband had custody of her two sons, whom she wouldn't see for another fourteen years.  Her other children (Caroline and Clifford) were illegitimate offspring of the Duke and were also raised more by others than by Bess.  Bess would find that she appreciated being a mother only when the ability was taken away from her.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gossipy Charms

The newest strain on my wallet has been Juicy Couture's adorable charm bracelets.  I fear I've exposed Lauren to my addiction as well, but that is what friends are for!  They have such a unique and fun collection; you can put together a bracelet fit for a queen or duchess.  In my shopping sessions I have noticed charms fit for an 18th century gossip girl: dice, cakes, ducal coronets, and fans.  Perhaps one of the charms will bring me good luck on the faro table

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yay or Nay? Lady Taylor

Last week we examined the hat of the Duquessa de Nájera and your approval was given. All those ribbons and plumes earned her a Yay.  Today we are going to judge a similar hat; this time from England.

Joshua Reynolds paints Lady Elizabeth Taylor (1781-84) in her high crowned ivory and blue hat.  Yay or Nay?

[The Frick Collection]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review: The Courtiers

In English history, it took two trial runs with King Georges before the English finally had one who wanted to stay in their ruling country full-time.  King George III and his large family made their home in what is now the main palaces of the current royal family, Windsor and Buckingham Palace.  But before these were the palaces of choice, it was Kensington Palace that King George I and II would make their English home.  With them came a whole slew of courtiers with their various personalities, stories, and best of all: gossip.  Some of these courtiers are immortalized on the very walls of Kensington; they stare at all visitors of the palace, judging them from above as they ascend the stairs.  Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Wolsey, gives voice to some of those very faces in her newest book, The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace.  The good people of Walker & Company were kind enough to give me a copy of the book and I was only a few pages in before I was hooked!

Undertaking a nonfiction book on the personalities of key Kensington courtiers from the reigns of George I and II is no small feat.  The Courtiers is a testament to Worsley's skill as a curator for she seamlessly combines multiple biographies, court stories, and family trees chronologically into a captivating tapestry of court intrigue.  Normally I am used to this sort of information delivered to me in the form of a blog or a hard to follow book, but after years of configuring exhibitions for diverse audiences Worsley has learned a trick or two.  The Courtiers begins in George I's court and progresses through to the death of George II.  Each chapter is is centered around a court figure or figures and their antics, while at the same time giving a concise history of all the goings-on of Kensington.

But is Kensington court in the early eighteenth century scandalous enough for us? Oh it most certainly is!  This is the playground of John Hervey we are speaking of after all.  Not only will you find out why King George II wanted his own mistress, Henrietta Howard, fired from court, but also his embarrassing and rather un-kingly demise.  What insane measures did Prince Frederick take in order to hide his wife's child labor from his own mother?  The answer will leave your jaw gaping!

The Courtiers is a true delight.  The scandalous tales are just what we have come to expect from the eighteenth century and Worsley is the perfect tour guide to introduce audiences to them.  I will be happily recommending this book to all my history-junky friends; of course I had been doing that before I had even got halfway through the book!  The Courtiers is out now in both the UK and US so drop your fans and fetch your coachman to bring you, post-haste, to your local bookshop and pick it up today!