Thursday, December 30, 2010


Mes cher beaux et belles,

I will be out of the salon celebrating the festivities that come with the end of the year but before I go I must wish you all a Happy New Year!  I hope you all will be up to no good causing a scandal and gossiping behind masks all while the champagne flows.  Thank you for taking a little time out of your lives to stop by and leave your much-enjoyed and appreciated comments.  Cheers to you, darlings; here's to more gossip and wit in 2011! 

Now go out and celebrate!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman

It is always unfortunate to hear of a fantastic museum exhibition that is sadly too far away.  Luckily there is always some comfort in exhibition catalogs that allow the geographically challenged to vicariously attend the exhibition.  Such was the case with The Cincinnati Art Museum's exhibition, Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman and I.  Luckily for me, Benedict Leca was very kind in supplying me with a copy of the corresponding book so I could get a literary perspective on the exhibition.

Immediately upon opening the catalog you will find that it is quite different from others that may be sitting on your shelf.  Of course it has the glorious colored plates of the paintings exhibited and essays by notable art historians but the book makes an impact on you before you even read a word, proving that there's something quite special about this culmination of paintings.  The title, Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman automatically gives you the sense of something old (Gainsborough) and something forthcoming ("Modern") which the overall design of the book mimics, having a unique and modern layout, daringly mixing serif and sans serif fonts, putting footnotes in the center, and breaking other such rules to produce a catalog that challenges what we know to be the norm.  That is how Gainsborough was with his style of painting or, as he referred to it, "touch of the pencil" as Leca reminds us in his essay.  Gainsborough brought a unique style that elevated him to one of the most sought-after painters of his time and still brings him renown today.

Included in the catalog are three accompanying essays; one by the curator, Benedict Leca, one by clothing art historian, Aileen Ribeiro, and the last by Amber Ludwig who is completing her PhD in the portrayals of Emma Hamilton.  The three contributors all bring a different perspective to the general topic of female portraiture in eighteenth century England so you may find yourself disagreeing with one perspective and agreeing with another.

This was a fantastic read, for what is undoubtedly a great exhibition.  I found all the essays both different and engaging and loved that book not only contain plates at the beginning but large details of the paintings blown up throughout the book in order to give the reader a more intimate look at the portraits being discussed.  Many of the topics will interest readers of this blog; there is much discussion on portraying the fallen woman (most of whom have been featured on this blog), clothing, and how women could exert themselves through the painted image. 

Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman will be leaving The Cincinnati Art Museum on 2 January and will soon be unveiled at the San Diego Museum of Art on 29 January.  The catalog is available to purchase from and the museum.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rakish Good Fun!

Vampire Weekend is known for the creative and spunky music videos and this one is not just appropriate for this blog but appropriate for this week!  In their video for Holiday they decided it shouldn't just be the girls who have all the fun prancing around in 18th century wear and donned some appropriate clothing to be causing a ruckus in.

Monday, December 27, 2010


William Turner, Travellers in a Snowdrift,
Caspar David Friedrich, The Chasseur in the Forest, 1814
George Morland, Soldier's Return
Abraham Teerlink, By the koek-en-zopie, 1806
Henry Raeburn, Reverend Robert Walker, 1795

Francisco Goya, The Snowstorm, ca. 1786-87
Wilhelm Alexander Wolfgang von Kobell, Postilion on Horse in a Winter Landscape, ca. 1798

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yay or Nay? Comtesse de Beaufort

Who could argue with a purple dress?  Not I for sure, and barely anyone questioned Princess Victoire's choice of dress, earning her a Yay.  All this talk of winter and snow puts me in a mood for a more timely ensemble. 

Louis Michel van Loo paints the Comtesse de Beaufort (ca.1760) in iridescent white and royal blue.  Yay or Nay?

[Cornell Fine Arts Museum]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Industry and Idleness

One of Hogarth's famous print series is Industry and Idleness which was a common theme for many prints of the time.  Hogarth's multiple prints followed the many exploits and good deeds of two young men but in the series by the same name put out by lesser artists it was more common to have pretty young ladies symbolizing the foils.  Not only were women more marketable in the print industry, their good or bad deeds tend to have greater repercussions than those of men.

In George Morland's series we have Industry busily tatting away on long lace trimmings.  If you noticed her outfit to be a bit off, you are quite right.  A hat and coat is unusual attire to attend womanly duties but Industry is ever-ready to go out of the house to attend to some other task or errand.  Idleness on the other hand, has plenty of time to engage the viewer with coy eye contact.  Her sewing pouch lies in disarray at her feet, obviously not in use.  Even Idleness' dog can't be bothered to do much.  At the time, idle women tended to be associated with lascivious women.  By the look on Idleness' face and the way she draws the viewer's eye to between her legs by placing her right hand there; we are left to assume she is not just an idle woman but a woman with little morals.

Francis Wheatley's version of the same theme displays Industry and Idleness in the lower classes.  Industry busily works mending a piece of clothing, so busy she can't be bothered by the suave young man attempting to get her attention.  Despite the dog allowing itself to be distracted by the man, Idleness can't be bothered by his presence.  Wheatley's Idleness is interesting in that she is actually doing something (feeding the kitten) but is distracted from her work by what we can assume is the same young man, based on the unfortunate hat he wears in both prints.  Wheatley's definition of the foils derives chiefly from their ability to avoid horny young men, otherwise Idleness might be successful in her to-do list.  Perhaps his series would be more aptly named Easy and Mission Impossible.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Georgiana's Grandmother: Georgina Cowper

In the history of successful Spencer marriages, Georgiana could not include herself, however her brother, parents, and Spencer grandparents all could boast of happy unions.

Georgiana's paternal grandmother was born Georgina Carteret, daughter of the Earl Granville which was such a strong Whig family that it frightened the Lord Lieutenant, Robert Walpole enough to practically banish the Carterets to Ireland.  But what frightened Walpole was something of interest to the formidable Sarah Duchess of Marlborough.  When it came time for her grandson and heir, the Honourable John Spencer (fondly known as Johnny) to form a convenient union, Georgina Carteret was at the top of Sarah's list.  I mean that quite literally too! Sarah actually made up a list of suitable brides for Johnny and arranged them alphabetically.  Not caring too much about the woman, and more the potential money from Grandma Sarah, Johnny picked the first person on the list which happened to be Georgina.  Similarly Lord and Lady Granville also looked favorably on the match also due to the political connection.

Due to the matter-of-fact manner of the engagement, you might expect a miserable marriage followed by a tart-ish lifestyle to follow.  Georgina was known for being smart, charming, and later in life, extremely patient.  Despite having no emotional connection to Georgina, and not planning on retiring from his bachelor lifestyle Johnny scheduled their wedding for Valentines Day.  Georgina walked down the aisle in white, wearing the Duchess of Marlborough's jewels which she managed not to lose despite spending the rest of her wedding day with her husband at the gaming tables as they partied into the night.  Despite the relationship seeming quite doomed, Georgina was head over heels for her husband and turned a blind eye to his drinking and wenching and gambling and late nights and tobacco-chewing and kept mistresses.

Everyone watched Johnny's bad habits contribute to a premature death.  His son, John (Georgiana's father) succeeded his father at age 11 when Johnny's bad habits finally caught up with him.  A few years thereafter Georgina married William, Earl Cowper, making her a Countess.

Despite suffering from cancer which would later kill her, Georgina lived a long life unlike her husband, and John who would die shortly after her.  She lived long enough to attend her granddaughter's marriage and become concerned over her becoming "much quieter than she was" soon after her marriage.  Georgina died soon after in 1780 at the age of 64.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, Sermon I, Page 12

Parents now a days almost universally down the lowest tradesman or mechanic who to ape his superiors strains himself beyond his circumstances send their daughters to Boarding schools.  And what do they mostly learn there? I say mostly... they learn chiefly to dress to dance to speak bad French to prattle much nonsense to practise I know not how pert conceited airs, and in consequence of all to conclude themselves accomplished Women?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yay or Nay? Princess Victoire of France

I'm quite shocked by the generous mood of the panel lately.  Lady Molyneux is one of the many approved candidates we've had lately.  She earned a Yay for her classic gown of somber colors.  But I've had enough of these somber winter colors; shall we sample some of the Spring collection?

Adelaide Labille-Guiard paints Madame Victoire (1788) in a periwinkle and white sack-back gown. Yay or Nay?

Friday, December 17, 2010


Joseph-Marie Vien, The Cupid Seller,  1763

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Jane!

It's Jane Austen's 235th birthday which is so much so a landmark that even Google is giving Miss Austen a nod this year.  Also in celebration is a birthday blog tour complete with many posts and prizes.

“'A woman of seven and twenty,’ said Marianne, after pausing a moment, 'can never hope to feel or inspire affection again.’”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 8

 ...but one of five and two-hundred and thirty certainly does!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Now on View: Antiquity Discovered

Anyone going to Paris?

Currently on view at the Louvre is a fantastic exhibition for us 18th century enthusiasts, Antiquity Discovered.  The exhibition aims to explore the Age of Enlightenment's fascination with ancient Greece and Rome which, in time, would lead to the Neoclassical movement.  This neoclassic fascination extended through most of Europe, from England to Russia and could be seen in painting, sculpture and especially architecture (not to mention fashion).  It was a time when artwork from antiquity was collected, admired, and copied.

Antiquity Discovered promises to be a landmark exhibition due to the caliber of artwork spanning the globe.  Multiple media works from both museums and private collections including The Nightmare from Detroit Institute, the Louvre's own Oath of the Horatii, and The Finding of the the Laocoon from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art are some of the 150 works being exhibited.  Can you believe that all of this splendor is only on view until February 11?  That means time is wasting for this once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the greatest Neoclassical works from inside one of the grandiose palaces of Europe.  Hopefully Fabultastic will get there soon and tell us all about it since it was he who was kind enough to point it out to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Wedding of George IV and Caroline

Royal weddings are the hot topic as of late. Nary a day passes without us hearing about the upcoming nuptials of a prince and his future princess.  Royal wedding ceremonies have been happening for centuries and some go off without a hitch but others, such as the Prince of Wales' in 1795, are quite infamous.

The prince was originally married to Maria Fitzherbert but that marriage was considered null and void by the Royal Marriage Acts.  The prince was quite in love with his wife but he was also extremely short of cash so he agreed to his father's terms of marrying someone of his choosing.  The king's choice was his niece, the prince's first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick.

Since George was only marrying Caroline in order to have his father pay off his massive debts, you can imagine how thrilled he was to marry the 26 year old German relative whom he had never met.  When the two did meet, Princess Caroline hugged her husband and he immediately wretched himself away and called for a stiff drink.  He considered her fat and of bad hygiene which turned out to be a mutual feeling.

Prints of the time disguise the truth of the marriage: a handsome, slender couple promenade arm in arm, a glorious royal wedding ceremony where the prince is lost in his bride's eyes- nothing could be further from the truth.  George felt the only means of getting himself through the ceremony was to become inebriated.  Instead of staring into his bride's eyes he was being held up by two men because he was too drunk to stand.  Caroline was so decked out in jewels and finery she could barely walk up the aisle, let alone stand.  It is little wonder she took to the simple empire-style gowns.

Caroline knew that if her wedding was this bad, the wedding night would be even worse.  George had already decided she wasn't a virgin and thought she could have used a bath which may have added to his decision to go through the wedding in a drunken state.  He claimed he only consummated the marriage twice, on the wedding night and the night after.  However that wouldn't be entirely accurate.  On the night of the marriage while a frightened Caroline waited under the sheets, her husband blacked out on the floor.  He most likely woke up in the morning in order to go about the process of creating heirs.  After the second intimate encounter with Caroline, George vowed he'd never touch her again.  He stayed true to his word and after Caroline gave birth to his daughter, the two were estranged.

Thanks to Margravaine Louisa who suggested we celebrate Will and Kate's engagement with stories of other royal weddings.  Let's hope this royal marriage goes much better!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yay or Nay? Isabella Viscountess Molyneux

The skinny young Queen of England won everyone over with her layers of lace, which as balsamfir reminded us, was all painstakingly hand-made.  That alone could have given Charlotte the grand Yay that she earned.

Thomas Gainsborough paints Lady Molyneux (1769) in her satin striped robe a la francaise and black shawl.  

[Walker Art Gallery]

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coffee and Spectacle

One of the popular sights for those visiting London was Don Saltero's coffeehouse in Chelsea.  Coffeehouses themselves weren't uncommon, they were popular local hangout where you got the local news and gossip.  Much like today's local pubs or internet social networks, coffeehouses tended to be part of the daily routine.  What set Don Saltero's apart from others was it was both a coffeehouse and museum of curiosities.

Wunderkammer or cabinets of curiosity were popular spectacles for people in the renaissance onward.  For those with enough money to house these collections, wunderkammers could be a time consuming and expensive hobby.  Beside cabinets, whole rooms were dedicated to the marvelous.  What sort of things would you find in these cabinets?  Well it wasn't Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, curiosity cabinets contained many natural objects of beauty.  Shells, rocks, taxidermy, and if you were especially lucky, unicorn narwhal horns.  Many beautiful depictions of these collections can be found in museums.

These were the sort of objects you would find at Don Saltero's although the uniqueness of these being at a coffee house made the place a bit of a tourist trap albeit a good one.  While many 18th century wunderkammers now served as places of study Don Saltero, or James Salter, brought articles of curiosity to the masses for the price of a cup of coffee. 

Salter began as a humble barber in the late 17th century.  He had amassed a decent collection of articles from his old employer, Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum.  Whatever Sloane didn't care for he would hand off to the grateful Salter.  When Salter founded the coffeehouse in 1695 customers were wowed by the rejected articles.  Salter even published catalogs of his collection.  Don Saltero's became such a famous attraction of London that when Salter died in 1768 his daughter took over running the coffeehouse museum.  However, at her death there was no one to continue the care of the business so in 1799 the marvelous collection had to be sold.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Makeup Under the Mask

It's hard for me to resist so many tempting new cosmetic products this winter...especially when they're in a collection called Masquerade.  Both Essie nailpolish and Smashbox Cosmetics have masquerade inspired makeup out which makes me wonder if this is what we should come to expect for New Years themed parties.
Masquerade Makeup

Right now Smashbox is having a special with free shipping and you can get a free eyeshadow pallet on orders over $25, making the temptation even worse.  Boyfriends, husbands, and partners take note of this easy stocking-stuffer for your special 18th century enthusiast. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


"We know the very minds of People by their Dress."
 -William Hogarth

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh No She Didn't! Offending the Italians

Bess had a great fondness for Italy, especially late in life when she chose it as her place of retirement.  However the same cannot be same of Italy's feelings toward Bess in 1785.  Much in the tradition of her visit to France, Bess sowed offense wherever she went.  First of all, whenever she whisked by she left the Italians gagging on her perfume.  Wearing perfume in Italy was a big no-no.  Not knowing your cross-culture etiquette could easily be societal suicide, especially for a determined social climber such as Lady Foster. So it didn't help her ambition any when she caused further offense by freely speaking her broken Italian to everyone.  I would give her points for trying the immersion method of learning a language but at the time it only came off as pompous. 

Next time Bess, try Rosetta Stone and a dab of vanilla behind the ears!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

At Home With the Georgians

I haven't posted on Amanda Vickery's latest project, a three part television series based on her book, Behind Closed Doors, for selfish reasons- it isn't being shown in the States; and I really, really want to see it!  As luck would have it, I got my hands on the first part of the series, Thank goodness!

At Home with the Georgians puts a visual to the 2009 book which I absolutely loved.  Those who have also enjoyed the book will have a familiarity with the path in which the program takes.  But it isn't annoyingly repetitive, no, it's more of a review with lots of fabulous footnotes!  The stories and documents of Georgian living are now re-enacted in costumed splendor in between personal tours of houses by the charismatic Ms Vickery.  Austenites will relish the many references to the beloved author (who was a great feature in the book) and will also delight in Vickery's exploration of the Collins house from the 1996 Pride and Prejudice.

When I reviewed the book last December I especially enjoyed my personal connection with one Miss Mary Martin who could share my boast of once living in Wivenhoe Park.  I was delighted that her amusing story was covered in the series, complete with beautiful shots of her home and its grounds (Wivenhoe House) which I once used to take my constitutionals around with Lauren

North Americans can watch the first part of the series here.  Just be aware the video will stop automatically, 54 minutes into it, cutting out the last part which is luckily the conclusion so you won't miss much.  Those with BBC 2 are lucky enough to catch the second part tonight.  I can't wait until I get to see it!

Yay or Nay? Queen Charlotte

The debate over Farinelli's outfit had many great points and counters and in the end the singer was victorious, earning him a Yay for successfully pulling off pink and black before Chanel could even dream of doing so.  All this talk of spangle and lace detail has given me a hunger for more.  But is there a limit to lace?

Johann Zoffany paints Queen Charlotte (1766) and her slender frame showing off her husband's miniature. But how can one even pay attention to that bauble amongst all that ribbon and lace.  Yay or Nay?

[Holburne Museum of Art]

Friday, December 3, 2010

Royalty Descended from Tarts

There's been much fuss over the upcoming movie, The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth as George VI, Queen Elizabeth's father.  Enchanted Serenity has a great post on George VI's relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who died at 101 in 2002.  Before she was queen, Elizabeth was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.  Does that last name sound familiar?

The late Queen Mother is a decedent of Mary Eleanor Bowes the heiress with the amazing tale of domestic issues and survival.  Elizabeth's last name, Bowes-Lyons was created when Mary's first husband, John Lyon, Earl of Strathmore married her in order to secure the Bowes fortune.  As a condition for inheriting the fortune, John had to legally change his name to Bowes-Lyons which the Earls of Strathmore continue to carry to this day.

Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the current queen which features on the back of Scottish 10-pound notes is also the former home of Mary Eleanor. 

The King's Speech is in select US theaters now, will be released in Canadian theaters 10 December, and in UK theaters 7 January.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Thomas Gainsborough had two children, Mary (1750-1826) and Margaret (1752-1820).

Artist's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly, 1756

The Painter's Daughters, ca. 1758

Artist's Daughters with a Cat, 1759
Portrait of the Artist's Daughters, ca.1763-64
The Artist's Daughters. 1770
The Artist's Daughter, Margaret, 1772
The Artist's Daughter, Mary, 1777
Gainsborough was a proud and affectionate father which his numerous paintings of his daughters can attest to.  His portraits also show how close his daughters were to one another.  The girls had an interesting childhood, granting them access to high society and some of the biggest celebrities of the time.  However it did nothing for their dating life.  Only Mary married and it was an extremely unhappy relationship ending in separation.  She began showing signs of mental illness and was taken care of by her parents until their death.  The Gainsborough girls lived out the remainder of their life together with Margaret acting as caretaker to Mary.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pox!

Cold and flu season is here and it might have you sniffling and sneezing but at least it doesn't have you covered in ungainly pustules.  Smallpox was the great villain of the 18th century, claiming 400,000 Europeans a year (as well as annihilating native cultures in the Americas and Australia) making it the leading cause of death.  The disease was deadly and those who survived forever had their pock marks as a reminder of the deadly disease they escaped. 

One famous lady scarred by the pox was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who even lost her eyelashes to the disease. While living in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) Lady Mary observed that the locals had come up with a form of preventative medicine: inoculation.  When an infected individual developed the pustules (which would eventually burst causing the worst smell imaginable) the goop inside the pustule would be collected and then either poked with a needle or cut into with a knife into the person to be inoculated.  Children were more susceptible to the disease and also took to the inoculation better than adults.  After a few days a blister would develop in that area and pop and by then the patient was filled with all the wonderful antibodies needed to fight off the disease.  You can imagine Lady Mary's delight in learning the procedure. 

When Lady Mary informed England of inoculation it received mixed reactions.  Many dismissed it primarily because the procedure came from the barbarian Turks.  Others snubbed inoculation because a female brought about its attention.  One person who was totally open to the idea was Queen Caroline and she quickly convinced her husband to investigate.  King George II tested inoculation out on prisoners who were promised freedom for their part in the case study.  When all the prisoners survived the ordeal the King and Queen had their own daughters inoculated which was also a success.

Not all inoculations were a success however.  When George III and Queen Charlotte ruled, they had all their children inoculated while still babies or toddlers.  Sadly, Prince Alfred, their fourteenth child died from complications from smallpox inoculation, sending the family into a deep and unofficial mourning.  Still, many British families, especially in the aristocracy, chose to inoculate their children. Lady Spencer was firm in her opinion that all her grandchildren should receive the procedure.  

Toward the end of the century Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids who caught cowpox from their bovine friends seemed immune to smallpox.  Cowpox was a mild strain of smallpox, passed down from, you guessed it, cows to people.  Jenner began inoculating people with cowpox to avoid disasters like Prince Alfred's death and he was very successful.  Although once again, many people remained suspicious.  It was Jenner's efforts that gave us "vaccination;" vacca is Latin for cow.  Next time you are at the doctor's for your cow-inations I hope you are brought to mind the efforts of Lady Mary and Edward Jenner.