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Friday, December 31, 2010

French court dolls

I remembered an article I read in an old issue of Doll Reader which featured a group of carved wooden jointed dolls of french nobility, called French Court dolls. 
I tracked it down (Dec 1995/Jan 1996) and have found even more dolls than those cited after exhaustive searching online. The author of the article, John Darcy Noble, mentions that he knew of 18 such dolls. The article itself contains photos of 12 of these silk clad creations. I have since found one sold by Thieraults which is purported to be Marie-Antoinette.
But these are not dolls as we know them, certainly not likely to have been for children. No, these look like the playthings of adults. They look like marionettes but they have never had strings attached. Their incredibly elaborate carved hairstyles and very individualistic faces are quite striking.  
In common with dolls of the era they are complete with genitalia - and some have strange anatomical features. One has twin penises, several are hermaphrodites and one seen by the author had three breasts all in a row. One has a head that opens to reveal a cavity. 
The author suggests they are virtual portraits of real people used in some kind of puppet play by the nobles of Marie-Antoinette's court. 
They are believed to have been owned by the Princess de Lamballe. (What provenance and evidence there is he doesn't say.)
But this is what I don't get. From all I have read the Princess de Lamballe was rather modest and proper - indeed supposedly prudish.   However, the author states that the Princess owned houses of ill repute in Paris as well as one of the two openly erotic theatres. This is news to me. It sounds like the tales spread about the nobility to inflame the people. But it doesn't accord with any of the reading I have done about her character. So who is right? If you can shed some light on this I'd be pleased to hear from you. 
In the meantime, pictures of french court dolls coming up!  I am currently reading a book about them so more posts on these amazing dolls are inevitable!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Tis the season...

Yes well it's over for another year and I am glad it does only happen once a year because I am exhausted.
But we made the effort and it was lovely in spite of the rainy weather.
My sister took care of the decorations to lovely effect with metres of red chiffon and some dangly bits.
Today is scones, tea and macarons.
Scrumptious!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

le book review - Seventeenth and Eighteen Century Fashion in Detail by Avril Hart and Susan North

I had seen this book at a craft show earlier this year and it looked lovely. Lots of lovely close ups of details of beautiful mantuas and sacques, flounces, trims, draping.  Just gorgeous.  And good line drawings of the whole dress or garment.
But I put it back because there were NO photos of the whole garment.  WHY?
I don't know. It seems a seriously deficiency to me.
However given that these items from the V&A collection are in fact very old and not suitable for display perhaps placing them on manniquins for the photos would be too much activity for their fragile nature. le sigh.
But since I love detail and love this era I gave in for Christmas and treated myself (something I do a lot of).
(What a strange word 'treated' is! It sounds a tad wrong, like it should be 'trat' like 'seated' or 'sat' only that would sound worse.)
And I DO love those lovely detail photos. I haven't read it right through yet but the cover alone is enough to take my breath away.  Divine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Puce, fleas and Marie-Antoinette

Puce. It's a colour. Yes but what colour?

Puce is a colour I have found a tad confusing over the years. And it seems I'm not the only one.

I first stumbled on the colour puce in a Georgette Heyer novel. The context never made it sound like a colour anyone with pretentions to fashion would countenance. We would list any "puce sightings or references" we stumbled across since it is not a colour many people refer to. I still have a little chuckle whenever I hear or read of "puce" in everyday life. And in fact I have always thought of puce as a pinky purple brown colour.

In French, puce literally means "flea", fleas generally being dark reddish-brown or dark purplish-brown.

Apparently the first recorded use of puce as a color name was in the 14th century, in the French language but it certainly seems to have became more common after the late 1780s, when King Louis is widely regarded to have coined the term to describe the colour of one of his wife's dresses.

I found not only an article on puce but also with a painting of Marie-Antoinette in what I can only assume is a puce coloured dress with another photo of a fabric and lace fragment of one of her dresses in a light fawn colour embroidered with jasmine. The painting is almost identical to another earlier painting of her in a blue dress. Check it out at glassoffashion.wordpress.com - Colourwatch: Pondering puce.

So what colour is puce? Well I think it's rather in the eye of the beholder!

I tried to post this in puce but it wasn't easily readable! 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oooooooo it's a date for the Abbey Medieval Fair

SOOOOO I must have an 18th century dress of some description.  No dear reader, it doesn't have to be a medieval one. Apparently last year Captain America came.  Wouldn't mind meeting him myself.

Should I perhaps have a persona?  I believe that to be de rigueur for such occasions.  Mmmmmm I already have the passion for patch boxes and mother of pearl gaming counters, so why not collect myself a persona.

Suggestions anyone?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tea for me

Isn't this teacup and saucer just a feast for the eyes? 
My boss gave it to me for my birthday. It's called Turkish Delight Mandarin.  I'm sure the ladies of the 18th century would have admired it!  And yes it was made in China! 
The Turkish Delight range has some lovely sets - check them out at T2. 
More pics coming soon!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I so badly want a sacque back gown or a robe francais

But being something of a bombshell figure-wise it's not easy.  It doesn't have to be of re-enactment standard, I'd settle for feeling a bit 18th century.  And I'd only be able to wear it in winter here since it's so very hot and frequently humid in summer.  And I want it in a cotton, and all in one piece since layers here even in winter would probably kill me.
The search continues!

Tea and macarons darling?

I had lunch with a friend today and we went to the local farmers' market afterwards, having promised ourselves a macaron for desert!
Along the way we tested chocolate brownies, chocolate fudge and even chocolate coated macadamias!
But oh my stars!  The macarons!  What a feast for the eyes they had at Monsieur Macaron.  And the BIG dilemma - which one to pick. Being me I decided one wouldn't be enough and anyway I wanted to take a photo of their gorgeous loveliness so you could see how delightful they are!


I chose chocolate (well duh!), strawberry, pistachio, lavender and mango.  My friend made her selection and then the stall holder gave us each a champagne one to try. Another Oh My Stars moment. Just perfect.
So here dear reader is a picture of these lovely creations. They reminded me of the luscious scenes in the movie Marie Antoinette.  Enjoy!  I plan to!  With my lovely colleagues!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hatpin making

Yes well since I declared this Christmas was to be handmade, recycled or repurposed, I figured I'd better get a wriggle on or no one would get anything.  Since my lovely friend LaLa loves hats as much as I do, I decided she needed a hat pin.  (And since she isn't into blogs she won't read this ahead of time and see what she is getting.)


So having plenty of STUFF on hand to make jewellery etc I tried out a few different combinations before coming up with this one.  I think it will go with a variety of hats  and is nice and long so it can skewer plenty of hair.


I started out using E6000 glue but it takes too long to set so I went back to Araldite which bonds anything within cooee.  Now off to check out what 18th century hatpins looked like.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

OMG My first follower and vintage things

I feel giddy. What a rush. Thankyou Vivien!

I've been trawling though my vintage bits and pieces. They all tell me stories. Like the little 'ladies leg pocket knife' that was my Grandmother's.  That's it next to my Georgian patchbox. Such an elegant leg in its striped stocking! That's my other Nan and Grandfather in the frame behind.

A little more recent

OK I am wandering off topic a little. But when you aren't a size 8 and you find some vintage clothes that fit, you are entitled to feel a little giddy and want to tell the world.

This year's Vintage Fashion Fair was full of lovely, lovely stuff and best of all I found a nice 20s style black day dress. It isn't actual 20s, wrong material, wrong types of stitching and hemming but it will go nicely with my cloche and black patent shoes.
I also scored a lovely aqua velvet bow chapeau with veil, and a mass of old lace and ribbons for my many and varied projects.