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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Relics: Marie Antoinette's hair


In my search for objects associated with Marie Antoinette I've found a number of items of jewellery reputedly containing locks of her hair.
This particular locket is in the British Museum. The back of the locket reads:
A lock of hair of MARIE ANTOINETTE, Queen of FRANCE given by her to Lady Abercorn by whom it was given to her sister Lady Julia Lockwood, whose daughter Lady Napier gave it to W.S. 1853.
The museum website notes: "If this blonde lock of hair is indeed that of Marie Antoinette it must have been presented  before the abortive flight to Varennes in 1791, when the King and Queen tried to escape from France.  Marie Antoinette's hair went white overnight, and on her return to Paris she presented a ring to the Princess de Lamballe containing a lock of her hair which was inscriber 'Blanchis par la douleur (whitened by sorrow: see Campan 1833).  The ring is now in the Musee Carnavalet, Paris."
Other items I've found include this ring containing Louis XVI's and Marie Antoinette's hair which was given to Madame de Tourzel, the Governess of the royal children.
I don't know how good the provenance is of these items but I like to think they are genuine. 

Here are the other photos I found. This locket is in the Musee Carnavalet along with the ring mentioned above.
I don't know where these other two items are located. If you can elaborate on any of the items I'd love to hear from you.  



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Owned by Marie Antoinette

Some time ago I posted about how little survived of Marie Antoinette's personal possessions.  The vast majority were looted or destroyed during the revolution and those that remain are in various collections.
However while re-reading Caroline Weber's book "Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution" I found this "apple-green bodice".
Where it resides I don't know. 
This image is in the digital collection of the New York Public Library.  Printed on the border of the image it says: "Trouvé dans le manuscrit de Mme Eloffe" which my dubious french translates as "found in or within the manuscript of Madame Eloffe".
Caroline Weber records Madame Eloffe was a "relatively obscure marchande des modes" before being taken up by Marie Antoinette to repair and refurbish her dresses in the wake of Rose Bertin's bankruptcy gambit which had reduced the Minister of Fashion's collaborations with the Queen.
Madame Eloffe's account books were published with extensive annotations in the late 19th century under the title Modes et usages au temps de Marie-Antoinette. (Paris : Didot et Cie, 1885) Eloffe, Madame , Author. Reiset, comte de (Gustave-Armand-Henry) (1821-1905), Editor.
However none of that tells us where this bodice is now. Perhaps it is in the Musee Carnavalet outside Paris with those other sad remnants of her life.
Can you shed any light on its whereabouts? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Georgian buckle

There's a very nice Georgian buckle on eBay with two hours to go.  
As it's a single one it would look stunning on a lovely big Georgian hat with a stripped ribbon around the crown.
I'm tempted but I can't, I'm being good!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Depressed and a Queen Anne doll

Because I have so many ideas going around in my head and not nearly enough time, I have lots of projects on the go at any given time.  
So it's not surprising that I am planning yet another project.
Anyway I have wanted for a long time to dress a wooden Queen Anne style doll. And let's face it, it would be much easier to buy a basic wooden jointed doll and modify it to my particular requirements and then paint and dress it.
However finding a suitable doll is a pain in the butt.  
I can remember years ago I used to see them on eBay all the time but I can't find one now or when I do, they only want to ship to the US not to Australia. Sigh.
I even went looking for my carving tools but I've put them away somewhere and can't find them. Rats.
Maybe I should just try making one out of Fimo or Sculpy. But I do like the idea of a wooden one.
.
In the meantime I went looking at photos and I like this little lady who is on eBay at the moment because she has a smile which is unusual.
Better just count my blessings and go to bed!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Historical 'dos' I'd like to have attended

Often when I read historical books I think, "ooh I'd like to have seen that!". Which got me thinking about which historical events I'd like to have attended.
And goodness there are so many to choose from. 
You could of course, attend the Marriage Mart at Almack's or the Assembly Rooms in Bath (it cracks me up that the Assembly Rooms there are in Bennett Street) or take the waters in the Pump Room. 
You could attend a coronation, a hot air balloon ascension, the Queen's Drawing Room or any number of other events.
For me, number one would have to be the Duchess of Richmond's Ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. I know it's not 18th century but I can't help it.  I've read a lot about it and would love to have seen it, even as a fly on the wall. (The Battle Waterloo fascinates me - but the blood and guts would have been hard to handle.)
Number two would be one of the gambling parties held by Marie-Antoinette or frankly any other titled or wealthy lady.
Number three would be one of the Devonshire House Galas for the Whigs.
Number four would be Venice during the 18th century.
I'd also like to have seen the coronation of Elizabeth I and the Armada but I'm wandering off century badly now.
So if you could get into your time machine or a DeLorean DMC-12 with appropriate modifications and travel back, what event in the 18th century or Georgian history would you like to watch or be a part of?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

17th century heels to set me on fire!


I do seem to have the 'I wants' at the moment. This time it's 17th century court heels!  
Yes, those uber rococco brocade shoes with the flaired heels like the ones in "The History of Costume" by Carl Kohler. And in fact, here's one we prepared earlier!
I love this shoe. I lust after it. My little rococco soul weeps with desire for it.
Disgusting isn't it!
But now it seems it may be within my grasp!
Lauren at American Duchess (who never sleeps) has lovely 17th century court heels in development amongst others!
Check out the American Duchess shop for Lauren's 'in development line'!
In particular I draw your attention to the "Pompadour" Court heels which somehow or other I hadn't seen before!
These are to be made in brocade with a leather heel and lace closure. And they'll be perfect for anything roughly from the late 1600s through to 1740s. 
I love the pointy upturned toe and the voluptuous heel! 
I can't help it, they make my heart go pittypat!
But Lauren, please, please, pleeeeease can we have a little more flair on the heel like the brocade shoe above. 
That curve on the front of the heel as it turns back towards the toe creates such a beautiful line it makes me want to cry!
I have dreamt about shoes like this!  
Or goodness imagine them with (dare I say it) RED HEELS!  
I'll have to have a pair in each colour so I can dye the heels on the taupe ones red!
OMG I could even stud them with diamantes! hahahahhaha
THESE are the shoes that set me on fire!
To borrow your expression Lauren - SQUEEEEEEEE!
(Pompadour image is the property of American Duchess Co.)

Edwardian Shoes are just around the corner!

Lauren at American Duchess has been busy again. When does that woman sleep? 
This time she's developed a lovely Edwardian shoe - the Astoria
They will be available in ebony and dyeable ivory. And I have to say the ebony ones really got me!
I don't have any  Edwardian clothes but I'd wear these shoes anywhere! I'm sure I have pictures of my Nanny wearing shoes just like them! Congrats Lauren they are smashing!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mother of pearl gaming counter addiction

Hmm I got a little carried away on eBay again. 
These adorable little, exquisitely carved, authentic 18th century mother of pearl gaming counters get to me. 
Many collectors favour the armorial type featuring a coat of arms but I like the ones with monograms.  
A coat of arms is a family identifier but a monogram is personal - an individual's possession.
Some like this one (at left) have both a coat of arms and a monogram.
Someone in the 18th century, a man or a woman, owned, carried and played with  them.  They were designed, planned for and waited on. 
You sent your order off with a ship's captain to China to one of the small villages where carving them was the main industry and waited for a year before your lacquer box of gaming chips arrived. I can imagine the delight they brought when they arrived because I know how excited I was when my little box of goodies arrived! 
When I hold them, I travel in time. 
They are wonderfully smooth and divinely iridescent. 
How marvellous that two hundred years later I can hold them in my hand and marvel over their beauty.
I will never know the name of the craftsman who made them, the captain of the ship, or who they were made for. 
I will never know where they lived, or whether they gambled for fun or were addicted.  
But I know who might be addicted now.
Oh and you might want to check out chezbill.com who has masses of information about the history and designs of these counters. 
See also my earlier post on my growing collection of counters. Oh that I could afford an entire set! 

Portrait of a lady in progress

Finally photos of my 18th century portrait progress. I have blogged previously about the old oval wooden frame I'd bought. It has since sustained some further damage when it fell off my work table and bounced across the floor. 
And of course, here is the canvas I cut apart to fit it into the frame since there were no commercially available ones of the appropriate size. You can see I tried to cut the canvas itself a little larger to fold around the board edges - I thought it might be a bit tidier that way although no one is going to see it under the frame.

In the process of painting Lady Sarah (the name was obviously influenced by my recent viewing of Garrow's Law) I have painted and scrubbed off a few layers, changed her eye colour and changed her hair colour, bought more paints (well they were on special) and started a second canvas because I was so frustrated with the first.
Looking back at the stages through the photos I took I wish I'd left well alone after this one. She at least is vital and looks alive to me in this first version. However it is now lost under layers and layers of paint.
What came after is quite stiff and I suppose in some ways is very typical of some old portraits by not very good artists. John Hoppner and Thomas Gainsborough have no competition in me. 
I am however still relatively pleased with what I have done to date since Lady Sarah looks like a human being. Not a live one perhaps but never mind. It has been 30 something years since I painted a portrait and there's still a long way to go.
I've left it alone for more than a week now which was a good idea. I was getting frustrated and it was showing in the painting. But I am itching to get back to it now. 
(You'll have gathered that the new camera cable arrived YAY. It didn't work BOO.  I found my old camera cable ON THE COMPUTER DESK - YAY. Any closer it would have bitten me.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Take me to the Opera!

Shades of Georgette Heyer novels. There is something about sedan chairs (like this one on eBay). 
Oh my goodness I love them.   
They have that whole tapered shape not unlike many etui/necessaires of the period.  
I can imagine myself being 'chaired' around to elegant card parties with ostrich plumes in my hair (perhaps not too high or I wouldn't fit in).
And while they look the height of elegance I am sure the 'ride' was a bit bumpy. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sir Isaac Newton


My oh my, while looking through 17th and 18th century portraits I found this one of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir Godfey Kneller when Newton was 46 years old. 
Crikey I've never seen a scientist or mathematician who looked this hot. 
I have to say it's up there with one of my other favourites.
This portrait of Alfred Lord Tennyson by Samuel Laurence certainly aided my memorising of the Lady of Shallot. Unfortunately he did the whole hairy face thing as he got older.
Do you have any historical eye candy you'd like to share?