"...the splendor of royal dining during the ancien régime"
Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered is on view now through November 11, 2010. The exhibition features an amazing dining service on display in the Wrightsman Galleries. Why is this service so wonderful? It was made for the Duke Albert Casimir of Sachsen–Teschen and his wife Marie Christine, Marie Antoinette's older sister! The service was used at their banquets, and you can just imagine the table which it occupied...
The set took roughly four years to make, and was created for the royal couple by the court imperial goldsmith Josef Würth. Over the years the pieces were split up but in 2002 two wine coolers were discovered in a private collection. Now the Metropolitan Museum has on display the enormous set of over 300 pieces; wine coolers, plates, candlesticks, cloche &c. It is well worth a visit. The set has not been on display since the early twentieth century so do not miss your opportunity!
Würth was very talented, as you can see from this detail of the wine coolers,which serve as a focal point of the set. The design is neoclassical, the details cast shadows and the metal reflects light. The effect creates a wide range of contrast, making the scene pop out to the viewer. You will be pretty amazed at the detail and time that went into creating these pieces.
The friendship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe seemed to be one that grew from tragedy and would later be strengthened by it. When she was widowed at eighteen, Marie Antoinette took the shocked girl under her queenly wings of friendship.
The two were able to bond and became very close, close enough for people to talk about the nature of the relationship. She shared a similar friendship with the duchesse de Polignac, but the friendship was not as strong.
When Marie Antoinette and her family were stationed at the Tuileries, the princesse stayed in apartments right next door. She responded greatly to the dire situation the royal family was in, and endeavored to support her friend. Sometimes she would leave to tend to her aged father in law, the duc de Penthièvre at the chateau de Vernon.
It was during one of these trips away from her majesty, that Marie Antoinette thought it best that Lamballe stay at the chateau and not return to Paris, for her own safety. To persuade her friend not to return, she wrote the following letter, as stated by Lamartine, the letter was discovered later hidden in the princesses' hair. Not sure the provenance from that point but a good story none-the-less!
"Do not leave Vernon, my dear Lamballe, before you are perfectly recovered. The good Duc de Penthièvre would be sorry and distressed, and we must all take care of his advanced age, and respect his virtues. I have so often told you to take heed of yourself, that if you love me you must think of yourself; we shall require all our strength in the times in which we live. Oh do not return, or return as late as possible. Your heart would be too deeply wounded; you would have too many tears to shed over my misfortunes, you who love me so tenderly. This race of tigers which infests the kingdom would cruelly enjoy itself if it knew all the sufferings we undergo. Adieu, my dear Lamballe; I am always thinking of you, and you know I never change."
Lady writer Madame Campan, born Jeanne Louise Henriette Genet, is responsible for the well written and entertaining title: The Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette. Aside from the book she had many other accomplishments, including securing the position as lectrice to the daughters of France, lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette, governess to the Bonapartes and later Napoleon would place her in charge of the Imperial Educational Establishment of the Legion of Honour at Ecouen! Quite the resume!
She was born on October 2, 1752, as the eldest daughter of what would become a large family. Her father was responsible for her very strong education; he had been schooled at the College de Navarre in Paris, the University of Paris and spent several years abroad in Germany and England. She was a quick learner, and by age fourteen was reciting scenes by Racine to her father's friends and associates.
Some of these associates included playwrights, musicians and even Goldoni, who taught Louis XV's daughters the Italian language. In time these men would share their great knowledge with Henriette, expanding her already long list of accomplishments. Ironically, she would soon become the reader to Goldoni's prized pupils. By age fifteen, some women at court knew of Henriette and her remarkable talents, which led to gossip. All good of course!
She could sing, play the harp and speak several languages. She was sweet and was a skilled reader. This was her ticket to an interview for the position of lectrice to mesdames. At just fifteen years old she left her home for a new home at Versailles (sound familiar?) She would live at the palace until the Revolution forced everyone out. Before she left a regretful father advised her:
"Do not allow their [mesdames] compliments to elate you too much; rather be on your guard. Whenever you receive flattering attentions, you may be sure that you will gain an enemy. I warn you my daughter against the inevitable trials which you in your new career will have to face; and I swear on this day, when you are about to enjoy your good fortune, if I had been able to choose another profession for you, never would I have abandoned my beloved child to the torments and dangers of Court life."
She did something right, and survived the intriguing court of Louis XV, and thrived in that of Louis XVI not to mention the revolution. She notes one embarrassing moment, age fifteen, her first conversation with Louis XV, who was about to go on a hunt:
Louis:Mademoiselle Genet, I am told you are very learned-that you know four of five foreign languages. Henriette: I only know two, Sire.
L: Which are they?
H: English and Italian.
L: and can you speak them fluently?
H: Yes, very fluently.
L: Well, that is quite enough to drive any husband quite crazy!
After her career she claims that a book inspired her to collect her memories for publication. Surely aware of her special status (survival?) in a very turbulent country, she writes: "I became privy to some extraordinary facts, the publication of which may be interesting, and the truth of the details will form the merit of my work."
The focus of her Memoirs is just as stated; they are memoirs of the court of Marie Antoinette. The book is full of snapshots of those who ruled the cliques, interesting facts and memorable stories. Madame was a strong Royalist and her memoirs drip with devoted loyalty to the Royal family. The warm light constantly cast on them is clear, and we can safely say the bias certainly paints a pretty picture.
"I have put together all that concerned the domestic life of an unfortunate Princess, whose reputation is not yet cleared of the stains it received from the attacks of calumny, and who justly merited a different lot in life, a different place in the opinion of mankind after her fall."
You can read my review of Campan's Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette. If you would like to read the book you can download the e-book for free in several formats thanks to Girlebooks.com!
The peasantry of France, in a despair ridden world, had been described as so famished they would risk life for life. What risks were they taking? In one instance it was noted attacks were made on private grounds; the slaughter of game for food. Risky business but fair enough.
Other types of 'attacks' on property included an assault on the Abbey of Saint Denis. The great abbey, final home of France's late kings and queens, sat among many acres of woodland.
Those who lived near the abbey took to cutting down the trees around it, without any permission, of course. Cart after cart were filled with the trunks of aged trees and hauled off the property quite illegally. The horse drawn carts made no secret of their cargo, and the wood was transported to villages such as Tremblay and Vert Galant. The wood was sold there on the public market while wood rangers (those who supplied wood) were threatened with physical harm.
An estimate on the damages caused by the attack on the woodlands of Saint Denis was 60,000 livres! Similar property 'attacks' occurred elsewhere; no attention paid to whose property was being meddled with.
I asked all that entered to let us know what your favorite thing about the 18th century was, and here are our results and a handful of comments!
The fashion and the color palette!-amy
[Stops to raise water as have no champagne in office.]...I love the robe a la polonaise!-Tulip
Fashion is more than clothing, it's art.-Mariko
Intricate embroidery on beautiful brocade is just heavenly. And the slippers! Sigh.-Laura Ingalls Gunn
I was going to say my favorite thing about the 18th century are the beautiful shoes!-Diane
Music experimented a revolution with master minds such as Mozart, Beethoven and Paganini.-Miss Honnête
the music! It is my favorite thing from the 18th century which I can still really enjoy fully.-MmeHistoire
13% Life styles of the rich and famous
I love studying the rituals. I'm glad I don't have to know them all, but I'm fascinated by the rules of court.-Isara
For me it has to be the parties. What a sight they must have been!!! -Lily
For me it would have to be the beautiful and enigmatic Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire...-TammieMagee
I love the culture - the dances and the rules.-Joey
Being dainty and fashionable and living in such grand estates! -Dolly
Versailles is my favorite "thing"-Anabel
Palaces like Sanssouci and the Peterhof amaze me.-Timeeka
I enjoy looking at peoples portraits and every time I learn about someone I haven’t heard of before or take an interest in someone’s life...-Marquis Jacques
I really adore the inspiration this era gives me for decorating my boudoir.-Cathy
*Sheaths cutlass, plants fists on hips* I love Revolutions. Technology, philosophy, politics...-Pauline
My favorite thing about the 18th century is fascinating in its mix of the changing mentalite of modern thought and the continuing medieval worldview held by the majority of people-Rod McCaslin
8% Hair styles
Honestly, I love the hair of the 18th century the most. Some incredibly styles came out of that century! -L Öst
And with that came the pouf that we all love.-Aleks
The most amazing literature... Not just Austen, Fielding, Radcliffe, Defoe &c... but some of the NAUGHTIEST and most SCANDALOUS stuff I have ever laid my eyes on! For Marie Antoinette fans: try 'Le Godmiche Royal.' Saucy stuff. -Emily
"You must never tell your lover that you do not believe in God. As to your husband, it doesn't matter. But with a lover you must always keep a retreat open, and a religious scruple can end a love-affair at once."
Let's face it. In the eighteenth century women of style knew how to accessorize. Call it excessive, some of it was just spot on and who is to say we cannot learn from them?
I have compiled some images of hair accessories from fashionable ladies of the eighteenth century. This is just for fun and to get an idea of some different ways you can accessorize your own pouf , based on history! There are, of course, countless ways to wear your hair, but if you are looking to add a little eighteenth century flair this summer, this post is for you! Have your own fashion ideas? Let us know in the comments section!
Hats! Can be adorned with satin ribbons, plumes and even jewels. Fasten a brooch to a hat for a bit of shimmer. Plumes that droop with weight look elegant, plumes that stand up tall shout for attention!
Pearls: drape a string of pearls through the hair for a very classy look. To attach the pearls use little bobby pins that match your natural hair color. This will make the pearls appear to stay in the hair on their own. You can loop them through curls or just let them dangle down to the side. Tie a small bow on the end of the string of pearls for an added feminine touch.
Plumage! Size matters, as we all know! Add some plumes to your hair for a, dare I say, exotic look? Not only do they suggest a soft, feminine style but they add movement creating a more dynamic look. They come in all shades so get creative! You can also find weighty ones that fall down on the ends or as mentioned earlier, ones that stand up more tall. Even peacock plumes would do! If you are not so ambitious, try using a smaller feather or group a few together on a headband.
Of course there is the classic, flower in the hair! This can be paired up with anything or just worn on its own. This has really never gone out of style. You can attach these to bobby pins or head bands so that they stay in place. Add a faceted bead to the center of your flower for a surprise sparkle.
Summer is a great time to bunch up some fine fabric, spray it with a bit of fabric stiffener and pin it in your hair! That does not sound as good as it looks....If you bunch up some shinny material so it looks full, let some drape down your back and decorate it wtih flowers, brooches, pearls &ct. you will have a stunning and very elegant look. It may take practice to pin this into your hair. I had to create this type of fabric bunch for my , a total summer hat.
Finally, the simplicity of a ribbon or piece of lace may be all you need for a stunning look. There is nothing to it! Just pick your favorite ribbon or band of material. You can even wrap a thin ribbon around some light weight sheer fabric for a more luxurious feel - yet still simple, natural and elegant. Too easy? Wrap a string of beads around it! This is one of my favorite styles because it is easy and looks good on anyone!
*snaps fan* looks around at all the guests... Today Heather and I are marking the second bloggiversary of the Gossip Guides!
So I would like to thank all of you who have been here from the start, or are just chiming in, for your intrigues and wit! If there is one thing I love here it is all the great conversations we have!
To celebrate there is plenty of champagne and other sparkling drinks, dainties and profiteroles and of course good conversation! To top it off, rather than fireworks, I am hosting a fabulous giveaway and winners will be announced Friday 14 May. Be sure to check out Heathers giveaway too!
To enter: Leave a comment on this post by May 14, telling me what you like best about the 18th century! Anything goes!
What is up for grabs?
One lucky commenter, drawn at random, will win a copy of Le salon de musique de Marie-Antoinette (audio CD). This album is a compilation of songs from Marie Antoinette's time and world. There is a variety of composers including "Mozart, Gluck, Grétry and Paisiello, with a tender song by Marie-Antoinette herself."
The luck of the draw does not end there! Two other commenters will receive a lovely mini Marie Antoinette inspired keepsake box, in the shape of a book, with a green tea vegetable based barre de savon! There is even a little cameo on the inside lid! (by Punch Studio)
The three winners will be posted on this blog May 14th so do check back! Good luck and I can't wait to hear from you!