Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century

March 31, 2015

18th Century Landscapes and a Modern Skirt

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French. Blindman's Buff. Probably c. 1765, oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) 

Local designer she&reverie continue to be inspired by the 18th century, its fashions, gardens and popular genre paintings. Designer Quinne even told me the name she&reverie "comes from one of Jean-Honore Fragonard's 1770s-era paintings at the Frick Collection." It is lovely, see below.

They have a fun Print & Pattern collection and there is one skirt in there that I just love! The Rococo Skirt (of course!)

The Rococo Skirt by she&reverie

A blushing moon in a starry night sky overlooks an enchanted forest on our fairytale-inspired Rococo Skirt. -designer's website

I love finding clothing that is inspired by art history.  I also love the idea of wearing something that shouts Fragonard or Vernet landscapes for anytime! It is like art history on the go. It reminds me of the popular art historical tights by Black Milk.

Art Historical leggings by Black Milk

Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714 - 1789, A Landscape at Sunset with Fishermen returning with their Catch. 1773, Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London  

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Noon). Painted for Henrich van Halmale, part of the series of the Four Times of the Day. 1661, oil on canvas.  Hermitage Museum.

François Boucher, Landscape with a Pond. 1746, oil on canvas. Hermitage Museum

Jean-Honoré Fragonard  (1732 - 1806), The Progress of Love: Reverie, 1790-91Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection.
RELATED:  The Progress of Love: The Pursuit
The Progress of Love: The Meeting
The Progress of Love: The Lover Crowned
The Progress of Love: The Love Letters
Camp Versailles: 18th century inspired fashion

March 23, 2015

Rare Gobelins tapestries from Paris go on view, first time since 1982

We have another opportunity to view rare 18th century pieces of history (art history!). The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is displaying four very rare Gobelin tapestries, The Jason Tapestries, through April 15, 2015.

The tapestries are not kept on display due to their size and their fragility.  The Atheneum is displaying them for a limited time in its Morgan Great Hall.

The Morgan Great Hall aka Tapestry Hall, in 1920 - 40 years before The Jason Story Tapestries were donated. Image via Wadsworth Atheneum.
The Morgan Great Hall in 1947, displayed are the enormous tapestries from The Jason Story.  The largest of the set, called "Jason subdues the fire-breathing bulls of Mars (Ares) with enchanted herbs," can be seen on the left. (you can see the white bull of Mars) Image via Wadsworth Atheneum.

The Morgan Great Hall became known as Tapestry Hall because  J. Pierpont Morgan Jr. loaned 10 tapestries to adorn its walls in 1915.¹  When J. P. Morgan Jr. died in 1943 the original tapestries were returned to the Morgan estate.

We are lucky to have the chance to see them now because in the 1960s they were nearly destroyed!

They depict the story of Jason and Medea from Ovid's Metamorphosis. The tapestries were designed as a set of 7 by Jean Francois de Troy between 1750 and 1794 and woven in Paris by Manufacture des Gobelins.  Gobelins produced tapestries for the courts of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI.

Of the full set, the Wadsworth has panels 2, 3, 5 and 6. The largest one is 25 feet long and depicts the bulls of Mars, "Jason subdues the fire-breathing bulls of Mars (Ares) with enchanted herbs". They were gifted to the Museum by E. M. Hillard in 1946, previously owned by Lord Iveagh in London.³

Workers washing 18th century tapestry at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Image by Alan Decker. ³

In the 1960s four of the tapestries were dry cleaned, an event that was labeled as disastrous.  "'They should never have been cleaned - they were almost destroyed by the chemicals,' said a museum spokesman." ³ The tapestries sat in storage for the next 20 years.

In 1982 they were brought out but needed to be cleaned and restored.  The task would cost an estimated $13,000.  The Atheneum had conservators work on the tapestries in plain view.  Visitors to the museum could watch the restoration process live in Gengras Court, an open-air courtyard at the center of the museum campus.  Once the restoration was complete the tapestries were exhibited.

Don't miss this chance to view them if possible!

Detail. Troy, Jean François de (French, 1679-1752) (author of design & cartoon creator) [painter]; Chevillon (French, act. 1740-1760) (author of design, borders) [painter]; Cozette, Pierre-François (French, b.1714-d.1801) (workshop) [weaver]; Audran, Michel (French, b.1701-d.1771) (workshop) [weaver].  Marriage of Jason and Creusa, Story of Jason, Panel 5. 1751-1793, Gobelins Textiles - Tapestries. Wadsworth Atheneum.

Troy, Jean François de (author of design & cartoon creator) [painter] Chevillon (author of design, borders) [painter] Audran, Michel (workshop) [weaver] or Cozette, Pierre-François (workshop) [weaver], "Jason subdues the fire-breathing bulls of Mars (Ares) with enchanted herbs, " Story of Jason panel 2. Gobelins manufactory - textiles, tapestry. Wadsworth Atheneum. West Hartford News.

Troy, Jean François de (French, 1679-1752) (author of design & cartoon creator) [painter]; Chevillon (French, act. 1740-1760) (author of design, borders) [painter]; Audran, Michel (French, b.1701-d.1771) (workshop) [weaver]. "Creusa consumed by flames after putting on the poisoned robe" Story of Jason. 1761-1793, Gobelins manufactory - textiles, tapestry. Wadsworth Atheneum.

Troy, Jean François de (author of design & cartoon creator) [painter] Chevillon (author of design, borders) [painter] Audran, Michel (workshop) [weaver] or Cozette, Pierre-François (workshop) [weaver], "Soldiers born from dragon's teeth fight against each other" Story of Jason panel 3. Gobelins manufactory - textiles, tapestry. Wadsworth Atheneum.

¹   "The Jason Tapestries." Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. November 8, 2014. Accessed March 10, 2015.
²   "Four Tapestries Given to Museum by E. M. Hilliard." The Hartford Courant (1923-1989), Sep 29, 1946.
 ³   Charles, Eleanor. "Tapestries get a sudsy fresh start." The New York Times. May 22, 1982. Accessed March 10, 2015. 

March 17, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Part 2

In which I try to organize my home the Konmari way. And omg clothes.
Library Journal had a fun review of The Life-changing magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo.  As I am on a spring cleaning kick, I thought this book was a must read.  I tried to get a copy of the ebook at NYPL (my go to for books!)  but there were already 430 holds on it! Yes 430. Ouch!

March 10, 2015

Spring Cleaning Part 1...Is it spring yet??

Spring is on its way, or at least I am desperately wishing for it to arrive.  The weather in NY has been slightly warmer but we still have plenty of snow and ice in the mornings. I have resorted to pulling out my favorite springtime candles and just the other day I even opened the windows - it reached a blazing 40F degrees! 

Naturally, with spring comes the need to organize, sort and clean.  A few weeks ago the I.T. department was switching email servers at work and I went a few days without access to my account.  When I regained access I had hundreds of emails to sort. 

February 26, 2015

The 18th century drawing portfolio in art

Nicolas Bernard Lépicié, Boy with a Drawing Book. c. 1772 oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum.

I went all through college with a large burgundy drawing portfolio that was too heavy to carry. Just last year, still stuffed with various papers, the leather straps on it broke! I know I overstuffed it. Here is a glimpse at some 18th century portfolios.  A young artist with his own portfolio and Madame du Pompadour's, which had lovely green straps!

February 22, 2015

Downton Abbey's Wedding Gown Will Brighten Your Day

Last night was Lady Rose's wedding on Downton Abbey on PBS. I didn't expect to be so taken with her gown even though the fashions have really been stunning this season.  I recently read an interview with Downton Abbey's costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins, where she said she tries to find as many original vintage pieces as possible for the cast to wear.  The vintage pieces that are found (in shops and flea markets) are restored to their former vibrancy before the cast wears them.

The wedding gown for Lady Rose is one of these cases.  Robbins found the dress in a vintage shop! A real authentic piece!

Did you like Lady Rose's wedding gown?

Read on for lots of gorgeous images of the vintage gown!

February 03, 2015

18th Century Dress Layers and Steps


Recently on twitter @RaffiJefri asked me about the step by step process of wearing an 18th-century gown such as one Marie Antoinette might have worn.  This is a fun question and there are some really excellent resources on this very topic.

Here are some video tutorials that illustrate the pieces, layers and process of wearing a fashionable 18th-century gown!