Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Battle of Procrastination

So, new plan. I find far too many excuses, like most people, to avoid the sewing I need to be doing. In order to better combat this tendency I'm going to report every day on the sewing that I have accomplished. No one should have to sew every day, so I give myself free reign to take three days off per week from sewing (extraordinary circumstances excepted, of course). You all are encouraged to yell at me if you see that I am not keeping to this.
Tonight I took the body of my last chemise and sewed one sleeve on, and French seamed the side of it to finish. Then I skipped ahead a bit because the linen was starting to unravel more than I liked and I hemmed the bottom. I have one more sleeve to put in, finish the other side seam, make some bias for the neckline, gather the front and back necklines and sandwich between the bias, finish the bottoms of the sleeves by gathering them to the sleeve bands, then add the lace to the neckline to finish.
Wow, I didn't realize how much was left. Good thing I have three other chemises done and no set deadline for this other than that I need it before I can start my court manteau.


I am arranging a costume sale at work to get rid of old stock we're not using and make some money for the department. The gentleman who was helping me said that I should feel free to take anything reasonably small I wanted. I know there's a bunch of stuff I'm going to end up buying, but when I saw this set of pin and earrings I had to have them. They are embroidered in the style which I believe is called Petite Point and would make lovely buttons for an 18th century robe a la Turque methinks. I also scored some pristine brown kid-leather gloves which are causing me to rethink the color scheme for my traveling outfit. Funny how one accessory can change the aesthetic of a whole costume.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27, 1779

Nothing but bad news of late it seems. Msr. Poisson was unable to make our first meeting after all, which I did not receive notice of until my morning lever. (I feel that I would accomplish so much more at a coucher, as I think better at night.) We did meet a few days later, but it turned out that mostly he was requesting more money to bribe people with. I gave him part of what he asked for and told him to see what he could do. Meanwhile I have attempted to find some small service with the Queen. Nothing has come of that yet.

A wheel has cracked on my main carriage, just today, which will be expensive to repair I am told. T- writes that he has not heard any news about a commission and is very worried. If he is worried enough to tell me so plainly, then I know it to be true. He knows not when he will be able to come visit Paris, but it increasingly seems that he must in order to find work.

My steward also wrote, as he does nearly daily, and informs me that I must cease gambling if we are to make the money last until December. If only I had won more, but I expect everyone who loses feels that way. I sent out some pearls to be worked into a necklace, but am now told that they are very demode. I cannot keep up with these constantly changing fashions.

The only good news is that Christine is in town, and we are to meet in the Tuileries Gardens Sunday after mass. I have missed her so, it will cheer me considerably to see her again!

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sevres Porcelain at Hillwood Estate

I am going with a dear friend this Saturday to visit Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC. This has many advantages:-
1) It's a beautiful turn-of-the-century mansion with a dining room larger than my apartment at home and gorgeous gardens perfect for meandering in.
2) They serve a royal tea complete with both a selection of tea and champagne, and plenty of nibbly confections, savory and sweet.
3) They have a lovely collection of Sevres porcelain on display (I love Sevres porcelain).
4) They will be featuring the porcelain dessert service of Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan!
5) Ivan Day at Historic Foods is doing an eighteenth century table setting for them! Have you seen his sugar sculptures?!
Anyone in the DC area is strongly encouraged to check it out. The Sevres dessert display does not officially go up until October, so I know I will be back for that, but in the meantime the house, gardens, tea, and good company are pleasures enough.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Countess' New Clothes - A Neck Ruff

Because actually finishing the projects in front of me would be far too responsible.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 1779

Today I finally made a formal visit to Versailles. Having been presented when I reached my majority, there was no need to go through a formal presentation; though I know it has been too many years since I was last here and I have changed somewhat (for the better, I think).

There was, however, the presentation of some few ladies and gentlemen before Their Majesties, and attendant Princes of the Blood, necessitating that I wear the only mantua I had brought with me. I felt very ill at ease due to the fact that it was not made recently in Paris, but then these court costumes have not changed signigicantly in many years. Perhaps it was only the hours of standing and making our obeisance that made me feel poorly.

The ceremony took the better part of the day, from morning until late afternoon, afterwhich I and six or seven others went and watched the royal family dine, and returned home to change our clothes. Having done so I spent my first truly leisurely evening at home with Maman and Mattieu.

Leaving Maman to her embroidery and reading, Mattieu and I walked the gardens and explored the Orangerie at Sully. We even broke into a race at one point, but my slippers were ill-suited to the task and he outran me quickly. Going in I found that a note had come from Msr. Poisson suggesting that he come to Sully tomorrow to discuss getting my petition before the King. I, naturally, sent one back at once accepting this arrangement and am now eagerly awaiting the day.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 1779

I must find a way to cease playing cards for a while, as I have lost much more than I have won. Every night I go to bed far later than I mean to, and am obliged to rise for my Lever far earlier than I want to. Maman is allowing Mattieu a short holiday to enjoy the capital before he resumes his lessons, but next week he will have to return to his studies.

Still have not made a formal visit to Versailles, and my court gown is still in progress as the shop is overrun with orders for the season. I did manage to find a good wigmaster, and am very pleased with the results. I think that I enjoy favorable company in part because of my rank and freedom, but were I less free with my money that might soon cease to be the case. It is hard to know who to trust in the city. No one speaks of the reacquisition to me, but I am fairly sure they must know that that is why I have come.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 16, 1779

The week has been so busy, so full of events, that I hardly have had the will to write of it. Maman and Mattieu are with me now, having just arrived. It has been a pleasant reunion thus far, in part because she has not yet seen the amount I have lost at cards of late. Several days ago I won quite a lot, but then lost most of it, and only two nights ago I lost again, which means I have now lost more than I gained originally. It is a treacherous past time.

I have been to the opera, and found it as delightful as I remembered, though a great deal more German seems to be performed, and no one doubts but that it is the Queen's influence. I have visited Versailles informally, but have yet to make a more formal appearance.

I have been obliged to hold a lever every morning, and do not expect that to cease, as I have been overwhelmed by the number and types of people who attend each day, and I doubt I truly even know half of them. I sent out for a new chocolate service, as one young gallante disrupted it yesterday morning and broke a cup. It was somewhat older in any case, and I have requested an oriental pattern for the new set as they are very much in vogue. I have also acquired a new fan which is painted on ivory, to replace the one that broke in Auvergne.

T- writes that he is desolate without me and may visit in two or three weeks. I hope that he will come with good news about his commission, but so far nothing has been heard. He calculates that we have spent 200 days apart, and barely 6 days together all summer. I wonder if that can be entirely true, as it seems to me we had a whole week prior to my departure. Still, I am relieved that he misses me, and I must confess to thinking on him often.

The other day I invited several people to dine with me in the afternoon, afterwhich we played a game in the gardens. One of the gentlemen, G, suggested a game called "Garters", in which the ladies each removed one garter (while the gentlemen retired behind some shrubbery for modesty's sake) and they guessed who it belonged to. I thought it was perhaps a little risque, but did not want to appear prudish. Mine was fourth guessed, but Msr. G guessed Mme. S right away, and she appeared very annoyed. Later I chanced to overhear them in a heated discussion, and saw him return a garter to her. We had received our garters back after the game, so I wondered if it was not the sister to the one from the game, and how he came by it.

I dine with the Comtesse de Boufflers tonight, who keeps a most interesting list of visitors and is very admired in paris. The Prince de Conti was her lover, but since his death she comes to Paris but rarely.

Must go, Paris has been exciting and pleasurable thus far, may it also be helpful to our cause.

Olympe, Comtesse

Hotel de Sully

I was going to post about the beautiful Roccoco building known as the Hotel de Sully, where Olympe is living during her stay in Paris. I was going to research it well and thoroughly and write up it's history, post pictures, etc. I was.
Then I found Msr. Louis La Vache's page and his wonderful article on the Hotel itself.
The only thing I have to add is that my research indicates that in 1779 the hotel was being let by the Sully family, and was therefore available to visiting aristocracy, thus Olympe's residence. For more information, especially for those in the area and wishing to visit, I recommend this walking tour site.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Administrative Apologies

Hi everyone,

We've recently moved locations (the diary does, in fact, mirror real life somewhat), and for that reason there is a hiatus on posts; but there will be a new one hopefully on the Hotel de Sully this weekend. Until then, I remain...

Most Cordially Yours

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11, 1779

We have arrived safely in Paris having enjoyed blessedly fine weather the entire journey. The Hotel de Sully is a very pleasant residence, and I hope to be happy here. I have not yet visited Versailles, but hope to in a day or two when I have settled in. If I were not so tired I should write more, but I had forgotten how hot Paris can be in August and find that the heat fatigues me greatly.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 7, 1779

After considering a suitable reward, I requested that the young footman who extinguished the fire yesterday be present at my morning Lever. I was mistaken in thinking his name was Gilbert (why did I think that?), it is in fact Pierre-Antoine Boucher, and he is the eldest son of our Head Cook, Marie, and the coachman who is accompanying us to Paris, Bastien. I had considered giving him money, but we are very low on that at the moment with the expenses of the journey, and the harvest not yet in. I also considered granting him time off with pay, but of course he will in essence have that while I am away in any case.

In the end I settled on offering him his choice of gift from Paris. He said that he has never been to Paris, and would not know what to ask for. I told him to consider it for a while, and that if he had not decided by the time that we left he could send word of his choice by my Steward, and I would bring the article back with me. I hope that is a just reward for his quick actions.

My rooms are all full of trunks, and I am torn between excitement and trepidation. The weather is cloudy, but it has not rained for several days, and I hope dearly that it will hold off another two or three for the sake of the roads. My cold is almost completely gone, though I cough a good deal still, but the worst of it seems to be over.

It is almost time. I pray that we may be successful.

Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6, 1779

Yesterday the rain prevented me from accomplishing my goals of riding and painting, but today being fine I was able to do both. I rode in the morning for a few hours, taking in the serene beauty that will no doubt elude me completely in the capital; and then in the afternoon I finished my landscape from last week. I must say I am well pleased with it, and may indeed take it with me on my journey, in which case I must remember to inform Marianne that it should be packed, or else it will be forgotten. I also began a drawing; another self-portrait, but this time perhaps the chosen medium will prove easier to manage. Having not yet completed the face it is difficult to say whether I will be successful. Tomorrow I will continue the attempt.

There was momentary excitement at dinner when one of the candelabras fell over and set the tablecloth on fire, but it was quickly put out by a footman (whose name I believe is Gilbert). Other than that, and a small Lever this morning in which some artisans presented a new cheese which I cannot take with me, it was a quiet day full of pleasant relaxation. Three days remain, and I am just beginning to look forward to all that may occur once we reach Paris.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Folding Fan

Here it is at last, that post I promised to do on the fan in eighteenth century France. To kick things off we have a gorgeous picture of a fan from 1779, the year of the diary, which is etched and painted vellum with ivory sticks and guards. All pictures are courtesy of the V&A museum in London.
The folding fan first made it's appearance in Europe from China in the 17th century, and quickly became a high-status item. There were two kinds of fans; the more typical kind made by glueing leaves to or between the sticks and guards (guards being the end sticks), and what are known as brise (bree-zey) fans, made entirely of slats or sticks overlapping each other.

Fans could be made of ivory, paper, kid, Mother of Pearl, vellum, wood, tortoiseshell, silk, and bone. Styles of decoration included painting, etching, inlaying, punch-hole motifs, carving, jewels, printing and gilding. Chinese Brise fan 1720-30

Painting appears to have been the most common form of decoration, but any combination was acceptable, and the range of styles, subjects, and materials is vast.

Some of the most interesting fans in collections are those which tell of a specific event or story. Biblical and mythological subjects were popular, of course, but some dealt with political matters or current events. Take, for instance, the fan below, which is printed paper on wood and depicts the surrender of the Jacobite leaders after the battle of Culloden in 1746.

There is a Language of the Fan, a kind of secret code to movements made with the item, but this seems to have been a construction of the Victorian Era, and not in use during the eighteenth century. Lace, also,was not much used on fans in the Enlightenment, and is much more appropriate for later portrayals.

I close with some more beautiful fan pictures, and some sites for where to find more information and fans. (Click on Boutique and then Accessoires for fans) (A Cool Breeze- fashionable fans) (Greenwich Fan Museum) (The Hand Fan Museum, CA)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4, 1779

My day began at ten-thirty when Marianne came into my bedchamber with breakfast. I was ill-inclined to rise, and sent her away again until noon, which was indicative of the generally lazy temperment of my entire day. After rising and dressing simply I picked up my fan for a stroll in the gardens and it promptly broke upon opening. It was only paper and tortoiseshell, but still I am vexed that I shall have to have a new one made as soon as we arrive in Paris for I must have several.

Perhaps such an occurance would not be so trying to my nerves if I were not all too well aware of the cost of my impending journey, the cost of any renovations I decide to do to Saint Saturnin, the cost of aiding T- to purchase a commission, the cost of maintaining appearances in the more fashionable world of Paris and Versailles; everything requires a fortune, and whatever others may think, I never seem to have as much wealth as I am expected to.

All of my clothing is packed, and I shall wear only what I am leaving behind for the next few days. T- is very sweet and continues to issue compliments to my beauty, despite the comparative plainness of my appearance. He will remain at Saint Saturnin until word comes of any fruition from his ventures in Riom. If none arise within a month he will journey forth again, perhaps as far as Paris, to try his luck elsewhere. While I would be happy to see him, I would prefer that it not come to that. The presence of Maman would also prevent him from being able to stay with me discreetly, as she is very aware of my preference for his company.

Tomorrow I must try to be less idle. Some painting and reading, letters and riding would be well enough, I think.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3, 1779

One week only until we arrive in Paris. A letter from Mme Le S-B informs me that all is ready for me at the Hotel de Sully, and she personally will be acting as housekeeper, which is a relief as I have put my trust in her thus far and was not looking forward to acquainting someone new with my needs and wishes.

A long stroll in the gardens with a book today was my sole occupation, that and some conversation with T- over tea. A letter to Maman and one to Christine have been all of my correspondance of late, and I find that I am very much looking forward to seeing them both. Maman, it seems, is not as enamored of Andre's would-be-mistress as I had originally believed, and so she and I will be able to work against the match together; a fact which greatly relieves me of my anxiety in the matter.

I had hoped to finish my portrait miniature to give to T- before departing, but it continues so ill that I doubt if I shall be able to convince myself to complete it at all. If I could only copy my image exactly from its reflection, with ease, then I should be most pleased. I have also been contemplating some much-needed renovations to Saint Saturnin, but that will remain in the realm of fantasy until after the matter of the reacquisition is settled.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Photos At Duran Textiles

For anyone unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the Duran Textiles site, go and be amazed. They recreate textiles patterns from the eighteenth century, and though I have never personally ordered from them I have heard only superb things about their quality. Even so, it is enough as a lover of beautiful things to click on the tab that says "Bilder" for the pictures of some reproductions made with their fabrics. There are over 100 pictures and they are all stunning. If you love eighteenth century fashion, you will love this site!

August 1, 1779

My cold remains, and so does the rain; which "raineth every day", or so it seems. A week until we leave for Paris and the packing has taken on a maddening intensity that forces me to realize as I think I had not, that I really am going. I know that I could cancel the whole venture, but after all of the money and the preparations, that would be strange indeed. My dreams have all been of searching for something, and often of falling into snow or grass or mud. This does not bode well, but I am determined not to be superstitious.

Abbe Veronde gave me a special blessing this morning before mass and heard my confession. This time next week we will hear mass and make our final preparations for the journey, which, God-willing, will be swift and safe. I do hope that all of the rain will cease or else the roads will be all mud, and that won't help.

Maman writes that she will join me at the Hotel de Sully on the 15th, and is bringing only her own maid and a tutor for Matthieu. I look forward to seeing my youngest brother most of all, who must be quite grown by now, though we are none of us tall in truth.

No word on the course of the war for some time. The Siege of Gibraltar carries on, but we have not yet breached the garrison; as I am sure we shall given time. T- is with me for the time and will be until I depart, under the auspices of aiding my steward with the travel arrangements. A man who travels alone, I find, is fairly invisible. With a new commission, I trust, society will see him more clearly.
Olympe, Comtesse