Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Spaniel, Part Deux

Back in February I posted about the spaniel in the 18th century, and since then I have noticed a huge number of portraits that feature them. My attentiveness is probably due to the mind-control exerted by my Queen, Mistress, Owner, puppy; Reinette, "Little Queen". For anyone who hasn't already heard this, "reinette" was the nickname of Madame de Pompadour after a fortune-telller predicted that she would rise to become the mistress of a King.

Some of my favorite portraits:-

Chocolate DrinkersLady at her desk by Boilly

Mme de Pompadour en deshabille by Boucher
Queen Charlotte 1781

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Stationery Search

I promised I would tell you more about my search for 18th century stationery, so here it is.
Stationery, meaning specialized paper products, has been around since the Middle Ages at least and was once the domain of stationers who had permanent shops mainly near Universities and government centers where paper usage was at its highest. They were responsible not only for paper supply, but also for publishing and copyright privileges. While beautiful and customized stationery would not become truly de rigeur until the Victorian era, nice handwriting and good quality papers and seals were still a recognized status symbol in the 18th century.

"You write with ease, to show your breeding."- Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Here are a few modern options for those fine writing supplies you'll need in all of your correspondance.

Sullivan Press has a set of paper, ribbon, quill and ink available in the style of the Revolutionary War era. Includes instructions on creating envelopes and examples of calligraphy. Retails for $7.50.

Want something a little more whimsical? Check out these Marie-Antoinette-inspired cards from Paper Nosh. They are part of an entire series of 18th-century themed stationery; cards, paper, invitations, and postage. They even come custom-wrapped in beatiful boxes with bows for no additional charge.

Got wax? These chess-piece shaped seals are reproductions of 18th century chess pieces and come custom-cut with your very own design. $150.00 each from Wax Works.
Need advice on how to use your new sealing wax and stamper? Jas Townsend and Son have a video tutorial just for you!
My best friend and I still send letters back and forth and it is traditional for us to give each other special stationery for Christmas. Maybe this year I'll add some sealing wax and stamps to the bundle!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dinnerware with a historic flair

While searching for reproduction stationery (more on that later) I came across a merchant site called The 18th Century Merchant which sounds just perfect. It sells some reproductions, but mostly nice accoutrements for discerning tastes. One item of interest is their signature dinnerware.  The First Ladies series was inspired by the wives and daughters of some of the Presidents of the United States, and part of the proceeds benefit the National First Ladies Library. The second collection, the White House dinnerware collection, features 16 different patterns based on or entirely recreated from the historical services used by the presidents while entertaining at the official residence. Prices vary.

My favorite is the John Quincy Adams service pictured above. The delicate pink and gold with its neoclassical motifs would look beautiful next to some lace-trimmed serviettes and rose-topped petit-fours.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shopping the Museums

It is a miserable gray day here, I must have some color! How about a bright shopping spree through the 18th century sections of the world's museums? I'll start with this sweet pink polonaise, after all one must have the skirt up off the ground if we venture out today.

If we do go out we'll need a pair of pockets to put the shopping money in, like this pair from c.1725.
It is still summer though, so how about a fan? This one in gouache (paint) from abut 1760 ought to do the trick!
Then, of course, we can't forget about shoes, after all the polonaise skirt will ensure that they are seen. 
These purple ones with the pattens will help to keep our feet nice and dry.
A hat perhaps to keep the rain off our faces? Something like this should do the trick. Fabulous! Now we are ready to go out and face the day, however gray it may be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11th, 1780- The Comte de Rodez

A black day. A letter this morning from F- confirms my greatest fears; Henri-Phillipe "Le Plus Juste", Comte de Rodez, is dead. Le plus juste, the most just, the most fair. He took his own life.

His mother arrived, R- recalls, and the doctor was with him, bleeding him. The doctor stepped out of the room to speak to R's mother and left his tools next to the patient's bed. When they re-entered the room, only moments later, he had cut himself deeply in several parts of the arm. They attempted to staunch the bleeding, but he threw off the doctor twice before F- restrained him. "Do not touch me!" he spat, and turn his face away. They could not stop the bleeding, and he quickly died.

How could F- write the words?! He makes no accusations, but I do not even know if our marriage is still intended, how will he even look at me now? I read the letter and got to my feet so quickly I upset my dressing table. In shock and unable to speak I stumbled out into the hall, crossing to the gallery; the portraits of my ancestors stared disapprovingly down at me. I paced, hands at my head, my heart, my mouth, my eyes. Still no tears have come, they are locked inside, a grief too great to be expelled.

It is my fault, say what comforting words he may, F- must know that. Had not I avoided marriage there would have been no cause for the Marquis' comments, but even then I need not have involved my friends in his humiliation, and had he not been humiliated R- need not have dueled him, and had he not lost the duel the Marquis would not have tried to poison me, and had I not nearly succumbed to the poison F- would not have thought it necessary to undertake to protect me with his plan for marriage, and even so I need not have accepted it! I let others protect me, fight for me, and after first risking his life in the duel for me R- has now died for me! I am to blame, it is me.

I ask God for forgiveness but receive no answer, the saints of Auvergne have forsaken me and heaven is quiet and cold and empty. My selfishness has left me quite alone and I am right to feel it. Yet still my evil nature prevails in thinking that I have lost a champion, as if he were mine and I some lady to command men with a white hand and flowery words. If I write to T- it will only be to bring him here that I may be comforted, and that I do not deserve.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 8, 2010