Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shopping the Winter

I like to check out what topics people are enjoying and where around the world viewers are visiting from. One of the posts that seems to get the most hits is "Shopping the Museums". Whether this is because that particular post was bookmarked and used to re-visit the site, or it genuinely holds a lot of interest for visitors, I've decided to do another one, and this time, because it's cold here, we'll look for things to keep warm in.

When cold weather hits a quilted petticoat is essential, like this one from the Williamsburg collection. Note the band of lighter fabric at the top to reduce the bulk at the waistband.

Not only will this 1780s burgundy polonaise look well with the raspberry-red petticoat, but it will also be short enough to keep the hem out of the muck in the streets.

Of course we won't want to leave the house without a fur-lined cloak and muff, like Mrs. Bootle's. We could make it green, just to be extra festive.

Then it would match this calash (collapsible bonnet) from 1780, which will serve to keep our hair dry and un-tussled.

What have I forgotten? Oh right, shoes! I favor these red satin ones from the 1770s-80s, with their darling buckles. They're in great condition, but after tromping through the wintry streets they might not be.

Perhaps we should add these green velvet pattens (overshoes/shoe protectors), even though they're from the 1740s I think they'll suffice. Cringing at the idea of getting the beautiful velvet wet? I know I am.

And voila! We are ready to go out! Shopping anyone?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29th, 1781

Cousin Godefroy and I attended the opera last night, which I was initially loathe to do after the crush of the last visit. I don't think those who advertised the free performance for the opening of the new Opera House were expecting so many members of the lower classes to take advantage of the opportunity. It did not make for a pleasant evening. Last night was much better, though I can't say much for the performance itself.

Mme de Rodez has continued to be a thorn in my side. Godefroy assures me that he sent a note to her expressing his delight at being able to present her daughter at court, but they have not yet arranged a time for him to meet her. When I pressed him for the details of their communication I must have tipped my hand, because he then became very interested in my reasons for wanting to sponsor the girl. I explained again that I felt such sympathy for her plight, with her sole brother and protector, who was a dear friend of mine, gone. I think he's decided that R- and I were lovers, because he then began to ask about the reasons for the sudden and rather last-minute failure of my marriage plans with F-. I dissembled as best I could.

As if the universe were contriving to bring the matter to light, I saw F- at the theatre with another young woman on his arm. I don't know who she was, and I had no desire to start rumors by asking after her name from others. F- did not seem to see me, at least I never caught him looking in my direction. If he is in the market for a marriage again I had best act quickly to introduce he and Mlle de Rodez.

My estate agent has asked me to determine what I would like done with those furnishings that remain at Opme. The new Baron and his family would like to move in before Christmas, but I am not inclined to travel all the way to Opme myself at this time of year; the roads would be terrible! I am therefore leaving it in my agent's hands to find an area of the castle to close off and in which to store everything. I look forward to the funds arriving, and wish the renters to move in with haste. I have plans for that money.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Cause De- The Three Estates

"French society was divided into three orders: the clergy, the nobility, and the third estate (or commons)...There were approximately 130,000 members of the clergy, 110,000 members of the nobility, and 24,750,000 members of the third estate. The clergy and the nobility each owned about a fifth of the nation's land but paid no taxes, while the third estate shared the rest of the land and carried the entire tax burden." - Fatal Purity

It's not really surprising, given this arrangement and their limited representation in government (each estate received an equal vote to the others) that the people of the third estate (which included the wealthy and educated bourgeoisie) would demand a more fair legislative process based on number of representatives.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review- The Architecture of the 18th-Century

For such a slim volume it took me a while to read through this one, despite the fact that I had read it years ago when I was much younger. It's a good source for understanding the various styles that came and went and fed one another, as well as where such styles developed (or in some cases surprisingly did not). Certain types of buildings, namely churches, theatres, palaces, and prisons were dealt with specifically, but very few less grandiose examples were explored; and interior decoration was largely limited to staircases, libraries, chapels, and Adams techniques.

The book pre-supposes a good understanding of the time period in general, and the events that shaped the development of differing kingdoms and countries. Don't expect a lot of context to be given, it is left to the reader to draw conclusions between events and architectural preferences, but you will learn a lot about what kind of buildings inspired specific architects, and who they learned from and in their turn inspired and taught themselves.

I would reccomend this book for those interested in a general overview of 18th-century public architecture (there are more thorough sources for private architecture), but it is not a quick or easy read due to its ponderous nature. It would make an excellent starting place for those who would like to then move onto studying individually the many styles mentioned therein.

November 22nd, 1781

Maurepas died last night, much to the grief of the King, I am sure for he was his mentor; but it was not unexpected for the man was quite old.

Godefroy has consented to send a letter to the Comtesse de Rodez, and will visit her himself in the future. She hardly seems conscious of the great honor bestowed upon her by such a visit, but perhaps that is part of her cunning. I mean to look into the family background, and will not be surprised to learn that she was some rich merchant's daughter before marrying the late Comte.

Elizabeth hosted a gathering a few days ago and brought in a woman to read our palms. She is grown quite large and more than one person has suggested she might expect twins. She asked the palmist if she could expect a daughter this time, and the woman said that her future did hold a girl, but would not commit herself to saying it would be this pregnancy. A very careful trick, in my opinion. As for me, she said great changes were in my future, and that I had made difficult choices. She seemed to indicate that the changes would be for the good, but we shall see. No mention of children was made for me, and in the company of others I was loathe to suggest the subject. I do hope it doesn't portend a lack of issue, a fear much on my mind of late with my husband kept secret and far away in Venice.

Olympe, Comtesse

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 15th, 1781

I loathe the cold, it makes it so difficult for me to want to move or go out or do anything at all. The dowager Countess de Rodez is a suspicious, disagreeable old cat, and seems not to like or trust me very much, despite the fact that everything I do is to the good of her own daughter. Mlle Clementine supposedly received my note, but sent no reply. I cannot speak to her ability to do so without the knowledge of the mother. She was formally introduced to me, but beyond a curtsy and a some quiet niceties I was able to learn nothing of her or form any sense of her character. Her mother wishes to receive word from the Duke de Bouillon himself that he will introduce Clementine at court before she consents to any preparations.

Word here in Paris is that De Grasse has won a great naval victory, and there is hope once more that the war in the colonies may soon reach a victorious end. Of course, we have been holding out such hope year after year. I have my own small victory in that my estate agent was not able to procure buyers for either Lespinasse or Opme yet, but a newly-minted Baron and his famly are happy to lease Opme from me for a substantial sum per annum. In some ways I prefer this arrangement for I may evict them and have my castle back in the future, and in the meantime have a steady supply of income, unlike that from my lesser leases.

It also allows me to continue to pay Thierry's expenses in Venice, and I send what I can with every letter. It is fruitless to sigh and say that I miss him so. I do, and I look often at his miniature fearing that I will forget his features the longer he is absent.
Olympe, Comtesse

Friday, November 11, 2011

Best 18th-century themed movies

I owe you all I good post, not only because I have been so remiss in updating lately, but because I am likely to remain a little less prolific for the next few weeks while I'm working on several shows that open around the same time.

When I'm designing a show I like to put movies on in the background, especially if it's late at night because it makes me feel like someone else is awake. In no particular order (because I just couldn't decide how to rank them) here are my top ten favorite 18th-century inspired films/mini series'.

1) Marie Antoinette (2006)

2) The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934 &2000) Okay, I cheated here, I like them both.

3) The Lady and the Duke (2001)

4) Ridicule (1996)

5) The Duchess (2008)

6) Amazing Grace (2006)

7) Catherine the Great (1995)

8) Dangerous Liasons (1988)

9) Amadeus (1984)

10) The Madness of King George (1994)

Honorable mentions go to Plunkett and Macleane, Perfume, and the HBO series John Adams. So what are your favorites? Any to add to the list?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Events of October 1781

The birth of a Dauphin (finally), was not the only notewothy event to take place in October of 1781; here are a few others that may pique your interest.

October 19th- After the french naval fleet led by the Comte de Grasse had successfully blockaded Cornwallis into the Chesapeake Bay, despite the efforts of the British naval Commander Thomas Graves, Cornwallis was finally defeated and on the 19th was forced to surrender to George Washington, this effectively (though not officially) ending the American War of Independence.

October 20th- A Patent of Tolerance is approved in the Habsburg monarchy, giving limited freedom of worship within Austria.

October 27th- A new opera house opens in Paris to replace one that burned down. It's opening is celebrated with a free performance of Adele et Ponthieu, to which it was expected that 1800 people might attend. The audience turns out to be more like 6000 and it is massively overcrowded. New seating would be added to the pit of the Comedie Francaise the following year "to help prevent mob activity". Perhaps in response to this situation?