Sunday, August 7, 2022

For Your Chateau


With another successful Fetes Galante complete at the Chateau de Versailles, I thought we'd have a Versailles-themed FYC. Enjoy this diverse collection of items from Etsy, from beauty to homeware, jewelry to books. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Era In Film: Love and Friendship

 Often a film will come out and, although initially intrigued, I won't watch it until well after its release date or when it appears on streaming services. Such was the case with the late-18th century inspired film Love and Frienship starring Kate Beckinsale (at left in violet). This movie originally debuted in 2016, but is available via Amazon Prime currently. If you aren't familiar with it, that's probably because it had a very limited release, although where it was available it met with much critical acclaim. 

Based on a little-known 1794 epistolary novel by Jane Austen called Lady Susan, it follows the machinations of widowed Lady Susan Vernon who is determined to find a suitable match for herself and her daughter, while fending off the rumor-mill of society amidst her own indiscretions. The plot zips along, and it has a characteristic Austenian slant towards ironic commentary on the part of all of the characters, who seem incapable of true self-awareness. Underpinning the story, is a theme of brazen 18th century feminism. At one point the main character remarks to her friend, an American played by Chloe Sevigny, "Why ever did you marry a man too old to be managed and too young to die?" And manage the men they do. Actually, all of the women in the film do; from Lady Susan's sister-in-law who refers to her husband as "always so obliging" while influencing him to return them all to London for her own ends, and her own wilting mother who regularly hides matters from her husband to avoid his interference. 

The dialogue takes full advantage of the witty repartee allowed by the genre, and the viewer can't help but laugh throughout, as the whole misadventure wends its way towards an expected conclusion. The fun is in the journey, and the whole thing has much the same feel as a light stage comedy of the era. 

The one criticism I would offer is with the costumes. I don't know if there was a lack of funding for the costumes, or if there was a confusion of ideas, but whether we assume that the events take place in 1794 or not, there is far too wide of a spread of styles evident across the characters, and at times some odd "costumey" half measures, as if some things were purpose-made, and others pulled from the local community theatre stock. This would make more sense if the latter were solely on background characters or ones who are seen only briefly. I'm happy to overlook the use of a sheer net overskirt for one of Lady Susan's dresses as a fanciful take on the period, but it's mixed with hyper-realistic pieces on her daughter, and then we have an almost 17th century-eqsue collar on her friend, and several times it seems that characters wear the correct outer clothing without the necessary supports underneath. In short, there isn't a clear and consistent aesthetic beyond "late 18th century." That being said, the hair is well-executed and the locations and set dressing are a treat. Despite the costume confusion, I did really enjoy the overall look of the piece. 

It was a really entertaining film, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys this period and is looking for something less heavy than The Duchess with the wit of Pride and Prejudice and a dash of ironic feminism.

Monday, July 18, 2022

July 18th, 1788


We are now at the end of our time in Riom with Maman, her husband, and Andre with his wife and new baby daughter. It seems that our isolation in pleasant Auvergne is likewise at an end, as I have been recalled to court to attend to Mme Elisabeth. I had thought to beg more time with my own child, but my husband was much against it. So it is that in a mere few weeks we must pack up the household, find lodgings for Aurelie and M-, (my husband), and resign oneself to committing my daughter to the care of her father and nurse. 

Aurelie's nurse is named Aimee, and was recommended to us through an acquaintance of Maman's, so I do not yet feel that I know her well. The baby seems fond of her, but then she is enamored of all who meet her gaze at present. The child is active, with a bright smile, and even brighter eyes of blue with long lashes. Many who meet her do exclaim that she strongly resembles me; a fact which displeases M- though he is loathe to admit it. I wonder if his insistence that I take I do not delay in taking up this post is to separate us more. Admittedly, he also makes much of the penury he feels we suffer under, and is relieved to know that my position comes with somewhat generous compensation.

I must send a letter to Elizabeth R- to inform her that I will be returning to Paris sooner than thought, and hope to visit with her and my god-daughter. Of course, I also thrill at the thought of introducing Aurelie to my dear friend whose counsel has often been of such use. It will be good to hear from her the news of late, for I am terribly ill-informed at present. 

So many tasks call that I will cut this short. Alas, I had thought there would be more time in these happy days of seclusion; but then are there ever enough?


Monday, July 4, 2022

For Your Chateau


Bringing it back! In today's For Your Chateau we look at costume and reenactment apparel; and with the success of the Bridgerton franchise I thought we'd encompass "the long 18th century" with some Regency items. Making repeat appearances are items from Etsy favorites RoseGalante and Sign of the Grey Horse. Don't forget that many shops are having 4th of July sales right now, so you might snag some historical styles for less!

Friday, July 1, 2022

Mantle Project- Finished!

 I'm finally getting around to posting the results of a couple of years ago, when we completed installing the Greek Revival fireplace and Delft/Spode/etc. tile insert. As this was originally done at Christmastime, you'll forgive the decor being odd for my summer posting.

Not only did it end up being, I think, a really perfect addition to the room, but it quite handily provided a better spot for the tv than the somewhat lower, all-black, massive console which had previously stood in its place (and which we donated to a local charity shop). In order to take care of the many irregularities in the wooden backing of the mantle itself my partner first build a U-shaped structure that attached to the wall. To fit it as closely as possible it was necessary to decide whether to cut into the existing skirting boards at the base of the wall, or to notch out the dimensions of the board from the base of the box. I was concerned that, should we decide to the move the fireplace unit with us to another home, that we'd regret making modifications to it, but my partner assured me that we'd likely meet a similar issue in the next home, and that he could replace the box easily enough. 

The next step was to build and attach the tiled insert, which we did with a piece of MDF (IIRC, from what he did), and to tile the front much as one would do in a kitchen or a bathroom. Since many of the tiles are original, and in some cases antique, Spode or Delft tiles I took the opportunity to photograph them from every angle, including the back first. I arranged them for him in an order that made sense to me, no two tiles being too similar next to each other. You'll note that several of them have nautical or boat themes, which is deliberate as several of the paintings in the room are either of water or of boats. That being done, he tiled the insert and attached it to the box, and then set about building the platform for the fireplace insert itself. This is really just a simple, small, rectangular box, which I then painted with the same paint I used for the sanded areas of the outer mantle. 

We plugged the fireplace in and scooted it into place, to check that everything worked. At this point we knew that there would be a small gap between the upper edge of the tiling and the lower edge of the mantle itself. Initially we thought that this might not be too distracting and would provide needed ventilation; but the insert actually vented very well from the front of the unit and I did find the gap distracting. The solution was the buy a piece of pre-painted white molding, cut it to size and adhere it to the inside edge of the mantle so that it sits above and in front of the tiled section. No one would ever be the wiser (except that it's on the internet now).

Finally, we moved the antique mantle into place, leveled it, and attached it to the box and frame, which are screwed into the wall with huge anchors. There was some touch-up painting, and some rather more extensive painting of the box; which should have been done before most of the rest of the process, but wasn't due to time constraints owing to when my partner could be in town.

It being Christmastime when everything was completed, we had to decorate with some evergreens and holly from our own property, as well as the blue and white porcelains which I collect. Then we hung some stockings. 

This year, almost a year after it was initially completed, my husband and I were able to hang one more in joyful anticipation of what the new year would bring. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Now Playing On Youtube- How to Renovate a Chateau (Without Killing Your Partner)

    Started about a year ago, at the height of the global pandemic, the series How To Renovate A Chateau, has recently become a favourite of mine. There are, at the moment, many DIY chateau reno channels and programs, but although I've checked out a number of them, this is by far the best. It follows a couple (and their two children) as they do exactly what the title suggests; renovate a derelict chateau and turn it into a B&B. The difference with this one is that one of the owners is a former film-maker, and it shows in the clever and often humorous segments which range from true DIY with instructions for repair and construction projects, to tongue-in-cheek French lessons on everyday situations with one of their French handymen. There is a lot of banter and, despite the inherently performative aspect, a sense of genuine warmth that I find lacking in many similar and perhaps more pretentious vlogs. As there is rarely an episode which does not make me laugh, I suspect that they've discovered that the real secret to getting on with any renovation project without killing your partner, is to keep your sense of humor. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

June 25th 1788


More than a year has passed, but not in any idleness. I sit in the most pleasant of company beside a face sweeter than any in the world; that of my infant daughter. One year ago, I discovered that I was enciente, and after a difficult series of negotiations with the Chevalier and his family, we were wed. Thus am I no longer Marquise, and the Chevalier is become Comte d'Auvergne by this union. I had thought he would be disappointed when she revealed herself not to be the wish-for son, but he has been a most devoted father and writes often to me from Paris to ask after his adored daughter, whom we have named Aurelie. To me she is an answered prayer, and I spend each day in awe of her as she grows. Indeed, it seems that I awaken to a new baby each morning. 

As for our marriage, the Comte spends his time in Paris attending to family matters while I remain at present in Auvergne, currently in Saint-Saturnin. In two weeks we travel to Riom where my mother will rejoice to be reunited with her only grand-daughter, whom she also adores. Not long will Aurelie remain the sole grandchild, however, as Andre's wife will be delivered of her child sometime in the next month. The Chevalier, as I continue to think of him despite his new title, has two sisters, both younger than I. Neither is yet married, though the elder, Henriette, is promised to the younger son of a Marquis, whose name I quite forget. Thus Aurelie is the favored child in his family as well. I find his father aloof, and his mother having died many years ago, she is not present to facilitate our interactions. 

Today my jeweler delivered a watch I had made for Andre to celebrate the birth of his child, and which I will leave with Maman while when we are in Riom. I am having new clothes made in great quantities, as I find it curious how many of my garments are no longer tolerable, my shape having changed in curious ways since last year. Another time I will recount the story of her birth, but for now Aurelie smiles at me and seems to want me to relinquish my pen. I am powerless to deny her merest whim. Oh, how I love my child!

-Olympe, Comtesse

For Your Chateau

  With another successful Fetes Galante complete at the Chateau de Versailles, I thought we'd have a Versailles-themed FYC. Enjoy this d...