Monday, March 2, 2015

Italian books from the library of the princesse de Lamballe

Coutau-Begarie is hosting a fantastic auction with several hundred French historical pieces this week; among the letters and relics are several books from the library of the princesse de Lamballe. The books being auctioned are primarily major works by Italian authors. Whenever possible, I have provided a link to an English translation.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Marie Antoinette (1938) Costumes: Marie Antoinette's Austrian Nightgown

The "Austrian night gown" is the costume worn in the first scene of the film, where Marie Antoinette is taken to her mother in the middle of the night and told about her upcoming marriage. The costume consists of two parts: a slip dress and a sheer, striped overdress tied with a long ribbon.

The color of the costume is not known. It may have been reused in later MGM films, but this is unconfirmed. It was used in multiple promotional images for the film.

Its current location and condition are unknown.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Historiae Fragrance Review: Jardin de le Notre, Orangerie du Roy, Violette Imperiale.

Historiae is a French fragrance company that offers several fragrances inspired by French history. Their line includes scented soaps, home sprays, candles and--of course--perfumes. I previously reviewed samples of three other perfumes in their line (read here) and earlier this month I picked up three more scents from the company.

Jardin de le Notre

 Jardin de le Notre, created in partnership with the Domain of Chantilly, was created to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Andre le Notre's birth and is described as a 'poetic ballad through Le Notre's gardens."

Like Historiae's "Hameau de la Reine," as Jardin de le Notre develops there is a sense of walking through different parts of a vast garden estate. Jardin de le Notre opens with a very light and fresh green smell, like a crisp morning grass, which slowly develops into a woodsy, musk scent with a hint of flowers somewhere in the distance. Jardin de la Notre was a bit too peppery and musky on me after a while, but if you like a heavier garden scent that isn't too flowery, it's a great option!

Head: Green leaves, Green accord, dewdrop, Tulip, pink pepper extract
Heart: Narcissus absolute, Hyacinth, water jasmine, rose, Lily of the valley, gardenia
Deep: Marine notes, musk, white cedarwood, vetiver oil, patchouli oil

Orangerie Du Roy

Orange blossom was one of the favored scents at the court of Versailles, and was especially favored by Louis XIV. 

Orangerie Du Roy is a celebration of the king's love for orange blossom, and combines the brightness of orange blossom with an undercurrent of heady musk. The result is what I would deem a "regal orange blossom." When I first dabbed a sample on, I was a bit disappointed because the only scent really coming through was a bright, simple orange blossom with a hint of lemon. But after a few minutes the fragrance developed into something more complex. The lingering deep notes of thyme and patchouli keep it grounded and give it a richer composition, something closer to a richer orange blossom that Louis XIV may have liked. Like Jardin de le Notre, it was a bit too much for me (the thyme does me in every time!) but if you're looking for a regal perfume that calls to mind the old court of Versailles, Orangerie du Roy will take you there!

Head: Lemon, sweet orange, petit grain, basil, Pearmint, bergamot
Heart: Orange blossom, ylang ylang, honeysuckle, lavender, thyme, mock orange
Deep: Patchouli, vetiver, oak moss, musk

Violette Imperiale

Violette Imperiale is meant to recall splendor of the Second Empire; the scent's key note, violet, was inspired by Empress Eugénie , the wife of Napoleon III, who favored the flowers.

The best way to describe Violette Imperialle would be "Royal Raspberry." I was expecting violet to be the strongest scent but to me, the note at the forefront is undeniably raspberry. What I found wonderful about this scent was its great balance of more youthful notes (fruits, vanilla) with the elegant florals. It isn't heady or musky like some perfumes with violet notes--and it's not overbearingly sweet like some gourmand perfumes. It made me think of plump red raspberries in a porcelain bowl, surrounded by iris and violet flowers, with just a hint of orange and vanilla bean in the air. It has better longevity than the other Historiae scents I've tried as well, which is another plus. I am definitely going to save my pennies and pick up a full bottle!

Head: Orange, blackcurrant, peach
Heart: Violet, iris, raspberry
Deep: Vanilla, musk, amber, vetiver, sandalwood

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Marie Antoinette (1938) Costumes: Marie Antoinette's Arrival Gown

The "arrival gown" is the gown worn by Marie Antoinette when she first arrives at Versailles. The dress is directly inspired by a portrait of a young Marie Antoinette created shortly after she became the dauphine of France. Like the other 'early' gowns worn by Marie Antoinette in the film, the dress is very youthful and innocent.

According to the notes on the concept design for the dress, the "arrival gown" is pink organdy with blue ribbons and flower embellishments.

The dress may have been re-used in the ensemble scenes from Two Sisters From Boston, Scaramouche, Ice Follies of 1939, The Fighting Guardsman and Du Barry Was a Lady. However, no clear shots of the dress exist in these films.

Its current location and condition are unknown.

Concept and Inspiration:

 Costume design by Gilbert Adrian.
[credit: A.M.P.A.S image reproduced with permission: From the Leonard Stanley collection, Margaret Herrick Library]

A portrait of Marie Antoinette as a young dauphine.
[credit: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie]

Portrait detail.
[credit: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie]

In Color:

 Vintage colorized lobby card.

 Colorized still by BooBooGBs.
[credit: BooBooGBs]

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

An Elegiac Ode on the Death of Louis XVI by Edmund Eyre

Edmund Eyre's An Elegiac Ode on the Death of Louis XVI was published shortly after the execution of Louis XVI. It was later re-published in a 1797 collection of his poetic works, which also included his ode to Marie Antoinette.

An Elegiac Ode on the Death of Louis XVI
Ruin seize ye, lawless band
Destruction on your councils wait;
For stain'd by Murder's gory hand,
Humanity recoils from Fate.

Mark the year--abhor the sight,
When France re-murmur'd with affright:--
The shrieks of Anguish, borne on Echo's wing,
Proclaim'd the sorrows of a suff'ring King.

Such were the sounds that Gallia's Genius bore,
As slow she mov'd along the Belgic-shore,
Then on some ndoding cliff's projecting brow,
Shrinking, bemoan'd the horrors of the blow;
Fond to lament, though impotent to save,
She pour'd her sorrows for the good and brave;
And now inspir'd with all a Patriot's glow
She tun'd her lyre and struck the notes of Woe.

Did cruel Destiny ere shed
Such horrors on a Regal-Head;
Did ere once happy Monarch know,
Such sad reserve of heart-felt woe?
"Without a friend to close his eyes,"
The Parent groans--the Monarch dies:
Deny'd the blessings of a miscreant slave,
The sev'ring axe cosigns him to the grave--

Tho' Faction staind' the Sov'reign-bloomd,
And bid it wither in the tomb;
With seraph's flight, Religion came,
To strengthen Nature's feeble frame--
Clad in the splendor of the sky,
A whisp'ring cherub, wing'd on high,
With heav'nly light illum'd Death's awful way,
And chang'd his darkness to eternal day.

Ah, hapless Queen! Repress that sigh,
Thy happier stars may intervene--
Hope darts her ever radiant eye,
To calm Affliction's stormy-scene.
Hark! 'Tis the chorus of seraphic strain!
Triumphant shouts the Empyrean sky!
The Monarch murder'd--lives to joy again,
Crown'd, and array'd in immortality.

Now from life, and labours freed,
he receives his virtues' meed;
Tastes of bliss to men unknown,
Far above an earthly throne.

What, tho' no sculptur'd, marble-bust,
Is seen to grace his mould'ring-dust,
Yet Mem'ry shall his name revere;
For whilst the crystal song of Woe,
With tributary drops shall flow,
The best memorial is--the pitying tear.

Blow the brazen trump of War;
Erect the standard in the field!
Mars, high-throned in his car,
Displays the dire, ensanguin'd shield.

Stream wide your banners, roll the martial drums,
For England's champion, Royal Frederick, comes,
to right an injur'd nation's sov'reign cause,
Protect its freedom, and defend her laws;
To add new trophies to the opening year,
And curb Rebellion in its mad career--
Till Britain's vengeance on her foes be hurl'd,
And England rise the Mistress of the World.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Marie Antoinette, Fashionable Queen or Greedy Royal? by Sarah Powers Webb

Perspectives on History is a non-fiction children's book series about famous but polarizing historical figures. The current series includes figures such as Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus and Marie Antoinette.

The 'Marie Antoinette' entry in the series (Marie Antoinette: Fashionable Queen or Greedy Royal?) was written by Sarah Powers Webb. The book begins with a short description of Marie Antoinette's last morning, leading to the book's premise: "Who was Marie Antoinette? Some said she was a criminal who deserved to die. Others claimed she was just a victim of politics. What events led the queen to her death?"

The aim of the Perspectives on History series is to help younger readers understand how different perspectives in history can result in a very different 'story' being told; it can also help children develop skills in considering different viewpoints when thinking or writing about history.

'Fashionable Queen or Greedy Royal?' examines Marie Antoinette's story from multiple angles to provide readers with a broader sense of who she was--or wasn't. In doing so, the book provides different viewpoints for some of the more significant aspects of her life, such as spending and her public image in France. For example, when discussing Marie Antoinette's extensive spending, the book points out that she spent lavishly on clothing and entertaining, while many struggled for basic necessities due to France's declining economy--but that court etiquette required much of this spending, and that her spending was not the real source of France's financial trouble. When discussing her frequent retreats to the Petit Trianon, the book points out that the Trianon was her personal retreat from the intense stress of court--but that such behavior was not considered appropriate for a queen of France by both commoners and nobles, who felt that she was hiding something, which in turn became fodder for exaggerated libelles.

The book does a good job with presenting decades of history in a short format, supplemented by paintings and engravings; the book is written clearly enough that target readers should have no trouble following the narrative.  In addition to the regular narrative, the book includes various asides with additional information about her life and times. It can be difficult for books written for children to cover an entire life or extensive event in a short and simple way, but for the most part the book works as a good starting point for younger readers.

Sometimes, however, I felt that the book didn't provide quite enough historical context for its target audience. For example, in the book's narrative, the fall of the Bastille (and thus the beginning of the revolution) is described as being the result of the people no longer being able to contain their anger, due to the declining economy that made jobs--and thus, food--scarce. The political aspects of the event (the Estates General, Necker, etc) are not mentioned. It may be that the short format of the books didn't allow for a description of the political climate in France at the time, but even a short aside about the Estates General would have helped in this case.

I do think the premise of the book (and the series) is a worthwhile one, especially since developing an understanding of historical perspectives and how to create opinions based on multiple perspectives is a skill that children will need for their later school years. I would recommend the book for younger readers, especially supplemented with additional material on the French Revolution.

[A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher upon my request]

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Captive Queen, an Elegiac Ode by Edmund Eyre

After the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, many British writers who turned to the pen to published odes, elegies, plays and other literary treatments of the royal family. These British works were published as early as 1793, after the death of the king. Edmund Eyre was one of these British writers who felt inspired by the events in France to take up his pen. Eyre's ode to Marie Antoinette, which I have transcribed below, was published in a collection in 1797.


The Captive Queen, an Elegiac Ode.
Scarce had the night her shadowy curtain spread,
To hide the blush of eve;
Than gloomy Silence cast a solemn dread,
And Nature seem'd to grieve:
But Cynthia soon o'er half the globe
Display'd her star-bespangled robe,
Emitting forth her silver-ray
To cheer the trav'ller's lonely way,
And guide him to the social cot,
Where all his sorrows are forgot--
Oblivious slumber, with Lathaean-pow'r
Snatches the lapse of time, and rules the mid-night hour.

Mute is the warbling concert of the air--
Save the sad minstrel of the night;
Whose trilling-notes, responsive to despair,
Vibrate on Echo's rapid flight!
And, hark, what breathing groans transpierce
the solemn scene!
Ah! 'tis the mourning sorrows of a Captive-Queen!

Borne on Fancy's eagle-height,
I see her pictur'd to the sight
Immur'd within a dungeon's bloom,
Invoking Heav'n to change the doom--
Her rosy-cheeks, of crimson-hue,
Now moisten'd by Affliction's dew,
Fading, have wither'd, by a wintry blight,
And, in despair, the roses red--have chang'd to white.

Her eyes, that with Promethean glow,
Warm'd the chill'd breast, congeal'd by woe,
Sink in their sockets, griev'd to see
Th' unpity'd tears of Misery:
Her voice, that once diffus'd around
The magic-harmony of sound,
Now faintly murmurs, like an Aeolian lyre,
Whose sounds charm most--just as the notes expire.

Ah, what avails the pomp of state,
The envy'd glories of the great,
Or, e'en Ambition's great-stride
When bold Rebellion rushes forth,
And like the pestilential North,
Nips all the blossoms of our pride.
Life is, alas! an evening breeze at best,
That blows still sun-set, and then sinks to rest.

What, is the cruel lot decreed,
And must the Royal-Mother bleed?
Ah, heard I not the fleeting groan,
Breathed in Sorrow's deepest tone?
Hark, 'tis the din of Discord's roar,
Her dart's besmear'd with clotted gore!
yet, fears, vaunt--wan Terror fly--
Death's but a passport to eternity!

Confin'd by treason, and the will of Fate,
A Royal captive, mock'd with idle state,
(Shame to the annals of historic-page,)
Expires a victim to republic rage!

The sigh that heav'd the parting knell--
The tear that bade a long farewell--
The Mother's pangs--the Children's cries,
No friend to grace her obsequies--
Shall cause the Muse's stream to flow
In all the energy of woe,
Whilst they record amidst a nation's sighs,
In Death's cold shade a murder'd Princess lies.

Be mute, my lyre--thy elegy refrain--
Megara rife, and breathe a bolder strain--
Avenging Nemesis, at whose decree,
Tyrants are taught to bend the stubborn knee,
Inrob'd with justice, send thy missile dart,
To drive rebellion from the canker'd heart;
Scourge those who brought a Monarch to the tomb,
And thunder in their ears Lycaon's doom.--
Inspire each breast with patriotic zeal
To guard the safety of the public weal;
Bid us avow Religion's holy cause,
Adorn out country, and protect her laws--
Such god-like cares all British hearts must own;
And ev'ry honest man support the Throne.

Eyre's elegies to Marie Antoinette and later, Louis XVI, were only somewhat well received in his day. They were described in one contemporary review as "not destitute of poetical imagery." Hardly a glowing review! But at least his odes were published: Eyre had a rather unfortunate history when it came to getting his 1794 play, first called The Maid of Normandy and later retitled The Death of the Queen of France, cleared past the British censors. But that's a topic for another day!