Tuesday, November 24, 2015

18th-century Flower Crowns

"Surrounded outdoors by the untamed, natural beauty of the jardin anglais, and indoors by the charming floral woodwork that adorned the villa’s walls, the Trianon ladies’ “professed ambition was to resemble wildflowers.”
-Caroline Weber, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Flower crowns were a hit long before filters and photo apps; they can be found in particular abundance in portraits and paintings of the 18th centuries. Allegorical portraits of women in as goddesses or mythological figures often feature flower crowns; but as the century wore on, they even became fashion statements in their own right. 

In the late 1770s and early 1780s, Marie Antoinette herself adopted the fashion trend that incorporated the beauty of nature. Or rather, the beauty of carefully chosen fresh blooms to compliment the less court-like gowns worn by the Petit Trianon clique. As a fashion statement, flowers were a representation of natural beauty--as opposed to the man-made beauty of traditional courtly accessories--as well as innocence and youth. Crowns of flowers, rather than crowns of diamonds or gold, were the ultimate "natural" adornment for the discerning lady.

An allegorical portrait of Henriette Herz by Anna Dorothea Therbusch, 1778. [credit: (C) BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jörg P. Anders]

 A portrait of the princesse de Lamballe by Joseph Ducreaux, 18th century. [credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet]

 A portrait of Madame Vanhéeby by Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Augustin, 1792. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

 A portrait of a woman by an unknown artist, late 18th century. [credit: Antic Store]

A portrait of a young woman by Peter Adolphe Hall, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

 A portrait of a woman by François Antoine Romany, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

A portrait of a young woman called Adélaïde by Joseph Tassy, 18th century. [credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais (domaine de Chantilly) / René-Gabriel Ojéda]

 A bust depicting Innocence by Simon Louis Boizot. 1819, after an 1781 original. [credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Sèvres, Cité de la céramique) / Thierry Ollivier]

Flowers as hair accessories weren't limited to full-blown crowns, of course. Flowers blooming from hats and curls and dotted along hair bands were a fashionable way to bring floral beauty into your look.

A portrait of the princesse de Lamballe by Louis Edouard Rioult. [(C) RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot]

 A portrait of  Madame de Calonne by Louis Marie Sicard, 1789. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

 A portrait of a woman wearing a crown of flowers by an unknown artist, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

 A portrait of a young woman by Peter Adolphe Hall, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

 A portrait of a woman by an unknown artist, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

A portrait presumed to be the comtesse de Nicolaï by Peter Adolphe Hall, 18th century. [credit: (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola]

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Merry Antoinette: A Marie Antoinette Holiday Gift Guide for 2015

It's that time of year! For this year's Marie Antoinette 'Merry Antoinette' Holiday Gift Guide, I've compiled a selection of gifts in a variety of price ranges for any gift shopping budget. You'll be sure to find the perfect 'Marie Antoinette' gift for that special someone in your life!

Under $200

 Rêve de la Reine perfume from Arty Fragrance (€119.00)
Available from Arty Fragrance

 Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style ($150.00)
Available from Amazon.

Under $100

Marie Antoinette hand-painted lacquer brooch ($85.00)
Available from tanyaHPSrus

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI salt and pepper shakes ($90.00)
Available from WonderAnn. 

 Hameau de la Reine Eau du Toilette ($59.55)
Available from Fragrance & Art.

Under $50 

 Marie Antoinette necklace and earring set ($40.00)
Available from DragonPipes.

 'Chateau de Versailles: Marie Antoinette' scented candle (€49.17)
Available from the Chateau de Versailles boutique. 

 18th Century Boxed Starter set ($40.00)
Available from LBCC Historical.

 A Day at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte ($34.95)
Availbale from Amazon.


Replica of a 1785 'Queen's House' token. (€25.00)
Available from the Chateau de Versailles boutique.

A Day with Marie Antoinette by Hélène Delalex ($34.95)
Available from Amazon.

 Marie Antoinette inspired lollipops ($30.00)
Available from asecretforest.

Under $25

Marie Antoinette 8x10 art print ($24.00)
Available from Rifle Paper Co.  

The fabulous destiny of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun docudrama DVD (€19.90)Available from Boutiques de Musée

 Marie Antoinette 12-piece chocolate collection ($24.00)
Available from Jacek Chocolate Couture.

 Marie Antoinette 10x7 art print by Maëlle Rajoelisolo ($19.76)
Available from Society6.

Marie Antoinette cookie cutter set ($12.04)
Available from Printmeneer. 

Marie Antoinette, reine de France Blu-Ray (All Region) (€20.06)
Avaiblale from Amazon France

Under $10    

Who Was Marie Antoinette? by Dana Meachen Rau ($5.99)
Available from Amazon.
Marie Antoinette Nail Set ($5.00)
Available from tempusfugit

 Marie Antoinette dollhouse plate ($3.71)
Available from ALavenderDilly.

Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun hand mirror (€5.42)
Available from the Chateau de Versailles boutique.

 Marie Antoinette greeting card ($4.50)
Available from Oh, Little Rabbit.

 Le salon de musique de Marie-Antoinette (Digital Album) ($8.99)
Avaiblale from Amazon.

 Marie Antoinette art print ($2.00)
Available from IsabellaDiSclafani
Marie Antoinette music box (€6.67)

'Marie Antoinette's Perfumer' Lavender Sachet ($5.00)
Available from LBCC Historical.

Marie Antoinette 6x4 print ($6.24)
Available from velvetwolves

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: A Day With Marie Antoinette by Hélène Delalex

A Day With Marie Antoinette by Hélène Delalex is a beautifully crafted, intimate look at the life and legend of Marie Antoinette as told through the objects, places and people that defined her story: the furniture, paintings, etchings, lavish rooms and gardens of Versailles where she spent most of her ultimately tragic life are highlighted in this concise, charming overview of Marie Antoinette.

Hélène Delalex text is succinct but entertaining all the way through. I didn't always agree with her interpretations (namely regarding the Fersen affair, as regular readers may have already guessed!) but there is a clear passion for Marie Antoinette and her times that shines through in every page. Readers already familiar with Marie Antoinette's story won't necessarily find anything new in terms of biographical information, but since the book seems designed to familiarize readers with Marie Antoinette and introduce them to her personality and life, this isn't really an issue. Accompanying Delalex's text are quotes from a myriad of different sources, including letters written by Marie Antoinette and her mother; published memoirs of her contemporaries; quotes from biographers and historians, including the Goncourt brothers and the delightful Pierre de Nolhac, and more. The quotes are all perfectly chosen, never feeling unnecessary or misplaced in the book.

The book itself is divided into chapters, all of which are defined by the queen's status in relation to the topic discussed in each section. The 'Queen of Taste' chapter, for example, talks about Marie Antoinette's taste in decor and design; while 'Queen of Pleasures' takes a look at Marie Antoinette's intimate circle of friends and favorites. Some of the chapters are further divided into sub-sections in cases where a particular topic is highlighted. During 'Queen of Beauty,' for example, the Diamond Necklace Affair is discussed in the sub-section "Queen of Diamonds."

A Day with Marie Antoinette is lavishly illustrated and designed. I'm a sap for great book design and this book went the extra mile with its cover (the back, not pictured, is even more beautiful; there's also a hard matching slipcover to keep your book in nice condition) and its interior layout, which includes Trianon-inspired decorative borders, quotes placed in just the right position to jump out at you without being distracting to the main text, and more.

The photographs of Versailles, Trianons and personal items related to the queen take up most of the illustrated space; the photographs are well-taken and for the most part, refreshing views of interiors and details of furniture and decor that aren't normally highlighted in books or other publications. The reproductions of art are all high quality and I was especially delighted to see crisper views of certain paintings that are only available online in lower resolution. In addition to the "greatest hits" of Vigee-Lebrun portraits that are natural to any illustrated book about the queen, there are numerous paintings and illustrations which are rarely published and in some cases never previously published before. If the text didn't provide you with anything new, the illustrations and photographs will certainly fill that quota.

The book also includes images that evoke Marie Antoinette as she has appeared (and inspired) pop culture in the past 200 years since her death. Stills from various 'Marie Antoinette' films, some famous fashion designs inspired by the queen, and even modern-day perfumed gloves inspired by the ones created for Marie Antoinette in the 18th century all make an appearance. Their inclusion was refreshing, never over-used, and added to the book's overall well-designed aesthetic.

It's a bit difficult to define A Day With Marie Antoinette. It's not quite a biography, although it does take the reader through her life, trials, and eventually her death. It's not quite a photo book, although it features numerous high quality photos and art reproductions, stylishly arranged and organized throughout the publication. It doesn't go into great detail, but it wasn't really designed to do so--a 'day' is all you really need to read through the book for the first time. (The extra time you spend flipping back to find more details in the interior design, re-read quotes or admire the photographs not counted!) I suppose the book is best described as an illustrated "day guide" to Marie Antoinette; who she was, where she lived, how she lived, how she died--and who she has since become.

The book is currently available from several retailers (including Amazon) and is published by Flammarion. Highly recommended for 'Antoinette' fans, anyone who enjoys well designed books about French history, and anyone taking a trip to Versailles and the Trianons who wants to learn more about the woman whose presence continues to haunt the palace and its gardens. You may end up wanting to spend more than a "day" with Marie Antoinette after all!

[I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher.]

Saturday, October 31, 2015

October Offerings: Ten 18th Century Treats for Halloween

It's finally Halloween! To celebrate, I've gathered ten eerie 18th century treats this Halloween--hold out your trick'r treat bag and take a look!

1. Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully by Marin Marais

A 'tombeau' -literally meaning 'tomb'--was a style of composition created to commemorate the death of an individual, usually someone notable such as the aforementioned Monsieur de Lully. Despite the name, a 'tombeau' was not usually written as a mournful piece, although there are some existing tombeaus with elements that one might expect--such as repetitive knocking meant to imitate death 'knocking at the door.' In general, however, the genre was meant to inspire reflection on the lives and legacy of the deceased person.

2. The Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving

Irving, best known for his tale The Legend of Sleeping Hollow, was no stranger to ghost stories. In The Adventure of the German Student, a young student comes face to face with a young woman who was perhaps too well acquainted with the guillotine. It can be read online here. 

3.  The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano

The Ghosts of Versailles is a 20th century opera by John Corigliano. The opera features a cast compromised mostly of ghosts of the French court--namely Marie Antoinette, her husband, and a host of ghoulish courtiers. The original production was a lavish spectacle which was, thankfully, recorded for posterity. It can be viewed at the Metropolitan Opera On Demand service.

4. The Beast of Gévaudan 

The Beast of Gévaudan was a creature--likely a wolf or multple wolves--believed to be responsible for almost 200 attacks (including more than 100 fatalities) in the historical province of Gévaudan from 1764 to 1767. The attacks and subsequent legends which have sprung up about the creature have inspired novelists, filmmakers and historians. A selection of works includes the film The Brotherhood of the Wolf; the non-fiction book Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast by Jay M. Smith; and the novel Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs.

5. The First Entry of the Four Ghosts

An illustrated tableaux depicting part of a performance given at the Louvre in 1632. In this scene, the ghosts of spirits believed to haunt the Louvre grounds appear swathed in black robes.

6. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

In Revolution, a teenager named Andi must confront her own anger, despair and grief regarding her younger brother's death when she begins to read a journal written by a girl her age during the years leading up to the French Revolution; the girl, Alexandrine, is tasked to be a companion to the young Louis Charles de France, but finds herself fighting to keep his spirit alive under the guise of the firework-setting "Green Man" after Charles is locked in the Temple tower. Alexandrine, unbeknownst to her young charge, has another secret as well: she can see the dead. Revolution is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.

7. House of Wax (1953)

André de Toth's House of Wax tells the story of Henry Jarrod (played by the fantastic Vincent Price) who is renowned for his talent at sculpting wax figures. Henry prefers to create historical displays, and his masterpiece is a Marie Antoinette figure that is so life-like people say they can "see it breathe." His beloved works are destroyed in a suspicious fire, and when Henry returns with a brand new museum, his displays--and his behavior--are much more sinister.  House of Wax is available on Amazon Instant Video.

8. Unseen Versailles by Deborah Turbeville

 [credit: ©Deborah Turbeville]

Unseen Versailles is not your standard 'Versailles' photography book."Deborah Turbeville's 'Unseen Versailles' is compiled of works she created in the winter of 1979, on site at the chateau de Versailles during restorations being undertaken on the palace. Jackie Onassis, who commissioned the publication, wrote that she wanted Turbeville to "conjure up what went on there, to evoke the feeling that there were ghosts and memories." The results are eerie, haunting, and definitely worth checking out. The book is no longer in print, but check your local library or online for some glimpses at one of the must-read photography books focused on the famous palace.

9. Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Colette is a special class trip to Paris and she is thrilled--at first. Gruesome murders in the heart of Paris begin to rattle the teenager, especially when she finds out that all of the victims have one thing in common: they are the descendants of those who betrayed Marie Antoinette. And Colette's family history may bring her closer to death than she thinks. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats.

10.  The Moberly–Jourdain Incident

 On the 10th of August 1901--coincidentally (or perhaps not) the anniversary of the attack on the Tuileries during the French Revolution--Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain took a visit to the palace of Versailles. After touring the chateau, they decided to visit the Petit Trianon. What happened next is still the subject of debate.

According to the pair's 1913 version of events, the two women appeared to walk into a time slip, seeing Versailles--and some of its inhabitants--as they were more than a century before. According to Moberly, "Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees." The women wrote they felt a sense of 'oppression and dreariness' come over them as they walked along. Moberly also claimed to see a woman sketching in a lawn-dress, whom she later believed to be Marie Antoinette herself. 

Notable Books:
  • The Trianon case: A review of the evidence by David Johnston 
  • The Ghosts of Versailles : Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain and their Adventure by Lucille Iremonger 
  • The Trianon Adventure: A Symposium, edited by A.O. Gibbons 
  • An Adventure (1913 edition) by Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain (Available Online)
The Moberly-Jourdan Incident also inspired a film: Miss Morison's Ghosts. It is available on DVD, but the DVD is out of print.