Saturday, August 10, 2019

What They Said Saturday: "I think there will be a great hubbub resulting in nothing."

'What They Said' Saturday: a day for quotations of all kinds, including excerpts from letters written by Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries, memoirs, non-fiction, novels and everything in between.

"… Rumors says the Assembly does not want the King’s deposition, but that it will be forced to it. It is also rumored that the King will leave here somewhere forcibly… they say also that a strong movement will take place in Paris to bring this about. Do you think this is true? As for me, I do not believe it. I think there will be a great hubbub resulting in nothing. There you have my profession of faith. Furthermore, things are as calm as possible today. Yesterday was the same, and I think that today will follow in its footsteps. Adieu. I tell you nothing, because there are too many things I want to tell you… I embrace you and love you with all my heart. "
--Madame Elisabeth to the Marquise de Raigecourt, August 8th, 1792

The above letter was the last letter written by Madame Elisabeth before she--along with the rest of the royal family--were swept up in the events of August 10th, imprisoned in the Temple, and locked away from the rest of the world. One has to wonder if her confident"profession of faith" regarding the supposed calmnness of Paris, just 2 days before what would become the end of her brother's reign, came back to her mind as the tumultous events of August 10th unfolded.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Film Friday: Lisa Delamare as Marie Antoinette in La Marseillaise (1938)

Film Friday: a day for sharing movie stills, production art, film analysis and anything film related!

La Marseillaise (1938) is a unique film from famed director Jean Renoir; the film, which is an effective ensemble piece, depicts the French Revolution through the eyes of the people of France--from the king and queen to the ordinary people who made up the Revolution.

The following still depicts the tense walk of the royal family from the Tuileries Palace on August 10th, 1792.

La Marseillaise (1938)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Book Review: Inspired By Nature: Château, Gardens and Art of Chaumont-Sur-Loire

 [image:  Inspired By Nature: Château, Gardens and Art of Chaumont-Sur-Loire by Chantal Colleau-Dumond/Flammarion.]

The historical domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire is home to one of the oldest existing French châteaus: the château-sur-Loire, a 15th century château that has been the center of royal intrigue, Enlightenment ideals, and modern-day festivals. Inspired By Nature: Château, Gardens and Art of Chaumont-Sur-Loire is a stunning new book from Flammarion which explores the history of the château-sur-Loire, its former inhabitants, its breathtaking gardens, and everything that has made it a popular destination for visitors from around the world.

[p. 253, photo by Eric Sander from Inspired by Nature, Flammarion 2019]
The experimental kitchen garden, created in 2009, is a homage to biodiversity. Many of the fruits and vegetables growing there had been all but forgotten since the eighteenth century.

Inspired By Nature features many beautiful photographs by Eric Sander, along with well-crafted prose crafted by Colleau-Dumond, which recounts the many historical figures and events which once took place within the gilded walls of the château-sur-Loire.

The château-sur-Loire that sits on the estate grounds today was built in the 15th century over the burnt ruins of the original chateau, which was destroyed on the orders of Louis XI as a punishment for its rebellious owners. A new chateau was built by the Chaumont-Amboise family. In 1550, Catherine de Medici was given the estate, and she frequently favored it was a retreat. 10 years later, Medici relinquished the estate to Diane de Poitiers, Henry II's favorite; it was the orders of Poitiers, now mistress of château-sur-Loire, which gave the château much of its iconic appearance that is still preserved today.

[p. 34-35, photo by Eric Sander from Inspired by Nature, Flammarion 2019]
The Catherine de’ Medici Room and The Story of David and Abigail tapestry, woven in the sixteenth century in Brussels.

Over the next few hundred years, château-sur-Loire would play home to various royals and nobles, though it never regained the favor of someone was notable as Catherine de Medici. In the 18th century, the north wing of the château was torn down so that two factories--one for crystal and the other pottery--could be built on the site. The château was seized by the new government after the revolution, though it was purchased--and widely neglected--by the famous Madame de Stael in 1810. It was not until the comte d'Aramon purchased the château in 1833 that it regained some of its former glory, including the now-popular cedars of Lebanon which remain on the site today along with extensive renovations. It was during the work of d"Aramon that the estate was declared a Monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture in 1840.

The restorations continued under the château-sur-Loire's next owner, Marie-Charlotte-Constance Say; it was during her ownership that the park was transformed into an English naturalistic landscape garden, which can still be seen today.

In 1938, Marie Say donated the estate to the French government. The château-sur-Loire remained fairly under the radar until 1992, when the very first International Garden Festival in Chaumont-sur-Loire was held. This now iconic Garden Festival is held annually and highlights innovative, creative and distinctly unique garden designs. Since its inception in 1992, the festival has not only become a mainstay for garden enthusiasts and architectural landscapers alike, it has immensely changed the way that people view gardens in a broad sense.

[p. 7, photo by Eric Sander from Inspired by Nature, Flammarion 2019]
The château was built in the fifteenth century facing the Loire river, in order to benefit from what, until the nineteenth century, was one of the longest navigable arteries in France 

Inspired By Nature: Château, Gardens and Art of Chaumont-Sur-Loire features 227 pages of historical anecdotes, architectural details, and 300 full color photographs showcasing interior details, historical photographs and, in the last section of the book, an array of garden photographs that must be seen to be believed.

Although the insight into château-sur-Loire stunning interiors and architectural marvels of the château-sur-Loire itself, combined with a wealth of historical information about how the château has been transformed and reinvented by its owners over the years, is highly interesting—I must admit that the “nature” aspect of Inspired By Nature is what captured my attention the most. The remarkably photographs by Eric Sander capture just the right amount of detail of these beautiful, distinct and sometimes even tantalizing gardens. If you have never researched the modern gardens at Chaumont-Sur-Loire, you are in for a treat—I can guarantee that you have never seen gardens quite like these! As with any Flammarion publication, the print quality on the photographs is outstanding--crisp, clear and worth looking at time and time again.

I recommend Inspired By Nature: Château, Gardens and Art of Chaumont-Sur-Loire for anyone with an interest in historical French palaces, along with anyone with even the slightest interest in gardens. This book may just change the way you view gardens forever.

[A review copy of this publication was provided to me by the publisher]

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book Review: Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era: The Eighteenth Century Struggle for Female Sucess in a Man's World by Mike Rendell

What did it mean to be a trailblazing woman in the Georgian era? How did women make names for themselves in an era when women were traditionally limited in their rights, opportunities, and ability to take the same literal and figurative stages as their male counterparts? Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era: The Eighteenth Century Struggle for Female Success in a Man's World by Mike Rendell is a guide to 17 women who made names for themselves despite the limitations placed on women in their era.

The women covered in 'Trailblazing Women' run the gamut from artists to businesswomen to writers, prison reforms and even a silversmith. Among what are likely to be familiar names such as noted writers Fanny Burney and Mary Wollstonecraft include women such as Anna Fry, a chocolatier who took over her family's prestigious chocolate factory after the death of her husband; Hester Pinney, a lace maker who engaged in stock and share speculation; and Elizabeth Fry, an ardent advocate for prison reform who traveled the country speaking out against prison conditions.

The first section of the book is dedicated solely to the legal status of women living in Britain during the 18th century. This initial section sets the groundwork for the women to follow, as it gives their achievements--and limitations--some essential context. I appreciated the wide breadth of women covered in the book, as the women covered weren’t limited to the traditional “big names” that tend to be brought up when discussing notable 18th century women who stepped out of society’s traditional expectations. Each women has a few pages dedicated to her life, her work and what made her "trail brazing." Most of the mini-biographies include contemporary quotes from the women themselves or quotes from their contemporaries. Rendell's writing is succinct, if at times a bit dry, but the overall book works well as an interesting collection of women from this time period.

Rendell’s mixed messages regarding his views on these trailblazing women work less well than the succint biographies detailing their accomplishments. On the one hand, the book is a celebration of women who managed--despite all odds--to step outside of the legal and societal expectations placed upon them. On the other hand, there are occasional asides such as this one regarding playwright Aphra Behn: “She wrote not so much about love as about sex, whether heterosexual, lesbian, or gay. In doing so it can be argued that she helped set back the cause of other female writers by a hundred years.” Arguing that women writers were held back a hundred years due to a woman writer not censoring herself is an odd message to say the least, especially when most of the book celebrates women’s decision to step outside societal norms.

Despite this setback, I think that Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era: The Eighteenth Century Struggle for Female Success in a Man's World by Mike Rendell works well as a short guide to some highly interesting 18th century women whom readers will want to learn more about through additional research and reading.

[A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher]

Saturday, July 6, 2019

What They Said Saturday: "I will write to you soon–if I can."

'What They Said' Saturday: a day for quotations of all kinds, including excerpts from letters written by Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries, memoirs, non-fiction, novels and everything in between.

 In the immediate aftermath of the royal family's failed flight to Montmédy, their friends and loved ones who either knew about the flight or had heard about it when the news broke out in Paris were left with great uncertainty as to the royal family's fate. As with any incident involving the royal family, rumors abounded. Were they to be killed? Imprisoned? As soon as they were able, the members of the royal family had letters sent (or in some cases, smuggled) out of the Tuileries to let their closet friends know that they were still alive. Uncertain--but alive.

On June 29th, Elisabeth sent this short note to the marquise de Raigecourt, acknowledging the uncertainty of their current position:

"I hope, my heart, that your health is good, and that it does not suffer from the situation of your friend. Hers is excellent; you know that her body is never conscious of the sensations of her soul. This latter is not what it should be towards its Creator, the indulgence of God is its only hope of mercy. I neither can nor will I enter into details as to all that concerns me; let it suffice you to know that I am well, that I am tranquil, that I love you with all my heart, and that I will write to you soon–if I can."

In a letter written to the marquise de Bombelle (her "dear Bombe") on July 10th, Elisabeth did offer some details about the recent events, remarking on the family's return from Varennes in the crowded coach with Barnave and Pétion:

"Our journey with Barnave and Pétion went on most ridiculously. You believe, no doubt, that we were in torture; not at all. They behaved well, especially the first, who has much intelligence and is not ferocious as people say. I began by showing them frankly my opinion as to their actions, and after that we talked for the rest of the journey as if we ignored the whole thing. Barnave saved the gardes du corps who were with us and whom the National guards wanted to massacre. "

Friday, July 5, 2019

Film Friday: TCM 'Marie Antoinette' Intro

Film Friday: a day for sharing movie stills, production art, film analysis and anything film related.

It's almost time for the annual Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars, so I can't help but share a this short yet engaging TCM intro from the late Robert Osborne for the most iconic of the older 'Marie Antoinette' films: MGM's lavish 1938 Marie Antoinette starring the powerhouse Norma Shearer in the title role.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The separation of Louis Charles from his family: July 3rd, 1793.

 [image: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie]

On July 3rd, 1793, a decree from the Convention ordered the separation of Louis Charles from the rest of his family. An account of this day written by his sister, Marie Therese, describes the suffering of this separation:
‘On the 3d of July, they read us a decree of the Convention ordering that my brother be separated from us and lodged in a more secure room in the Tower. Hardly had he heard it when he flung himself into his mother’s arms uttering loud cries, and imploring not to be parted from her. My mother, on her side, was struck down by the cruel order; she would not give up her son, and defended, against the municipals, the bed on which she placed him.They, absolutely determined to have him, threatened to employ violence and to call up the guard.
My mother told them they would have to kill her before they could tear her child from her. An hour passed in resistance on her part, in threats and insults from the municipals, in tears and efforts from all of us. At last they threatened my mother so positively to kill him and us also that she had to yield for love of us.
We rose, my aunt and I, for my poor mother no longer had any strength, but after we had dressed him she took him and gave him into the hands of the municipals herself, bathing him with tears and foreboding that she would never see him again. The poor little boy kissed us all very tenderly and went away in tears with the municipals.’