Monday, March 18, 2019

L'Après-Midi au Petit Trianon by Emile Charles Dameron (1848-1908)

Just a lovely painting to share today--but be sure to keep an eye out for an analysis on the depiction of the Queen's hamlet in 19th century art in a week or so!

Image: L'Après-Midi au Petit Trianon (Also known as 'Le Hameau de Trianon') by Emile Charles Dameron (1848-1908).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Women's History Month: Meet Messier 110, A Galaxy Independently Discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783

[image: A portrait of Caroline Herschel in 1828, aged 78]

On August 27th 1783, astronomer Caroline Herschel made an independent discovery of (to quote her brother William) a "very considerable, broad, pretty faint, small nebula" that would later become known as Messier 110 or M110. Today, M110 is classified as a dwarf elliptical galaxy that is recognizable for the dark, atypical dust clouds near the center of the galaxy. Thanks to the work of later astronomers, we also know today that most of the stars within M110 are about 500 million years old, though there are some young stars aged around 10-20 million years old towards the center of the galaxy.

Herschel was not actually the first astronomer to see M110; the first known observation was witnessed by Charles Messier, who observed it in August, 1773 but did not record it as an independent object. He would add it to his personal notes only in 1801, and eventually the object was assigned a Messier number (hence the name!) in the 1960s.

Herschel, however, was the first astronomer to make an independent documented discovery of M110, which added to her growing catalog of nebulae and other astronomical objects she discovered and cataloged during her decades-long work.

SDSS Image of M110 [credit: Donald Pelletier /CC BY-SA 4.0, no changes]

Saturday, March 16, 2019

What They Said Saturday: "I have a presentiment that all will turn out ill."

image: Detail from a portrait of Elisabeth de France by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, circa 1787

"I have a presentiment that all will turn out ill." Elisabeth de France, the younger sister of Louis XVI, wrote this sentence amidst the first weeks of the 1787 Assembly of Notables, a consultative assembly called by Louis XVI in a calculated effort to pressure the French parlements into approving varied but significant--and much-needed--tax reforms. The last Assembly of Notables had been called more than 100 years previously by Louis XIII, and the decision to once again call upon the Notables was not without its controversies, especially among certain factions of court.

Elisabeth, for her part, doubted that calling the Assembly of Notables would do much good; she aligned herself with the thoughts of those in court who believed that calling the Notables was an admittance of weakness, though she believed her brother called them with completely sincerity in "asking their advice." The Assembly of 1787 was instrumental in the chain of events that would result in the calling of the Estates General of 1789, for better or worse. Yet despite the dismissal of Calonne in April, just a under month before the 1787 Assembly was dissolved, Elisabeth wrote with a reserved optimism:"The Notables talk with more freedom (though they have never cramped themselves in that), and I hope good may come of it. "

The full letter from Madame Elisabeth to the marquise de Bombelles, as translated in Life and Letters of Madame Elisabeth de France:

You ask me, my friend, how I pass my time; I shall answer: Rather sadly, because I see many things that grieve me. The famous Assembly of Notables has met. What will it do? Nothing, except make known to the people the critical situation in which we are. The king is sincere in asking their advice. Will they be the same in giving it? I think not. I have little experience, and the tender interest I take in my brother alone induces me to concern myself with these subjects, much too serious for my nature. I do not know, but it seems to me they are taking a course directly the opposite of that they ought to take . . . . I have a presentiment that all will turn out ill. As for me, if it were not for my attachment to the king I would retire to Saint-Cyr. Intrigues fatigue me; they are not in accordance with my nature. I like peace and repose; but it is not at the moment when my brother is unfortunate that I will separate from him.

The queen is very pensive. Sometimes we are hours together alone without her saying a word. She seems to fear me. Ah! who can take a keener interest than I in my brother's happiness?    
Of particular note is Elisabeth's mention of the queen's pensiveness and distance during what was a highly critical moment for Louis XVI and ultimately, the monarchy. Elisabeth and Antoinette did not always agree--more often than not as the revolution continued, they found themselves on opposite sides of the ideological coin, resulting in coldness or even arguments between them. Yet this particular distance was not to last--a few short months later, in June, the queen's infant daughter Sophie died and she called Elisabeth to come with her and mourn. Elisabeth wrote that "... there was no attention she did not show me. She prepared for me one of those surprises in which she excels; but what we did most was to weep over the death of my poor little niece."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Women's History Month: 6 Historical Films Inspired by Real Life 18th-Century Women

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history. 

6 Historical Films Inspired by Real-Life 18th-Century Women

There is no end to the real-life events, stories and people that may inspire writers, directors and film producers. Historical genre films have been a staple of the film industry since its inception, and if the success of many period films is any indication, it's not a genre that will disappear anytime soon. I've compiled a list of some of my favorite historical films inspired by real-life 18th century women and their stories. Pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and enjoy!

 L'Anglaise et le duc (2001)

L'Anglaise et le duc (English title: The Lady and the Duke) is inspired by the experiences of Gracie Elliot, a Scottish woman who became the mistress of the duc de Orleans in the years leading up to the French Revolution; her actions and eventual arrest during the French Revolution form the basis of her posthumously published (and highly colorful) memoir, "Journal of My Life During the French Revolution." This film focuses on Elliot's experiences during the Reign of Terror and features an intriguing aesthetic inspired by contemporary paintings which gives the film a memorable and distinct look.

Belle (2013)

Belle is inspired by the real life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was born the daughter of an enslaved African woman and a British naval officer. Belle was taken by her father to England when she was only 4 years old and left in the care of his uncle and aunt, who raised her as a free woman in their aristocratic household. The film interprets Belle's coming-of-age through the an emphasis on the infamous Zong Massacre ruling, over which her uncle presided; the film does play rather fast and loose with the historical timeline, it features some excellent performances, beautiful visuals, and a look at an often-ignored element of British history.

The Duchess (2008)

The Duchess is inspired by the life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, one of the most well-known English socialites and icons of her era. The duchess of Devonshire's strained marriage, her affair with Charles Grey and the dynamics between the duchess, her husband and Elizabeth Foster form the basis of the film's dramatically driven story. A particularly emotional performance from Keira Knightley is the highlight of the film, although the gorgeous costumes are certainly something you won't want to miss, either.

Mozart's Sister (2010)

Nannerl, la sœur de Mozart (English Title: Mozart's Sister) is inspired by the life of Maria Anna Mozart, the elder sister to Amadeus Mozart. "Loosely inspired" is definitely key here, for the premise of the film focuses on an invented relationship between Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) and Louise de France, the lonely13-year old daughter of Louis XV. Through this friendship, Nannerl connects with the Dauphin of France, who encourages her interest in music (and perhaps, something more) even as her father forbids her to carry her career further than singing and harpsichord playing to bring in income for her family. If you're looking for an accurate depiction of Maria Anna's life, this isn't it--like Belle, it plays with historical facts and timelines to present a constructive look at the place of women in 18th-century society. The end result is a satisfying--if loosely accurate--film.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Does Marie Antoinette really need an introduction here? Well, just in case: It's a highly stylized, modernized take on the life of Marie Antoinette from her earliest days at Versailles until the fateful October Days of 1789 that resulted in the royal family's forcible removal to Paris, marking the end of the absolute monarchy in France forever. Sofia Coppola's aesthetic and story choices present the life of Marie Antoinette through an intimate, personal lens designed to allow viewers an modern impression of Marie Antoinette; macarons, Converse, and all. Love it, hate it--but it's defined Marie Antoinette's modern place in pop culture in more ways than one.

The Favourite (2018)

The Favourite is inspired by the intriguing dynamic between Queen Anne of England and her two prominent favorites, Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham. The two women's battle for Queen Anne's affection and status at court comprises most of the film's storyline, which is a darkly comedic blend of history and modern anachronisms that make for a snappy, satirical and highly enjoyable film. Of particular note is Olivia Colman's performance as Queen Anne, which earned her an Academy Award.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Madame Alexander Heads to the 18th-Century (Part 2: Pompadour Edition)

In Part 1 of this Madame Alexander series, we looked at some of the varied 18th-century inspired dolls that the company has produced over the years. In Part 2, we'll be looking at a specific series that was inspired by none other than the famous Madame Pompadour, longtime mistress of Louis XV.

The original 'Pompadour' series was released from 2001 to 2003.These dolls are some of the most sought after of the 21st century Madame Alexander releases due to the high level of details and quality in the original gowns. It's not unheard of for the original "Winter" to fetch over $1,000 when it shows up at auction! A few years later, the company released "Shadow" versions, or re-releases, due to the immense popularity of the line. The "Shadow" versions go for slightly less secondhand and had higher edition sizes.

Madame Pompadour: "Spring"

Madame Pompadour: "Summer"

Madame Pompadour: "Fall"

Madame Pompadour: "Winter"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Women's History Month: 18th-Century Women and their Gardens (Book Recommendations)

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history. 

[image: detail from The Fair Florist by J.R. Smith, 1780]

 Gardening became a contradictory sphere in the 18th century; a sphere which was dominated by formalized male landscape designers yet was inhabited more and more frequently by women who employed them or who dared to step beyond mere flower gardens to more expansive and typically masculine landscapes. These gardens could be pleasure retreats, expressions of their royal body, and sometimes even punishments for women sent into--literal and otherwise--retirement. The following are a selection of books that will help you learn more about the role of women in the landscape gardening sphere of the 18th century; enjoy and happy reading!

Green Retreats: Women, Gardens and Eighteenth-Century Culture by Stephen Bending  

In 'Green Retreats,' Stephen Bending explores the role of women in 18th-century gardens by laying out the broader context of women's involvement in gardens during the greater part of the 1700s; including popular artistic and literary depictions of women in gardens, the emergence of pastoral themes in women's gardening, and the words of women themselves to uncover how women chose to explore, understand, and sometimes even cross the boundaries of their status in society through gardens. This book is an intriguing exploration of an often-ignored subject, and Bending's work to restore the importance of women's roles in the sphere of 18th-century gardening is not to be missed.

From Marie-Antoinette's Garden: An Eighteenth-Century Horticultural Album by Elisabeth de Feydeau

'From Marie-Antoinette's Garden' is a highly illustrated look at one of the most extensive and well-known gardens in 18th century France: that of queen Marie Antoinette, who cultivated a garden filled with specific blooms designed to evoke a very personal aesthetic. This book features plenty of illustrations of the specific flowers featured in her garden while providing historical information about the background of the various blooms, how they were imported, and their context in Marie Antoinette's garden as a hole. This book is a definite must-have for garden lovers--or anyone who wants to take a stab at introducing some historically inspired blossoms into their own garden next spring.

Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de Medici to Marie-Antoinette by Meredith Martin 

 'Dairy Queens' is a study in very particular feature found in a number of aristocratic garden estates: the pleasure dairy. Martin's book challenges the notion that pleasure dairies were simple follies and instead explores the political, social and personal statements made through their construction and utilization by royal and aristocratic women who commissioned and sometimes designed them. This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in a contextual view of Marie Antoinette's infamous hamlet and the notion of pleasure dairies in the 16th-18th centuries as a whole.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Inspired Tuesday: Papo "Marie Antoinette" figurine

Inspired Tuesday: a day to share anything and everything inspired by Marie Antoinette and her world.

[image: via Amazon]

Papo is a toy company that has been offering children's toys for almost 3 decades. Their product range is extensive and includes everything from kits to board games and just about anything you could imagine in between. Their figurines are a particularly popular item, and for several years they have been releasing figurines based on a variety of historical figures. Their historical figurines are a particularly popular item to stock at museum and historical building gift shops, but they can be found online as well.

One of Papo's mainstay figurines in their historical series is this figurine of Marie Antoinette; she wears a light blue gown similar to those found in portraits of upper class and royal women in her age, complete with gold details and an iconic rose in her hand.  She would look great on a shelf--or wrapped up as a Christmas gift for a younger relative!

Are there any special historical people you wish Papo would represent in their figurine series?