Friday, August 18, 2017

An unusual miniature depicting Maria Theresa using a switch on one of her daughters



  credit: National Museum in Warsaw

This unusual miniature by an unknown artist, circa 1750, depicts Maria Theresa disciplining one of her daughters with a switch. I would guess that the daughter in question may be Anna, Christina or Elisabeth based on her daughter's ages in 1750. Corporal punishment was certainly not unusual in the time period, but I was very surprised to see a miniature of Maria Theresa herself administering it!

As for why the daughter is being punished so, it looks like she was caught playing with the doll in the bottom-left center rather than doing her needlework like the other daughters in the painting. Minus the infant of course, who is instead dutifully watching her sisters work.

One would imagine that the empress herself commissioned this work.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Restoration work on View of the Parterres of Trianon with Flore and Zephyr by Jean Cotelle.

A photo of early restoration work being done on View of the Parterres of Trianon with Flore and Zephyr by Jean Cotelle.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Marie Antoinette (1938) items sold at the latest Profiles in History auction

Profiles in History currently finished Day 2 of their most recent Hollywood Auction, and a few items related to MGM's 1938 'Marie Antoinette' film were featured. All of the 'Marie Antoinette' items sold this time around, and only one item did not go above the estimate.

1. Adrian-designed gown worn by Norma Shearer [estimate: $15,000-20,000; sold: $35,000]

 [image credit: Profiles in History]

This ornate gown was made with black velvet, black and silver buillon lace, and black velvet ribbon. The costume was worn by Norma Shearer in the scene where she and Louis-Auguste learn that Louis XV has died and they are now the queen and king of France.


2. Lead soldiers used as "distant extras" [estimate: $400-600; sold: $400]




 [image credit: Profiles in History]

These lead soldiers were designed to be used as distant extras in a forced perspective shot to give the impression of hundreds more extras than MGM could employ. Most are only painted on the camera-facing side. This set came from the collection of Ib Melchior, a writer and film producer/director who passed away in 2015.

3. Collection of 67 production photographs and behind-the-scenes photos from the film [estimate: $600-800; sold: $4,250]

 [image credit: Profiles in History]

This fantastic collection of over 60 photographs features everything from unique photos taken during filming, snapshots of behind-the-scenes relaxation, costume tests, production stills and more. Some of them have the right corner torn off, which was known to be Norma Shearer's way of indicating a "kill," or a photo that wouldn't be used for publiicyt. Profiles in History was kind enough to scan about 20 of the photos for the online listing, and while I wish we could have seen all of them, it's enough to get just a few of the never-before-seen images! You can view the rest that Profiles in History uploaded here.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Portraits of 18th-Century Women With Knotting Shuttles


image: an 18th-century French knotting shuttle with case [credit: AnticStore]

"[Knotting] is so little used that a description seems almost unnecessary." --Florence Hartley, The ladies' hand book of fancy and ornamental work, 1859

By the time that Florence Hartley wrote these words, the practice of knotting--or creating a string of ornamental knots using a shuttle--had fallen so far out of use that it was only worth three sentences in a book otherwise stuffed with descriptions, patterns, and step by step diagrams of all sorts of ornamental needlework. Yet knotting was once a staple of ornamental needlework practiced by upper class women, who would spend hours creating delicate knots with their beautifully adorned shuttles.

Knotting was done through the use of a knotting shuttle, which allowed the user to wind thread which could be gradually turned into long strings of decorative knots. Most women would keep drawstring bags on their wrists so that the strings could be pushed inside as they knotted. After they were finished, the knotted strings were then couched or sewn onto dresses, linen, chair backings, and other types of fabric material. Knotting shuttles for upper class women were typically made from high end materials, including porcelain, ivory, tortoiseshell, or even gold, while shuttles for lower classes were more often made of bone. 

The easy nature of knotting made it something women, once well-practiced, could keep themselves occupied with while barely needing to look at their hands. Knotting could be done during long coach rides, while sitting in drawing rooms and salons, while sitting in the theater, and any number of occasions. The practice was so popular with Queen Mary of England during her downtime that that Sir Charles Sedley made a ditty of it: ‘For here’s a Queen now thanks to God!/Who when she rides in coach abroad/Is always knotting threads.’ 

The widespread popularity of knotting in the 17th and 18th century made it a popular subject in women's portraiture of the period. I've compiled ten of the many portraits from this period showcasing women using knotting shuttles, which I've shared below. (You can find many more portraits online--a great number of hem are mislabeled as women with tatting shuttles; however, tatting did not develop until the 19th century and the shuttles featured in these 18th century portraits are all designed for knotting.)

 A portrait of Mme Georges Gougenot de Croissy by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1757

 A portrait of Marie Antoinette of Austria by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1762

 A portrait of Princess Charlotte of Hesse-Philippsthal or Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony from the workshop of Georg Desmarées, circa 1764.

 A portrait of Maria Kunigunde of Saxony by Pietro Rotari, circa 1755

 A portrait of Madame Adelaide de France by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1756.

 A portrait of Madame Dange by Louis Tocque, 1753.

 A portrait of François de Jullienne and his wife Marie Elisabeth by Charles Antoine Coypel, 1743.

 A portrait of Mrs. Abney by Joseph Wright, circa 1780s-90s.

 A portrait of Queen Charlotte and Charlotte, Princess Royal by Benjamin West, 1776.

 A portrait of Elizabeth de la Vallee de la Roche by Michel Pierre Hubert Descourts, 1771.



Friday, May 26, 2017

10 Portraits of 18th-Century Women Doing Needlework


"I'm embroidering a waistcoat for the King which hasn’t progressed much, but I hope that with God’s grace, it will be finished in a few years." --Marie Antoinette, 1770.

Needlework of all kinds was a common pastime for aristocratic and wealthy women in the 18th century; needle-crafts such as hand-embroidery, sewing, couching and even lacework were ways for upper-class women to occupy their hours of leisure time and create elaborate embellished gifts for close friends and family, or even embellished decor for their own personal use.

Needlework was ever-present in the lives of lower class women as well, although spending hours honing skills in elaborate decorative needlework was usually reserved for women who used that skill to bring in money instead as a leisure activity enjoyed by wealthy women. Needle skills were necessary for the everyday tasks of running a household, such as sewing, mending, and marking linens; as with upper class women, embroidery could be used to embellish gifts or personal items.

Not surprisingly, needlework is frequently seen in portraits of women from the 18th century. I've compiled 10 portraits centered on this theme which I will share below.


Portrait of Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame by François-Hubert Drouais, 1763-1764.

 Portrait of Caroline Fox, 1st Baroness Holland by Joshua Reynolds, 1757-1758.

 Portrait of Marquise de Caumont La Force by François-Hubert Drouais, 1767.

 Portrait of archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1762.


Portrait of Catherine Brass Yates by Gilbert Stuart, 1793. 


 Portrait of a young girl embroidering by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 18th century.

 Portrait of a woman doing needlework by Charles-Antoine Coypel, 18th century.

 Portrait of The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds, 1780.

Portrait of a young woman doing embroidery attributed to Jean-François Garneray, 18th century.

Portrait of Catherine Lane Barker by Gilbert Stuart, 1792.