Monday, November 19, 2018

2018 Reading Treasure Marie Antoinette Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a Marie Antoinette gift guide! If you're looking for the perfect gift for that special someone in your life--and that special someone happens to share a penchant for all things Marie Antoinette, France, and 18th-century--then you're sure to find something wonderful on this list of (mostly) new Marie Antoinette-y gifts for 2018. Happy holidays! And remember to check the links, as many of these items are currently on sale for much lower (sometimes more than 50%) than the list price!

A 2018 Reading Treasure Holiday Gift Guide

Under $100

Dior and His Decorators: Victor Grandpierre, Georges Geffroy, and the New Look by Maureen Footer ($60.00)*
Available from Amazon
 Marie Antoinette lacquer brooch ($65.00)
Available from TanyaHPS Rus
 Henri Samuel: Master of the French Interior by Emily Evans Eerdmans ($75.00)
Available from Amazon

'Bonjour Versailles' Marie Antoinette mug (€45.00)
Available from Boutiques de Musees

Visitors to Versailles: From Louis XIV to the French Revolution ($65.00)
Available from Amazon

 Marie Antoinette hand fan (€37.50)
Available from Chateau de Versailles boutique

Fashion and Versailles by Laurence Benaim ($65.00)*
Available from Amazon

Under $40

18th-Century inspired extra large pearl earrings ($25.00)
Available from Dames a la Mode

 Versailles storage box (€19.90)
Available from Boutiques de Musees 

 The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox ($24.99)
Available from Amazon

 Marie Antoinette mug ($33.00)
Available from LittlePinkBR

Dans la garde-robe de Marie-Antoinette by Mathieu da Vinha (€24.90)
Available from Boutiques de Musees

Dame de la cour makeup bag (€24.90)
Available from Boutiques de Musees

Under $20

Marie Antoinette Bust ($12.24)
Available from Bric A Breizh

Marie Antoinette pocket mirror (€8.75)
Available from Chateau de Versailles boutique

Marie Antoinette cross stitch pattern chart ($17.66)
Available from Maison Sajou

The Little Book of Versailles by Dominique Foufelle ($12.00)
Available from Amazon

1772 Tinted Rose Balm ($10.00)
Available from LBCC Historical

Dame de la cour fragrance sachet (€9.90)
Available from Boutiques de Musees

*Note: An asterisk designates an item I have received from publishers in exchange for review in the past. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October Offerings: Books to Chill Your Bones

Who doesn't love a scary story--preferably one read in candlelight while nestled in a cozy chair as the wind (or are those spirits?) howls outside? If you're looking for a ghost story, check out these chilling tales!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi Alpers is sent to stay with her father in Paris over winter break in the hopes that the change of scenery will help her deal with her grief over her recently deceased younger brother. She discovers an journal written by Alexandrine, a young girl living through the French Revolution whose attachment to the young Louis Charles de France places in her a dangerous position. But as Andi dives into Paris archives and even catacombs to find out more about the mysterious Alexandrine, she finds herself confronted with the ghosts of the past--literally. 

The Devil in Love by Jacques Cazotte

The young Don Alvaro finds himself the object of love from a devil, who decides to turn himself into a young woman in the hopes of tempting Alvaro into signing away his soul. Alvaro finds himself agreeing to marry this woman of otherworldly origin, but only if he can get his mother's approval. This novel is considered by one critic to be the "very initiator of the modern fantasy story." It was adapted into multiple ballets in the 1800s.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Colette Iselin's class trip to Paris is marred by a series of gruesome murders; these ghastly crimes seem to coincide with the vision of a ghostly woman in an old-fashioned dress, who appears again and again to Colette as they tour France's famous palaces and museums. Collete decides to uncover the secret behind these gruesome murders, only to discover that the perpetrator may be someone long since dead.

 The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey by 'Mrs Carver'

Laura, a refugee in London who has fled from revolutionary France, finds herself  living in the remote, gloomy and (it is said) very much haunted Oakendale Abbey. As she fends away the advances of Lord Oakendale, she begins to explore the desolate abbey, finding that its secrets are more horrifying than she ever imagined.

Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen by Annie Goetzinger

Maud, an artist living in the 1930s, discovers that her talents are not limited to the pen or brush; on a trip to the Petit Trianon for inspiration, she is contacted by someone beyond the grave. That someone: the very ghost of Marie Antoinette, who asks Maud to help her find eternal rest. Maud agrees, though

Sunday, October 28, 2018

October Offerings: An illustration from 'The Castle of Otranto'

[image: “We must go down here,” said Isabella.  “Follow me; dark and dismal as it is, we cannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church of St. Nicholas." An illustration from The Castle of Otranto : the old English baron, 1800 double-edition.]

Words cannot paint the horror of the Princess’s situation.  Alone in so dismal a place, her mind imprinted with all the terrible events of the day, hopeless of escaping, expecting every moment the arrival of Manfred, and far from tranquil on knowing she was within reach of somebody, she knew not whom, who for some cause seemed concealed thereabouts; all these thoughts crowded on her distracted mind, and she was ready to sink under her apprehensions.  She addressed herself to every saint in heaven, and inwardly implored their assistance.  For a considerable time she remained in an agony of despair.

At last, as softly as was possible, she felt for the door, and having found it, entered trembling into the vault from whence she had heard the sigh and steps.  It gave her a kind of momentary joy to perceive an imperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the roof of the vault, which seemed to be fallen in ... She advanced eagerly towards this chasm, when she discerned a human form standing close against the wall.

She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad.  The figure, advancing, said, in a submissive voice—

“Be not alarmed, Lady; I will not injure you.”

So reads a passage from the 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole. It is widely considered by literary critics to be the first truly "Gothic novel," and its thematic elements helped form the foundation for what would become common tropes in Gothic fiction. The popularity of The Castle of Otranto inspired many other writers to take up their pen, ultmiately resulting in one of the most popular literary genres of the late 18th and early 19th century.

In 1778, author Clara Reeve published her own version of Otranto called 'The Old English Baron.' In her introduction, Reeve notes her novel's origins:
"This Story is the literary offspring of The Castle of Otranto, written upon the same plan, with a design to unite the most attractive and interesting circumstances of the ancient Romance and modern Novel, at the same time it assumes a character and manner of its own, that differs from both; it is distinguished by the appellation of a Gothic Story, being a picture of Gothic times and manners."
But in contrast to the original Otranto, Reeve's version is remarkably grounded. She created, as critics would later note, a "probable ghost story" where almost every supernatural element could have another explanation. The reasoning behind Reeve's tamer tale can be found in her Preface, where she explains that Gothic tales should keep themselves "within certain limits of credibility." She continued, specifically bringing up some of the more outlandish elements of the original Otranto, that:
"A sword so large as to require one hundred men to lift it; a helmet that by its own weight forces a passage through a courtyard, into an arched vault, big enough for a man to go through; a picture that walks out of its frame; a skeleton ghost in a monk's cowl--when your expectation is wound up to the highest pitch, those circumstances take it down with a witness, destroy the work of imagination, and instead of attention, excite laughter."

Walpole, for his part,  found her story probable--too probable. He was quoted as saying in response to her novel: "The Old English Baron is so probable that any trial for murder at the Old Bailey would make it more interesting story.'"

Ironically, despite their mutual criticisms, the novels were occasionally published in tandem. The above illustration is from a 1800 edition which includes both the original The Castle of Otranto and Clara Reeves The Old English Baron.

Friday, October 26, 2018

October Offerings: Calmet's Vampires

 [image: a promotional still for the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire]

Although we mostly associate vampire hunts with  darker, even medieval eras, the belief--and fear--in vampires existed well into the 18th century. There were several documented instances of mass "vampire panics" during this period, including an almost ten year vampire craze centered in countries throughout the Hapsburg empire. Corpses suspected of being vampires were dug up, examined, beheaded and even burned, all due to the suspicion that they were reanimated corpses who returned to torment the living.

Antoine Augustin Calmet (1672-1757) was a French monk who published, among his many philosophical and ecclesiastical writings, what is now an intriguingly peculiar work: Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits, et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie et de Silésie (translated: Dissertations on the Apparitions of Angels, of Demons and of Spirits, and on Revenants or Vampires of Hungary, of Bohemia, of Moravia and of Silesia).

Calmet's work is notable because it was an extensive study dedicated primarily to these Hungarian and other Eastern European vampires. Calmet's intention was to explore the possibility of the vampires through base scientific, philosophical, and religious points of view.

To quote 'Dissertations sur les apparitions':

"I undertake to treat here on the matter of the revenans or vampires of Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, and Poland, at the risk of being criticised however I may discuss it; those who believe them to be true, will accuse me of rashness and presumption, for having raised a doubt on the subject, or even of having denied their existence and reality; others will blame me for having employed my time in discussing this matter which is considered as frivolous and useless by many sensible people. 

Whatever may be thought of it, I shall be pleased with myself for having sounded a question which appeared to me important in a religious point of view. For if the return of vampires is real, it is of import to defend it, and prove it; and if it is illusory, it is of consequence to the interests of religion to undeceive those who believe in its truth, and destroy an error which may produce dangerous effects."

Although Calmet's book covers multiple types of vampires, it was the Hungarian concept which seemed to take the strongest hold over Europe. Calmet described the 'Hungary' vampires as thus:

"The revenans of Hungary, or vampires, which form the principal object of this dissertation, are men who have been dead a considerable time, sometimes more, sometimes less; who leave their tombs, and come and disturb the living, sucking their blood, appearing to them, making a racket at their doors, and in their houses, and lastly, often causing their death. They are named vampires, or oupires, which signifies, they say, in Sclavonic, a leech. The only way to be delivered from their haunting, is to disinter them, cut off their head, impale them, burn them, or pierce their heart."

Although some contemporaries took Calmet's work to mean that he believed in the existence of vampires, the work seems mostly skeptical to me. Calmet repeatedly offers natural explanations for various "vampire" signs, such as people being buried alive resulting in "corpses" that bleed or scream when removed; hair and nail growth being due to built-up 'humors' in the body which cause them to grow for a short time after death;  and undecayed corpses simply being something that happens sometime, due to the manner of death or the manner of burial. He also offers an interesting religious perspective when delving into the idea of reanimated corpses, which he says can only be the work of either God, Satan or otherwise demonic forces.

In 1755, Maria Theresa sent Gerard van Swieten, one of her personal physicians, to investigate the vampire cases. He published a report titled Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster (Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts) which offered scientific and natural explanations behind what people perceived as signs of vampire activity. After his report, Maria Theresa issued a ban on staking corpses, digging them up and beheading or burning them, and other acts which were associated with vampire hunts. Her decrees were soon mimicked by other monarchs, more or less ending the vampire paranoia of the Age of Enlightenment.

The full text of 'Dissertations on the Apparitions of Angels, of Demons and of Spirits, and on Revenants or Vampires' can be read in English at Project Gutenburg.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October Offerings: Death in 'Freund heins Erscheinungen', 1785

Although the danse macabre and memento mori genres are best known for its popularity during the Middle Ages, that common thread of reminding the viewer of the inevitability of that final dance with death--for all people, in all walks of life, in countless ways--continued for centuries after. Even today remnants of danse macabre can be found in old cartoons, modern festivals, and even collectible pins.

Freund heins Erscheinungen in Holbeins Manier was originally published in 1785, and it received at least one more edition in the early 1800s. The book contained numerous depictions of death, affecting high-born and low; ranging from mere accidents to murders to the result of gluttony or other poor choices, each with and accompanying poem. I've selected a few of the illustrations to share here.

[image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785] 

  [image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785]

  [image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785]

  [image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785]

[image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785] 

[image: F.R. Schellenberg. Freund heins Erscheinungen. Winterthur : Heinrich Steiner und Comp., 1785]

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October Offerings: 'The Three Witches' by Henry Fuseli

I've gotten a little behind in my blogging this month, so I haven't gotten to post as many spooky finds as I would have liked. That is why every day from now until October 31st will feature an October Offering! Happy Halloween season!

The Three Witches by Henri Fuseli

[credit: Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783. The Kunsthaus Zürich.]

Henry Fuseli is one of the best known 18th-century artists to focus on supernatural and morose subjects, ranging from witches to nightmares to deaths and beyond. One of Fuseli's more striking works is The Three Witches, first shown in 1783. The three witches depicted are the famous trio from Macbeth, whose appearance inspired the character Banquo to call out: 'what are these so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, and yet are on't?'

Fuseli created several different versions of this work, including several studies in preparation for the finalized paintings. The above painting, in the collection of Kunsthaus Zürich is a finished painting rather than a study. Of particular note is the eerie Death’s-head Hawkmoth in the corner, whose skull-like markings fit in well with the tragic and fatal themes of the play.

Some other versions of The Three Witches are below. Which is your favorite?

 [credit: Henry Fuseli, Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, ca. 1782. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Purchased with funds from The George R. and Patricia Geary Johnson British Art Acquisition Fund.]

 [credit: Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection]

 [credit: Henry Fuseli, Study for The Three Witches, 1783. Auckland Art Gallery]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October Offerings: Party on the Stairs by Adelaide Claxton,

After all: a truly good party doesn't just last a lifetime...

[image: Party on the Stairs by Adelaide Claxton, circa 1860-1890]