Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Striking English Quill Work Portrait, 1700-1720


An object of outstanding beauty and exhibiting many talents, this quill work portrait of an attractive, elegant young woman is in the collection of Historic Deerfield (http://historic-deerfield.org). Created between 1700 and 1720, it features the use of silk, ink and paper. 



This English portrait combines needlework, watercolor and other types of fashionable decorative treatments such as the gilt edged paper which was fashioned into to scrolls and tendriling leaves and flowers. This treatment mimics the elaborate gilt portrait frames of the era.  Catching the parlor light this would have been a perfect Rococo centerpiece, displaying artistry and wealth.


The maker and the sitter are currently unknown, but given the level of skill shown throughout, it probably occupied a place of pride in the family’s treasures. Further, despite the artistic challenge presented by the nose, the visage of the sitter is meant to convey a delicate and genteel aura. She wears pearls at her neck, her hair is loose and uncovered. While the anatomical correctness is a bit “off”, her clothing certainly reflects the early decades of the 18th century: her mantua appears similar to the example below from the Victoria and Albert Museum, of pale blue silk brocade. Over her shoulders, is a voluminous (fur?) wrap, frequently seen in oil painting of the period.

This is a special find in a special gallery. “Celebrating the Fiber Arts” is a rotating, ongoing installation at Historic Deerfield (http://historic-deerfield.org)

Courtesy, Victoria & Albert Museum
http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/interactive-silk-mantua-gown-1710-20/
Many thanks to Ned Lazaro, Collections Manager & Associate Curator of Textiles, for his ongoing assistance.

All images are courtesy of Historic Deerfield unless noted otherwise; photos by Kimberly Alexander 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Régence, Regency, Jazz Age What Color Was It? (Part 2)

Part 2, Vibrancy


 Singing in the Rain MGM 1952

As if to reinforce the notion of jarring modern color, on a fluke the other night we watched the movie ‘Singing in the Rain.’  So bumping along with the film, focusing on it and a book at the same time suddenly my eye caught the ’Gotta Dance’ sequence.  Saturated dyes and pigments of chartreuse, lemon, fuchsia, orange and electric blue traveled across the screen coloring everything with the same color palette used by Arnoux.  
Skating

Of course this was a dream sequence in a movie musical from the 1950s, so careful with putting too much stock in accuracy, but… while these 1920s colors were jarring, at the same time they were reminiscent of the colors I saw years ago in Bath on Regency under gowns. In that exhibit the pastel colors of the regency women were in fact electrically vibrant colors muted by the shear muslin over gowns.  The muslin gauze tempered the brilliant colors like a painter’s glaze. This was not a world of pastel dyed garments, but a pigment charged palette vying for attention with the driven hues of the Regency interior.  

Tennis

Those examples shattered my notion of the Grecian refinement that I tended to associate with clothing of this period and it has stayed with me over the years. The Arnoux’s pochoirs reflected the insouciance that we regard as a hallmark of the Jazz Age, but it also put me in mind of that earlier exhibit and the randiness of the early 19th century suddenly looked more modern for it. 

Dancing


The French Régence, the English Regency and the Jazz Age were not and are not the same period, but how striking some of the similarities, a generation maturing during a series of wars and revolutions, feeling distanced from the previous generation and breaking from that generation not only in the silhouette clothing, but the color palette of that clothing. 

 
Bluff


The images from the 1920s captured the essence of a moment pervading the inner war years and transferred it to an earlier period. Historically, the 1920s colors may have been wrong based on available dyes during the 18th century and even the early 19th century but it reminds me to be vigilant to the possibilities of the improbable.
Archery

Fishing


Jeff Hopper is a Consultant, Historic House Stewad and Social Historian

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Régence, Regency, Jazz Age What Color Was It? (Part 1)

Dice

On opening night of the exhibit Cosmopolitan Consumption (Information here), several visitors asked if the original color of some of the objects was brighter or stronger. Luckily on the underside of a number of the objects sections of the original color was intact and in one case a snippet of original fabric remained in an unfaded state.  Aside from a quick view of the bottom of an object, the ongoing advances in the scientific research of historic colors has greatly enhanced our understanding of the use and palette of color over time. That is great for the original object, but how do we actually see these colors from one generation to the next.  Each generation predisposes itself to how it views the world. This predisposition is one way that conservators and curators can see some ‘improvements’ and restorations with the naked eye. An example of this is the way in which faces are painted or over-painted, the Flapper or Bright-Young-Thing face on the Georgian portrait. Oops how did that happen?  Hmm.  One of the most difficult premises for an artist is to distance their self from their time period.

Dice in another version also on Ebay 3/15


A chance encounter with a new color palette from an artist whose work I know jolted me the other day when I saw a series of pochoirs rendered in the 1920s by Guy Arnoux, but based on scenes from the French Régence (1715-23).  I enjoy Arnoux’s cartoonesque style, which is firmly rooted in the early 20th century, but often illustrates the past. A technical note, pochoir is a refined coloring technique that employs stencils and gouaches to illuminate prints.  There is a vibrant quality to the technique that appeals to my eye. 

Hunting vibrant

The technique was employed in the first quarter of the 20th century by the haute couture French fashion journal La Gazette du Bon Ton. That being said, the series that I came across on EBay that was shocking in its color palette.  I knew the series; Jeux et Divertissements. I have a couple of the prints from the series that I found in an antique shop years ago. I considered the examples I own as being the standard color range, but on this other group, the colors were intensely modern, at least for the 1920s. The coloration might be jarring to our modern eye and our understanding of the correct colors of the 18th century, but it might have been less so to the 1920s’ eye.

Hunting soft or faded Palatte

Cards


Jeff Hopper is a Consultant, Historic Hosue Stewrad and Social Historian









Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Dangers of Fringed Gloves & Gew Gaws, The Tatler, 1709-10

Every generation has its over the top luxuries -- the highly soft after equipage of the fashionable elite. In the 18th century, it might be the fan, the shoe, the stockings, the hat, the parasol, the stomacher or any number of items which could be used for flirtation or for fashionable luxurious gifts. In the early years of the 18th century, fringed gloves were a source of trepidation. There was concern in some quarters that such items of adornment would lead women astray.

Gloves, leather, metallic thread and silk, British, 17th cenutry. Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum of Art

With usual satirical verbal swashbuckling, The Tatler for 28 March 1710 opines: 

…many a lady has fetched a sigh at the toss of a wig... or to reckon up all the virgins that have fallen a sacrifice to a pair of fringed gloves. A sincere heart has not made half so many conquests as an open waistcoat…[1]

Leather, silk and gold gloves, c. 1735. Probably French. Courtesy, Metropolitan Museum.

Fripperies, gew gaws, and gimcracks. Gloves have long been a symbol of wealth and social position. They signified that the wearer did not engage in any physical or manual labor. The sheer lack of functionality and the impracticality of delicate laced gloves  (such as the pair above with decorative gold lace, or braid, winding across the palm) made them accessories to covet.

Gloves, with extensive ribbonwork, 1660-1690. Courtesy, Worshipful Company of Glovers.


For more, see gloves….
  
1. The Tatler, Number 151, Tuesday, March 28, 1710. Excerpt from Addison on women's weakness for dress, The Commerce of Every Day Life, 486.