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Archive for the ‘18th Century Life’ Category

miniature portrait of unknown lady

Miniature portraits: Jane Austen’s sentimental favourites

I mentioned yesterday the remarkable exhibition Miniatures from the Time of Marie Antoinette at the Philip Mould Gallery. Certainly Marie Antoinette and her brother Emperor Joseph II are represented there, but the vast majority of the sitters in the collection are unknown ladies and gentlemen. Why? Because, unlike grand portraits meant to be displayed in the […]



Lisbon earthquake 1755

The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake

The news cycle has pushed the earthquake in Japan off the headlines, but the immensity of the suffering is impossible to dismiss as we are told that the death toll of the tsunami exceeds 10,000. I keep being reminded of another major natural catastrophe: the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It happened in the morning of […]



Swimmers-1810-Paris

Swimsuits in 1810 Paris…

Parisians used to love to bathe in the Seine. Horrendous pollution notwithstanding, in the 18th century every summer saw people swimming in the river, generally in the nude. Only at the onset of the French Revolution was skinny-dipping outlawed, for men and women. Hence these early 19th century bathing suits, shown in a print posted […]



Girandoni air gun

Air guns: the automatic weapons of the 18th century

While researching For the King, I met air guns (fusils à vent) on several occasions. But I had long been familiar with these weapons as a reader of fiction—Conan Doyle’s works, more precisely. Remember The Adventure of the Empty House? In this tale, Colonel Sebastian Moran uses an air rifle to murder his victim. It […]



cadenettes

1800 hair fashions: the cadenettes

Some characters in For the King, including the would-be assassin Pierre de Saint-Régent, wear cadenettes. What were they? They consisted in two side braids worn in front of the ears, while the rest of the hair was gathered in two more braids behind the ears. Those were tied on the nape to form a queue. […]



Louise-Elisabeth-Vigee-Lebrun-self-portrait

Madame Vigée-Lebrun, Regency England and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Frequent visitors to Versailles and more have become familiar with Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, one of the most successful painters of her time and Marie-Antoinette’s favorite portraitist. Madame Lebrun left France as early as October 1789, after the royal family relocated, much against their wishes, to the Tuileries. She traveled extensively in search of new patrons, in […]



18th century Paris Raguenet Pont Neuf Samaritaine

The Seine River (and drinking water) in 18th century Paris

The early reviews of For the King praise my portrait of 1800 Paris. This, needless to say, makes me very happy. I do not wish to limit my novels to the glamorous aspects of aristocratic life, and strive to show Paris as it really was: a bustling, vibrant, but overcrowded, smelly, dirty city. The Seine […]



Cognacq-Jay snuff box mask

Masked ladies (gentlemen too…)

Susan Holloway Scott has a great post on masks in the 17th century. They protected ladies’ complexions from the attacks of the sun and cold, but they were also most convenient for discreet assignations… In 18th century France, their use became limited to the balls and celebrations that marked the revelry of Carnival. This is […]



Boilly Pass and Pay

Boilly’s Passez Payez (Pass and Pay)

This is another Paris street scene by our friend Louis-Leopold Boilly. As always, the artist has much to tell us beyond the depiction of an everyday incident. This takes place in 1803, when the streets of Paris were still mostly unpaved. Any rain shower turned them into torrents of mud. But there the poorest of the […]



18th century fashion doll

An 18th century fashion ambassadress

This may look like the other costumes displayed at this year’s Court Pomp and Ceremony exhibition at Versailles. But this picture is deceptive: this is in fact but a half-size model of a French court gown. Ordinary fine ladies, unlike the royal family of Sweden, could not rely on their own ambassadors to keep informed […]



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