George IV’s Collection of Items Owned by Napoleon

In my second book, An Uncommon Duke, the plot involves an assassination attempt made on the Prince Regent, who later become King George IV (1762–1830). In order to bring him to life in my story, I read a number of biographies about him before I began writing. One small little nugget of history stuck in my mind months later.

When the British defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, George, then the Prince Regent, became very enthusiastic about celebrating the victory. He collected prints, drawings, and works of art related to the battle. He even created the Waterloo Chamber in Windsor Castle and commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence to paint portraits of all the key players involved in the defeat of Napoleon to display on the walls. But the one point that I couldn’t let go of was his interest in collecting items once owned by Napoleon.

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Coronation Portrait of King George, IV. Painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1820. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

You might be familiar with this coronation portrait of George, which was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1820, but did you know that the table featured in the painting was made for Napoleon Bonaparte? That was the one historical tidbit that led me on a quest to find out what other items George owned that once belonged to Napoleon. Here is a sample of a few of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Table of Great Commanders. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

Known as the Table of Great Commanders, it was one of four commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to immortalize his reign and took six years to complete. It has an internal wooden frame covered in hard-paste porcelain with gilt bronze mounts. The image in the center of the top is of Alexander the Great and bears a striking resemblance to Napoleon. The table was given to George as a gift from Louis XVIII of France. There is a silent statement in having George’s crown on the table in the portrait above. It’s as if he is thumbing his nose to his enemy.

 

 

 

 

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Napoleon’s Writing Table. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

Maybe it has something to do with me being an author, but I adore antique desks and writing tables. This one, made by Jacob Frères and owned by Napoleon, does not disappoint. It’s made of elm and oak with gilded metal elements. There are two top drawers and each leg is carved with a winged, gilded lion. It is estimated to date between 1796-1815. George purchased it in 1820.

 

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Cloak once owned by Napoleon. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

Another item of Napoleon’s that came into George’s possession was this beautiful cloak. Out of all the items I discovered George owned that belonged to Napoleon, I think this is my favorite. I’d love to have it in my closet! I just might be a bit overdressed wearing it to pick up my son from school.

According to the Royal Collection Trust website, “It is recorded in July 1816 in the Carlton House Inventory as ‘Said to be a Cloak worn by Bonaparte’ and ‘A large cloak made of scarlet cloth with large hood.  The hood and front are embroidered with gold. Parts of the inside of the front of the cloak are lined with silk and also embroidered with gold.  It was transferred to Windsor Castle in March 1837.  It is recorded in the North Corridor Inventory at Windsor as being a ‘Cloak of Napoleon 1st said to have been brought by him from Egypt, and taken out of his carriage by the Prussians after Waterloo.  An Aide de Camp of Marshal Blücher who visited Windsor Castle about 1870 vouched for the truth of the above and said he himself took the cloak from Napoleon’s carriage’.”

 

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Bowls and stands once owned by Napoleon. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

These two silver-gilt bowls have an interesting story behind them. According to the Royal Collection Trust’s website, “These decorative bowls were said to have been modelled on the breast of Venus, although the more likely model was Napoleon’s sister, Pauline de Borghese (1780–1825). As Prince Regent, George IV acquired both bowls and one stand in 1815 and commissioned a second stand to match the following year.” The bowls are marked with a Paris guarantee mark of 1798-1809 and the maker’s mark is of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot. The stand that George commissioned is struck with London hallmarks for 1816-1817 and a maker’s mark of Paul Storr.

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Robe sword and scabbard once owned by Napoleon. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

 

This robe sword and scabbard dates from 1802-1803. It’s believed the original copy of this sword was given to Napoleon when he was elected First Consul in 1799. The marks on this one makes one assume it was crafted as a replacement for the original. When George acquired this sword, a certificate accompanied it swearing that it had belonged to Napoleon. The sword is silver-gilt with enamel, ivory, gold and steel. The scabbard is made of wood, mother-of-pearl, and silver-gilt. Today it can be found in the Grand Vestibule at Windsor Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shooting gun once owned by Napoleon. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

And finally, this gun owned by Napoleon was presented to George by Lieutenant Brooke of the Royal Horse Guards in 1817. The note accompanying indicates that it was “constantly used by Bonaparte”. It was manufactured by Lepage as a sporting gun and is made of blued steel and carved walnut. You can also find this gun in the Grand Vestibule at Windsor Castle.

Reference Used:  The Royal Collection Trust.

If you’re interested in finding out more about An Uncommon Duke, check out my Bookshelf page or these fine retailers:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks , Kobo, and WHSmith

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Costume Jewelry in the Georgian Era

A few days ago, I went shopping for a birthday gift for a friend. She likes to wear rather large statement pieces of jewelry, and I found a perfect necklace for her at Henri Bendel. Today, wearing costume jewelry is quite common, but did you know there was something similar to costume jewelry during the Georgian era? It’s true. In the 18th and 19th centuries, all that glittered was not gold.

Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the term “costume jewelry” to 1927, jewelry made out of inexpensive materials to resemble gold and fine gems dates back much earlier. The first type of fake jewelry I’d like to discuss is paste stones, which are fake gem stones. Paste is a particular type of imitation gem stone that is made out of glass with a high lead content and has been around since the 18th century.

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A paste demi parure, ca. 1820. Courtesy of Bonhams.

 

According to Collector’s Weekly, “in 1724 the French jewel designer Georges Frédéric Strass created ‘paste,’ a kind of leaded glass that he cut and polished with metal powder until it appeared to shimmer like a diamond in the light. These white ‘diamante’ or ‘strass’ were a hit with glamorous Parisian high society.” Eventually the popularity of paste spread.

During the Georgian era it wasn’t technically possible to cut and polish diamonds the way we can today, and diamond jewelry had to be made around the shapes in which the diamonds were found. The advantage to using paste was that these stones could be cut and polished into the shapes jewelers needed for their designs. Therefore, some of the most exquisite pieces of Georgian jewelry are made out of paste.

Paste earrings from my private collection, ca. 1775-1790.

Early paste stones were backed with either clear or colored foil to reflect the light. The backs of foiled paste stones are “closed” which means the back of the stones are covered with silver or gold to protect the foil backing. If you look into the center of a white paste stone, you may see a black dot that was placed there to help the piece resemble a diamond.

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White paste earrings, ca. 1790. Courtesy of Three Graces.

I think it’s worth noting that you wouldn’t have been embarrassed to wear paste jewelry. The people who wore these pieces would not have been poor and weren’t wearing them to deceive people into thinking they were wearing precious gemstones. The settings they were placed into and their high sparkle made them very desirable in their own right.

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Lozenge-shaped cross in openwork decorative scrollwork set with paste stones, ca. 1809. Courtesy of Three Graces.

If you own antique paste jewelry, it’s important not to get it wet—especially if there is foil behind the stones. The moisture could ruin the stones’  appearance. Brushing the jewelry with a soft dry toothbrush is an ideal way to remove any dirt. You can also polish your piece with a soft dry cloth. Another thing to keep in mind, paste stones are softer than many natural gemstones, so they should be stored separately.

Another form of Georgian “costume jewelry” is Pinchbeck. Pinchbeck resembles gold but is made from a combination of copper and zinc. The formula for this metal was developed by Christopher Pinchbeck, a London clockmaker who lived from about 1670 to 1732.

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A bloodstone and pinchbeck fob seal. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Pinchbeck was an affordable substitute for gold, and records indicate that travelers often carried jewelry and accessories made from Pinchbeck if they felt they were at risk for robbery during their journey. Their more expensive pieces were kept safe at home.

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18th century portrait miniature with pinchbeck locket frame with engraved border. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Pinchbeck could be worked into the same intricate designs as gold, and it retained its yellow color unlike other gold substitutes of that period which were prone to fading. In the mid-19th century Pinchbeck’s popularity waned when nine karat gold became legal,which allowed buyers to purchase jewelry made from a less expensive type of gold. And about that time the plating process known as electro-gilding was invented, adding to Pinchbeck’s decline.

So the next time you look at a portrait from the Georgian or Regency eras, consider that the jewelry worn might not be what it appears.

References used:

http://www.bonhams.com

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/paste

http://www.georgianjewelry.com

Goldemberg, Rose Leiman, Antique Jewelry: A Practical and Passionate Guide. 1976.

 

 

Would You Have Given Up Your Jewelry to Fight Napoleon?

If your country asked you to give up something to help fight the enemy, would you do it? Between 1803 and 1815, citizens of Prussia were called upon by members of the royal family to donate their gold and silver jewelry to help finance their country’s efforts in the Napoleonic Wars. In exchange for their precious jewelry, they were given jewelry cast in Berlin iron.

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Berlin iron is a metal that was produced in the Prussian royal foundry. It is a black-lacquered cast iron material that was originally used to make objects such as utensils, candlesticks, and medallions, as well as larger objects such as garden furniture, and fencing. The iron was coated with black lacquer to prevent it from rusting. It is that black appearance that gives Berlin ironwork the look of mourning jewelry. Ironwork jewelry was also produced by iron jewelers such as Johann Conrad Geiss.

Berlin Ironwork Bracelet, ca.1815

Berlin Ironwork Bracelet, ca.1815

Prussian citizen’s wore their ironwork jewelry with a sense of patriotic pride. Many pieces bore slogans like “I gave gold for iron” and “for the welfare of our homeland.” This gentleman’s ring features a center medallion with a pair of clasped hands. This symbol represents loyalty and solidarity. On the ring are inscribed the words “there is an echo in France when we say the words honor and Fatherland.”

19th Century Ironwork Men's Ring

Early Berlin ironwork followed fashion and was typically neo-classical in design. Many pieces included cameos and classical figures.

Berlin_Iron_Necklace_l early 19th century

Around 1815, the designs began to change to feature more natural elements.

 Berlin iron_necklace

By 1825, ironwork jewelry remained in favor and pieces were being designed in the gothic revival style.

Berlin Ironwork Bracelets from the V&AI wonder how many people today would give up their jewelry if their country asked them to?

Resources used:

 

 

Get Your Bling On – Jewelry of the Georgian Era

Thomas Lawrence PortraitI intended to write this post about an entirely different topic, but then I became distracted by the jewelry I saw in this portrait by Thomas Lawrence. Not one to be able to resist a good sidetrack in my historical research, I followed my urge to find out more about the jewelry that was made during the Georgian era.

The Georgian era is defined as the years between 1714 and 1830. We need to remember that back then, jewelry was crafted by hand. Due to the lack of precision cutting machinery, precious stones cut during the Georgian era have a rougher look than stones cut today. These stones were set low into the metal and backed with silver, gold, or colored foil behind them to enhance the color and reflect more light through the stone. Silver was the only white metal used for setting diamonds. White gold didn’t come into use until after about 1925, platinum after about 1890.

Back and Front of Earrings from my collection, ca.1775-1790

Throughout the Georgian era, diamonds were the stone of choice. Rock crystal and colored stones such as pink topaz, green chrysoberyl, and purple amethyst were popular early on.

5 rose cut diamonds set in gold ca. 1770

Rose Cut Diamond Ring, ca.1770

Pearls were fashionable, set alone or mixed with gemstones, and as the years went on emeralds, garnets, rubies, yellow topaz, onyx, coral, and turquoise came into favor as well.

Georgian Red Coral Bracelet

18th Century Red Coral Bracelet

It may surprise some people to hear that fake stones were also used. These stones were known as paste. Paste is faceted leaded glass cut to resemble gems. It is sometimes called “strass” after the 18th century Parisian jeweler, Georges Frederic Strass who became world famous for his paste jewelry which was even prized by the likes of Marie Antoinette. The earrings from my collection and the earrings below are made of paste. They are day/night earrings. This style of earring was developed during the 18th century. Typically this is a two element earring in which the top cluster can be worn separately from the attached drop, making it a more appropriate choice for daytime wear.

18th Century Day Night Paste Earrings

Day/Night Paste Earring, ca.1770

During the day, women wore very little jewelry. In many instances you can see portraits of women wearing a simple black ribbon around their neck.

Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy by Joshua Reynolds, 1754

Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy by Joshua Reynolds, 1754

Evenings for the aristocratic set, were an entirely different matter. Short necklaces were prefered and some of the most desirable styles included the dog collar, now known as a choker, and rivieres. A riviere is a necklace with individually set stones of the same size or graduating to a larger size in the front. It could be worn alone or with a pendant attached. Often a riviere was part of a parure, which is a suite or set of matching jewelry including a necklace, earrings, bracelet, and brooch.

Georgian Riviere Necklace

18th Century Diamond Riviera Necklace

The girandole was also popular and used in pendants, brooches, and earrings. This design is composed of three hanging pendants that are set with single or multiple stones hanging from a centerpiece. Georgian girandole jewelry were often embellished with bows, foliate motifs and/or garlands. The popularity of this style began to wan around 1790 as neoclassicism began to dominate the styles of the era.

Georgian Emerald and Diamond Girandole Pendant, ca.1780

Diamond and Emerald Girandole Pendant, ca.1780

As the 19th century approached and we move into the Regency era, dress styles changed dramatically and women began to favor delicate empire waist dresses with short sleeves and low necklines. This style of dress was inspired by Europe’s fascination with ancient Greek and Roman culture. Like the style of dresses, the style of jewelry followed suit. Armlets were worn on the upper arms and could be used as a garter to hold up a woman’s glove.

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Gold chain esclavage necklaces were part of this neoclassical movement and were worn with drop earrings. These necklaces are comprised of several rows of chains, beads or jewels. In the portrait I was studying, the sitter is wearing an esclavage of pearls.

Georgian Esclavage Necklace ca.1815

Esclavage Necklace, ca.1815

A simpler style of jewelry also complimented the style of Regency era dresses. If your economic condition did not allow for costly pieces, you could adorn yourself with a simple gold chain and a small pendant.

Topaz Crosses That Belonged to Jane and Cassandra Austen

Topaz Crosses That Belonged to Jane and Cassandra Austen

And finally, this was the era that introduced us to one of my favorite pieces of jewelry: the lover’s eyes. The eye miniature set into jewelry is believed to have originated with the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his secret wife, Maria Fitzherbert. Their relationship was frowned upon by court, so a miniaturist was employed to paint only the eye and thereby preserve anonymity and decorum. The couple married in 1785, though all present knew the marriage was invalid by the Royal Marriages Act, since George III had not approved. It is believed that Maria’s eye miniature was worn by George IV, hidden under his lapel from the time of their courtship. Apparently George’s lover’s eye must not have been much of a secret since this supposedly led to the lover’s eye becoming fashionable between 1790 and the 1820s.

Lover's Eye Brooch from my collection, ca.1800

Lover’s Eye Brooch from my collection, ca.1800

If you lived in London during the Georgian era and were in the market to purchase something lovely to wear to the opera or to a ball, you could have visited these fine establishments for your jewelry:

  • Rundell and Bridge at 32 Ludgate Hill (Rundell, Bridge & Rundell after 1805)
  • Phillip’s on Bond Street
  • Thomas Gray’s on Sackville Street
  • Stedman and Vardon at 36 New Bond Street

Sadly, a large majority of Georgian jewelry has not survived to the present. Many families restyled the pieces to keep up with trends, or they sold them off and the components were taken apart for their value. Brooches and rings are the most common types of Georgian era jewelry still in existence. Earrings and necklaces remain available to a lesser extent. I love the fact that these pieces were all crafted by hand, and I’ll continue to admire them in portraits, and search them out in some of my favorite antique shops.

Resources used include:

 

 

A Peek at the Prince Regent’s Art Collection

When  I was writing An Uncommon Duke, one of my favorite things to research was the art collection owned by the Prince Regent. In the story my heroine, Olivia, is one of the people the Prince Regent turns to when he wants to acquire new pieces.

Aside from his passion for women and food, King George IV adored fine art. While he was Prince of Wales, he began collecting paintings and by 1816, 136 paintings decorated the suite of staterooms at Carlton House. His bedroom suite alone showcased an additional 67 paintings, and he had 250 other paintings in storage.

Amassing a collection this large took some help, and George turned to men who were influential and informed collectors of art in their own right. He looked to Sir Charles Long (later the 1st Baron Farnborough), Walsh Porter, and Sir Thomas Lawrence for advice on paintings to add to his collection. Lord Yarmouth, who became the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, served as the Prince Regent’s agent at art sales from 1810 to 1819.

So, if you strolled through the rooms at Carlton House during the Regency era, what would you have seen? Here is just a very small sample:

“The Shipbuilder and his Wife” by Rembrandt van Rijn (dated 1633)

The Shipbuilder and His Wife

This painting was purchased by George in 1811 for 5,000 guineas. The couple were identified as Jan Rijcksen and his wife Griet Jans. He was a shareholder in the Dutch East India Company and their master shipbuilder. This painting is part of George’s substantial collection of Dutch and Flemish masters. It hung in the Blue Velvet Room in Carlton House as shown in this 1818 watercolor by Charles Wild for The History of Royal Residences by William Henry Pyne.

The Blue Velvet Room at Carlton House

 “Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap” by Rembrandt van Rijn (dated 1642)

Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap by Rembrandt van Rijn

George purchased this self-portrait by Rembrandt in 1814 from Sir Thomas Baring along with of a group of 85 Dutch and Flemish paintings. Most of them were collected by Sir Thomas’s father, Sir Frances Baring. The self-portrait is dated 1642, when Rembrandt was 36 years old. It is comparable in many respects with his self-portrait of 1640, which is in the National Gallery in London. Unlike the earlier portrait, this one does not possess a ledge along the lower edge of the composition.

“A Kermis on St. George’s Day” by David Teniers the Younger (dated 1649)

A Kermis on St. George's Day by David Teniers the Younger

David Teniers’s work was much sought after in the early 19th century. This painting was the most expensive of Teniers’s work in George’s collection. It was valued in his 1819 inventory at 1,500 guineas.

“A Stag Hunt at Versailles” by Jean-Baptiste Martin (c.1700)

A Stag Hunt at Versailles by Jean-Baptiste Martin

This painting was purchased for George from M. De la Hante in Paris. In the center of this painting, the Duc de Bourgogne is sitting a grey charger and holding out his sword to kill the stag. In the background is Versailles, the Orangerie, and the city.

“A Woman at her Toilet” by Jan Steen (dated 1663)

A Woman at her Toilet by Jan Steen

It didn’t surprise me when I found a painting like this one in George’s collection. This is an allegorical painting about seduction and temptation. The woman is shown partially undressed, putting on her stocking. She looks straight out at the viewer with an inviting expression. The viewer is kept out by the arched doorway, which no sensible person should cross, however strong the temptation. The images on the doorway symbolize constancy, domestic virtue and chastised profane love. The objects scattered throughout the room signify the effects of misdirected sensual pleasure. Steen implies that to pass through the doorway would be to risk the loss of virtue.

“The Prince of Wales’s Phaeton” by George Stubbs (dated 1793)

The Prince of Wales's Phaeton by George Stubbs

This is a scene designed to appeal to the discerning eye of a man of fashion, who in this era would have possessed an understanding of horseflesh and an appreciation for an efficiently run mews and well turned-out servants. These things mattered, because they were a reflection on the owner and master—in this case the Prince of Wales. The depiction of his phaeton shows the viewer that George was unstuffy enough to drive his own carriage. The pomp of a Prince is replaced by the elegance of a man of fashion. The men in the painting are George’s portly coachman and the man’s assistant.

“The Three Eldest Princesses: Charlotte, Princess Royal, Augusta, and Elizabeth” by Thomas Gainsborough (dated 1784)

The Three Eldest Princesses: Charlotte, Augusta, and Elizabeth by Thomas GainsboroughGeorge commissioned Gainsborough to paint his three eldest sisters in a full-length group at the cost of 300 guineas. Gainsborough placed Princess Augusta on the left, Princess Charlotte in the center, and Princess Elizabeth on the right. Their arms are affectionately entwined, reminiscent of the intimate depictions of the Three Graces. The work was originally to be shown at the Royal Academy in 1784, however Gainsborough and the hanging committee could not agree on where the painting should be hung. He withdrew the work, showing it instead in his studio in Schomberg House before it was hung in Carlton House.

I think my favorite is the Gainsborough, but that might be because I am very partial to portraits. Let me know which one caught your eye.

Resources used:

http://www.georgianindex.net/Prinny/Prinny.html

http://www.royalcollection.org.uk

 

Museum Exhibitions to Keep You Busy on a Cold Day

White leather boot c. 1845

When the cold weather hits, I’m always looking for interesting things to do indoors. Here are a few museum exhibitions that caught my eye. If only I had my own private plane, I would lace up my boots and visit each one.

IN GREAT BRITAIN:

Wedding Dresses, 1775-2014 at the V&A

Now through March 15, 2015, visit the V&A in London to see romantic and iconic wedding dresses.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/wedding-dress-1775-2014/

The Lost Art of Writing also at the V&A

For anyone who still enjoys putting pen to paper, this is for you. This small display explores some of the objects used in writing, from a medieval penner to an ingenious 18th century globe inkstand. This exhibition runs through April 19, 2015.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/2885/the-lost-art-of-writing-4256/

Bonaparte and the British at The British Museum

This exhibition at The British Museum in London, focuses on the printed propaganda that either reviled or glorified Napoleon Bonaparte, on both sides of the English Channel. It explores how his formidable career coincided with the peak of political satire as an art form.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/bonaparte_and_the_british.aspx

Georgians – Dress for Polite Society at The Fashion Museum

The Fashion Museum in Bath holds a world-class collection of contemporary and historic dresses. Now through January 1, 2016, you can see over 30 original 18th century outfits and ensembles drawn from the museum’s collection.

http://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/events/georgians

Waterloo Life and Times at The Fan Museum

2015 marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and The Fan Museum in Greenwich, London has an exhibition that includes fans printed with portraits of heroic figures like Nelson and Wellington. The exhibition runs through May 10, 2015.

http://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/waterloo-life-and-times

IN THE UNITED STATES:

Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850 at the Portsmouth Athenaeum

This is a great exhibition for anyone with a fondness for footwear. The Portsmouth Athenaeum in Portsmouth, N.H. is presenting an exhibition on the process of how shoes were made, sold, and worn in New England. Some beautiful shoes are included in this exhibition. It runs through June 5, 2015.

http://portsmouthathenaeum.org/exhibits.html

Downton Abbey Comes to the Biltmore Estate

If you love Downton Abbey, you’ll love this exhibition. The curators at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. have installed 47 costumes from the television series throughout the rooms of the house. As you wander the halls, you will see both the upstairs and the downstairs portions of life from Downton Abbey. The exhibition runs through May 25, 2015.

http://www.biltmore.com/media/newsarticle/downton-abbey-costumes-at-biltmore

An Intimate History of the Silhouette at the Bard Graduate Center

This exhibition examines the extraordinary ways in which women and men have shaped their bodies into distinctive silhouettes in the name of Fashion. The Bard Graduate Center is located in New York City. This exhibition runs from April 3 through July 26, 2015.

http://www.bgc.bard.edu/gallery/gallery-at-bgc/fashioning-the-body.html

Masterpieces of American Furniture 1700-1830 at the National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has one of the largest and most refined collections of early American furniture. This exhibition is now part of their permanent collection.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/permanent/kaufman_furniture.html

UPCOMING:

Luminous Worlds: British Works on Paper, 1770-1870 at Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco will present an exhibition that reflects the 18th century vogue of portraiture and caricature, and the rise of landscape painting. This exhibition will run from July 18, 2015 through November 22, 2015.

http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/luminous-worlds-british-works-paper-1770-1870

If there are other exhibitions you are excited about seeing, please let me know. And if you are lucky enough to catch any of these exhibitions, I’d love to hear about it.

Note: Thank you to Dr. Kimberly Alexander, who is co-curator of Portsmouth Athenaeum’s shoe exhibition, for providing me with the photograph of the white leather boot I used in this post. In case you’re wondering, it’s c.1845. Kimberly writes a wonderful blog entitled Silk Damask, where she discusses historical costumes. Here is the link to her blog: http://silkdamask.blogspot.com/

Discovering the Life of a Regency Era Gentleman

Once again January rolls around, and I find myself at the Winter Antiques Show in New York City. It is one of America’s premier antiques shows, and it provides curators, established collectors, dealers, design professionals, and first-time buyers with opportunities to view, learn about, and purchase lovely pieces showcased by the exhibitors. For me, on a cold day in January, I can’t think of a better place to be with one of my dearest friends.

This year I went with the intention of purchasing another miniature portrait to add to my collection. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any that caught my eye. I did, however, see a few items that were beautiful, intriguing, and/or just plain fun. It wasn’t until I began looking through my photographs that I discovered I’d been given a glimpse into the life of a Regency era gentleman. Let me show you what I mean.

Portrait of Anthony Groves by James Peale, c. 1810

The first portrait that caught my eye, was of this handsome gentleman showcased by Schwarz Gallery. This portrait was painted in 1810 by the renown American artist, James Peale (1749-1831). The sitter is Mr. Anthony Groves, who was a prominent Philadelphia merchant. One of the things I like best about this portrait, is the charming dimple Mr. Groves sports on his left cheek.

Stickpins from Wartski

On the lookout for stunning pieces of jewelry, we stopped by Wartski’s exhibit and saw this selection of stylish stickpins to adorn a man’s cravat.

George III Secretaire Bookcase

Over at Hyde Park Antiques, where I could easily live if they’d let me, I found this rare Thomas Weeks Cabinet. It is a George III stainwood and mahogany secretaire bookcase attributed to George Simpson for Thomas Weeks c.1805. The best part of this piece, to me, was discovering a complete men’s dressing drawer above the fold out desk. Those stickpins would fit quite nicely into that drawer. I liked this piece so much, that I plan to devote an entire blog post to it in the coming weeks.

First Edition of Emma

And what novel would be a wonderful addition to that bookcase? I think the first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma would fit nicely behind those glass doors. Emma was the last novel Jane Austen published in her lifetime. It was first printed in 1816 in London as a three-volume set. This set is offered by Bauman Rare Books. Perhaps a gentleman might store the volumes inside his bookcase for his wife.

English Four-Barrelled Flintlock c 1810

If you read or write books about Regency era spies, you might find this piece fun. It is an English four-barrelled flintlock “Duck’s Foot” type volley pistol, by Lea of Mansfield. It was made around 1810 and is showcased by Peter Finer.

Wine Cooler or Cellaret, c. 1810

And after a long day of spying, a gentleman might just need a drink. This is a very fine English Regency wine cooler or cellaret made of mahogany (c.1810) from Georgian Manor Antiques.

Regency gilt bronze and marble cassolettes c. 1815

If he’d like to enjoy his drink by candlelight, a gentleman could have used this gilt bronze and marble casolette (ca.1815) to hold his candle. This piece was also showcased by Hyde Park Antiques. The top portion flips over, revealing a candleholder that rests back into the base.

"The Ruined Girl" 1800 by Joseph Allinson

And finally, if a gentleman wasn’t really a gentleman, he might find himself with a ruined girl. I adore this piece, from Nathan Liverant and Sons. It’s a watercolor and ink on paper by the artist, Joseph Allinson. It is either English or American and is dated 1800. The title of the piece is “The Ruined Girl.”

At the bottom it reads:

“Oh! fatal Day when to my Virtuous wrong, I fondly listened to his flattering Tongue, But oh! more fatal Moment when he gained, That vile Consent which all my Glory stain’d.”

I hope you enjoyed taking a short tour of the Winter Antiques Show with me and getting a peek at some of the objects that a Regency era gentleman might have used. I’d love to know which one is your favorite.

 

A Peek Inside the Dining Room of Historic Lansdowne House

 

One of the sad parts about researching historical places, is discovering that a beautiful building had been torn down. I was recently reading about Berkeley Square in London and became intrigued by one of the late Georgian era’s prominent homes, Lansdowne House. It was designed by renowned Scottish architect Robert Adam and located on the southwest corner of Berkeley Square.

lansdowne_house_greenwood%27s_map_london_1830_edited

A fun fact about the house is that it was situated sideways, giving Devonshire House a direct view of Berkley Square through the gardens of both homes.

Lansdowne House was originally designed for Prime Minister John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792). Lord Bute was a tutor and a friend of the young Prince George. Upon George’s accession as King George III, Lord Bute was made Secretary of State. In 1762, he became Prime Minister.

In 1765, Lord Bute sold the unfinished property to William Petty-Fitzmaurice (1737-1805), the 2nd Earl of Shelbourne. Lord Shelbourne was also a Prime Minister and was in power during the end of America’s War of Independence. The house was completed from Adam’s designs in 1768. In 1784, Shelbourne became the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, and the house became known as Lansdowne House. Lansdowne was a leading Whig statesman and his house became a meeting place for Whig social and political circles in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne

William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne

The central block of the house stills stands at the corner of Fitzmaurice Place and Lansdowne Row. In 1930, two of the wings of the House were demolished, and it was converted into a club. The dining room, or “Eating-room” as Adam labeled it, was in the south wing and was bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Owing to the restrictions of the space, the long walls were reversed when they were installed in the museum. I have been lucky enough to visit this room on two recent trips to The Met.

Shelbourne_House_1765 later Lansdowne House

The dining room is the lower left room.

The ceiling was designed by Adam and created in plaster by Joseph Rose.

Ceiling of Dining Room of Lansdowne House

The carvings were executed by John Gilbert and the marble chimneypiece was supplied John Devall & Co., London. The oak floor in the room is original.

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

The niches originally held nine ancient marble statues acquired by Lord Lansdowne in Italy from the artist Gavin Hamilton. Unfortunately, they were sold off individually during the Lansdowne sale of 1930. The niches in the museum have been filled with plaster casts.

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Sadly, the original furniture that was designed by Robert Adam for this room and executed by John Linnell, no longer survives. However, thanks to museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, we are still able to take a peek at a room that would have been lost to us long ago.

Update:

Victoria Hinshaw, from the wonderful historical blog Number One London, was kind enough to let me know that the Drawing Room of Lansdowne House is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After visiting the Dining Room, I now have an itch to see the Drawing Room.  To continue with my love of Lansdowne, Victoria’s blog has posts on Lansdowne Club in London and Bowood, the Lansdowne’s country home. Check out her blog and search for these subjects: http://onelondonone.blogspot.com

Resources used include:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20499/lot/35/

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shelbourne_House_1765.jpg

http://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/john-stuart-3rd-earl-of-bute

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=apnpgno=3938&eDate=&1Date=

 

Mourning Pictures – An Expression of Grief in the Georgian Era

Portrait of Catherine Lorillard, ca. 1810

I confess, I have a fascination with mourning customs of the Georgian era. I’m not sure how this interest developed, but I do know that I am drawn to objects that helped people express their grief at the loss of those they loved.

Recently, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see their exhibition entitled, “Death Becomes Her.” This exhibition focuses on the history of mourning attire from 1815 to 1915. There were a number of items that intrigued me. The portrait above was one.

This portrait is of Catherine Lorillard, who was the daughter of the New York City tobacco magnate Peter A. Lorillard. She was born in 1792 and, according to family history, died from cholera while in her teens. The portrait is dated ca. 1810.

Most early nineteenth century silk embroideries illustrate scenes from mythology or pastorals, copied from prints. Memorials, usually called mourning pictures, often included full-length figures standing at grave sites in landscapes appropriately featuring weeping willows. Catherine’s portrait is also a memorial, but in a different, possibly unique form.

It was almost certainly painted posthumously, because the drape over her head is a symbol of death. Her head and neck were painted by a professional artist, perhaps based on a portrait from life. The embroidery was probably by one of her female relatives.

Her expressive portrait, painted in oil on silk and embellished with silk and silk-chenille threads, is unlike any other needlework picture I have seen. What intrigued me most about this memorial, was that it focused on Catherine and not on the images of those she left behind, mourning her at her gravesite. I could understand her family wanting to have this piece as a way to keep Catherine close to their hearts. And for me, it gave me the opportunity to look into the eyes of the girl who must have been missed terribly by her family and friends.

Resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

What’s Inside the Traveling Studio of an 18th Century Miniature Portrait Artist?

Miniature Portrait Painter's Box. Probably United States ca. 1790s. Mahogany with brass fittings.

Miniature Portrait Painter’s Box. Probably United States ca. 1790s. Mahogany with brass fittings.

This late eighteenth century artist’s box is like a portable portrait studio. It’s believed to have belonged to an unknown American traveling artist and contains all the tools and materials they would need to paint portrait miniatures on ivory with either powdered color or watercolor. I came upon this treasure when I went to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of portrait miniatures. It’s an area of the museum that isn’t very big, but I could spend a great deal of time there simply admiring the faces of the past.

Miniature Portrait Painter's Box

Inside this artist’s box are two palettes, one in ivory and one in porcelain. There are gums for binding pigments or glazing, and brushes that have quill ferrules and bone handles. Also housed within the drawers are slivers of ivory cut into ovals and squares, pieces of paper, a brush rest, sponges, chalk, and galipots for water. The box also contains drawing instruments for the artist to accurately measure the small panels; two pairs of compasses, a wood rule, styluses for tracing, and agate burnishers to seal the edges and backs. Some miniature portraits could be as small as 40mm x 30mm, so the artist also kept an eyepiece to magnify their work and help them create the intricate details.

Miniature Portrait Painter's Box Lid

Since the portraits were so small, the artist was able to use the lid of the box as an easel, which could be raised to an angle with brass struts. The ivory would have been secured on the baize with common pins, and a container of them can be found in this box. And finally, several completed ivory portraits were kept within the box to showcase the miniaturist’s skill to prospective sitters.

James Peale Painting a Miniature by Charles Wilson Peale, ca. 1785

A similar box is depicted in the portrait above. It is by the well-known American portrait painter Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1817) and shows his brother, the famous American miniaturist James Peale, at work (ca. 1785).

Resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art