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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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.

 

The History of the Dressing Table

Madame du Pompadour at Her Toilette

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour by François Boucher 1750

I fully admit to being what you might consider a girly girl. I love lotions and potions. A venture into Sephora will never take me less than twenty minutes, even if I just need mascara. And I begin and end each day at my antique dressing table.

Recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had an exhibition entitled  “Vanities: Art of the Dressing Table”. It showcased beautiful pieces and provided great information. I thought I’d share some of the highlights from the exhibition with you.

The history of the vanity begins with decorative wooden boxes used by the Egyptians to hold cosmetics and grooming implements. In Europe, the shift from these portable cases to the tabletop began with the evolution of the toilette. This term refers to the process of dressing and attending to personal grooming. The origins of the word toilette can be traced to the Middle Ages. People began spreading a toile (French for cloth, or toilettes, as they became known) onto a table when they were serving meals, addressing correspondence, and applying cosmetics. For the purposes of dressing, the table would typically be draped with a simple cloth that reached the floor, and a more refined cloth or even a piece of leather was placed on top.

The dressing table as we know it today was developed in Europe in the beginning of the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century, it became known as a mark of social standing as well as an object of fine design and craftsmanship. Two French women in particular helped to make the dressing table fashionable. The first was Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), the highly influential mistress of King Louis XV. She popularized the once-private morning ritual of the toilette by sitting at her grand dressing table to receive guests. The other woman was Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), wife of King Louis XVI, who set the tone for matters of fashion, art, and design.

Here are examples of some dressing tables from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:

American Dressing Table. ca. 1710-30.

American Dressing Table 1710-1730

This dressing table was made in Connecticut and is characteristic of early American furniture. It is based on the Jacobean style prevalent in England during the reign of James II. It relies on the wood turning rather than elaborate carving for decorative effect.

Combination Table. ca. 1775.

This combination table was designed by Martin Carlin, a German-born cabinet-maker who lived in Paris and made luxury pieces. It was made specifically to accommodate the needs of an aristocratic woman who might receive visitors while seated at her dressing table. This table features a removable upper section that could serve as a bed table, an adjustable mirror that could be reversed to form a bookrest, and lidded compartments in the shallow front drawer for storing toilette items. The lower section is a full-size table, complete with shelves that pull out in front and back. It has drawers on both ends that can hold equipment for dressing, taking breakfast, and/or writing.

Work Table Attributed to Duncan Phyfe. ca. 1805-1815.

Work Table Attributed to Duncan Phyfe 1805-1815

During the early nineteenth century, worktables were made for ladies. This example takes the form of American Neoclassical furniture, derived from the English Sheraton and Hepplewhite styles. It could serve as a sewing table, a writing desk, or a dressing table. The hinged top opens to reveal an adjustable writing panel covered in baize. You can convert the writing desk to a dressing table by lifting a small leather tab behind the writing panel and pulling up a framed looking-glass. There are also two removable half-round compartmentalized trays at each end of the table that might hold knitting or needlework. The front drawers and space underneath the inner surface were designed to hold toiletries.

Oval Dressing Table and Dressing Glass. ca. 1883.

Oval Dressing Table George A. Schastey and Company ca. 1883

In 1881 Arabella Yarrington Worsham, mistress of the railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington, hired George A. Schastey and Company to design and decorate her bedroom and dressing room in her New York City home. Schastey was one of several firms that created sumptuous custom-designed rooms and furnishings for wealthy American clientele. This oval dressing table was designed by Schastey for Arabella and features a removable mirror.

The attention to personal appearance has never been restricted to women and men had their own requirements as time went on. During the second half of the eighteenth century, men were shaving at home aided by instructional manuals. Specialized dressing tables and shaving stands were developed to meet men’s needs.

Shaving Stand. English. ca. 1700-1730.

English Shaving Stand ca. 1700-1730

This shaving stand, or toilet mirror, would rest on a table. It’s made out of maple, oak, beech, and spruce.

Men’s Dressing Table. English. ca. 1790-1795.

Seddon, Sons and Shackle London 1790-1795

This dressing table, was made by Seddon, Sons and Shackleton of London, one of the foremost furniture makers of their time. It is in the British Sheraton style, popular in the 1790s and early 1800s. Since men generally attended to their grooming while standing, this dressing table is higher than a ladies dressing table would be.

Seddon, Sons and Shackleton Dressing Table 1790-1795

It contains four fitted wood boxes for the storage of shaving supplies and other implements. Within a semicircular glazed compartment the maker’s proud name has been inlaid in wood. The design of the dressing table also provides space for a basin and water. The mirror is placed at a height appropriate for a man who is standing.

With pieces this beautiful, it’s hard not to want to primp. Next week I’ll show you what a lady kept on her dressing table.

Sources used include:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vanities: Art of the Dressing Table Exhibition (2013-2014)

Adlin, Jane, Vanities Art of the Dressing Table (2013)

 

Beautiful Furniture at the 2014 Winter Antiques Show

As a writer of historical fiction, I’m challenged with describing a world that no longer exists. One of the ways I transport my imagination into Regency England is by seeing items from that era. At this year’s Winter Antiques Show, held annually in NYC, there were many exhibitors that presented beautiful pieces of furniture.

The Hyde Park Antiques stand is a favorite stop of mine. Perhaps it’s because I am a writer, but I always find myself drawn to antique desks and books. The moment I walked in their stand, this George III inlaid Secretaire Bookcase c.1790, made in England, caught my eye.

George III Secretaire Bookcase

The allure of an antique dressing table is another siren call to me. This lovely beauty was found at Alfred Bullard. Each year, I look forward to stopping at their stand to see what treasures they have. They always have many beautiful pieces, and their staff is so knowledgeable and personable.

George III Mahogany Dressing Table

This George III mahogany dressing table, made in England c.1800, has satinwood inlaid borders on the rectangular double hinged lid. The lid hides a ratcheted, sliding hinged mirror and a fitted interior that has an arrangement of small covered boxes, open trays and wells. The table is supported on square tapered legs with brass castors that rise to shaped corner brackets.

Basin Drawer of George III Mahogany Dressing Table

One of best parts of this piece is the central deep basin drawer which was disguised as two drawers. That large round opening would have housed a wash basin and the smaller holes would have held small dishes for soap. It was interesting to see that a woman could execute her toilette using just this one piece of furniture.

The last item I wanted to feature might hold special interest for Regency enthusiasts. It is a small round table with the Coat of Arms of the Duke of Wellington and was made in England in 1830—the same year he resigned as Prime Minister.

Table with the Duke of Wellington's Coat of Arms

This polychrome painted, tilt top occasional table depicts the Duke of Wellington’s Coat of Arms and Honora from various campaigns. The arms and medals on the painted top are all honors bestowed on the Duke of Wellington. Below the motto “Virtutis Fortuna Comes” (fortune is the companion of valor) hang various medals, including the Golden Fleece and Austrian, Spanish and Indian honors. All are representative of victory titles granted to the Duke for his distinguished military service in the Peninsular War and at the Battle of Waterloo.

Antique Tilt Top Table With the Duke of Wellington's Crest

Next week, I’ll post my final highlights of the 2014 Winter Antique Show and give you a glimpse of some of the lovely portraits I discovered during my visit.

A Writing Table Fit for Jane Austen

desk 1I must confess this is not my writing desk. While it is in my home and I adore it, the English Georgian writing table is much too small for me to use as my primary desk. For Jane Austen, however, it would have been ideal. Her desk was about the same size.

In 1809 Jane Austen moved to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and Martha Lloyd. If you visit Chawton Cottage, you’ll see the small twelve-sided walnut table Jane Austen sat in front of when she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. It’s also from this table that Jane penned Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.

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Jane Austen’s Writing Table at Chawton Cottage

As was the custom of the day, she would have used a writing slope on top of the table. Inside her slope she would have keep her quills, inkpots and paper.  Many also have hidden compartments. This Georgian era writing slope is one of mine.

According to A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, Jane’s table was located in the general sitting room of the house. This room had little privacy but, thankfully for Jane, it had a creaking door. Jane never wanted this door to be fixed since it warned her of any approaching visitors. Once she heard the door creak, Jane would hide her manuscript before anyone could see it.  My writing table has an interesting feature that I think she would have appreciated.

Desk 2

When I stumbled across this mahogany table at my favorite antique shop, I fell in love with this little treasure dating from the Georgian era. It has one drawer, and a writing surface covered in felt slides out of the front. While I was inspecting the piece, I discovered a silk brocade-covered panel on the lower back of the table that slid up and down. The owner of the shop was away at the time, and unfortunately his assistant couldn’t tell me anything about this feature.

Once I got the table home, I looked through Judith Miller’s book Furniture World Styles from Classical to Contemporary and was thrilled to find a picture of a writing table almost identical to mine. The description of the table in her book reads:

English Writing Table: This one-drawer mahogany table has a leather insert top. A silk-upholstered, adjustable face screen is fitted to the back. It has square tapering legs with brass canisters. circa 1790 W. 17 inches.

Desk 3

With additional research I discovered a face screen was a useful feature. If you were sitting too close to the hearth, you could raise the face screen to shield yourself from the high heat of the fire. Keep in mind during the Georgian era, many women and men wore makeup. A handy way to prevent your face from melting was to raise the face screen.

I also think Jane Austen would have liked the feature to prevent prying eyes from reading her works in progress.