L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Le Contrat de mariage, ou L'Attente nerveuse, by Jean-Baptiste-André Gautier-Dagoty, circa 1770

"The Marriage Contract, or The Nervous Wait" is a fairly rare genre subject by Gautier-Dagoty. He is really only remembered for his doll-like portraits of Marie Antoinette and certain other ladies at the French court. (I recently blogged about the Queen's state portrait by Gautier-Dagoty, and his paintings of her two Savoyard sisters-in-law.) He was a second-rate artist - at best - and some of his weaknesses as an artist are evident here. Most obvious is the incorrect perspective of the lovely, neoclassical pavilion; certainly meant to be square in format, the artist's drafting of it actually describes a rhombus instead.

This miscalculation only accentuates the stage-setting-like composition; the whole thing is very like a depiction of a play: The older couple, seated comfortably, deep in negotiations. The graceful young woman at the window, trying to hear what her elders are saying, listening as her fate is determined. While a young man - prospective groom or soon-to-be-extraneous lover? - waits in the shadows. All of this scene lit by the pavilion's warm candle glow and the cool wash of moonlight. It's all real and unreal at the same time, just like in the theater. And, then, isn't it charming?

In the background, at the foot of a flight of stairs, waits a carriage. Does the statue on the balustrade portray Venus, the goddess of love...?
The clock is covered in a sheer cloth - I don't know what that might or might not signify.
The overturned planter - the sort used for ornamental shrubs or small trees, often lemon or orange - is an interesting detail.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sober (for a day) - Pre-Revolutionary Russian sobriety movement posters

The Russian Orthodox Church observes All-Russia Sobriety Day each year on September 11, a date that coincides with the beheading of John the Baptist; the prophet was apparently killed during a drunken feast. The first observance occurred in 1913, and up until the Revolution, no alcohol was sold on the Day of Sobriety. Even though the consumption of alcohol in the Russian Empire during the reign of Nicholas II was significantly lower than today, the sobriety movement was then at its peak, a cause the last Tsar very much supported; presented with the arguments that the Imperial treasury significantly benefited from the sale of alcohol, he said that the welfare of the treasury should not be dependent on the devastation of the spiritual and economic needs of his subjects.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Intimate hours - paintings by Nicolas Lavreince/Niklas Lafrensen

La Consolation de l'absence.

These charming, sometimes naughty, paintings by Lavreince - is it really any surprise that I use the French version of his name? - are painted in gouache, unless otherwise noted, and were all produced in the 1770s and 1780s. Often rather crude in execution, the compositions and, especially, the details are exquisite.

Lady Getting out of Bed.
Deux jeunes femmes dans un intérieur lisant une lettre.
A Lady Standing in an Interior Preparing to go Out With her Dog.
Ha! Le Joli petit chien.
Le Lever.
Ladies and Gentlemen Making Music in the Open Air.
Portrait presumed to be of Louise de Montmorency, princesse de Vaudemont-Lorraine.
La Soubrette Confidente.
Jeune femme assise dans un parc.
 L'Amour frivole (attributed to).
Jeune femme à sa toilette. The only work here that appears to be painted in oils.
Le Repentir tardif.
Le Petit conseil.
La Lettre.
Le Roman.
Portrait d'une dame buvant du thé.
Le Repentir tardif.
Lady Pulling on her Stockings.


Niklas Lafrensen/Nicolas Lavreince (30 October 1737, Stockholm - 6 December 1807, Stockholm), Swedish genre and miniature painter. The son of the miniature painter Niklas Lafrensen the Elder, he received his earliest training from his father. The years 1762-1769 he spent in Paris, and he returned to the French capital in 1774, where for the next seventeen years he worked under the name Nicolas Lavreince. His genre scenes were very popular, the majority off them being reproduced by numerous engravers; it seems likely that much of his work in gouache was produced specifically for the purposes of profitable reproduction. He returned to Sweden in 1791, forced from France due to the French Revolution. In the latter part of his life he produced few works.

A few examples of the engravings that were adapted - often quite freely - from his paintings. They're obviously reversed, as engravings usually were at this time.

Two versions of La Soubrette confidante.
Hand colored engraving of Ha! Le Joli petit chien.
Two versions of La Consolation de l'absence. Very different from the painting featured here.


And, lastly, another detail from La Consolation de l'absence.