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

Friday, September 17, 2021

White for a bride - the wedding dress of Svea Beata Myhrman, worn 19 August 1854


This sublime creation was worn by Svea Beata Myhrman (19 August 1819, Filipstad - 11 March 1910, Stockholm) on her wedding day, the nineteenth of August, 1854. That day also happened to be her thirty-fifth birthday, thirty-five being considered, for the time, exceedingly mature for a new bride. Her new husband was Gustaf Myhrman (30 January 1816, Stockholm - 30 September 1872), a brukspatron and notarie (millowner and notary). They would have three children. The first, Gustaf Johan Götrik Myhrman, was born a year after the couple's marriage but would die in his third year. Their second, Signe Beata Myhrman, was born 31 July 1857. I've found no record of her death date, but she would go on to be a folkskollärarinna (primary school teacher). Their third child and second son, Yngve Götrik Myhrman, was born the following year. A bokhållare - bookkeeper - he died in 1887 at the age of only twenty-eight or twenty-nine. The children's mother outlived her husband by almost forty years and died in Stockholm at the age of ninety.


The "care and feeding" of an antique garment.

Images courtesy of the Nordiska Museet.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Half a circle and a window - the fresco of Vertumnus and Pomona by Jacopo Pontormo at Poggio a Caiano, circa 1519-21


The country villa of Poggio a Caiano is located in the comune of the same name in Tuscany. Also called Ambra, it is one of the most famous Medici villas and perhaps the best example of architecture commissioned by Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, il Magnifico. The villa, located in the middle of a hilltop at the foot of the Montalbano mountains, was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo. Construction began in 1485, with work continuing for decades, long past the deaths of Lorenzo de' Medici and his architect. And its decoration, adaptations, restorations would continue for centuries. Today, state owned, it remains a priceless record of Renaissance art and architecture.

The salone

The decoration of the salone was only begun after 1513, in the time of Lorenzo's son Giovanni, by then Pope Leo X. The frescoes were created by the greatest Florentine masters of the time; along with Pontormo, they included Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio. (They were finally completed some fifty years later by Alessandro Allori.) Pontormo's lunette has traditionally been described as representing the classical myth of Vertumnus and Pomona, a tale taken from Ovid's Metamorphosis. The identification goes back to Vasari, who reported that Pontormo was asked to depict Vertumnus along with other figures. But Vasari's text does not give an actual description of the work. So it's possible that the fresco tells a different story; one theory is that it's a portrayal of Bacchus and Ceres with personifications of the Four Seasons.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ladies of substance - portraits by William Blake Richmond


There's nothing terribly remarkable about these portraits. Pretty of composition, graceful of color. But when I came upon them the thing that most caught my attention was how very self-possessed most of these women appear to be. Whether direct or indirect of gaze, they fill the frame of their portraits with a nearly palpable feeling of confidence.

Mrs. Ernest Moon, 1888.
Charlotte Elizabeth Fuller-Maitland of Borwick Hall, circa 1886.
Mrs. Luke Ionides, 1882.
Maude Sarah Verney, 1895.
Mrs. Charles Rome, née Hunter, 1886.
Ethel Bertha Harrison, 1882.
Anne Jemima Clough, First Principal, Newnham College, Cambridge, 1883.


Sir William Blake Richmond, (29 November 1842, Marylebone - 11 February 1921, Hammersmith), British painter, sculptor, and a designer of stained glass and mosaic. He is best known for his portrait work and the decorative mosaics in St Paul's Cathedral in London. Richmond was influential in the early stages of the Arts and Crafts Movement in his selection of bold colors and materials for the mosaics in St Paul's and in his collaboration with James Powell and Sons, glass makers. 

The son of portrait painter George Richmond, he was enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art at the age of fourteen, studying drawing and painting. By 1861, at only nineteen, he was already a successful portrait painter himself and was elected to the Royal Academy. He married twice. His first wife died in 1865, only a year after their marriage, and he remarried two years later; he and his second wife would have seven children together. He travelled often to Italy, Greece, Spain, and Egypt and, particularly, to Rome, where he spent years at a time. The Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford from 1878 to 1883, he succeeded his friend and mentor John Ruskin. He served as Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy from 1895 to 1899 and from 1909 to 1911, and continued to exhibit there until 1916.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Leafy June - a painting by Henry Scott Tuke, 1909

Exhibited at the Royal Academy in the year of its completion, the painting measures seventeen by twenty-one-inches. 

Tuke is an icon of queer artists. The fact that his models were almost always adolescent boys makes him problematic to many, but has done nothing to make his work any less ubiquitous. The formula he most often employed, that he's remembered for: slim, white, naked youths posed gracefully by the seashore. On the sand, on a boat, in the water. Usually turned away for the viewer, usually quite discrete in their nudity. Almost always if full, golden sunlight. But even with all that natural light, the Impressionistic brushwork, they seem stagey to me, too posed. And to my way of thinking, though pretty, these paintings are just far too similar to sustain much interest. Once you've seen one.... 

But I just came across this painting, "Leafy June", and I think it's quite wonderful. Yes, we have the frolicking boys, but this feels completely natural and un-posed. The main figure in his cricket whites looks to be dressing after a swim, his companions clambering up the hill, preparing to do the same. The composition feels unplanned, the execution effortless. (I'm quite sure that that was never the case.) And the image and bold brushwork recalls Sargent in the way it so clearly captures a fleeting and precious moment. 


A few other of Tuke's less beachy pieces.

Henry Allen in Cricketing Whites, 1903.
Nicola Lucciani, circa 1913-14.
Nicola Lucciani, circa 1913-14. The artist was devastated when Lucciani, a favorite model, was killed during WWI.
A Woodland Bather, circa before 1893.
The Lemon Tree, 1898.
Half Length Study of a Boy, circa 1909.
West Indian Boy (Samuel), watercolor, circa 1923-24 (dated 1926).

I think this last piece is really lovely; what a pity that Tuke didn't strive for more diversity in his models. Adapted from Bonhams' catalogue notes:

Tuke went to the West Indies with the explorer Frederick Albert Mitchell Hedges and Lady Richmond Brown, an authoress and adventurer, accompanied by a Miss MacBeth the cousin of Dr. Gann a Mayan archaeologist who later joined them in Belize. They sailed from Avonmouth on 23 November on the S.S.Coranado. The first stop on the journey was Jamaica, which they reached in 15 days, and Tuke made several studies in oil and watercolour of the Black River where this painting was produced. There were many fishing expeditions with Hedges and Lady Brown, which required assistance from local people, including young lads who were employed to row the boats and make camp. Tuke used them as models for his paintings as he did back home in Falmouth.

Samuel (also called Samwell by Tuke) and Ralph were two of his most frequent models. They would go up the river in rowing or sailing boats and Tuke would find a beach or a mangrove swamp to paint them against. On one such expedition, they realised they had left Tuke's bag behind on the quay and when they returned it has been stolen with Tuke's watercolours in it. This was on 6th January 1924. It meant that although he was able to order more paints locally his palette of colours changed after this date and in particular he had to use a more acid viridian green than usual which is visible in the leaves of the tree in this painting. The model in this work is probably Samuel. This is because Tuke wrote in his diary for the trip about when he did most of his paintings and the models he used. He notes in his diary that he painted Samuel under a tree on two occasions once on 12th January, "In the boat on one of the nearer beaches and posed Samwell lying under the shadow of a tree by a shore, very difficult to start but eventually the figure came rather well", and on 19th January 1924 he noted, "Down to our old beach with Samuel under the trees, almost unpaintable with flickering shadows and not posing well". Tuke described Samuel as, "an interesting type. Looks like a fierce savage and is as gentle as a dove".

Friday, September 3, 2021

Tatiana sur une plage d'Oléron (titre factice) ("fictitious title") - autochromes by Ernest-Louis Lessieux, after 1907


Sadly, I have no information on the model, the circumstances of the creation of the series, or an explanation of the mystifying title.


Ernest-Louis Lessieux (3 August 1848, La Rochelle - 4 January 1925, Menton), French artist.

Biography courtesy of Chris Beetles Gallery, London:

A confident watercolourist and draughtsman, Ernest Lessieux developed a career as both a teacher and an exhibiting artist. Moving from La Rochelle to Menton, on the Riviera, he became popular with English visitors, in particular, who took lessons from him and bought his work. This success enabled him to make a number of sketching tours around the Mediterranean and so broaden his range, often in the company of his son, the artist Louis Lessieux.

Ernest Lessieux was born on 3 August 1848, at 2 Rue du Brave Rondeau, La Rochelle, the capital of the department of Charente-Maritime, on the west coast of France. he was the second of four children of the stained glass painter, Louis Jean Lessieux, and his wife, Marie Catherine (née Guillon). Until 1862, he attended the Ecole Municipale, in Nantes, some 85 miles north of La Rochelle.
he then remained in the town to work in the studio of a painter and decorator.

In 1865, Lessieux moved to Paris to study at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts under the draughtsman and printmaker, Maxime Lalanne, and the painter and illustrator, Luc-Olivier Merson. Five years later, in 1870, he volunteered to serve in the army in the war against Prussia. When it ended, in 1871, he returned to his native department, and settled in Rue des Fonderies, Rochefort. (The street has since been divided and renamed as rue de la République and rue Pujos.) There he became both curator of the museum and a teacher of drawing at the Lycée. In the same year, he married Victorine Virginie Boisramé in La Rochelle. Their only child, Louis Ernest, would be born in 1874. Once established, in 1878, he began to exhibit annually at the Salon des Artistes Françaises.

Between 1884 and 1886, Lessieux stayed with his family in Menton, on the Riviera, for the sake of his health. Just over a decade later, in 1897, they settled in the town, in Maison Cerutti, Rue de la Marne, a house decorated with murals by the local artist, Guillaume Cerutti-Maori. Lessieux soon became successful and wealthy by giving lessons in art, mainly to the many English visitors. He also exhibited work regularly at the Salle Grenier with the Société des Amis des Arts de Menton, of which he was a promoter, then the Vice-President and the Dean.

Lessieux spent time at La Cotinière, a newly-acquired house on the Ile D’oléron, close to Rochefort, and also began to undertake extensive sketching tours to Italy, Spain and Morocco, often in the company of his son, Louis, who had become his pupil. Louis is known to have helped his father produce the images of cruise ships that were commissioned by the Compagnie Générale des Transatlantiques for publication as postcards and posters. Lessieux’s other illustrative projects included further postcard designs and two books: Jules Bourelly’s Les Perles de la Côte d’Azur (1900), and Les Alpes Françaises (circa 1910). In 1909, he was made a member of the Salon while, in 1923, he was awarded the title officier de l’Instruction Publique.

Lessieux died at home, at the Maison Cerrutti, Menton, on 4 January 1925. A month later, a memorial exhibition was mounted at the Salle Grenier, by his son, Louis, who had also become a professional artist. In February 1926, a marble bust of Lessieux by his friend, the Russian sculptor, Léopold Bernstamm, was placed in a square between the museum and his former home.

His work is represented in numerous French public collections.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Marlène fait une entrée... et une sortie


Dietrich was what they used to call a star. Just as much in public as on the screen. And her "real life" seemed to be all about the glamorous entrance or exit. To and from planes, trains, automobiles, or ocean liners. Or just walking into a party or leaving the theater. Whether coming or going, Dietrich was always ready for the camera; she was prepared to be seen

(Seated next to her is her hairdresser and close friend Nellie Manley.)

And for almost five decades until, with age and health problems, she no longer felt able to summon the glamorous, "ageless" illusion, before she shut herself away in her Paris apartment to spend the last thirteen years of her life, there was always a camera pointed in her direction. As she knew there always would be. The candid images here are in roughly chronological order, dating from her Hollywood-bound departure from Berlin in 1930 until 1965 when, still the star, she was the center of a Manchester crowd's frenzied attentions.

With her husband and French manager. 
(This image is frequently captioned as Dietrich being arrested in Paris for wearing pants, something that never happened.)
The same as above.
The original print has been altered, crop marks added, for publication purposes.
With Nellie Manley.
With Noël Coward.
In costume for "Knight Without Armour." With Nellie Manley.
With Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
With Josef von Sternberg.
With Henry Fonda.
With Tyrone Power and his then wife, Annabella.
With Jean Gabin.
With her daughter, Maria Riva.
With Noël Coward.
With Noël Coward.
With Jean Marais.
With Jean-Pierre Aumont and Jean Cocteau.
At Edith Piaf's funeral.
With Hildegard Nef.