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, January 31, 2014

Emma and Federica Bankes of Soughton Hall, by Henry Tanworth Wells, 1869

Henry Tanworth Wells, RA (December 14, 1828, London – January 16, 1903 London), English miniature and portrait painter.  He was an intimate of the Pre-Raphaelites though he, himself, painted in a more academic style.

This is certainly no great, deathless work of art, but I think the unusually informal portrait of sisters at their dressing table quite charming.  The two English girls - one dreamy and self-absorbed, the other smiling directly out at the viewer - and the tension of the crowded composition, with a large mirror behind the girls and another implied, out of view on the left.  And I find the details very particular and well done.

(From the notes on the provenance of this painting when it was up for auction at Bonhams in 2013:  "Emma and Federica Bankes were the granddaughters of Henry Bankes MP, of Kingston Lacy. Their father, Edward, was the youngest of four sons and as such would not have expected to inherit, however his elder brother, the eccentric traveller and antiquarian, William, died childless in Venice in 1855 and Edward inherited Soughton Hall."  Soughton Hall, a large country house in Wales, is now a hotel.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Upward glances

It's all a matter of position.  If you're standing at the railing, right in the middle of the chambre de la reine at Versailles, and tilt your head way back and look straight up, this will be your view.

Then, if you toss yourself onto the bed and look up once again - right before the guards pounce, of course, and drag you away - this will be your view.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A gold lamé hat

Dietrich, circa 1940.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jacob's Dream - two very different versions

José de Ribera, 1639.
Jacques Réattu, 1792.

José de Ribera (January 12, 1591, Xàtiva, Spain – September 2, 1652, Naples), also known as Jusepe de Ribera or Giuseppe Ribera and called Lo Spagnoletto ("the Little Spaniard") by contemporaries and early writers, an important Tenebrist painter.  Though born in Spain, by the age of twenty he was living in Italy, where he remained for the rest of his life and where all his mature work was completed.

Jacques Réattu (August 3, 1760, Arles - April 7, 1833, Arles), French painter, winner of the prix de Rome in 1790.

Monday, January 27, 2014

White muslin gown, circa 1800-1810

Sometimes they get it just right.

Throughout the long history of fashion, so much of women's clothing has been outrageously uncomfortable, impractical, or unflattering.  And very often, all three.  But then there's this graceful garment, which looks like it might even be as comfortable as it is lovely.  Yes, of course, trains aren't exactly the height of practicality, but this is a gown that wouldn't be unflattering to any size or shape of woman.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Conrad Veidt

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (January 22, 1893, Berlin – April 3, 1943, Los Angeles), German actor best known for his roles in the films The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Thief of Bagdad, and Casablanca. He had a very successful career in German cinema, but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, he and his new, third wife, who was Jewish, emigrated to England and, later, to the United States.

Like the afore-blogged Peter Lorre, I find Veidt peculiarly beautiful.  And even more so in movement than in repose.  Of course, he's best remembered as the Nazi Major Strasser in Casablanca, but of the performances of his that I've seen, his Torsten Barring in A Woman's Face - a very uneven Joan Crawford picture - is probably my favorite; as he described his character, "I'm Lucifer in a tuxedo!"  He's the best thing about the film.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Two miniatures of Princess Alice by Eduardo de Moira, 1860

Both watercolor on ivory, both approximately 9x6 inches.
This was the first version of the miniature; Prince Albert didn't think it quite good enough, so another was done.  The original only entered the
Royal Collection in 1880, after the deaths of both Prince Albert and Princess Alice.

Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (April 25, 1843, London – December 14, 1878, Darmstadt), born Alice Maud Mary, later Princess Louis and Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, was the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Always known as the caregiver of the family, in 1861 she nursed her father through his fatal illness and, afterward, was her mother's constant attendant during the first six months of the queen's intense mourning.  Already engaged before her father's death, she married the next year.  She and Prince Louis of Hesse had seven children, two of whom predeceased her.  Sadly, like her mother, she was a carrier of the hemophilia gene; her youngest son died as a result of the condition, and two of her daughters - most famously, her youngest surviving daughter, the future Empress Alexandra of Russia - had hemophiliac sons.  Very intelligent and well-educated, she was quite advanced in her thinking, especially in the areas of religion, medicine, and women's rights.  Though constantly busy with her royal duties, founding hospitals and schools, supporting charities, she was never popular in her adopted home; the intellectual grand duchess was ahead of her time in many ways, and the conservative Hessians seemed to resent it.

In November of 1878 most of the members of her immediate family fell ill with diphtheria.  She nursed them all, but her youngest child, Marie, died.  By the middle of the next month it seemed as though the crisis had passed, but then Alice herself became ill.  On the seventeenth anniversary of the death of her father, December 14th, Alice died.  She was only thirty-five.


Eduardo de Moira (18171887), Portuguese artist.  Princess Alice sat for the painter in January of 1860; she would have been sixteen at the time.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Vintage photograph

This snapshot is from the same month and year I was born; who knows, it's even conceivable that it was taken on my actual birthday.  But that is the only connection I could ever have with anything about this photograph.  Out of my time and out of my league!

Whoever this god-like fellow is, for me he perfectly exemplifies that somehow innocent sensuality of those last few years before our society became, in my opinion, overly sexualized and narcissistic, and so much real, healthy allure was lost.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Turchaninov Family by Sergei Zaryanko, 1848

What a charming painting this is.  I can find nothing on the Turchaninov family, but how alive they are in Zaryanko's portrait.

Sergei Konstantinovich Zaryanko, see here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Valentino in The Young Rajah, 1922

The Young Rajah was one of Valentino's less successful films.  It is probably best remembered today for the elaborate and exotic costumes designed by his wife, Natacha Rambova, several of which - to the delight of his mostly female public - displayed quite a bit of the actor's person.

The film was considered lost, but in 2005 an edition was assembled incorporating surviving footage.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mars and Venus, Allegory of Peace by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, 1770

Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée (December 30, 1724, Paris – June 19, 1805, Paris), also know as Lagrenée l'Aîné (the elder), as his younger brother, Jean-Jacques Lagrenée, was also an artist.  French painter, a member of the Royal Academy from 1755, and awarded the cross of the légion d'honneur by Napoléon in 1804

High-brow mythological smut for the upper-classes in late ancien régime France.  Fairly typical of just-transitioning-from-Rococo-to-Neoclassicism painting, the draftsmanship is not all that secure, but the coloration is exquisite.


I really do try and keep these posts brief, but I find brevity so difficult to attain.  While I was working on this post, G walked by and remarked on the loveliness of the painting.  I mentioned how this color combination is one of my favorites - deep blue-green, old rose, white - and how the one small touch of a very different blue sets it all off so perfectly.  Which made me remember that I'd used this exact color combination - against a contrasting background - in my painting L'Innocence from 2012.  G said that I'd made the same comment about the contribution of that very different blue, then, and that I should include all that in this post.  I am surprisingly obedient.

L'Innocence - acrylic on panel - 12x12 - 2012

Monday, January 20, 2014

More sailors

And, so what?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dietrich in Vegas - and after

Photographs by John Engstead.

Always the queen of reinvention, in 1953 Marlene Dietrich accepted a very lucrative offer to appear in her own cabaret act at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.  She was a tremendous success and a new career was born; though she would occasionally make films after this, most of her performing energies were thereafter devoted to her concerts.  She continued to tour internationally until, plagued with ill-health and an addiction to alcohol and painkillers, she finally retired from the stage in 1975.

The great visual highlight of her concerts, from the Vegas days forward, was always her first act gown.  Over the years there was a wonderful parade of these remarkable "nude" gowns designed by Jean Louis.  Built over a precisely engineered undergarment, and constructed of the thinnest, flesh-colored silk souffle and usually covered in strategically placed beading, they provided both the illusion of a flawless, ageless figure, and an ephemeral but glitteringly sensual glamour.