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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Susannah Archer, Countess of Oxford, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1790

The Countess of Oxford (1728-1804) as portrayed by Lawrence in her sixty-third year.  1790 was also the year of her husband's death; though childless, the couple had had a marriage of thirty-nine years.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Objects in bronze doré from the grand salon of Mesdames at Bellevue

From a set of ten, originally, attributed to François Remond (1747 - 1812)

Even though most of these pieces look to be en suite, the bronze work appears to have come from different hands.  The attributions go to Thomire, Gouthière, Feuchère, and Remond.  But whoever did the work, the pieces were delivered by the marchand-mercier François-Charles Darnault, from 1784 to 1786.

Pair of candelabra attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère (active: 1780 - 1828).
(I guess it's not entirely certain that these were part of the grand salon's décor, but they totally "match".)
One of three vases with bronze doré mounts attributed to Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813).
One of a pair of fire-dogs made by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1833) made from a model by the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot.


Bronze doré - Gilt bronze.

Mesdames - The daughters of Louis XV; in this case, the surviving sisters, Madame Victoire and Madame Adélaïde.  (A third sister, Madame Louise, also survived, but she had become a Carmelite nun in 1771, and resided in the convent at Saint-Denis.)

Bellevue - Chateau in the Parisian suburb of Meudon, built by Louis XV in 1750 for the marquise de Pompadour.  It sat above a slope overlooking the Seine and Paris beyond.  Redesigned by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1757, after their father's death the chateau was given to Mesdames, who had the interior lavishly redecorated.  Abandoned and looted during the Revolution, it was demolished in 1823, and new buildings were built on the site.

Marchand-mercier - A businessman working outside the very strictly regulated French craft guild system of the 17th and 18th centuries.  They were mainly purveyors of objets d'art, but had many of the attributes of a modern interior designer, providing their clients with furniture, bronze work, porcelain, and all manner of household objects.  Additionally, they were often very like a general contractor because, being outside of the system, they were able to coordinate the work of the individual guilds.  For example, a cabinet maker was not allowed to produce the bronze or porcelain decoration for his furniture, so the marchand-mercier coordinated with the makers of each of the design elements of a piece of furniture.  They arranged to have Chinese porcelain mounted in bronze, they had Japanese lacquer panels cut down and re-purposed in new furniture; they really directed the creation of some of the greatest furniture and décor that has ever been produced.  The Encyclopédie characterized the marchand-merciers as "sellers of everything, makers of nothing", but they were brilliant tastemakers as much as they were merchants.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Princess Feodora and her daughters, by Sir William Ross

Watercolor on ivory laid on card - approx. 8 x 5.5 inches - 1838

Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (7 December 1807, Amorbach - 23 September 1872, Baden-Baden), born Anna Feodora Auguste Charlotte Wilhelmine of Leiningen, was the elder half-sister of Queen Victoria. In 1828 she married Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, with whom she had three sons and three daughters.


Watercolor on ivory laid on card - approx. 3.5 x 3 inches - 1840.

Princess Elise Adelheid Viktoria Amalie of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (8 November 1830, Langenburg - 27 February 1850, Venice). Princess Elise died of tuberculosis at the age of 19; Queen Victoria sent the girl's grieving mother a copy of this miniature.


Watercolor on ivory laid on card - approx. 3.5 x 3 inches - 1840.

Princess Adelheid Viktoria Amalie Luise Marie Konstanze of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (20 July 1835, Langenburg - 25 January 1900, Dresden). In 1856 Adelheid married the future Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. They had seven children; their daughter Auguste Viktoria would grow up to be the consort of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany.


Watercolor on ivory laid on card - approx. 3.5 x 3 inches - 1857.

Princess Feodora Viktoria Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langeburg (7 July 1839, Stuttgart - 10 February 1872, Meiningen). In 1858 she married the future Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. They had three children - the youngest died three days after his birth - and Feodora, herself, died of scarlet fever in 1872 at the the age of thirty-two.

Ross' portrait of Princess Feodora, the youngest of the girls, was done seventeen years after those of her sisters'; she was only one year old in 1840.


(All of these miniatures are in the Royal Collection.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ava Gardner, by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1956


Baron George Hoyningen-Huene (September 4, 1900, Saint Petersburg – September 12, 1968, Los Angeles), important and influential fashion and portrait photographer, especially know for his work during the 1920s and 1930s.  His father was a Baltic nobleman, his mother was American.  After the Russian Revolution, he lived in London, then Paris, and moved to the United States in 1935.  The majority of his work was done for Vogue magazine and Harper's Bazaar.  He was a mentor, and for a time, lover, of the future photographer Horst P. Horst.  Later, he worked in Hollywood in various capacities, and had a productive creative relationship with the director George Cukor, for whom he served as a special visual and color consultant.  Their work together includes A Star is Born, Heller in Pink Tights, and Bhowani Junction.  (The latter starring Ava Gardner and made in 1956, the year these photographs were taken.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress, Nicolas de Largillière, circa 1710-1714

The young sitter is unknown, but thought to be a member of the French royal family.  Largillière's palette is exquisite, the color is warm and fresh, the application of paint, delicious.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales, by Josefine Swoboda, 1895

Josefine Swoboda (1861-1924), Austrian artist, from a family of artists; her brother Rudolf painted portraits of Indian subjects that hang at Osborne House.  She was employed by Queen Victoria during the 1890s, during which time she painted numerous fine watercolor portraits of the Queen's family.

Two photographs of the Princess of Wales, by Lafayette, July 1893.  She's wearing the gown seen in Swoboda's portrait.
With the heavy retouching consistently carried out on images of the Princess, the photographic
image ends up seeming less real, less individual that the painting.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Schiaparelli hat modeled by Lud, photograph by Horst, 1946

"Lud" was one of the best known of the émigrée fashion models whose beauty graced the great fashion house of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.  Her story is told here - and far better than I could tell it - thanks to two friends of mine:  Celebrated designer and collector Alexandre Vassiliev wrote about her in his truly remarkable, important book, "Beauty In Exile", which was published in 2000.  This is an extract from the book review by Grant Hayter-Menzies, a respected and prolific author himself, whose writing - as it is here - is always both elegant and humane.

"Yet while Nathalie Paley [another celebrity model; daughter of Grand Duke Paul, who had been executed by the Bolsheviks in 1919], for all her finely chiseled beauty and romantic background, did not have the happiest of lives, nothing in her experience quite matches the roller coaster fortunes of Ludmila Feodoseyevna, known in the business as 'Lud'. And not even Nathalie Paley, that distillation of the striking elegance of her mother and what was most handsome from her imperial father's ancestry, could match what Lud had to offer. For one thing, Lud looked, and was, solidly Russian. She had the cheekbones, the lips at once frankly sensual and playfully amused, the slightly upward slanted eyes that hinted at something distantly, fantastically oriental. Those eyes (which grace the dust-jacket of Vassiliev's book) were her greatest feature, because they were different in every photo, from every angle the blue of ice one moment, the blue of warm bright gemstones the next, powerful proof of the Russian's proverbial variety of moods.

"Born in St Petersburg in 1913 to a vice-governor of Vladimir province, Lud escaped with her family to the Crimea after the Bolshevik revolution, thence to Constantinople, Greece and France. In exile, Lud proved to be more than just a pretty face. While her widowed mother struggled to make ends meet, Lud took high grades at a French lycée and planned to enter university to study philology.

"Fate determined a different course for Lud when the famed photographer Horst espied her delivering dresses to Vogue's Paris studio. Thus at age eighteen, Lud began what was to be a fabulous modeling career, first with the house of Countess Vera Borea, then Patou, then Chanel. She married a French marquis, and knew the delicious experience of having rivals Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel vie graspingly for her services. In 1937, wearing a draped white gown from Alix and posed like some lethally beautiful Medea between fluted columns, Lud was photographed by Horst in what Vassiliev describes as 'one of the immortal images of twentieth century fashion.'

"We all know beauty and wealth do not guarantee happiness, but the gods sought to use Lud to press the point home. First her marriage to the marquis failed; she married again, to a naval engineer, and began to appear in films. She left France for a time, living first in Argentina and later in the United States, and her second marriage broke up. By the time she returned to France in the early 50's and began working for Balenciaga, she sensed that somehow her sun had set. There were financial woes, brought on by her unflagging addiction to high living. She ended up taking a job at the Slenderella beauty institute, earning some cash on the side by singing in the chorus of the Paris Opéra. In 1959, the once glorious Lud was living in the resort town of Le Touquet, where the only work she could find was as an airport clerk. When that job ended, she found a new position, as head of curriculum at a private school, and when that job ended, Lud was hired as director of a home for aged Russians, where among the charges she oversaw was another faded Russian model, Princess Maria Eristova. Still, there was a little happiness for Lud at the end: in 1982, she married a childhood friend, Pierre de la Grandière, and lived with him in the French Alps until her death from cancer in 1990.

"In describing her mother, Lud's daughter also gives a fair account of most of the other artistic Russian émigrés. Lud feared nothing and no one, remembered her daughter, never hesitating to sail a boat out onto a stormy lake or take a stroll through a crime-ridden Paris purlieu. Lud was in love with living: 'She was the daughter of Epicurus.'"

The full book review is available here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cecil, Rex, and Ashcombe

The "Bright Young Things", in costume, being pastoral; Rex and Cecil are at far left.  The other revelers are (left to right): Georgia Sitwell,
composer William Walton, Stephen Tennant, Teresa "Baby" Jungman, and Zita Jungman.  Photograph by Beaton.

Odd that I've posted several of Cecil Beaton's images lately since, actually, I really don't consider him a first-tier artist.  He produced some truly wonderful work, of course - photography, set and costume design - but I think a lot of his oeuvre is pretty second rate.  (And often more than a little vulgar.)  I think the fact that his work was so frankly glamorous, so brightly feminine, that he was multi-talented and very prolific, and that he was a celebrity, himself, and always presented himself and his work with such authority - I think all that may be much of the reason he's given the label of "genius".  A label that I feel a good percentage of his work can't support.

Interestingly, he's quite a lovely writer, though.  His book about a beloved former home, "Ashcombe, The Story of a Fifteen-Year Lease", is one of the most charming - even tender - books I've ever read. It's a book I feel fortunate to own.


The dust cover of the book is a reproduction of a painting done by Rex Whistler, (June 24, 1905, Eltham, Kent – July 18, 1944, Caen, Normandy).  Rex and Cecil were both members of what was known as the "Bright Young Things", young bohemian aristocrats and socialites in London during the late Twenties.  They were both very close friends of Stephen Tennant - perhaps the brightest of the "Young Things" -  but their friendship with each other did not run nearly so deep.

From the same revel: Zita Jungman, William Walton, Cecil, Stephen Tennant, Georgia Sitwell,, Baby Jungman, Rex.  Again, by Beaton.

Whistler became one of the most popular and prolific British painters of his day - his impressive murals were especially admired - but his output included everything from book illustrations to stage curtains.  He was killed during the war, at the age of 39, and was soon fairly forgotten - his work has only recently begun to be properly appreciated and remembered - while Beaton's fame steadily increased until, now, he is considered one of the most important photographer/designers of all time.

Ashcombe, by Rex Whistler, 1936.  (Click for larger image.)