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 30, 2016

Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, Mahendra Bahadur, Maharaja of Patiala, circa 1938

Maharaja Sir Yadavindra Singh, Mahendra Bahadur, Yadu Vansha Vatans Bhatti Kul Bushan, Maharaja of Patiala, GCIE, GBE (17 January 1913, Patiala – 17 June 1974, The Hague), Maharaja of Patiala from 1938 to 1974. He was the son and heir of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, who he succeeded when he was only twenty-five. He had two wives, two children, was a noted horticulturist - later serving as chairman of the Indian Horticulture Development Council - and was a first-class cricketer who played in a Test match in 1934. He was also a much respected figure among his princely contemporaries - and a physically impressive one; he stood about six feet five inches tall. He served in Malaya, Italy, and Burma during World War II and, at Independence, he was influential in persuading other princely rulers to join the Indian Union. He served as president of the Indian Olympic Committee from 1938 to 1960, as Indian delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1956 to 1957, and to UNESCO in 1958. He later served as Indian Ambassador to Italy from 1965 to 1966 and as Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1971 until his sudden death of heart failure at the age of sixty-one. On the orders of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Maharaja of Patiala was cremated with full state honors.

(I haven't been able to definitely identify exactly when these images of the Maharaja were taken. But they seem likely to be from the time of his accession in 1938.)


One of the many jewels worn by the Maharaja in these images is the famous Patiala necklace created by the house of Cartier. Between 1925 and 1928, on the orders of his father, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, most of the crown jewels of Patiala were redesigned by the firm; it was their single largest commission by any client. The finished necklace incorporated some 2,930 diamonds, including the world's seventh largest diamond, the 234.69 carat "De Beers", along with seven other diamonds which ranged from 18 to 73 carats, and a few Burmese rubies. Twenty years after its completion, this amazing item seems to have disappeared. The likely story is that, over time, the more important stones were removed and sold. Eventually, the "De Beers" reappeared and was sold in 1982 for over three million dollars. The remains of the original setting were found in London in 1998, and Cartier purchased the very incomplete necklace and spent four years restoring it. The missing stones have been replaced with carefully chosen copies.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Portrait en pied d'une jeune femme blonde, robe de velours noir" - miniature portrait by Louis-François Aubry

La baronne de Benoist, by Louis-François Aubry, watercolor on ivory, circa 1815-20.

At eleven inches by seven inches, this is an unusually large miniature on ivory. The charming subject has been identified as "la baronne de Benoist", but no further information seems to be available. There has been some conjecture online that this is a portrait of the artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist, but she was born in 1768, making her too old to be the lady portrayed here. (Also, she was brunette and had married a comte not a baron.) From my research, this appears to be Caroline-Geneviève-Guislaine-Joséphine, baronne de Benoist (26 January 1784 - 8 November 1847), daughter of the French/Belgian noble family Benoist de Gentissart. The portrait is undated but is probably circa 1815-20, which would put the subject in her early thirties. She died at the age of sixty-three having - unusually for the time - never married.

The color and detail are exquisite; the lorgnette tucked at her waist, the gorgeous red of the shawl, the beautifully described harp "head".
The line leading from the base of the harp frame and crossing into the strings is likely from a crack; a common occurrence in ivory miniatures.


Louis-François Aubry (1767 or 1770, Paris - 1751), French artist known for his miniature portraits. He studied under François-André Vincent and Jean-Baptiste Isabey, and went on to a successful career. At the Salon of 1810 he exhibited portraits of the King - Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte, brother of the French emperor - and Queen of Westphalia, which were highly praised.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Consecutive Danish kings - Christian VIII and Frederik VII, four portraits by Johan Vilhelm Gertner

King Christian VIII, 1845.

Christian VIII (18 September 1786, Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen – 20 January 1848, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen), King of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian Frederik, King of Norway in 1814. He was given a thorough and wide-ranging education with exposure to the artists and scientists who were attached to the court of his father, the future Frederick VI. Talented, amiable, and handsome, he was very popular in Copenhagen. He first married his cousin Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1806. Their first-born son was born and died the following year, but their second son would succeed his father as Frederik VII. The marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1810 after Charlotte Frederica was accused of adultery. He married his second wife, Princess Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, five years later. The couple was childless and lived in comparative retirement as leaders of the literary and scientific society of Copenhagen until Christian ascended the throne of Denmark. Christian also had ten extramarital children, for whom he carefully provided.

Denmark and Norway were a united kingdom for almost three hundred years, but in 1814, in the confusion and turmoil of the waning of Napoléon's domination of Europe, even though Christian's father, a great ally of Napoléon, now sat on the throne of Denmark, Cristian was elected King of Norway. Which he remained for not quite three months. (After his abdication and return to Denmark, Norway joined with Sweden in a joint kingdom which lasted until 1905, when Norway became independent - and elected a Danish prince as their new king.) On his ascension to the throne of Denmark twenty-five years later, the Liberal party had high hopes for the new régime. In the past, Christian had displayed clearly liberal sympathies, but now he changed direction and firmly resisted the demands of the advocates of a constitutional régime. He proved a hesitant ruler who did his best to ignore the political rumblings that would erupt all over Europe in the year of his death. Christian did have to act decisively to avert a succession crisis - his only legitimate son, the future Frederik VII, was married three times, had produced no legitimate issue, and was now unlikely to beget heirs - so, eventually, with the approval of Europe's Great Powers, in 1852 a niece of Christian's and her husband were chosen as the eventual successors to the Danish throne. But the King, himself, had died four years before of blood poisoning at the age of sixty-one.



King Frederik VII, 1851.

Frederik VII (Frederik Carl Christian: 6 October 1808, Copenhagen – 15 November 1863, Glücksburg), King of Denmark from 1848 to 1863, he was the last Danish monarch of the older royal branch of the House of Oldenburg and also the last to rule as an absolute monarch. During his reign, he signed a constitution that established a Danish parliament and made the country a constitutional monarchy.

Only two years old when his parents divorced, he had a rather neglected childhood. He, himself, would be married three times. A few weeks after his twentieth birthday he married for the first time, to his second cousin Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark. They separated in 1834 and divorced three years later. In 1841 he married for a second time, to Duchess Caroline Charlotte Mariane of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he divorced in 1846. There was no issue from either marriage. As Crown Prince, Frederik lived a quite publicly scandalous lifestyle and was known to be a heavy drinker. He was accused of much infidelity during his first two marriages, but he appears to have produced no illegitimate offspring, the assumed cause his infertility. Another rumor put forth is that he may have been bi-sexual and that he was in a long-term relationship with his great friend, publisher Carl Berling. Berling had had an illegitimate child with former ballet dancer Louise Christine Rasmussen in 1841 and Frederik was very attached to the child. After Frederik became king, Berling became a court chamberlain, and a year and a half after his accession, Frederik married Louise morganatically, creating her Countess Danner. Whatever the circumstances of their union, the marriage caused a great scandal and the Countess was shunned in royal and aristocratic circles. The couple were happy together though, and his wife appears to have been a stabilizing influence on her husband.

Soon after coming to the throne Frederik granted Denmark a constitution and from then on ruled as a constitutional monarch, though he continued to meddle in politics. The biggest, lingering concern of his reign was the Schleswig-Holstein Question, whether the duchies were part of the dominion of the Danish crown or should become independent entities within the German Confederation. (The question was only resolved in 1864, when Frederik's successor was forced to renounce his rights to the duchies in favor of Prussia and Austria; two years later, it all went to Prussia. Today, Northern Schleswig is a part of Denmark, while the remainder, as Schleswig-Holstein, is a state of Germany.)

As mentioned above, Frederik's father Christian VIII, fearing for the succession due to the childless state of his only son, had instigated proceedings to ensure it. Finding an eligible relative was an extremely complicated matter but, finally, two were found: Frederik's cousin Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel and her husband and second cousin, Prince Christian of Glücksburg, a member of a junior line of the Danish royal family. (They are the founders of the current Danish royal dynasty and through their descendants the ancestors of many of the royal and aristocratic families of Europe.) This was all finalized by the London Protocol of 1852, by which time Frederik had been on the throne for four years. Considering the circumstances, the relationship between the King and his successors remained understandably tense until his death eleven years later following an attack of erysipelas at the age of fifty-five.



Johan Vilhelm Gertner (10 March 1818 – 28 March 1871), Danish painter, best known for his portraiture. One of the last students of Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Gertner belonged to the waning days of the Danish Golden Age, a period during which Danish art moved towards a more realistic style, relying on inspiration both from French Realism and emerging photographic techniques. Gertner was born the son of a craftsman at the Holmen naval base. He attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1831 to 1837 and, later, he was a professor there beginning in 1858.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dreary peeresses - coronation portraits by Bassano Ltd., 1937

Kathleen Florence May Pelham-Clinton (née Candy), Duchess of Newcastle.

These aristocratic ladies, dressed for the coronation of George VI, are probably not all as dour as they appear here; Viscountess Dillon looks jolly enough. Still, posed for their portraits in full - fullest - fig, many of them seem more burdened than thrilled to be recorded for posterity. Burdened and perhaps a bit reluctant; not a state that generally results in a terribly congenial image. But neither are they served by their graceless peeress' robes, their often awkward and/or bizarre family jewels, or their dumpy little coronets. Though aristocratic and royal swans - say, Marina, Duchess of Kent - are rather a rare species, I expect these ladies enjoyed happier - and more attractive - days.

Katharine Edith Collier (née Gastrell), Lady Monswell.
Dora Isolde Butler (née Tower), Lady Dunboyne.
Lucy Sophia Sanders (née Halliday), Lady Bayford of Stoke Trister.
Dorothea Gertrude Borwick (née Grey), Lady Borwick.
Mabel Agnes Plender (née Laurie), Lady Plender of Sundridge.
Emily Gladys Walpole (née Oakes), Countess of Orford.
Gwendolen Florence Mary Guinness (née Onslow), Countess of Iveagh.
Sibel Lilian Blunt-Mackenzie (née Mackenzie), Countess of Cromartie.
Helen Dorothy Law (née Lovatt), Lady Ellenborough.
Margaret Haig Mackworth (née Thomas), 2nd Viscountess Rhondda.
Charlotte Iliffe (née Gilding), Lady Iliffe.
Fairlie Pomeroy (née Harmar), Viscountess Harberton. (Odd that the background has been erased from this image.)
Mabel Danvers Ryder (née Smith), Countess of Harrowby.
Eleanor May Stuart (née Guggenheim), Countess Castle Stewart.
Hilda Dillon (née Brunner), Viscountess Dillon.


Additional images of the Duchess of Newcastle; she's just too fabulous for only one!
Her jewels are amazing and quite nutty: the enormous bow brooch; the pair of anchors flanking her décolletage, brooches
which had been the property of the Empress Eugénie; a diamond necklace; an important emerald and diamond necklace;
and the emerald and diamond corsage ornament which she has somehow stuck onto her head and wears as a bandeau.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Four Ages of Man - paintings by Ditlev Blunck, 1840-1845

Old Age.


Childhood - detail.
Youth - detail.
Maturity - detail.


Ditlev Conrad Blunck (22 June 1798, Münsterdorf, Schleswig-Holstein – 7 January 1853, Hamburg), Danish painter associated with the artistic blossoming now known as the Danish Golden Age. In 1814, at the age of sixteen, he began studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen. At the same time, along with his friend Wilhelm Bendz, he received training from Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg. Four years later he moved to Munich and enrolled in the Academy there. He remained in Munich until 1820, when he returned to Copenhagen. Under the influence of a new professor, J. L. Lund, Blunck focused on history painting during the early years of his career. Later, that focus changed to genre painting, and for that he is best remembered. From 1828 he spent much time in Germany - Berlin, Munich, Dresden - and came in contact with some of the most influential artists of the day. He also traveled to Rome during the 1830s, where he joined the group of Danish artists who surrounded the celebrated sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, and where he painted some of his major works. Back in Denmark in 1841, the threat of scandal and/or prosecution related to his homosexuality caused him to leave the country suddenly; he never returned. He died in Germany at the age of fifty-four.

These four paintings form a series and were commissioned by King Christian VIII of Denmark. Produced during this time of personal upheaval in the first half of the 1840s, they are examples of  Blunck’s mature style, one which was influenced by the “Nazarenes”, a group of primarily German artists who wished to convey "earnest" sentiments in their work in contrast, they felt, to the “exteriority” typified by French art of the time. These paintings make an interesting contrast with those featured in my recent post on Thomas Cole's "The Voyage of Life" of 1842: four paintings on the same subject, painted during the same few years. 

 A Young Artist Examining a Sketch in a Mirror, Wilhelm Bendz' well-known image of his friend, Ditlev Blunck, 1826.