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, March 31, 2017

Cotton thread and very great artistry - the wedding veil of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium

Engraving made in celebration of the wedding of Princess Stéphanie and Archduke Rudolf.

Adapted and edited - a lot - from the Smithsonian website:

This spectacular veil was handmade for Princess Stéphanie of Belgium for her wedding to Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf in 1881. The veil is made in fine Brussels Point de Gaze needle lace embellished with elaborate ferns, lilies, roses and other flowers on a gossamer fine handmade ground powdered with tiny dots. The Hapsburg-Lothringen shield dominates the center back of the veil, while the coat-of-arms of Belgium is in the center of the garland of 21 coats-of-arms along the border with Belgian province shields on one side and the Austro-Hungarian on the other. Delicate rosebud motifs embellish the top of the veil. The veil, 100 inches wide and 123 inches long, was constructed entirely of variations of tiny buttonhole stitches made with a needle and very fine cotton thread. The denser motifs have up to 88 stitches and 102 rows per square inch.

Handmade needle and bobbin laces rarely show the date and place of construction, but worked in needle lace at the sides of the veil’s central Belgian Lion motif are "Bruxelles 1880" and "Léon Sacré." Queen Marie Henriette had commissioned Léon Sacré, a famous Brussels lace merchant in the 19th century, to have the veil designed and made by the best Flemish needle lace makers for her daughter’s wedding. It was a wedding gift from the city of Brussels. In her memoir "I Was To Be Empress" (1937), the Princess wrote that, "My mother devoted herself indefatigably to the preparation of my trousseau, which was to be as complete and costly as possible. [...] For months the girls and women of Flanders had been busying their nimble fingers in the preparation of masterpieces of lace, intended for their Princess."

Stéphanie and Rudolf were married in Vienna on May 10, 1881, when the bride was not yet 17 years old. According to the New York Times, "Princess Stéphanie wore a magnificent robe of cloth of silver, with a train elaborate in embroidery, orange blossoms arranged in bunches looping up her dress, and a veil of Brussels lace specially made for the occasion."

Engraving of the wedding. I haven't been able to find any photographs of the wedding or portraits of the bride.

It was a famously unhappy marriage which had lasting ramifications: their union produced a daughter but no son to become heir to the Habsburg throne and Rudolf, after killing his mistress, committed suicide eight years after the wedding. Archduke Franz Ferdinand then became heir, but his assassination in 1914 precipitated World War I and the end of the Hapsburg Empire. The Princess had married again - happily - in 1900; her second husband was a Hungarian nobleman. But life in post-war Hungary was not without its difficulties and at some point, perhaps to help pay for living expenses, the Hapsburg Imperial Bridal Veil was sold. Marjorie Merriweather Post, the founder of the Hillwood Museum and Gardens, bought the lace veil around 1925 for the wedding of her oldest daughter in 1927. It remains unknown from whom Post purchased the veil, or for how much. In 1964, Post donated the veil to the Smithsonian, and the artifact has been part of the textile division at the National Museum of American History ever since. 


Engagement portrait (?) of Princess Stéphanie and Archduke Rudolf; the future bride was fifteen and had not actually reached puberty.

Having grown up in a very unhappy family, she married into an equally miserable one. After the birth of their only child, a daughter, the marriage quickly deteriorated, and the murder/suicide of her husband and his mistress at Mayerling in 1889 left her devastated and humiliated; she was not yet twenty-five at the time. It seems that, perhaps in compensation, she developed a taste for extravagance, something that was much harder to sustain after the fall of the empire at the end of World War I. It appears, though, that her remarriage to Count Lonyay - a nobleman of lower rank, a fact that caused much disapproval among many of her relations - was a happy one; they remained together for forty-five years, until her death at the age of eighty-one.

The Dowager Crown Princess in Hungarian court dress, circa 1890s.
Circa 1890s.
Circa 1890s.
With her second husband, Count Elemér Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény, probably around the time of their marriage.
The Count and Countess, 1903.
Circa 1910s.
Circa 1910s.
The same. (From the collection of Ralf De Jonge.)
Tiara bonus: Seen in the image above, it's apparently the work of Chaumet. Its fate is unknown.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An artist's artist friends - portraits of painters and sculptors by Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz

(Detail of below.)

Only recently have I begun to pay more attention to the paintings of Madazo y Kuntz. I think I previously found them too dark, too sober, too stereotypically "Spanish"; all those black clothes, you know. But looking closer, there's such a wonderful truthfulness to his work. His brushwork is tender and exquisite. And many of his portraits - some of those here, certainly - have the silvery elegance of a Velázquez. He painted and drew many portraits of his fellow artists - this is only a selection - most of which display a charming intimacy, an expression of the friendship shared by artist and subject; several are inscribed "A su amigo".

 Cosme Algarra y Hurtado, 1870.
Benito Soriano Murillo, 1855.
José Siro Pérez, 1839.
 Carlos de Haes, 1867.
 Eduardo Rosales Gallinas, 1867.
Edmund Wodick (Ludwig Eduard Edmund Wodick), 1845.
 Vicente Poleró y Toledo, 1873.
Carlos Luis de Ribera y Fievé, 1839.
Karl Müller, 1842.
Ventura de la Vega (Born Buenaventura José María de la Vega y Cárdenas), 1849. (OK, I admit it: I snuck a writer in.)
Perugino Sensi (Gaspare Sensi, also known as Gaspar Sensi y Baldachi), 1873.
Claudio Lorenzale i Sugrañes, 1841.
Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, the artist's son, also a very successful painter, 1875. Inscribed, " A mi querido hijo Raymundo".

Friday, March 24, 2017

Changing your gown but not your pose (or artist) - two portraits of the Grand Duchess Vladimir by Boris Kustodiev

1911. This appears to be a preparatory sketch for the finished painting which was only completed two years later.
1913. In the final version, the Grand Duchess is portrayed wearing an entirely different court gown and jewels.


The Grand Duchess wearing exactly the same court gown and jewels as in the first painting; considering that the pose is also exactly the
same in this photograph and in both paintings, it may be possible that the artist worked from photographs rather than from life.
The famous "Vladimir tiara", now in the collection of the British royal family, worn in the two images above and in the first painting.
An earlier image of the Grand Duchess wearing the sapphire and diamond necklace worn in
the second painting and showing the original setting of her sapphire and diamond tiara.
The new version of the sapphire and diamond tiara (1909) and the devant de corsage (1910) worn in the second portrait; both by Cartier.


Edited - heavily - and adapted - a lot - from the Sotheby's website:

This second portrait of the Grand Duchess Vladimir (1854-1920, sometimes referred to as "Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder"), is dated 1913. Kustodiev completed the painting almost two years after making his initial study. The subject was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Friederich Franz II and Augusta of Reuss Kostritz. Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin would become a key figure in the life of the Russian capital after her union with Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia (1847-1909), son of Emperor Alexander II. Among other things, Grand Duke Vladimir was President of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg and the Grand Duke’s financial support - from his private funds - allowed many artists to flourish beyond the conservative boundaries and culture of the Imperial court. The Grand Duchess Vladimir took over the Presidency of the institution after the death of her husband in 1909; in Kustodiev's portrait she stands before a bust of her husband, and the Imperial Academy of Arts can be seen in the background, its presence symbolic of their lifelong involvement with the arts.

Kustodiev painted the dominating figure of Grand Duchess Vladimir, proud and dignified and covered in spectacular jewels – she was famous for her jewelry. In fact, it is said that she spent much of the annual pension of 1 million gold francs she received after the death of her husband on her jewelry. In Kustodiev’s portrait, she wears her famous sapphire and diamond diadem commissioned from Cartier 1909; the firm re-used stones belonging to the client, the central sapphire weighing 137.20 carats The tiara later belonged to her niece, Queen Marie of Roumania, whose daughter, Princess Ileana, sold it back to Cartier in the Fifties. The stomacher (devant de corsage) worn by the Grand Duchess was also made by Cartier, again using the client's stones, in 1910. The necklace and earrings appear to be Russian and of an earlier date.

The Grand Duchess fled St. Petersburg in February 1917. She settled in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus until February 1920, when she finally left Russia. Remarkably, her jewels which she placed in a secret safe in the Vladimir Palace, had remained undiscovered by the Bolsheviks despite repeated searches. Albert Stopford, a British secret agent and family friend, recovered the jewels and the Grand Duchess’ jewelry eventually found its way to Cartier, Paris in a diplomatic pouch; Cartier has archival photographs of all of the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s jewels taken around 1920. After the Grand Duchess’ death on September 6, 1920, the jewels were divided among her children: Grand Duke Kyrill received the pearls, Grand Duke Boris the emeralds, Grand Duke Andrei the rubies, and Grand Duchess Elena the diamonds.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Perversely beautiful, or merely perverse - mythological subjects by Bartholomeus Spranger

Detail of below.
Venus and Adonis, circa 1595-1597.
Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venere (Bacchus and Ceres Leaving Venus), circa 1590.
 Hercules and Omphale, circa 1585.
Ulysses and Circe, circa 1580-85.
Glaucus and Scylla, circa 1580-82.
Ares on the Battlefield, circa 1580.
Minerva Victorious over Ignorance, circa 1591,
Hermes and Athena (fresco), circa 1585.
Perseus and Andromeda, circa 1597.
Jupiter and Antiope, circa 1580s.
Hercules, Deianira and the Dead Centaur Nessus, circa 1580-82.
Hermaphroditus and the Nymph Salmacis, circa 1581.
Venus and Mars Warned by Mercury, circa 1586.


Self-portrait, circa 1580-85.

Bartholomeus Spranger (name variations: Bartholomaeus or Bartholomäus and Spraneers. 21 March 1546, Antwerp – 1611, Prague), Flemish painter, draughtsman, sculptor, and etcher. His had a very particular style, combining elements of Netherlandish painting with Italian influences, in particular the Roman Mannerists. His first important teachers were three Antwerp landscape painters. Later he traveled to Paris, arriving a few weeks before his nineteenth birthday. From there he went on to Italy, first Milan, then Parma, then Rome. Five years later, in 1570, he was appointed court painter to Pope Pius V. In 1576 he was called to Vienna by Maximilian II; the Holy Roman Emperor died shortly after his arrival. But his successor, Rudolf II, was even more keen to employ the artist. In 1581 he was appointed court painter (also valet de chambre), and a wealthy marriage was arranged for him. His home became a center for artists in Prague - the court having moved to that city - and he remained there until his death at the age of sixty-five.