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, July 31, 2020

Bright day and gentle twilight - two images of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, Queen of Württemberg

Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1856.

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (11 September 1822, St. Petersburg – 30 October 1892, Friedrichshafen, Württemberg), third child and second daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, sister of Tsar Alexander II, and later Queen consort of Württemberg. Raised within a close family of seven brothers and sisters, she grew up to be attractive, intelligent and cultured - she spoke several languages, and was fond of music and painting - and was considered one of the most eligible princesses in Europe. She eventually married Karl, Crown Prince of Württemberg - the royal houses of Romanov and Württemberg had intermarried several times before - and the lavish wedding was held at Peterhof on 13 July 1846, with the couple returning to Württemberg two months later. The marriage seems to have been congenial, but they would have no children, probably because of Karl's homosexuality; the crown prince and later king would become the object of scandal several times due to his affairs with various men. In 1863, a year before the couple ascended the throne, they adopted the nine-year old younger daughter of Olga's bother Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich. Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna was a very troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger, and her parents had eventually been quite unable to manage her. But in spite of the difficulties, Olga was fully committed to the care of her niece, and for Vera, her aunt eventually assumed the place of her mother. The next several years were very difficult, but with the royal couple's perseverance, Vera grew into a cultured and intellectual - and stable, if unusual - adult, married and had children of her own. As crown princess and queen, Olga dedicated her public and private life to social causes. She was especially interested in the education of girls, also supporting wounded veterans and the handicapped. Various charitable organizations and hospitals were opened in her name. She was also keenly interested in agriculture and the natural sciences, and was an amateur mineralogist and collector. Karl died in 1891, after forty-five years of marriage, and she died a year later at the age of seventy.

Stuttgart, circa 1892. A widow, in the last year of her life, said to be accompanied here by her sixteen-year old adoptive granddaughters, Duchesses Olga and Elsa.
The twins, Olga and Elsa - if this is indeed them - were the daughters of Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna and her husband Duke Eugen of Württemberg.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Die kleinen Schweizer Kinder - paintings by Albert Anker

Strickendes Mädchen mit Korb, circa 1897.
Knabenbildnis, ND.
Die kleinen Strickerinnen, 1892.
Strickendes Mädchen, circa 1883-84.
Die kleine Näherin, watercolor, 1908.
Schulknabe, 1881.
Hüftbild eines Mädchens, the artist's daughter Marie, 1881.
Das kleine Mütterchen, circa 1888.
 Ein Mädchen, das ein Buch betrachtet, watercolor, 1907.
Mädchen mit rotem Haarband, 1868.
Knabe beim Znüni, circa 1897.
 Sitzendes Mädchen mit Katze, watercolor, 1903.
Strickendes Mädchen, 1888.
Schreibunterricht II, 1865.
Knabenbildnis, ND.
Des Künstlers Tochter Louise, the artist's daughter Louise, 1874.
 Fleißig, 1886.
Mädchen, mit Dominosteinen spielend, circa 1900.
Porträt eines Knaben mit Mütze, ND.
Schulmädchen bei den Hausaufgaben, 1879.
Mädchenbildnis, ND.
Die kleine Kartoffelschälerin, 1886.
Schulknabe, circa 1875.
Porträt eines Mädchens, 1899.


Albrecht Samuel Anker (1 April 1831, Ins - 16 July 1910, Ins), Swiss painter and illustrator, often called the "national painter" of Switzerland because of his depictions of 19th-century Swiss village life. Born the son of a veterinarian and member of the constituent assembly of the Canton of Bern, Anker attended school in Neuchâtel, where he also took early drawing lessons. (In French-speaking Neuchâtel he began using the name Albert instead of Albrecht.) From 1849 he attended the Gymnasium Kirchenfeld in Bern and, afterwards, he studied theology, first in Bern and then at the university of Halle, Germany. But in Germany he was inspired by the many great public art collections, and by 1854 he had convinced his father to let him pursue an artistic career.

He then moved to Paris, where he attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts from 1855 to 1860. He soon installed a studio in the attic of his parents' house and participated regularly in exhibitions in Switzerland and in Paris. In 1864 he married Anna Rüfli, and they had six children together; the four surviving children - Louise, Marie, Maurice, and Cécile – appear in many of Anker's paintings.

During his student years, he produced work with historical and biblical themes. Soon after returning to Ins, though, he turned to what would become his signature theme: the everyday life of people in rural communities. His paintings depict his fellow citizens in an unpretentious and plain manner, without idealizing country life, though also without the critical examination of social conditions that can be found in the works of contemporaries such as Daumier, Courbet, or Millet. He also painted still-lifes, hundreds of commissioned watercolors and drawings - mostly portraits and illustrations - and even decorated more than 500 faience plates for the Alsatian producer Théodore Deck.

In 1866, he was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Salon, and in 1878 he was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. From 1870 to 1874 he was a member of the Grand Council of Bern, where he advocated the construction of the Kunstmuseum Bern. Apart from regular wintertime stays in Paris, he frequently traveled to Italy and other European countries. He served two terms as a member of the Swiss Federal Art Commission, and in 1900 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern. A stroke in 1901 was debilitating, but he continued to make work almost up until the time of  his death in 1910 at the age of seventy-nine. Since his death, many Swiss postage stamps and other media have featured his work, and his studio in Ins has been preserved as a museum by the Albert Anker Foundation.

 Schlafender Knabe im Heu, 1897.

Friday, July 24, 2020

All out - Dinarzade in The Greenwich Village Follies, photographs by Nickolas Muray, 1922

"Go big or go home" is the rather tired phrase but, golly, this costume wouldn't give up without a fight! The gown - a mad confection draped over a crinoline the size of a tank - was designed by James Reynolds and was worn by the model Dinarzade in the role of the Duchesse in a ballet based on the poem by Oscar Wilde, “The Nightingale and the Rose.” Completely ridiculous, of course but, described as “sea-green net with a scarf of lilac taffeta and garland of flowers in various shades of pink and mauve, jewels of emerald, diamonds and pearls,” it sounds rather... I don't know... heavenly.

The Greenwich Village Follies was a musical revue that played for eight seasons in New York City from 1919 to 1927. Launched by John Murray Anderson, and opening on 15 July 1919, at the newly-constructed Greenwich Village Theatre near Christopher Street, the show's success has been credited at least in part to the timing of its debut: as a non-union production, it was unaffected by the then-current actors' strike. Though considered a pioneer in the history of Off-Broadway musicals, this annual revue actually spent very little time in its original downtown home. The first edition moved uptown soon after its opening, as did the second. By the third year, the revue simply skipped its native venue and opened at the Shubert Theatre. Typically, after a run in New York, an adapted version of the show toured the country. Like Ziegfeld’s famous Follies, Anderson’s revue featured lavish curtains, sets, and costumes, with original scores by the most popular composers of the day - including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers - comedy sketches and, of course, a bevy of beautiful girls. In addition to Ziegfeld, Anderson's other peers in this theatrical genre included George White with his Scandals, and Earl Carroll with his Vanities. True to its bohemian roots, the revue came to be distinguished by its socially and intellectually provocative content. Even so, the productions provided more than their share of visual appeal, being especially noted for their striking stage pictures and novel lighting effects. Something referred to as a "ballad ballet" - a sort of very grand pantomime - became a staple of the revue. Popular stories, such as Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose” and Edgar Allan Poe's “The Raven,” provided inspiration for these wordless interludes. But by the late 1920s, the Broadway revue was losing patrons to story-driven book musicals like "Show Boat". Anderson left the show after 1924, and the franchise went into hibernation during the seasons of 1926 and 1927. The last year the revue was produced on Broadway was 1928. And at the onset of the Great Depression, the revue's original home, the modest and short-lived Greenwich Village Theatre, was demolished. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

This photograph is credited to James Abbe.

Dinarzade, née Lillian Fischer (or Mulligan, sometimes listed as Petra Clive, later Mrs. Frank Farley; frustratingly, I haven't been able to find any dates for her), was born in Tennessee, received theatrical training in Cincinnati, and was a struggling actress in New York when she was hired as a model by Lady Duff Gordon, the internationally famous dress designer Lucile. On learning of the very sleek brunette's given name the designer declared, "What were they thinking of? Anyone with that name should be blond and fluffy haired!" and quickly renamed her Dinarzade after Scheherazade's sister in the Arabian Nights. Dinarzade went on to become one of the most photographed and most highly paid models of the era. Later, in 1926, she became a Paris-based buyer for Bergdorf Goodman's, then the representative of Bonwit-Teller there, then assistant to the editor at Vogue and, later still, she served as the Paris editor of Harper's Bazaar. She married Frank Farley (circa 1890-1951), the American representative in Europe for Paramount Pictures. But by the 1950's, a widow, she was reportedly working in a Manhattan department store in order to support her elderly mother.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

L'Entrée de son altesse royale la duchesse d'Orléans dans le jardin des Tuileries le 4 juin 1837, by Eugène Lami

Ferdinand-Philippe, duc d'Orléans, was the eldest son and heir of Louis-Philippe, King of the French and, deep into his twenties, he needed a wife. The fact that at the July Revolution of 1830 his father had assumed the throne of France as a constitutional monarch - the head of the cadet branch of the Bourbons replacing members of the senior line - thereby alienating the other royal courts of Europe, made securing a dynastic marriage rather problematic. After an exhaustive search, a relatively minor royal, not even Catholic, Princess Hélène de Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was chosen; not considered a beauty, but described as ambitious, it is said she accepted the proposal against the will of her family with the prospect of becoming a queen. The couple met for the first time a day before their wedding, which was celebrated on 30 May 1837 at the château de Fontainebleau. There were three wedding, actually: a civil marriage and two religious ones, first Catholic and then - the new duchess retaining her protestant faith - Lutheran. Though virtual strangers to each other on their wedding day, the couple would go on to have two sons and a very happy marriage until his accidental death at the age of only thirty-two.

France had not celebrated the marriage of an heir to the throne since the arrival of Marie Antoinette in 1770. And so the entry into Paris on a beautiful, sunny Sunday was a cause of great excitement in the capital. On the morning of June 4 the King, the newlyweds, and all the members of the royal family had left the château de Fontainebleau for Paris, to present the new duchesse d'Orléans to the Parisians and take up residence at the city domicile of the royal family, the palais des Tuileries. At noon the royal party had entered Paris by way of the Barrière de l'Étoile, and at four in the afternoon the procession entered the Tuileries garden from the Place de la Concorde, greeted by crowds of cheering Parisians.

In setting his scene, Lami has chosen the moment when the procession split in two in order to bypass the great octagonal basin at the far end of the garden. Among the figures, we can identify, at center right on a white horse, Louis-Philippe. The King is accompanied by his second son, the duc de Nemours, and General Bernard, Intendant des Tuileries, on his right. And on his left by his third son, the prince de Joinville, and Marshal Lobau. The duc d'Orléans rides next to the carriage, where his wife is joined by her stepmother, the Dowager Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin - the only member of the bride's family to have attended the marriage ceremonies - and Queen Marie-Amélie and three of her daughters: Marie, Clémentine, and Louise, Queen of the Belgians.

The ladies in the carriage are not much more than a collection of bonnets. But it looks as though the new duchesse is standing... which seems rather odd.

Eugène Lami was just becoming - and would remain into the next régime - the great chronicler of high-society and royal/imperial family life, public and private, in both France and England. He is much better known for his ravishing, frothing watercolors than for his more sedate oil paintings; I think it would be fair to say that the latter fare less well than the former. Here we have two versions of the same scene, the second either a preparatory sketch or a variant copy. I think this second version is much more congenial. The color is better, the brushwork looser. (It may be that it's in gouache rather than oil; I haven't been been able to find out.) And his view of the spectators all turned toward the carriage is more appropriate, makes more sense than in the first painting where ladies and gentlemen loll about in the foreground, quite decorative, but content to ignore the passing of the carriage, their only reason for being there in the first place.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Ladies, greatly adorned - ten portraits by Jan van Ravesteyn

Portrait of a Lady, circa 1620.
Portrait of a Lady.
Catharina Belgica (or Amalia Elisabeth van Hanau-Munzenberg), 1617.
Judith Langley.
Portrait of a Young Lady, 1631.
Maria Odilia Buys, 1628.
Portrait of a Lady Aged 54.
Cornelia Grijp, circa 1615-20.
The Grijp family coat of arms has been incorporated into the lace of her standing collar.
Portrait of a Lady, 1631.
 Ernestine Yolande, princesse de Ligne, circa 1620.