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 30, 2021

Like violet moonlight - evening gown by Verhaeren of New York, 1909


Violet chiffon over ivory satin; blue velvet edging at hem; gold metallic appliqué; silk floss embroidery; ribbon appliqué; lace; net; sequins and/or rhinestones. 
Sadly, I've been unable to find any information on the dressmaker.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Portable royalty


Sedan chair owned by Queen Charlotte, consort of George III. Oak, morocco leather, gilt metal, glass, silk, circa 1762-3.

The Queen's chair-maker was Samuel Vaughan of Coventry Street, Piccadilly. He and the chaser and gilder D.N. Anderson were paid by the queen's treasurer on the first of January 1763 "for decorating & Ornamentg a Sedan Chair", likely the one featured here. The author of its decorative scheme is unknown, but it may possibly have been the work of James "Athenian" Stuart, who also designed a new throne for Queen Charlotte which was installed at St James’s Palace. The sedan chair, covered in red morocco and extravagantly decorated with gilt metal - of extreme thinness, for lightness of weight - employs a wide range of ornament: the British lion and unicorn emerging from acanthus scrolls; swags of roses; laurel wreaths; oak and laurel sprays; the infant Mercury aboard a sailing boat; all framed by palm branches. The symbols of Victory used - similar in several respects to that used in the decoration of the Gold State Coach - would certainly seem appropriate in 1763, as Britain was just emerging ever more powerful at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.

Queen Charlotte employed four chairmen at an annual salary of £39 17s 6d, a figure which remained constant from the 1770s until her death in 1818.


Images courtesy of the Royal Collection. Description loosely adapted from the collection's catalogue entry.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Count and Countess Panin - two portraits by Jean-Louis Voille, 1791-92


Count Nikita Petrovich Panin (17 April 1770, Kharkov - 1 March 1837, Smolensk), Imperial Russian diplomat, vice-chancellor, and and Foreign Minister. He was a nephew of Count Nikita Ivanovich Panin, son of Petr Ivanovich Panin, and son-in-law of Count Vladimir Grigorievich Orlov. He was one of the group who plotted the assassination of Paul I in 1801 which brought Alexander I to the throne.

Countess Sofia Vladimirovna Panina, née Orlova (6 November 1774 - 7 November 1844), daughter of Count Vladimir Grigorievich Orlov and lady-in-waiting to the Empress, Catherine II. The couple married in 1790; he was twenty and she was sixteen. They had five children together.


Two miniatures of the couple by Charles-Joseph de la Celle, Chevalier de Chateaubourg (1758-1837), 1797.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Polish paint - selected paintings by Marcin Jabłoński


I seem to have a particular fondness for artists whose skill was rather limited, whose work somehow manages to display sophistication and naïveté at the same time. Jabłoński (1801, Rzeszow, Poland - 19 February 1876, Lviv, Ukraine), of whom I'd never heard and for whom I can find no other information, fits that description. Stiff, inconsistent, but rich in detail and occasionally brilliant in color, his work is the sort of thing I always find charming.

Portrait of a man, 1827.
Melania Sobańska, 1832.
Hipolit Czajkowski, circa 1836-37.
Portrait of a lady, 1861.
Girl with a book, 1842.
Emil Gérard de Festenburg and his daughter Julią, 1839.
Julią Gérard de Festenburg and her daughter Karoliną, 1839. Pendant of the above.
Karol Kollarzowski, 1835.
Amelia Załuska, circa 1840.
Wincenta Jaźwińska, 1851.
Rev. Jan Szafrański, 1838.
Portrait of a lady, 1834.
"Portrait of Cetner", 1838.
 A Krakovian lady, 1845.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Leading lady or dress extra? - the so-called reliquary of Saint Balbina, South Netherlandish, circa 1520-30


Balbina of Rome, sometimes called Saint Balbina and Balbina the Virgin is venerated as a virgin martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic Church. As so often with early Christian history, her story is a bit of a muddle. She was the daughter of Quirinus, a Tribune in the Roman Army, who was later arrested as a Christian and martyred - beheaded - in 116. What happened to his daughter after his death is unclear, but some accounts tell of her as living as a virgin recluse nun until her own death; an alternate account has her arrested along with her father, and dispatched in the same manner. The general consensus is that in 130 she was found guilty of being a Christian and sentenced to death by Emperor Hadrian. Whether she was drowned or buried alive is a matter of dispute among historians. After her death, she was buried next to her father in the catacomb of Praetextatus on the Via Appia. At a later date, the bones and relics of father and daughter were brought to a church built in her honor in the fourth century, the extant Basilica of Santa Balbina. At some point in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, her skull was removed from her body and placed inside an ornate reliquary which now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the wooden bust is known as a reliquary of Saint Balbina but, more likely, it was intended to represent one of the companions of Saint Ursula. The legend of Saint Ursula tells that she was an English princess who decided to take a pre-nuptial holy pilgrimage, accompanied by eleven thousand virgin companions. The great virginal throng travelled to Cologne, Basel, and Rome and, on their return trip through Cologne, they were met by a group of pagan Huns, the leader of whom wanted to marry Ursula; she understandably refused. And so the Huns murdered all eleven thousand of the maidens. The legend appears to have become incredibly popular somewhere around the tenth century, the thought of such a vast number of girl martyrs being decidedly inspirational to religious fervor. But the number that went down in legend was probably a misunderstanding of a Latin numerical inscription which read not eleven thousand, but just eleven. 

The "hatch" at the top of the bust.

From the Met's inventory description:

Medieval reliquaries often took the form of the body parts they were created to contain. Bust reliquaries for the skulls of saints were placed on or near altars and, by the late Middle Ages, were assembled in large numbers in some church sanctuaries, from Cologne in the north to Ubeda in southern Spain. [...] On particular feast days, such busts could be carried in processions.

The fact that the Met, alone, has two other very similar reliquaries in its collection, suggests that this remarkable object probably isn't actually connected to the historical figure known as Saint Balbina.