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, April 29, 2022

Jeunesse dorée - the Messel brothers by William Bruce Ellis Ranken, 1921

Linley Messel at twenty-two.
Oliver Messel at seventeen.

Linley Francis Messel (31 August 1899, Midhurst - June 1971, Midhurst). 

Oliver Hilary Sambourne Messel (13 January 1904, London - 13 July 1978, Barbados), English artist and one of the foremost stage designers of the Twentieth century.

They were the sons of Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel and Maud Frances Sambourne; she was the daughter of Linley Sambourne, the eminent illustrator and contributor to Punch magazine. These 19x14 inch watercolors were two of three by Ranken submitted to the Royal Society of Portrait Artists for exhibition in 1921. A third sketch - its whereabouts now unknown - depicted their sister, the middle child, Anne Messel (8 February 1902, London - 3 July 1992, Nymans). From her first marriage, Anne Messel was the mother of Antony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon. Ranken appears to have been a favorite of the Messel family, painting not just all three siblings but also their father, as well as a further portrait of Anne after her second marriage to the 6th Earl of Rosse.


William Bruce Ellis Ranken (11 April 1881, Edinburgh - 31 March 1941, London), British artist and Edwardian aesthete. The son of a wealthy lawyer, he was educated at Eton where he studied watercolor painting, and then attended The Slade School of Art in London. With a prodigious output, working in watercolors, oils, and pastels, he received numerous portrait commissions from wealthy Americans, the British royal family and the aristocracy, as well as the interiors of their homes. He died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of fifty-nine and was buried near his beloved Warbrook House in Hampshire, the home he had owned for fifteen years but had had to sell during the Depression.

The artist, himself, photographed by Baron de Meyer, 1907.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

To study a gown... and all the rest - The Coronation of King Edward VII, by Edwin Austin Abbey, circa 1902-06

Queen Alexandra's coronation gown.

Numerous preparatory studies - both pastel drawings and oil paintings - for the vast tableau are in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.

The Coronation Chair, known historically as St Edward's Chair or King Edward's Chair.
Study for the overall composition.

The finished painting, The Coronation of King Edward VII, which measures all of fifteen by nine feet.

The painting itself remains in the British Royal Collection; its website gives this description (slightly edited):

The moment depicted is when the Archbishop of Canterbury, with arms lifted, is about to place the Imperial Crown on the head of Edward VII, who is seated, clothed in robes of State, in the Coronation chair. Princes and peers raise their coronets and lead the shout ‘God Save the King’. Beside the King stands the Bishop of Bath and Wells, behind whom are the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Connaught and the aged Duke of Cambridge. Within months of his accession King Edward VII had approached John Singer Sargent to ask him to paint the official Coronation portrait. However, Sargent felt unfit for the task, and declined. On 12 March 1901, W. Lockett Agnew, of Thomas Agnew & Sons, proposed a scheme for the King’s approval to paint a large painting of the Coronation. Agnew asked for the King’s authorization to call the painting ‘the only official picture of the Coronation’. It was proposed to exhibit the painting for a period of five years both in the United Kingdom and perhaps also in the USA and Canada and that sales of an engraving to be made of the painting would accrue to Agnew's. Within five years the painting would be presented as a gift to Edward VII. The painter who had been selected by Agnew's was Edwin Austin Abbey who had already ‘expressed his willingness to carry out such a picture’. Sir Arthur Ellis endorsed their choice: ‘As to E Abbey’s artistic merits, probably they are wise in choosing him – He has taken Frith’s place for such pictures & is for these subjects the best man’. The original date of the Coronation was set for 26 June 1902. During preparations and rehearsals in Westminster Abbey the artist had been able to prepare sketches and fill in positions of the main participants of the ceremony. Later he reported: ‘it was fortunate I had been able to sketch at the rehearsals or I should have been in a great muddle’. However, due to the King’s ill-health the coronation had to be postponed and was re-scheduled for 9 August 1902. The artist’s viewpoint was a specially built box in the tomb of Edmund Lancaster in the north transept. Unfortunately, it was a dull day and Westminster Abbey appeared more than usually gloomy and dark. But despite this Abbey was profoundly impressed with what he saw: ‘It was a sight indeed. They had white satin dresses and long trains of crimson velvet and ermine capes – trains and their coronets in hands. They came by twos or threes and dozens, and were marvelous to behold. I never saw so many jewels in my life.’ The Danish artist, Laurits Tuxen, entrusted to paint a more private painting of the Coronation, found the occasion similarly impressive and daunting. However, it appears that in February 1906 Abbey was still working on the project and he later declined to produce the Coronation painting of King George V. That task was undertaken by John Henry Frederick Bacon and Tuxen.

Provenance: Commissioned by Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd from the artist in 1901; presented to King Edward VII; recorded in Buckingham Palace, on the Visitors Landing in 1909.

The engraving made of the painting and sold by Agnew's.
In Abbey's study, Queen Alexandra's coronation gown looks very different from the way the garment appeared on the day of that solemn occasion....
... as the Queen famously covered herself - literally head to toe - with jewels that day.
The only remaining identifiable jewel in the gorgeous sketch is the Dagmar Necklace, a wedding present given to the queen by her parents in 1863.


Edwin Austin Abbey RA (1 April 1852, Philadelphia - 1 August 1911, London), American muralist, illustrator, and painter. He is best known for his drawings and paintings of Shakespearean and Victorian subjects, as well as for his painting of Edward VII's coronation. His most famous set of murals, "The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail", adorns the Boston Public Library. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and began as an illustrator, producing numerous illustrations and sketches for such magazines as Harper's Weekly and Scribner's Magazine; his illustrations began appearing in Harper's before Abbey was even twenty years old. He moved to New York City in 1871, then to England in 1878, at the request of his employers, to gather material for illustrations of the poems of Robert Herrick, published in 1882. He settled there permanently the following year. He first  exhibited an oil painting at the Royal Academy in 1890. The same year he married Gertrude Mead, the daughter of a wealthy New York merchant, who did much to encourage his career. He received a knighthood sometime after completing the coronation picture, and was awarded other important honors, including the Légion d'honneur. He was working on an ambitious program of murals for the newly completed Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, when his health began to fail and he was diagnosed with cancer. He died at the age of fifty-nine and is buried in the churchyard of Old St Andrew's Church in Kingsbury, London.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Out beyond - Valentino in costume for "Beyond the Rocks", 1922


(It was a very frustrating search; there are several other poses from this sitting, but none of the examples I found were of sufficient size/quality to include.)


"Beyond the Rocks" is an American silent film directed by Sam Wood, starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Released in 1922, it was based on the 1906 novel of the same name by Elinor Glyn. It was long considered to be a lost film - save for a one-minute fragment - but in 2003 a nitrate print of the film was discovered in the Netherlands, found among about two thousand rusting film canisters willed to the Nederlands Filmmuseum by an eccentric Dutch collector, Joop van Liempd of Haarlem. The film was restored by the Filmmuseum and the Haghefilm Conservation and given its first modern screening in 2005. It was released on DVD the following year.

Though a "modern dress" picture, there are scenes where the actors are wearing period costume.)
With Gloria Swanson.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Females of the species - miscellaneous portraits of women and girls, circa 1750-1960

Portrait of a lady, by Józef Męcina-Krzesz, 1920.
Princess Augusta of Bavaria with her daughters Joséphine and Eugénie, by Andrea Appiani, 1809.
Princess Joséphine, the future queen of Sweden and Norway, points to the location in Hungary where her father, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais,
Viceroy of Italy and stepson of Napoléon, led a military victory against the Austrian army at the Battle of Raab, 14 June 1809. 
Alda Weston, Lady Hoare, in a Green Cloak, by St. George Hare, 1909-10.
Karoline von Schlotheim, by Wilhelm Böttner, 1788.
The sisters Karolina and Anna Strauss, ballet dancers from the Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, by Jan Ksawery Kaniewskicirca, 1853.
Queen María Cristina of Spain, by José Moreno Carbonero, 1906.
^ Her daughter-in-law, Queen Victoria Eugénie of Spain, by José Moreno Carbonero, 1912.
The painter and the portrait.
The daughters of Puerto Rican governor Ramón de Castro, by José Campeche y Jordán,1797.
Marie Antoinette as a Vestal Virgin, by François Dumont, circa 1791 or later. There are several versions of this, some if not most created after her death.
Zinaida Ivanova, comtesse de Chauveau, formerly Princess Yussupova (née Narishkina), by Gerasim Ignatievich Kadunov, 1858.
Marina, Duchess of Kent, by Simon Elwes, circa 1955-60.
In 1945, at the height of his career, Elwes suffered a near-fatal stroke which paralyzed his right side, including
his painting hand. He re-taught himself to paint with his left and went on to even greater success.
The Chinese Girl, also known as The Green Lady, Monika Pon-su-san, by Vladimir Tretchikoff, 1952.
Portrait of Zofia with cacti, by Tadeusz Pruszkowski, 1920.
Possibly Claire Josèphe Hippolyte Léris de Latude, a French actress known professionally as mademoiselle Clairon, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, circa 1750.
 Octavie Wylezynska, baronne de Löwenthal, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1859.
Eugenii Dunin-Borkowskiej, by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, also known as "Witkacy", 1912.
Marie-Thérése Charlotte of France, dauphine and duchesse d'Angoulême, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1816.
Grand Duchess Sergei, Elisaveta Feodorovna, by Friedrich August von Kaulbach, circa 1892.
^ Her niece and ward, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Princess Wilhelm, Duchess of Södermanland, by Bernhard Österman, 1913.
Young Woman with a Fan, by Simon Maris, circa 1906. The model appears to be wearing an early 19th-century costume.
 Mrs. Frederick L. Pratt, neé Jeannie Williams, by Philip de László, 1928.
^ Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Robert Livingston Fryer, neé Melissa Dodge Pratt, by Philip de László, 1923.
Portrait de l'impératrice Eugénie en costume de dogaresse, the Empress Eugénie in a Venetian-style costume she wore to a ball on 9 February 1863.
The genre photographer "Marck" added - in oil paint - color and an imaginary Venetian background to the original photograph.
Circa 1850s.