Swiss Roll? Mongin’s Helvétie wallpaper

Mongin’s Helvétie wallpaper

Contributor: Catriona Seth

Location: Château Borély (Marseille)

Description: A decorative craze which gripped Paris during the French Empire was for ‘papiers peints panoramiques’, wallpaper which, when strips were aligned, turned into a wide scene, like a fresco. This often replaced ‘boiseries’ or panelling as the main decorative programme of a reception room. Robert Barker’s Panorama, inaugurated in London in 1787, had enthused spectators. It allowed them, from a viewing platform, to be surrounded on all sides by a painted backdrop representing a cityscape like Edinburgh or Constantinople or indeed a battlefield. The design was much imitated and panoramas became hugely popular throughout Europe (1). Obviously private houses, however grand, could not copy the scale of this tourist attraction, but panoramic wallpaper, when used throughout a room, sought to give you a similar immersive experience.

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‘Beau Brummell’’s Coat

‘Beau Brummell’’s Coat

Contributor: Diego Saglia

Location: The Museum of London

Description: The beau monde of Romantic-period Britain, dashing Regency gentlemen, male characters in the fiction of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and in recent films and TV series: all of these become strikingly present through this pristine dark blue coat dating from around 1803. It was made in London by a tailor patronized by George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell (1778-1840), foremost among the early nineteenth-century dandies and the inventor of a simple but exquisite way of dressing aimed at enhancing the male physique. The coat brings to life the understated style he and his circle developed. By reinventing male fashion, these men created new modes of presenting and being (in) their bodies: besides demanding the highest standards in tailoring and attention to detail, they were innovative in valuing personal cleanliness and grooming. Though, in the Romantic period, such practices were restricted to a few individuals from the privileged elite, they also anticipated later phenomena up to recent forms of metrosexual or fluid masculine identity. This blue coat has these and other intriguing stories to tell – not least that of its rediscovery.

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A watercolour illustration to Monsieur Botte.

A watercolour illustration to Monsieur Botte.

Contributor: Shelly Charles

Description (English): This late nineteenth-century watercolour by the caricaturist and theatrical costume designer Draner depicts the Lepeintre brothers in Monsieur Botte (1827), a comedy-vaudeville by Depeuty and Villeneuve based on Pigault-Lebrun’s fiction of the same title of 1802. It evidences the century-long popularity of a novelist now almost forgotten. Despite the critical, legal and religious censorship to which his work was subjected, it was widely disseminated during the nineteenth century through multiple reissues, translations, various imitations and theatrical adaptations. From 1796 (L’Enfant du Carnaval) to 1830 (Contes à mon petit-fils), from the Terror to the Three Glorious Days, Pigault-Lebrun’s novels follow the evolution of French society through the succession of regimes and historical events. Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, and Flaubert remind us, each in his own way, of the place occupied in their imaginations and their aesthetics by these scandalous novels in which free thought reconnects with the tradition of comic realism to offer a fresh look at morals.

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Choiseul-Meuse’s Entre Chien et Loup

Choiseul-Meuse’s Entre Chien et Loup

Contributor: Bénédicte Prot

Description (English): Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse is the presumed author of many literary works published between 1797 and 1824, including the libertine fiction Entre chien et loup, published anonymously in 1809. In 1881, the Belgian publisher Henry Kistemaeckers offers to bibliophiles a luxurious reprint, illustrated with this frontispiece by Amédée Lynen, as part of a collection of ‘erotic and literary curiosities’.

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Les Récréations Morales et Amusantes

LES RÉCRÉATIONS MORALES ET AMUSANTES

Contributor: Nicolas Duriau

Description (English): Marie Joséphine Antoinette Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse, a now forgotten writer from the end of the French Enlightenment, was active between 1797 and 1824. As Élisabeth Guénard, she was one of those successful female novelists who adapted their work to satisfy the imperial authorities and, from 1810, to evade censorship (Granata: 2007, 168). The author of several pornographic novels, including Julie ou j’ai sauvé ma rose (1807), Amélie de Saint-Far ou la fatale erreur (1808), and Elvire ou la femme innocente et perdue (1809), which appeared anonymously (Glessner: 1997, 132-134), also wrote pedagogical novels after 1810. These educational works, which include Les Récréations morales et amusantes, à l’usage des jeunes demoiselles qui entrent dans le monde (1810), are far different from her libertinage and remain unknown.

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“The Eastern Diary”: Juliusz Słowacki’s travel notebook from his journey to Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land

“The Eastern Diary”: Juliusz Słowacki’s travel notebook from his journey to Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land “The Eastern Diary”: Juliusz Słowacki’s travel notebook from his journey to Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land

Contributors: Maria Kalinowska (Faculty Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw), Milena Chilińska (Faculty Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw)

Location: The Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

Description: This travel diary belonged to Juliusz Słowacki (born 1809 in Krzemieniec, Volhynia, now part of Ukraine, died 1849 Paris), second only to Adam Mickiewicz as the most important Polish Romantic poet. He is considered one of the most important Polish writers influencing national consciousness and culture, expressing the problems of modern Polish history in the greatest depth. Słowacki’s oeuvre reflects the European historiosophical and aesthetic issues of his time. Romantic ideals of freedom, revolution, progress, and sacrifice, as well as Romantic irony and artistry, gain unique and original interpretations in his works. Because of the prevailing political situation in his homeland, he lived in exile and travelled throughout Western Europe from the early 1830s onwards, never able to return to Poland.

From 1836 to 1837 Słowacki completed a major journey to Greece and the Middle East. He made extensive notes and drawings on his journey, as well as drafts of poems, in a notebook now known as the Eastern Diary. This notebook was thought to have been lost, but in 2010 it resurfaced unexpectedly in a library in Moscow. The story of this document is as fascinating as the story of Słowacki’s journey itself.

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Thomas Banks, Shakespeare between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting, 1789.

Thomas Banks, Shakespeare between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting, 1789.

Contributor: Michael Dobson

Location: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

Description: This specimen of Romantic statuary can be found, albeit with some difficulty, in a remote lower corner of the garden attached to the site of William Shakespeare’s long-demolished house New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon. Although partly sheltered under a pediment, its three life-sized figures display symptoms of long-term exposure to acid rain, since this work has always been positioned outdoors. It was designed to adorn the entrance of a pioneering art gallery in London, and both the artistic agenda it was intended to advertise and the fate which ultimately befell it have much to say about the tensions within European romanticism between the assertion of the native and the celebration of the transcendent.

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Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin

Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin

Contributor: Christie Margrave

Description (English): In early nineteenth-century France, Eugénie Servières ‘took to painting medieval themes under the influence of romanticism’ (Handley, p.29). Although Servières is little-known, more than one of her paintings interact with the work of one of the most popular novelists of the era: Sophie Cottin. Given Servières’s taste, it is unsurprising that she was inspired by Cottin’s Mathilde ou mémoires tirés de l’histoire des croisades (1805), which is replete with examples of early French Romantic Medievalist imagery. Painted in 1820, this painting, entitled Maleck-Adhel [sic] attendant Mathilde au tombeau de Josselin de Montmorency, was the second of Servières’s paintings to be inspired by Mathilde. Here, she chooses to focus on two particular Romantic tropes: Orientalism and death. In so doing, she emphasises Cottin’s own juxtaposition of these two common features of Romantic texts and images, both representative of the ‘au-delà’, within Mathilde. Servières depicts the scene which takes place at the tomb of Montmorency, and several features of the image aid the reader to unlock the power Cottin attributes to this scene and its spatial setting.

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A Neapolitan pirate between London and Paris…

A Neapolitan pirate between London and Paris…

Contributor: Catriona Seth

Description (English): A novel with an intriguing title, Le Pirate de Naples. Traduit de l’anglais, came out in Paris between 23rd September and 31st December 1801: it bears the double date An X/1801. Whilst all books labelled as such were not necessarily translations, this one was. At a time when the French were avid readers of English gothic fiction, it was translated particularly swiftly: it was published the same year as the original, also in three volumes. The English book cost 13 shillings and sixpence, the translation 5 or 7.5 francs.  Le Pirate de Naples underscores the importance of translators as cultural intermediaries helping to shape a shared European imaginary.

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Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Contributor: Jorunn Joiner

Location: Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England (51°10′44″N 1°49′34″W)

Description: The stone circle of Stonehenge is Britain’s most famous monument from a long-lost past. The circa 13 feet high stones, arranged in two circles with horizontal stones as lintels, suggest an impossible feat of construction, and featured in Edmund Burke’s taxonomy of the sublime: “Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, has anything admirable; but those huge rude masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on other, turn the mind on the immense force necessary for such a work”. (1) Antiquarians of the 17th and 18th centuries posited the circle to have been constructed by the Druids. In William Blake’s prophetic book Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804-1820), Stonehenge accordingly appears as a national landmark, and the site of ancient sacrificial rites. (2)

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