Contributor: Diego Saglia
Location: Umbria, Italy
Description: This line engraving of the celebrated ‘Falls at Terni’ (the ‘Cascata delle Marmore’) in the central region of Umbria in Italy was created by John Landseer after a watercolour by Joseph William Mallord Turner. Turner produced it in 1818, as part of a series of illustrations for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy. It was based on Hakewill’s drawings and other impressions gathered from descriptions in travel books. The age-old fascination with the spectacle of the leaping and crashing waters of the river Velino, one of the highest falls in Europe, reached new heights in the Romantic period. As Lord Byron organized his journey from Venice to Rome in the spring of 1817, he made sure it would take in the falls. Back in Venice, on 4 June, he wrote triumphantly to his London-based publisher John Murray: ‘I visited twice the fall of Terni – which beats every thing’. He turned the experience into poetry in stanzas 69-72 of the fourth canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a section that soon became one of the most widely appreciated and quoted from that extremely successful poem. Its popularity contributed to fixing and defining the experience of the falls for English-language readers, first, and then – in translation – for readers all over Europe and beyond. In Victorian times, the stanzas were reproduced in John Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy (1843) in the section dedicated to the Cascata delle Marmore, included in Route 27: ‘Florence to Rome by Arezzo and Perugia’.
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Contributor: Dale Townshend
Location: Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut
Description: This is a broadside advertisement for the Phantasmagoria, an extraordinarily popular form of entertainment that entranced and captivated British audiences when it opened at London’s Lyceum Theatre in the Strand in October 1801. A carefully curated set of ghostly conjurations, optical illusions, trompe l’oeil effects and scientific curiosities, the Phantasmagoria show was both a development of, and an improvement upon, the earlier magic-lantern shows of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and, as Simon During has argued, the first of such practices to make a significant impression upon the urban entertainment industry in the first three decades of the nineteenth century . It is difficult to over-emphasise the importance of the Phantasmagoria to British culture, literary and otherwise, in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. As a primary point of confluence between British and Continental European entertainment, economics and technological advances, its very existence attests to the complexity and the richness of cross-cultural interaction and exchange in the period.
Continue reading “Monsieur de Philipsthal’s Phantasmagoria”
Contributor: Nicola Lawson
Location: Keswick Museum, Keswick, UK
Description: These books in Keswick Museum’s collection were part of Poet Laureate Robert Southey’s Cottonian Library. The library is known for its fabric overcovers, which Southey’s daughters and their friends created, and the name ‘Cottonian’ – coined by the family as a pun on the fabric used and Sir Robert Cotton’s famous book collection – is how we now identify pieces from this library. Fabric and sewing have been traditionally associated with women, and the re-covering of books in recycled dress fabric is a perfect metaphor for how the women of Greta Hall subverted the dichotomy of public and private spheres.
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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.
Continue reading “Swiss Roll? Mongin’s Helvétie wallpaper”
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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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.
Continue reading “A watercolour illustration to Monsieur Botte.”
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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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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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.
Continue reading ““The Eastern Diary”: Juliusz Słowacki’s travel notebook from his journey to Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land”
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.
Continue reading “Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin”