What did ladies do in the morning 200 years ago? Why, write letters and draw and paint, of course. A genteel lady knew all three arts and achieved them with varying skills. This delightful La Belle Assemblee print details how a well-dressed woman would look at her work table. This young Regency miss works like me, btw: with everything out and cluttering surfaces.
First, a description of the outfit:
MORNING or HOME COSTUME: A white cambric frock with a demi train, short sleeves fastened up in front with cordon and tassels, a necklace formed of two rows of opal; the hair dressed in full curls, and confined by a demi turban of very fine muslin tied on the right side with a small bow; silk stockings with lace clocks richly brocaded; and plain black kid slippers.”
The magazine goes on to say that embroidery on all gowns, whether for domestic parties or home attire, seems very prevalent. Embroidery on evening gowns made of costly materials is frequently of gold and silver. India muslins are again coming much into wear and were very decently priced:
for the information of our Fashionable Readers, we have observed, at the house of Millard, in the City, some of the choicest production of the East Indies from the Company’s recent Sale of Bengal Muslins, &c. Their beauty is exquisite…”
These small and elegant worktables were portable and could be easily carried near a light source or fireplace, or stashed against a wall when company came. They varied, some coming with a variety of compartments – some hidden – that contained writing and painting supplies. Many had book stands for reading, others had drawers that contained paper or embroidery threads and sewing supplies.
This work table was “equally adapted to the boudoir and drawing-room, and answers the purpose of a drawing-table as well as a work-table, and a desk for writing and reading.”
This was a very elegant and expensive work table for a rich lady.
This English work table, circa 1815, is a curious fusion of the refined neoclassicism of Robert Adam and the exotic eclecticism which emerged during the Regency period. The finely carved tri-form giltwood stand, based on a Roman form, is typical of Adam’s adaptation of the antique. - Carlton Hobbs Work Table
… it was also a Regency characteristic to employ finely tooled scarlet leather, such as that fitted to the interior of this piece.”
This rather plain octagonal worktable has four legs instead of the pedestal on Fanny Knight’s table.
As you can see, work tables varied in design and construction. This simpler and smaller cocuswood work table suited a lady’s purpose as well as a fancier one, but it has fewer compartments.
This plain worktable with a single drawer is an:
Early 19th century regency cocuswood work table with a rectangular top and single drawer.The turned legs are joined by a turned stretcher with circular platform, with paper label to underside inscribed purchased by ABM.
A few months ago I featured a short video of an 18th century French mechanical worktable, which showed how the hidden mechanisms worked and how easily the table could be moved from place to place. Click on this link to view it.
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