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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Gentle Readers,

What better way to resume my blog than with Jessica Purser’s lovely Jane Austen post cards and bookmarks? I apologize for my unexcused silence. Life simply caught up with me, and due to a schedule that overwhelmed me because of work and family obligations, I had to cut back on my blog, and Facebook and Twitter comments. I did keep up with my Pinterest boards, for I found that cataloging images was as relaxing as playing solitaire. Whenever I found 10 spare minutes here and there (while waiting, watching the news or a television show, or during a solitary meal), I would pin. I want to thank those who persisted in contacting me (and who I needlessly worried) and who coached me to return to my blogging duties a little earlier than I had planned. Jessica Purser sent these lovely cards and notes for me to review in July. They certainly deserved my immediate attention and not such a long wait.

JPurser_PrideandPrejudice.jpg

I placed a number of the images on my table. Sorry about the quality of the images. I have interspersed them with images from Jessica Purser’s Etsy site.

I am sure that many of you have already viewed samples of Jess’s images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Twitter, but I couldn’t help sharing these cute interpretations of Jane Austen’s characters anyway.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Ms. Purser sent me quite a few samples, which I photographed (rather clumsily, I must admit). I am also featuring a number of images from her Etsy site.

persuasion_pride_purser.jpg

Anne and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, and Bingley proposing to Jane in Pride and Prejudice

I can’t think of a better way to restart my blog than to share Jess’s wonderful creations with you. They are painted on pages of Jane Austen’s novels, which provide context.

Emma and Mr. Knightley

Emma and Mr. Knightley

The postcards are printed on hardy card stock and the larger images are suitable for framing. I have been using the bookplates and bookmarks, and sharing them with friends.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Thank you, Jessica, for this lovely art work.

Jess's book marks

Jess’s book marks

Jessica PurserRead more about Jessica in this Interview with Jessica Purser on Rockalily Cuts

Order her art work at: Castle on the Hill, Jessica’s Etsy Shop

 

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Dr. Syntax Visits a Boarding School for Young Ladies

One of the most unexpected (and wonderful) finds in the Emporium at the 2012 JASNA meeting in NYC were the four Rowlandson prints that I purchased. One, entitled “Dr. Syntax Visits a Boarding School for Young Ladies” is charming. I included a number of images I found online to accompany this post. Except for the composition, t is remarkable how strikingly different each looks. My print resembles none of the ones displayed here – it is slightly yellowed and delicately colored, but the colors are neither bright nor faded. I can’t wait to frame it.

Dr syntax visits a boarding school for young ladies,1821. This image from the Yale Center of British Art is much paler than mine, in which the headmistress’s skirt is colored red and the young ladies in the foreground wear colored dresses.

This 190+ year old hand-colored aquatint came from The Tour of Doctor Syntax, published by Ackermann’s Repository in London from 1812-1821. Dr. Syntax, a British clergyman, sits under a tree next to a stern looking Lady Governess, who addresses the young pupils arrayed around them. The scene accompanies text in The Second Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of Consolation. The illustration reveals how Rowlandson works, outlining the figures with a reed pen and then delicately washing certain areas of the print with color. His pen and inks were then etched by a professional engraver, an artist in his own right. The impressions were then hand colored.

Rowlandson’s Prints

Rowlandson was prolific. Art historians deem his earlier works to be more artistic and carefully observed. As his reputation spread, he began to produce his designs in haste and the quality of his art began to suffer. His caricatures became predictable and in some instances overly exaggerated, but he never lost the facility with which he handled his pen.

In this series, Rowlandson created the illustrations first. Writer James Combe then wrote the narrative that accompanies the images. “This series is one of the best parodies of the more traditional narratives on journeys to different parts of England featuring more “serious” landscape illustrations and prose.” ( Prints from The Tours of Dr. Syntax, Prints With a Past.)

This print is similar to the one I purchased, but slightly more colorful. Image from Dr. Syntax’s Three Tours at Internet Archive, Cornell University Library

Doctor Syntax talks to the Young Ladies at Boarding School

Below sits the text (in verse) that accompanied this image, in which Dr. Syntax expounds on his listeners’ youth and character, and how they can learn from good example:

In the following page, Dr. Syntax exhorts his young charges to never swerve from virtue’s path and to take care of their good looks, for “flowing looks display’d to view, of black or brown or auburn hue, and well combin’d in various ways, a certain admiration raise…”:

Dr. Syntax does not want for words. In fact, he is a bit of a windbag. How those girls could sit enraptured during this speech is a marvel to me. In this section the rich graces of the mind hold the beauty of the whole, the mortal form, th’ immortal soul.

I wonder if Dr. Syntax even drew breath! In this section the good doctor reinforces the concept that a woman’s place is in the home, overseeing the family and household.

The Doctor says his goodbye, admonishing the listeners to pay attention the kind preceptress, who “will explain what of this subject doth remain, and bring the whole before your view, to prove my solemn doctrine true.”

Sources: 

Books:

  • Dr. Syntax’s Three Tours Doctor Syntax’s three tours in search of the picturesque, consolation, and a wife. By William Combe. The original ed., complete and unabridged, with the life and adventures of the author, now first written, by John Camden Hotten. Eighty full page illustrations drawn and coloured after the originals by T. Rowlandson. Published 1868 by J. C. Hotten in London . Library of Congress, PR3359.C5 D6 1868

Other posts about the JASNA NYC 2012

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Inquiring readers: This article from frequent contributor, Patricia Saffran from Brandy Parfums, describes the exhibit at the British Museum, which opened in London on May 24. These exquisite works of art, along with others, will be on view through September 30th. With this exhibit, the upcoming Olympic Games, and the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, what a sterling year it has been thus far for Great Britain.

Queen Elizabeth’s love of horses is well-known. As part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration, an exhibition has been created in her honor on the history of the horse in civilization. Opening May 24, 2012 at the British Museum in London, the emphasis in this exhibition is on the domestication of horses and the revolutionary impact of horses on ancient civilizations. Artifacts and art from the Museum’s extensive collection, as well as various loans on display depict the horse in its early use in farming, hunting and warfare. In the exhibition, the role of horses in the history of the Middle East is examined with an emphasis on the breeding of the Arab as a foundation of the Thoroughbred. Britain’s long equestrian tradition figures prominently in the show.

253093: Fragment of carved limestone relief featuring the heads and foreparts of three horses drawing a chariot with reins, hands of
charioteer and whip, 9thC BC, Neo-Assyrian. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

The genus Equus, including all current species such as horses, asses and zebras, is native to North America. During the first major glaciations of the Pliocene, around 2.6 million years ago, certain species crossed the Bering Land Bridge. From there they spread out, some to Africa diversifying into zebras. Other species spread to Asia, the Mideast and North Africa as desert asses. The modern horse, equus caballus, migrated to Asia, Europe and the Mideast. Other Equus species drifted toward South America.

Due to the possible change in grasses, forage, or the threat of hunting, it is believed that horses, asses and zebras remaining in North and South America died out at the end of the last glaciations of the Pleistocene around 10,000 years ago, but there is no definitive proof. Some horses may have stayed and survived in the Great Plains or elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Horses were reintroduced into the Americas by the Spanish about five hundred years ago, and possibly before that by the Vikings and Asians.

90313: Three horses (white, black and chestnut) galloping across a bare landscape, chestnut horse has a lasso round its neck and white horse round its hind legs. mid-16thC, Persian. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

As horses moved toward the rich grasslands in the steppes of southern Russia around 5,000 years ago, their domestication occurred – the wild Przewalski’s horse in Central Asia is an exception.

Horses were introduced to the Ancient Near East in about 2,300 BC. Before this time donkeys, asses and oxen pulled crude carts in this area. Technological advances later on saw swifter carts and chariots pulled by horses, and the development of horseback riding. The history of conquest utilizing horses along with advancements in writing, art, architecture and agriculture were all part of the culture of these ancient lands.

The following are highlights of the exhibition with some of the history attached to the objects and art on display.

The famous standard of Ur, a Sumerian mosaic from 2,400- 2,600 BC with chariots drawn by equines is on display.

One of the earliest known representations of a horse and rider will be shown – a terracotta mould from Old Babylonia (Iraq) from about 2000-1800 BC. The rider sits well to the back of the horse where there is very little control. Later in the ninth century BC, Assyrian cavalrymen brought horses that may have been bred to be finer and faster. They sat forward on the horse for better maneuverability, and the calvary charge was born.

265010: Album leaf. A horse with elaborate saddle and harness being led by a groom. On paper. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

Horses were highly prized and given as gifts in the Ancient Near East around 2000 BC according to ancient texts. Also, around this time what appears to be an Arab type can be seen in Egyptian tomb paintings – horses with a short back, high tail and large eyes. In about 1,600 BC the use of the faster, superior chariot ushered in the Chariot age – which was to have a profound effect on warfare, even reaching later on to China and elsewhere. Particularly among the ancient Hurrians, between the Tigris and Euphrates, a system of royal patronage developed with an aristocratic military.

The Assyrians reveled in the horse as a source of prestige and created meticulously crafted horse trappings. A Neo-Assyrian carved relief from Nimrud(Iraq) from the 9th century BC shows the intricate detail in these chariot horse trappings.

The Achaemenid King Darius was known to hunt fast game like lions from a fast-moving chariot and a seal of this image is on display. Darius was better known for developing a system similar to the Pony Express where horses were changed at intervals to deliver mail along the improved Royal road, stretching 1000 miles long. It was Herodotus who wrote, “nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted range in the quickest possible time. Neither snow, rain, heat nor darkness.” (Sound familiar?) – Herodotus, the Histories, Book VIII, 5th century BC.

948688: Man on horseback, with a falcon, early 18th century, India. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

The Parthian Empire 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD, saw more developments in horse combat. They were famous for the “Parthian shot” – pretending to flee while on horseback, then turning around shooting an arrow backwards. We now use the expression, “Parting shot” that comes from this manoeuvre.

Under the Parthians and later Sassanian Dynasty in 224 AD horses and riders started to wear armor for battle. While we think of jousting as quintessentially European with its armored horses and riders, the sport was actually practiced early on by the Parthians and Sassanians.

The horse grew in importance in the world across what is now Arabia, India and Turkey with numerous depictions in paintings and ceramics. Lovely Mughal miniatures from the 7th century AD reveal the high status of horses. Many show an owner and his beloved horse with delicate detail. The famous
Furusiyya manuscript from the 14th century AD is on display with its text on horsemanship.

Fine horses in the Middle East are explored in the Abbas Pasha manuscript from the 19th century. This document is the main text to describe the lineage of the purebred Arabian horses acquired by Abbas Pasha (the viceroy of Egypt). The Arab is the result of deliberate selective breeding.

406001: The Godolphin Arabian, Butler, T, 1750-55: Copyright of the Royal Collection

This exhibition includes the famous painting of the Godolphin Arabian by Thomas Butler, painted around 1750- 1755. The Godolphin Arabian was one of three foundation stallions (the other two being the Byerly Turk and the Darley Arabian) brought to England in the 18th century and bred to native
English horses to eventually become the Thoroughbred. The majority of modern Thoroughbreds (95%) are descended from these stallions. Those readers who saw the fantastic exhibition, All the Queen’s Horses, at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2003, will be familiar with this painting, which is on loan from
the Royal Collection.

185544: Hambletonian and Diamond at Newmarket.1800, by John Whessell, Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum

Also from the Royal Collection is a silver Faberge sculpture of the race horse Persimmon who had been owned by the Queen’s great-grandfather, Edward VII. The horse created a sensation by winning the 1896 Doncaster, St. Leger and Epsom Derby, the Epsom Derby being shown around the world in an
early newsreel.

400997: Lady Laetitia, Stubbs, G, 1793: Copyright of the Royal Collection

Normally hanging in the private quarters of Windsor, a George Stubbs portrait of Laetitia, Lady Lade on horseback will be on display. Lady Lade was a somewhat controversial figure, who swore among other things, but who was a gifted horsewoman. This painting from 1793, was commissioned by George IV who was smitten with Laetitia, the wife of his racing manager. The pleasure-loving George IV was himself an expert horseman, whip and breeder of racehorses.

Discussing the exhibition, curator John Curtis told The Guardian, “There are probably horses somewhere in every gallery in the museum, from Assyrian sculptures to coins. They’re so familiar and ubiquitous they mostly go unnoticed. We want to bring them together and show their importance in
history. The horse was an engine of human development…..”

For more information: britishmuseum.org Admission is free. The exhibition runs from May 24 – September 30.
While in the Museum, be sure to see the Elgin Marbles, a must for horse enthusiasts.

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Image recently added to @Wikimedia Commons

Prostitutes were regarded with mixed feelings in the 18th century. An awareness of the vulnerability of women who had few economic options for making their way in the world owed much to the sentimental view taken of prostitutes. Ladies of pleasure were generally born into poverty and had little education or work skills. The sentimental prostitute narrative, which was common at the time, rarely condemned these women. These narratives, whether in print or on canvas, tell the story of a prostitute’s career and sexual fall, and generally end their tales in two ways: happily, through her marriage or finding acceptable employment, or tragically with her death.

The Progress of a Woman of Pleasure was drawn by Richard Newton, a young artist who died at 21 in 1798, two years after making this illustration. The “Progress” formula, which Newton used for a variety of prints, is a familiar one to those who have viewed William Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, Marriage a la Mode, Industry and Idleness and A Harlot’s Progress. Progress series demonstrate in a progression of satirical paintings and prints how lives were transformed by temptation, bad luck and poor choices.

A closer look at Progress of a Woman of Pleasure reveals Newton’s sentimental take of the prostitute theme, as well as details about the life of an 18th Century lady of  ill repute. For many 18th century prostitutes, their occupation was transitional, meant to economically tide them over a particularly bad hump in their lives. Many eventually married or found another occupation.

Your first step for preferment will be to a great lady in King's Place.

“A great lady in King’s Place” refers to Charlotte Hayes, who ran a high-class brothel in King’s-Place off Pall Mall. Gentlemen of the upper classes frequented this brothel located in london’s tony west end. With the use of the term ‘preferment’,  Newton makes it obvious that this woman has set her sights high. Her clothes are rather simple and plain as compared to the second scene below.

We see you now waiting in full dress for an introduction to a fine gentleman with a world of money!

London was a notorious hot bed for prostitutes. Fully one in five women in London (50,000) worked as ladies of the night. Many of them worked alone, plying their trade on the streets, in their own rooms, or in brothels. One foreign traveler was amazed at the variety of ways a man could have a woman:

…dressed, bound up, hitched up, tight-laced, loose, painted, done up or raw, scented, in silk or wool, with or without sugar. - Daily Life in 18th Century England, Kirsten Olsen, p. 49

You are now in high keeping and you accompany your Adonis to the Masquerade in the character of a Bacchante.

Masquerades were wildly popular in 18th century London. Hidden behind masks and disguised in costumes, people from varying social classes freely intermingled at these events, where licentious behavior was common. Prostitutes attended these events in order to attract customers, or, as in this instance, were brought there by their benefactors.

Not being used to champagne and not possessing the sweetest temper in the world in liquor, you give your keeper a sample of it by flinging a glass of wine to his face.

As this courtesan finds out the hard way, she is with her companion for only as long as she is useful to him. In this instance, her outrageous behavior causes him to cast her off.  The aim of the successful prostitute/mistress/courtesan was to find a benefactor from the highest echelons of society and to make a long-lasting arrangement that created a financially fruitful association for her. For the number of women who rose in the ranks of serving as mistress to important men, there was an equal number that had no place to go but down. The idea was to extend your association for as long as possible and retire in comfort.

You are now turned off and your only consolation is that your hair dresser promised to marry you.

Newton’s prostitute must have been a pretty woman indeed if the hair dresser was willing to marry her. The attitude towards prostitutes in the 18th century was more forgiving that it would be in the 19th century, and a former courtesan could still attain a certain level of social acceptance. At this stage, Newton could have ended his sentimental “Progress” with a happy ending and shown our heroine as being reformed and leading a happy life. Note how simple and plain her dress is compared to the previous three drawings.

He loves you to distraction but he thought you'd have an annuity of 200 a year! I hear you roar out -- "You dirty rascal! I could get the smartest linen draper's man in London with that money."

Newton’s prostitute was not only a bit dim, but her huge ego stood in the way of her success. Two hundred a year was a huge sum of money for that day and age. A single gentleman in London could live very comfortably on that sum, although it would not allow him to keep a horse in Town. Nevertheless, such an amount would have been considered staggering for a prostitute and her working class husband. Newton’s contemporary audience would have understood this. Note how much more social caché a draper’s man had over a mere hair dresser! (Well, at least for a woman of her station. A lady wouldn’t have bothered to tell the difference, I’m sure.)

Our prostitute’s  pride ruins any chance of happiness she might have found as a respectable married woman. This up and down course of events is not unusual. Many prostitutes in their (generally) short careers went from rags to riches and back to rags and riches again. The cycle, in Newton’s instance, is ever downward.

You move to Marybone and exhibit yourself in the Promenade in Oxford Street.

Marylebone was once a Georgian estate in London that was developed into housing tracts. By 1792-99, Richard Horwood’s map showed that the area from Oxford Street to the Marylebone Road was covered with houses. (The Heart of Marylebone.) Prostitutes were scattered throughout London, including the “Marybone” area (as many as 30,000 in Marylebone alone by one count):

They tended to gather in areas with looser police control; when the police became stricter in the City of London in the eighteenth century, the prostitutes gravitated toward the west and east ends of the city; when police control loosened in the early nineteenth century, they returned to the City. Prostitutes also tended to congregate in areas with cheap lodging houses and lots of men. St. Giles and St. James, home to many cheap boardinghouses, were popular with prostitutes in Westminster; the Docks, where many sailors disembarked, was popular on the east side of the city. – Prostitutes in 18th-Century London

It is interesting to note that William Holland, the artist’s publisher, had his shop on 50 Oxford Street.

Having met with a Crown Customer, you tell him to go treat his Wife and Brats at Bagnigge Wells, you expected Five Guineas at least from him.

Bagnigge Wells no longer exists. It was a spa for the “middling sort”, located on the River Fleet near St. Pancras. The River Fleet is now one of London’s underground rivers. The guinea’s value was more than a pound. The coin itself was valuable, for it was made of gold and the value of a 5 guinea piece fluctuated during the 18th century. A crown was a silver coin worth five shillings, considerably less than a five guinea piece.

You take a bumper of Brandy to comfort you after the disappointment and you drink bad luck to all scaly fellows.

We already know that our prostitute does not take to drink well. She now turns to brandy. A bumper of brandy is no small amount, as you can see from the bottle in her hand. The Book of Scottish Anecdotes contains this little tale:

While Burns was at Moffat once with Clark the composer, the poet called for a bumper of brandy. “Oh, not a bumper,” said the musician. “I prefer two small glasses.”

“Two glasses?” cried Burns; “Why, you are like the lass in Kyle, who said she would rather be kissed twice bare-headed than once with her bonnet on.” – p81.

Scaly fellows were the lowest of the low. Also note the clocks (embroidery) on the prostitute’s stockings, which were quite fashionable in her day.

Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies contained a description of Miss Devonshire on Queen Anne Street. At this point, our lady of pleasure has gravitated towards a tavern on a street near Marlebone .

You wind up the evening with a boxing match and a Warrant and two Black Eyes salute you in the Morning.

Due to her inability to hold her temper, our lady’s downhill slide is guaranteed. Richard Newton was known for his drawings of bare-breasted ladies. It could not have been hard to tug a woman’s chemise down over her bosom in those days.

You are now over head and ears in debt in Marybone Parish and I see you shifting and removing your little wardrobe to Covent Garden.

Our lady of pleasure has moved from the West End to Covent Garden.

By the middle of the 18th century Covent Garden was full of seedy lodging houses and an astonishing number of Turkish baths, many of which were brothels.

Sir John Fielding, the magistrate, called Covent Garden ‘the great square of Venus’. He said, ‘One would imagine that all the prostitutes in the kingdom had picked upon the rendezvous’. – Prostitution in Maritime London

You are glad of a half-crown customer now, in a Prentice Boy who has just robbed his master's till.

And so our prostitute has fallen further. She is attracting customers of a lower sort, such as an apprentice who has taken to thievery to afford her wares. It is obvious that she no longer holds herself out for the highest bidder.

You are now the mistress of a Player, who principally lives by Gambling; you ride out with him, cut a dash, and run him in debt; and to give him a sample of your spirit before you part you exercise a Horsewhip on his shoulders.

Our lady of pleasure is on a slight uptick again, having become the mistress to a gambler. Riding outfits, made by tailors, were quite expensive. To cut a dash was to make a fine figure and to look quite smart. One assumes that the gambler took his mistress horse back riding in London’s Hyde Park, which meant that he kept her in fancy digs until his luck ran out. Once again, our lady of the night shows poor judgment and gives him a physical memory of her temper, flogging him with her riding whip.

You are now in a Sponging House, heart sick at disappointment from all your Friends, and you stupefy yourself with Gin.

One can only imagine that this prostitute is reaping what she sowed, and that she made quite a few enemies when her luck ran high. Now that she is in debt herself, she has no one to turn to.

The normal process was for the debtor to be arrested by a bailiff or sheriff’s officer, and then taken to what was called a sponging-house, usually the officer’s own house. There, the debtor would be persuaded that they should pay their debts, otherwise, they faced a court appearance, and a debtors’ prison. – The Real Little Dorrit

Gin was also known as blue ruin. Before 1734 it was the drink of choice for poor people.

Along with promiscuous and adulterous behavior, gin became associated with prostitution, an issue that ranked high on the agenda of moral reformers. The association between gin and prostitution came about because gin-shops were public places that brought prostitute and customer together. It is important to note however that gin-shops were simply places where ordinary people gathered in a city where there were few other social spaces. As such, gin-shops were perhaps unfairly associated with prostitution in the sense that prostitution occurs where people happen to frequently gather. - The Gin Craze

Having in two years been the mistress of a Two Highwaymen, a Qui Tam Attorney, Two Shopmen who were Transported, I now see you at your last shift, pawning your silver thimble for a groat to purchase your breakfast.

Our whore is so down on her luck, she’ll take any man as a customer, even criminals. Her two shopmen have been transported, to Australia no doubt.  She’s most likely working in back alleys and near the ports of London. Her jewelry is gone and her clothes are old-fashioned rags. Selling her thimble, an important item for sewing, for food means that she has no resources left.  I know little about ‘qui tam’ attorneys except to say that their practice had fallen into disrepute in England by the 19th century.

A groat was worth only four pence in the 1700s.

Your sun is now setting very fast, and I see you the servant of a woman who was formerly your Servant, you live on Board Wages, which seldom affords you more than a Bunch of Radishes and a Pint of Porter for your dinner.

Board wages mean that our prostitute worked very hard to earn enough money for her room, but had barely enough left over for food. Porter during this time was a strong dark beer. It was a good thing that she could afford alcohol, for I imagine that the wells in her neighborhood were contaminated with fecal matter. Water was a dangerous substance in the poorer sections of London. This prostitute’s narrative provides a cautionary tale for viewers. Her actions caused her downfall; her inability to hold her temper or her drink led to her ruin.

Our “heroine” falls sick and dies outdoors, to be buried in a potter’s field. Nothing could have been said more clearly about this unfortunate woman’s social worthlessness than her degrading end: No one, not even her former servant, now mistress, is willing to put up a single pence for her funeral.

You take sick in the service of this female monster and she turns you out of doors fearing your Funeral expenses should fall upon her.

More on the topic:

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I was at the private view of the “Diorama”; it is in part a transparency; the spectator is in a dark chamber, and it is very pleasing, and has great illusion. It is without the pale of art, because its object is deception. The art pleases by reminding, not deceiving. The place was filled with foreigners, and I seemed to be in a cage of magpies. – John Constable.

Ruins of Hollyrood Chapel, one of Daguerre's paintings for an 1824 Paris diorama

Imagine a world without films or television, computers or cell phones. Where transportation was slow and costly, and only the rich could afford to travel out of the country. Then imagine a new cutting edge technology in which lifesized illusions of ancient or distant lands were recreated on large transluscent screens and scenes of beauty or disaster were enhanced with lights that simulated scenes containing fire, the changing seasons, and sunrises and sunsets. Dioramas were a 19th century version of virtual reality – spectacles that both entertained and filled the viewer with wonder. Illusionary, seemingly 3D, and augmented by concealed lights in back of the stage, these entertainments were shown in buildings designed to display them.

Photo shows people watching Daguerre's diorama. Undated illustration. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In 1822, a mere 5 years after Jane Austen’s death, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, introduced the first Diorama theater in Paris.

Diorama in Paris. Image @Jack and Beverley's Optical Toys

“Daguerre made large paintings of scenes and displayed they in elaborate layered stage settings along with real objects. The theater was equipped with windows and louvers that could be opened and closed to front light and back light the images. This caused transparent areas of the scene to change and new images to appear. Most often these were day to night transformations.” – Jack and Beverley’s Optical Toys

Diorama, Regent's Park

One year after Daguerre’s introduction of this wondrous new entertainment, the first diorama opened up in London in Regent’s Park. (The building still stands, but the interior has been vastly transformed.) The subject matter included landscape scenes of the grand tour, religious stories, recreations of paintings and grand architecture, and historical themes well-known to the public. The images could be made more or less bright according to the mood or atmosphere required by the theme. Props were also added for realism:

Diorama theatre

The visitors, after passing through a gloomy anteroom, were ushered into a circular chamber, apparently quite dark. One or two small shrouded lamps placed on the floor served dimly to light the way to a few descending steps and the voice of an invisible guide gave directions to walk forward. The eye soon became sufficiently accustomed to the darkness to distinguish the objects around and to perceive that there were several persons seated on benches opposite an open space resembling a large window. Through the window was seen the interior of Canterbury Cathedral undergoing partial repair with the figures of two or three workmen resting from their labours. The pillars, the arches, the stone floor and steps, stained with damp, and the planks of wood strewn on the ground, all seemed to stand out in bold relief, so solidly as not to admit a doubt of their substantiality, whilst the floor extended to the distant pillars, temptingly inviting the tread of exploring footsteps. Few could be persuaded that what they saw was a mere painting on a flat surface. The impression was strengthened by perceiving the light and shadows change, as if clouds were passing over the sun, the rays of which occasionally shone through the painted windows, casting coloured shadows on the floor. Then shortly the lightness would disappear and the former gloom again obscure the objects that had been momentarily illumined. The illusion was rendered more perfect by the sensitive condition of the eye in the darkness of the surrounding chamber.” “- The History of the Discovery of Cinematography http://www.precinemahistory.net/1800.htm

Diorama

Dioramas were created for spectacle and entertainment, and one can readily imagine Georgette Heyer’s characters attending these events during the London Season.

The popularity of the dioramas generated a debate over whether their pictures were art. The press discussed them as ‘exhibitions of art.’ But if the dioramas were art, it was a mundane art, and it rarely elevated the viewer’s taste. Indeed, if contemporary reactions are to be believed, the highest artistic achievement the diorama could attain was providing an entertaining substitute for reality. These pleasant but uncomplicated images required little or no preparation for serious thought… – Robert W. Brown.

Diorama diagram. Image @Wikipedia

This first-hand account gives the modern reader a sense of how these 30 – 50 minute light shows seemed to the viewer:

Woodcut of a diorama, day and night scenes.

A bell now rings, we find ourselves in motion; the whole theatre in which we sit, moves round till its wall closes the aperture or stage, and we are in perfect darkness; the bell rings again, a curtain rises, and we are looking on the time-worn towers, transepts, and buttresses of Notre Dame, its rose window on the left, and the water around its base reflecting back the last beams of the setting sun. Gradually these reflections disappear, the warm tints fade from the sky, and arc succeeded by the cool grey hue of twilight, and that again by night—deepening by insensible m degrees till the quay and the surrounding buildings and the water are no longer distinguishable, and Notre Dame itself scarcely reveals to us its outlines against the sky. Before we have long gazed on this scene the moon brgins to emerge slowly—very slowly, from the opposite quarter of the heavens, its first faint rays tempering apparently rather than dispersing the gloom; presently a slight radiance touches the top of one of the pinnacles of the cathedral—and glances as it were athwart the dark breast of the stream; now growing more powerful, the projections of Notre Dame throw their light and fantastic shadows over the left side of the building, until at last, bursting forth in serene unclouded majesty, the whole scene is lit up, except where the vast Cathedral interrupts its beams, on the quay here to the left, and where through the darkness the lamps are now seen, each illumining its allotted space.” - London Volumes 5-6, Edited by Charles Knight, 1843, pp. 284 – 288

Diorama, Edinburgh

By the early half of the 19th century there were five diaromas open in London. They were also popular in other British cities, as well as Breslau, Berlin, Cologne, Stockholm, and the United states. It is interesting to note that the end of the diorama’s popularity coincided with the rise of photography.

The Annual Peeps Diorama competition grows bigger every year: Easter at the National Peeps-thedral

Dioramas have shrunk in size, and today’s viewers know them only as scenes in boxes or bottles, as museum displays, or for competitions, such as the science fair or annual peeps contest.

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Gentle Readers, Frequent contributor, Tony Grant from London Calling, has been on a hiatus. But he has returned with a vengeance. Please enjoy his observations about Hogarth’s breathtaking series, The Rake’s Progress, and the modern pictures he took as he went on a quest to search for The Rake’s London.

In 1733 William Hogarth began a new series of progress pictures. He had already created The Harlott’s Progress which had been very popular. He now began a series called The Rake’s Progress.

A Rake's Progress at the Sir John Soane's Museum

A rake was a stylised type of young man that had a literary tradition already before Hogarth began his series. He was generally regarded as a very impressionable young man, usually born and bred in the countryside to a wealthy father who had gained his riches by working hard and amassing a fortune which he had inevitably hoarded and not spent. The young man, cut off from society in the countryside during his childhood and not needing to work because of his inherited wealth, embarks on a dissolute life in the fleshpots of London. His fate usually includes the squandering of his fortune, venereal disease, prison and eventual death. Hogarth keeps to this format but also adds in a few other nuisances.

Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel, the quintessential 18th century fop.

Hogarth shows Tom Rakewell as aspiring to be cultured like a young well-educated aristocrat, commissioning and sponsoring poets and musicians with no idea about what has merit. He has no taste. He is not cultured or educated to any high standard. The popular name for this type of upstart in the 18th century was a ,”cit.” Tom also tries to create an outward show of elegance and sophistication. He is self deluded and fits the term “fop” exactly.

Fallstaff and Doll Tearsheet, Thomas Rowlandson. Image@Huntington Library

Tom’s surname, Rakewell, describes him. Hogarth is drawing again on a long comic and literary tradition. Many of Shakespeare’s lower class characters have names which describe them – ‘Doll Tearsheet’, in Henry IV part 1 and 2. ‘Bullcalf’, or somebody recruited by Falstaff in the same plays. Dickens often uses the same convention: Mould, the undertaker in Martin Chuzzlewit and Mr Choakumchild in Hard Times are prime examples. English comedians still play with these names to this day.

Inherited wealth is not so prevalent in the 21st century,  but these days the spoilt, glossy, manicured characters who seem to do no work and have as much money to squander as they wish, as portrayed in the docudrama series, E4’s “Made In Chelsea,” fit the rake, male and now, female version.

Scene 1.

We are introduced to Tom Rakewell standing in the dingy dark parlour of his inherited country house, a red-capped gentleman measuring him up for a new suit. We can be sure it will be made from the most expensive silks and have the most garish designs. His old steward looks furtive, hunched behind him, trying to fiddle the books and put some cash into his own pocket. A weeping pregnant girl, Sarah Young, is being rejected by Tom and he tries to pay off her mother with a desultory sum. Tom is breaking his mould. We can see the wrong he is doing immediately although Tom is oblivious of the road he has set out upon.

Brunswick House

There are many fine Georgian houses in the English Countryside. I found this one in Nine Elms on the South Bank opposite Vauxhall Tube Station and next to the great green glass edifice of MI5. It is called Brunswick House and it is the home of Lassco antique dealers. I thought this particular Georgian house fitted The Rake’s Progress nicely as standing in for Tom’s inherited home.The house would have been in the countryside on the outskirts of London during the 18th century. Today the house is a grade I listed building and a fine example of the Georgian Houses that used to be in Nine Elms. It stands alone now, surrounded by high rise modern flats and offices. The Nine Elms road junction is before it, awash with cars, buses and lorries at all times of the day, every day. It is an anomaly, as indeed Tom Rakewell’s life became an anomaly.

Scene 2.

In this scene Tom is still at his country house. He is adapting to his new lifestyle. This scene shows a levee taking place. A levee consisted of the Lord or Duke holding a meeting every morning, as he dressed in his bedchamber with local tradesmen showing their wares and the Lord purchasing his requirements. Here Tom is following this tradition, and beginning to spend his money.

Tom doesn’t realise what he is doing. The gentry who follow this fashion of the levee were very wealthy people who owned lands , trading ships and industries that were creating more and more wealth for them. They spent money within their means. Tom has inherited amount of money, which he has no intention or wherewithal to add to. He knows not what he does. He appears to be what we might term, rather stupid. He is a prodigal son.

Scene 3.

This is The Rose Tavern in Covent Garden. It was situated on the corner of Drury Lane just opposite The Drury Lane Theatre.

Rose Tavern site, corner of Drury Lane. Image @Tony Grant

What is happening in this picture is a scene of debauchery. Tom is sitting to the right, his clothing loosened and being administered to by two prostitutes. A girl is removing her stockings in the foreground. Eventually she will be naked. A male servant is bringing in a silver platter for her to dance on. The tradition for new members of the trade, presumably still virgins, was to strip naked and perform a lewd dance on a silver plate high on a table for the wealthy clientele to view. She and her virginity would go to the highest bidder. A virgin could bring a very high price.

Site of 18th century brothels. Image @Tony Grant

The reason many of the brothels were situated in and around Covent Garden was because it was there all the produce from the countryside was brought into London. With the farm carts young country lasses seeking their fortune would arrive in London too. The market was not just for fruit and vegetables. Old prostitutes, too old to ply their trade, would become madams. They would meet these young girls arriving in Covent Garden Market and befriend them, offering them warm lodgings and work. One such madam was called Elizabeth Needham. She features in Hogarths picture of Moll Flanders arriving in Covent Garden at the start of Daniel Defoe’s story.

Covent Garden. Image @Tony Grant

Many of the authorities and the public were so incensed by her activities she was put into the stocks and stoned to death. At the height of prostitution in the 18th century it was said that one in five women in London were prostitutes. London was the most licentious city in Europe. After these girls fresh from the countryside had settled in at the madams house, they soon found out what the work they were to do. The madam would start to ask for rent and the cost of food. Of course the girls had no other means of paying. They could be threatened with their lives. Many did have, on the surface, respectable trades. They might be taught to be seamstresses or servants in the pubs around Covent Garden. but they would also provide certain other services. It was attractive because they could earn a lot more money than the ordinary servant or maid. The down side was that they would get diseases, such as gonorea and syphilis, and their lives and careers could be short. The black dots shown on many portraits of these girls were placed there to cover the ravages of syphilis.

Drury Lane Theatre. Image @Tony Grant

Some of the establishments that were pubs cum brothels were owned by supposedly reputable people. The Nell Gwyn, which exists today, opposite The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. was partly owned at one time by Sherridan, the great playwright, who also owned and ran The Theatre Royal.

Nell Gwyn's hang out. Image @Tony Grant

It appears he had shares in the prostitution trade. Whether the Church of England owned brothels I am not sure. It was such a lucrative market and comprised a sizeable share of London’s economy, that I would not be surprised. The church needed money too.

There are shops on the site of The Rose Tavern today. Whether they are the original building I am not sure.

Scene 4.

This scene show’s St James’s Street. In the background is St James’s Palace on the corner with Pall Mall. Tom is being apprehended by a bailiff requesting payment of his debts. He is obviously bereft of finances at the precise moment he is about to achieve one of his pretentious ambitions, being presented at court. He is in his rich finery and being taken to St James’s Palace in a sedan chair. He doesn’t want to get his expensive shoes dirty. Sarah Young is there again willing and ready to pay his debts for him. It is a heartbreaking scene in many ways.

St. James's palace. Image@Tony Grant

I tried to get a photograph of the same scene from the position Hogarth aligned his picture. It meant I had to stand in the middle of the road with cars buses and vans roaring past.

Scene 5.

This is the interior of Marylebone Old Church. It was outside the city, towards Hyde Park. In the 18th century it became notorious for clandestine weddings. In this picture Hogarth shows Tom marrying an aging, overweight, one-eyed heiress undoubtedly for her money. He had to go to drastic lengths to pay his debtors and obtain more wealth. She may have lost her eye because of syphilis. Tom looks down on her as though she is a necessary evil, a bad smell under his nose that he must endure. She, undoubtedly, is looking forward to the wedding night. Two dogs show more love and affection than Tom shows for his bride. In the background a churchwarden refuses entry to Sarah Young and the child Tom has fathered with her.

Interior, Marylebone church. Image@Tony Grant

I cycled into London to try and find Marylebone Old Church. There are a number of elegant 18th-century and early Victorian churches in Marylebone. I thought it would be easy to find but I was mistaken. I spoke to two workmen decorating a church just off Old Marylebone Road. They hadn’t heard of it. One very kindly did an internet search on his i-phone for me and found it with a map attached. I was a mere half mile away, so off I peddled in the London traffic. Yes, I took my life in my hands for this project.

Marylebone church entrance. Image@Tony Grant

I found it!!! It was situated next to the park gates leading into Regent’s Park. It was beautifully ornate with balconies and a magnificent organ playing. The church organist was practicing. I discovered that Charles Dickens had lived in a house close by before he left his wife and family; he used to frequent St Marylebone Old Church. Then I found that this was not the church that Tom married his heiress in.

St. Marylebone parish church

The original had been demolished in the 1920’s. This church, near Regent’s Park, had taken over as the parish church of Marylebone. Anyway, it is a beautiful church and worth visiting and seeing.

Scene 6.

Here is Tom just having gambled away his second fortune provided by his new wife. He is railing against God and bad fortune. It is a shame he doesn’t realise it is his own fault. Smoke is spiralling up to show that the club is on fire but nobody notices they are so intent on gambling. This is symbolic of how they lead their lives. They don’t notice the destruction they are heaping on themselves. This is White’s Club. It was a place to drink the new sources of traded wealth, tea and chocolate. Many famous people at the time were members of White’s or one of the other well-known men’s clubs in the St James’s area.

White's club. Image@Tony Grant

St James is still full of gentleman’s clubs today. They are an 18th century invention but are still going strong. Many wealthy people, industrialists, famous actors,politicians, members of the Royal family and Lords and Dukes still frequent them. They are male preserves. They provide a room, servants, fine dining, a library very often, and a place to meet people of equal status in a social and friendly situation. Not anybody can join. You have to be invited by one of the members.You have to be right sort.

Betting book, 1817. Image @The Long Now Foundation

A couple of interesting points about White’s. The bow window at the front was the reserve of the most famous member of the club at one time. He was permitted to sit in the bay window for the world to see and for him to see the world. Beau Brummell, the great 18th century arbiter of fashion and master of ceremonies at Bath and Royal Tunbridge Wells was the first to sit there. You could almost bet on anything at White’s. The most famous bet being a wager on two rain drops falling down one of the pains of glass in the bow window. Which one would reach the bottom first? So it was here that Tom lost his second fortune.

Scene 7.

This scene leads to the finale. Tom is in The Fleet Prison in Farringdon Street because of his debts. It was named after The Fleet River which flowed into the Thames before it.

Fleet Prison

His now emaciated wife that was so plump at their wedding, shows the depths to which Tom has brought them. He has no money even for food. With his wig askew on top of his head Tom is attempting to write a play. He thinks he can make money this way. His delusion is now complete. Madness has come upon him.

One interesting piece of information about The Fleet is that it had a raquets court for the inmates to keep themselves presumably fit and occupied.

Scene 8.

And finally here is Tom in Bedlam. The Bethlehem Hospital for the insane in Moorefields, just north of St Pauls and The City. He lies there almost naked stripped of everything including his clothes and his sanity. Wealthy ladies from the aristocracy look on.

Bedlam

People were allowed to come and gawp at the strange antics of the inmates. Tom and the other people incarcerated are the entertainment. The people he aspired to be like and live like, are now mocking him. Sarah is there at the last, weeping.

Such a sad story.

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I came across this print by Isaak Cruikshank and was instantly captivated. Instead sketching studies of rich and influential people, Cruikshank used the images of ordinary folks. The study of physiognomy goes back a long time, but as early as the 18th century, it was regarded as a dangerous “science.”

Click on image for a larger view.

Physiognomy was regarded by those who cultivated it as a twofold science: (i) a mode of discriminating character by the outward appearance, and (2) a method of divination from form and feature. On account of the abuses of the latter aspect of the subject its practice was forbidden by the English law. By Ihe act of parliament 17 George II. c. 5 (1743) all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy wore deemed rogues and vagabonds, and were liable to be publicly whipped, or sent to the house of correction until next sessions.1 The pursuit thus stigmatized as unlawful is one of great antiquity, and one which in ancient and medieval times had an extensive though now almost forgotten literature. It was Very early noticed that the good and evil passions by their continual exercise stamp their impress on the face, and that each particular passion has its own expression”. – The Encyclopedia Britannica, a dictionary of arts and sciences, Vol 21, Google eBook

Physiognomy studies, Charles LeBrun, 17th C

In About faces: physiognomy in nineteenth-century Britain, 2010 ,  Sharrona Pearl discusses the study of facial features and their relationship to character during Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ day. Caricaturists felt the license to distort and exaggerate features, much as Cruikshank did. Portrait artists especially “learned how to communicate internal character and lived experience, while adhering strictly to the viewed external appearance.”

While Cruikshank’s images represented a fascinating study that provided a handy visual bank of expressions and features for the caricaturist, the study of physiognomy could take people down a dangerous path of fostering stereotypes.  Hitler took to this practice to an extreme when he offered descriptions of ideal Aryan features and contrasted them to the facial features of the “typical Jew”.  LeBrun’s image (above) compared people’s facial features to animals. There was nothing fun or funny about such sketches, which were more about prejudiced viewpoints than a reflection of  reality.

Physiognomy Studies after Pierre Thomas Le Clerc, 1760

While it is hard for humans to escape first impressions and to be judged by looks alone,  one has to tread carefully in making assumptions based on regular or irregular features. In the hands of a talented artist, however, one can tell much about the sitter’s character through the skilled manipulation of features and expression. Norman Rockwell tells a delightful tale about the nature of gossip in this masterful 20th century caricature. He needed no words to tell his humorous story.

Click on image for a larger view.

First image: Eighty-four physiognomic caricatures of English eighteenth century types. Etching by I. Cruikshank after G.M. Woodward.
1796 By: George Moutard Woodward after: Isaac Cruikshank
Published: Allen & West,London (15, Paternoster Row) : 1 August 1796
Size: platemark 24.9 x 37.1 cm.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 9699
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html

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Inquiring readers: Jane Odiwe’s blog features a portrait of a Regency family that had sold in 1983. She wrote to several bloggers recently: “I’m writing to you on Mrs. Henry Rice’s behalf to ask if you would be interested in showing the painting with the information I’ve learned about on your blogs. The family would really like some help in publicising the picture, and wish to make an appeal to see if we can find its whereabouts, as Christie’s do not seem to have any record. They are hoping the painting is by Ozias Humphry, which will help to strengthen his association as a painter of the Austen family.”

Jane Austen's family?

Is this a portrait of Jane Austen’s family that has gone unnoticed until now?  The image was made in 1781, when young Jane would have been six years old. What say you?

To learn more about this art work and possible image of the Austen family, click on this link to Jane’s blog. Thank you for joining in!!

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Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World.

Jane Austen fans are more familiar with Adam Buck’s small watercolor portraits on pin up print cards than the artist’s name. This format was popular during the Regency era.

Sophia Western, Adam Buck

Sophia Western, an 1800 engraving after an Adam Buck drawing, depicts a Tom Jones heroine with a jumping rope. She wears a Regency gown, rather than a costume from 1749, when Fielding’s book was published.

Roberth Southey with Daughter and Son, Adam Buck

Born in 1759 in Ireland, Buck left his native land in 1795 to establish a studio in London, where his small portraits in pencil, oil, crayons, or watercolour were quite popular. His linear, lightly colored neoclassical drawings and paintings showed scenes of domesticity and motherhood in classic attitudes that resembled those on Greek vases. The artist is said to be largely self-taught.

Portrait of a mother and her daughter, Adam Buck

Two … Irish artists brothers of the name of Buck deserve attention. Their pencil groups, slightly coloured, were very popular ,and especially those in which the sitters were grouped in classic attitudes resembling those on Greek vases. The reason for the existence of these portraits was the love that Adam Buck especially had for Greek art. He issued a book on the paintings on Greek vases ,and he modelled many of his best miniatures, as well as his pencil groups, on the classic scenes so dear to him. His work, as a rule, can be distinguished by the exquisite drawing of the profile. His brother, Frederick, who commenced in his profession by painting portraits in crayon, also painted miniatures following on the lines of Adam Buck. Neither of the men were very good col ourists but both were accurate draughtsmen.” – How to Identify Portrait Miniatures, George Charles Williamson, Alyn Williams

Mother and Child, Adam Buck, Victoria and Albert Museum

Buck produced a book in 1812, “Paintings on Greek Vases”, that contained 100 plates designed and engraved by himself. He exhibited his work at the Royal Academy between 1795 and 1833.

Adam Buck, Self portrait with wife and children, 1813.

Buck’s distinctive linear designs were also used on China ware and in fashion plates. See the Adam Buck inspired bat-printed porcelain images on Candice Hern’s site.

Herculaneum Pottery with Children at Play Pattern in the style of Adam Buck

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Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Post written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

The pencil and watercolour picture Cassandra made of Jane Austen in about 1810, is in the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, just off Trafalgar Square. It is unique within the exhibits there because, although it is grouped with other 18th century portraits, it is displayed in a glass case on a plinth in the general concourse of room 18. It is not hung on the walls with her other contemporaries.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810

The portrait is also unique in another way. It is the only portrait within the gallery made by an amateur. All the other portraits are of famous politicians, the lords and ladies of the time, rich merchants and industrialists, and the powerful. They were painted for a particular purpose by professional artists, some of whom, like Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Lawrence, were the best, most sort after and amongst the most brilliant artists of their day. Cassandra, was an ordinary, lower middle class person dabbling in sketching and painting for her own interest and edification. A pastime, thousands of other ladies participated in, along with playing the pianoforte, singing and dancing. It was an important element in their home entertainment. We can only guess as to why Cassandra drew a portrait of Jane on that day in 1810 and for what purpose. The drawing and painting process, techniques and style of famous artists like Reynolds , Gainsborough and Lawrence can be found out through evidence and documents, expert analysis of their paintings and by charting their careers as painters. How Cassandra sketched can only be surmised. But one thing is for sure, you can look at her sketch of Jane carefully and there are no apparent errors or mistakes. There is no working out on the picture. It is a finished product. So how did Cassandra produce it and what does it tell you and I about Jane and Cassandra?

From where I live it is an interesting journey to The National Portrait Gallery. I go out of my front door, turn right and walk for five hundred yards, past the newsagents, butchers, chemist and green grocers in Motspur Park, to the station. Motspur Park being part of the London Borough of Merton and next to the town of Wimbledon. It’s famous for the London University playing fields and athletics track and it is home to Fulham Football Club’s training ground. The one-minute mile was nearly broken at the London University track here in the 1950’s.before it was eventually achieved at Oxford.

The train journey from Motspur Park, passing through, Raynes Park, Wimbledon, Earlsfield, Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Waterloo takes about twenty minutes. It is sixteen miles to the centre of London from where I live.

Waterloo Station. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Waterloo Station is an Edwardian masterpiece of acres of glass roof corrugated like a sea of glass waves. Beneath its roof, during the April of 1912, the rich and wealthy caught the boat train to Southampton Docks and then bordered The Titanic. Millions of soldiers between 1914 and 1918 caught troop trains to the same Southampton Docks to board troop ships for France and the trenches. In the Second World War, the same again. Millions of troops travelled from Waterloo to Southampton to sail to Normandy. In Waterloo the ghosts of the past begin to cling to your consciousness like suffocating cobwebs. The giant concourse clock hanging from the roof reminds you of the lovers trysts famously enacted beneath it’s ticking mechanism from the time the station began.

Villiers Street. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Walking out of Waterloo station on to the South bank and the breezes of The River Thames brings it’s ghosts too, of millennia’s of people, famous, infamous, notorious and where many events throughout history took place. You walk across the pedestrian path attached to Hungerford Railway Bridge across which Virginia Woolf walked and along Villiers Street next to Charring Cross Station and past where Rudyard Kipling lived when he came back from India, past the house where Herman Melville lived for a short while and past the house where Benjamin Franklin lived for many years with his common law wife and wrote, printed, invented and had revolutionary ideas.

Twinings. Image @Tony Grant

You go past where Charles Dickens had his office for Household Words, past the recumbent statue to Oscar Wilde, “I may be in the gutter but I’m looking at the stars.,” past Twinings, where Jane Austen bought her tea, past the present day protest outside Zimbabwe House to the atrocities that are happening, as I write, in that country, past St Martins in the Fields,…

 

Trafalgar Square. Image @Wikimedia Commons

… then into Trafalgar Square, Nelsons Column, Landseers giant lions and round the side of The National Gallery and into the entrance of The National Portait gallery in St Martin’s Place, opposite The Garrick Theatre. All those ghosts now thickly clinging about neck, arms, legs and hair, streaming like veils of gossamer as you walk, playing with the imagination.

Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery. Image @Tony Grant

The entrance to The National Portrait Gallery is inauspicious. It is arched and fine but doesn’t compare with the more grandiose entrance in Trafalgar Square of The National Gallery with it’s entrance on a raised platform, Ionic pillars, fine Greek portico and temple dome. Entering, The Portrait Gallery, is almost like going into the sombre muted entrance of a cathedral. Some arches, mosaic floor, heavy wooden doors to right and left and then up some limestone steps.

Escalator up to the second floor

Once at the top of the entrance staircase you enter into a modern, light and airy hall with a ceiling four floors high and a tall escalator reaching high, up to the second floor.

Looking down.

Open plan galleries , rows of computer screens and a library for research are to your right as you go up the escalator.

On the way to the second floor. Image @TonyGrant

Cassandras portrait of Jane is on the second floor in room 18. As you get to the top of the escalator turn left and you are soon in room 18.

Second floor of the National Portrait Gallery, Room 18

The walls have the rich and famous of the early 19th century hanging on them but just to left and almost as soon as you enter the gallery, there is a glass cube positioned on a plinth and the painting in it is about chest height. It is Cassandra’s portrait of Jane, set within a heavy, elaborate, gold frame.

Jane Austen's portrait framed and in situ.

The frame seems too heavy and wide for the small picture. It dominates the picture. The portrait is positioned so the back of it is towards you. You have to walk around it to see it.

Mezzotint print of Gainsborough's portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire

We can compare a portrait executed by Thomas Gainsborough, with Cassandra’s sketch of Jane. The portrait of Georgianna The Duchess of Devonshire done by Gainsborough in 1787, is nicknamed, “the large black hat,”and has many similarities to Cassandra’s portrait of Jane. Both show the sitter with their face in profile, Jane facing left and Georgianna facing right. Both have curled and ringletted hair, both have young smooth looking faces and both have their arms folded in front of them. Gainsborough’s portrait of Georgiana is about fashion, position in society, and has a beautiful and intelligent face. The way she is standing, side on, even with the luxurious folds , creases and layers of the expensive materials of the dress and bodice you can see the sensuous curve of her back, the relaxed slender manicured fingers of her left hand are resting on her right arm. Georgianna’s eyes are looking straight at the observer, inviting you to look back and admire, a slight whimsical glance and that mouth, sensuous, waiting to be kissed. The picture speaks of wealth, confidence, beauty, calmness, style, luxury and is executed by a master painter at the top of his profession.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen. Image @National Portrait Gallery

Cassandras picture on the other hand shows Jane, shoulders full on towards the observer. She looks solid and lumpy. The drawing is a pencil sketch. The four fingers of the left hand resting on her right arm is a claw, four talons, more appropriate on a hawk. What disappoints me most is that Jane is looking away. If Cassandra had got her to look at her and had drawn a direct look, I would have forgiven all the amateurism and lack of skill shown in the picture. That one thing would have had Jane Austen looking at us. We could have made contact, seen into her soul. That would have lifted the picture immeasurably. Georgiana looks at us and we immediately have a relationship with her. Cassandra keeps Jane away from us. She keeps her private. Maybe that one fact tells us about Jane and Cassandra’s relationship. Or, perhaps Cassandra was trying, merely, to keep to the conventions of portraiture too closely. It showed lack of imagination. The mouth is thin, small and tight. Not one to be kissed easily. There is some colour in her cheeks. Her face is given a three-dimensional quality by the deep, long, unattractive creases leading from the wings of her nostrils to the corners of her mouth. There is a long aquiline nose, smooth and thin. Her eyebrows are pronounced, dark thin curves above her wide-open intelligent eyes. In some way the eyes do save the picture even though you do not have eye contact. They show wide-open, hazel orbs, thoughtful and carefully looking. The pronounced fringe of curls and ringlets above her brow are what strike you most about the picture. Cassandra wanted to emphasise them for some reason. Maybe she could draw hair better than other things.

One other thing. This picture was made in 1810. Jane was thirty-five years old. The picture is of a girl no older than a teenager.

When sketching, a sketcher has to look and look and keep looking. They make many marks, some right and some wrong. A process of catching the subject happens on the paper. There is no sign of a sketching process going on in this picture. Either Cassandra drew without wanting to change anything so keeping mistakes, although I think that is impossible for an artist, or she did a series sketches first and then created this one from her rough attempts. I think she did make other sketches leading up to this finished product. Presumably, like many of Jane’s letters they were destroyed by Cassandra in later life.

Queen Elizabeth I, one of Jane Austen's neighbors.

This poor, amateurish and unsatisfying drawing of Jane Austen is in pride of place in room 18 of The National Portrait Gallery. There it is, amongst some of the finest examples of 18th and early 19th century portraits. It is one of the most popular pictures in the gallery. It is Jane Austen.

Gentle reader: This post was written by Tony Grant from London Calling. Except for the Wikimedia images, he provided all the images for this post.

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Gentle Readers: Jane Austen has inspired many people to comment on her novels, including comic artists. The recent Jane Austen/Monster Mash Ups provide a fertile field for visual satire. Jane Bites Back and other mash-ups are the inspiration for “Austen’s Revenge” by Liz Wong. (Click on images to enlarge them.)

A comic inspired by the recent Jane Austen Paranormal trend (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monters, Jane Bites Back, The Immortal Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Mr. Darcy’s Hunger… yes, these are all actual published books…).

This is Jane’s revenge for taking such liberties with her work.
The ever popular Kate Beaton is well known for her historical satires, and I have showcased her work before. Most recently she jumped on the monster mash-up bandwagon! I must say that these are pretty funny.

Don’t forget that a new Sense and Sensibility graphic novel will be released by Marvel Comics on May 26th! Sonny Liew drew the illustrations for this new graphic treatment of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s story.

Read an interview with Nancy Butler, the master mind behind this comic and Pride and Prejudice, which was published last year and became a huge hit.

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During the 18th and early 19th century, social satire prints were engraved and sold separately in print shops. By 1750, the term ‘caricature’ was applied to almost any comic cartoon or satiric illustration.

The ‘golden age’ when James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and George Cruikshank (1792-1878) were active, occurred between 1780 and 1830. Most satirical prints were produced in London and were sold singly by publishers and booksellers, such as S. W. Fores and William Holland, who also put together collections for clients and even hired them out. A wide range of prices reflected the very different sizes and degrees of sophistication of satirical prints. In 1807 the publisher Thomas Tegg started a business selling cheap, crudely coloured prints aimed at a wide market. - British Museum

“The Fashions of the Day, or Time Past and Present”, an 1807 caricature engraved by Charles Williams after a drawing by Woodward. It presents a contrast between “The Year 1740: A Lady’s full dress of Bombazeen (i.e. bombazine or bombasine, a heavy corded fabric. Black bombazine was worn by widows during heavy mourning) and “The year 1807: A Lady’s undress of Bum-be-seen.”  There are some fascinating details to observe about the fashionable regency lady, whose decolletage is so low that her breasts are practically popping out of their restraints. One can see her drawers under her thin muslin dress, and her stockings come up over her knee. They were held up by garters. (Click on this link to read a fascinating article about stockings and to see a pair of 1820 stockings and garters.  This link also leads to an article about 18th & 19th century hose.) Regency ladies as a rule did not wear drawers for the first 20 years of the 19th century. Those who did wore a modified version of men’s drawers, which tied at the waist and split in the middle. Chances were that, if she did not wear a petticoat or a chemise, her bum would have shown through the thin fabric!


The following comment about Williams’ caricature is from Wikimedia Commons:

Note that “undress” didn’t mean anything naughty — there’s a definition of it here.[1] In pursuing his goal of satirizing certain features of contemporary 1807 fashions, the caricaturist did not really draw a fair comparison between the styles of 1740 and 1807, since a young Regency fashionable is juxtaposed here to a sedate middle-aged pre-Regency lady (perhaps in mourning), and such features of mid-18th century dress as tight stiff stays with extremely low necklines were not included (also, the “1740″ costume actually seems to be somewhat of a pastiche with 17th century styles).
(Women’s fashions of the Empire/Regency weren’t always “sensible”, but their excesses do seem to be more in accord overall with the spirit of the 21st century than the fashion excesses of most other periods between the 16th century and World War I, which tended to go in for such things as huge hoopskirts and tight corsets…)

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