Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Horatio Nelson at the NPG and in Edinburgh

by Lemuel Francis Abbott, oil on canvas, 1797
I am not hugely enamored with military history, but one cannot study Jane Austen's era without knowing something of Nelson. For better or worse, my early impressions of the man were defined by the 1941 film That Hamilton Woman (it's amazing how many characters, both real and fictional, were first introduced to me as Laurence Olivier). Those of us who don't find military history fascinating sometimes cling to scandalous tidbits like Nelson's affair with Emma Hamilton, as they are far more engaging to our brains than battle maneuvers. So it was with some chagrin that I visited The Nelson Monument on top of Calton Hill only to discover the small but highly informative museum exhibit dedicated to him there made not a single mention of his notorious mistress. For my five pounds, I would have liked to have had that small bone tossed my way. Of course, I was paying to climb the tower and enjoy the view, which I would gladly do again.

I suppose the legitimate Nelson enthusiast must get rather bored of we dilettantes who want to delve again and again into the details of his great romance. I understand that his military career is legendary and of far greater lasting significance than the details of his love life. Yet when presenting the image of a man in his entirety - when seeking to understand his character and motivations - is not such information essential? Behold his portrait on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London: this is not the image of a glorified military emblem (as we saw George IV portray himself in the same room), but a surprisingly gentle and unassuming looking man, not formidable in the least despite the proudly display of his Star and Ribbon of the Bath and Naval Gold Medal. This portrait is based on one from a previous sitting for the same artist, though it was also taken from life, and it was commissioned for Lady Nelson. How I wished there were portraits of both she and Lady Hamilton nearby! Perhaps such a display would be a bit sensationalist, especially in a room of the gallery dedicated George IV, but I would have reveled in it, nonetheless. I find this portrait fascinating in its backstory. There is some madness in this tale, and that always sparks my imagination. This is from the NPG website:
Although Nelson only sat to him twice, Abbott subsequently copied the picture over forty times. The copies gradually declined in quality as the artist became mentally ill but this was no bar to their popularity. Many were purchased by Nelson's naval colleagues, his family and friends.  
In July 1798, Nelson's wife wrote to him: 'My dearest Husband - I am now writing opposite to your portrait, the likeness is great. I am well-satisfied with Abbott… it is my companion, my sincere friend in your absence…'.
Nelson supposedly began his affair with Lady Hamilton that September, so there's your scandal. Revel with me.

Please enjoy the views from the top of the monument. It was incredibly windy up there but totally worth the climb. One gets the feeling of being an admiral on his ship, looking out into the endless distance.

The Nelson Monument, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

View of Hollyrood Castle from top of Nelson Monument

View of the rest of Calton Hill from Nelson Monument, including
the National Monument of Scotland and the City Observatory.

View of Arthur's Seat from Nelson Monument

View of Calton Hill, Edinburgh New Town, and the Firth of
Forth, estuary to the North Sea, from Nelson Monument.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Scribblers Tour of the National Portrait Gallery

I went a little crazy on this month's Austen Author's post, where I put together my "Scribblers Tour" of the Ntaional Portrait Gallery. Here is the beginning. Please come by and check out the rest of the post. I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I hope those who read it find it gratifying.
I have been traveling. Oh, have I been traveling! I spent a week in Edinburgh last month and then was so fortunate to return to the UK and attend the opening weekend of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Of course, I had an amazing time. Along my journey I made a stop at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a place I had not previously managed to visit. The gallery contains an impressive collection of famous Brits, but determined lit geek that I am, it was the portraits of the writers that most entranced me. How wonderful to encounter face after face of so many beloved authors! The best of these portraits capture the quality of the writer's work within the image. I had an excellent afternoon, journeying through the history of british literature, which I would very much like to share with you. Please join me for what I'm terming a scribblers tour of the gallery.
Unknown artist after Hans Holbein the Younger, oil on panel, late 16th century (1527)
Unknown artist after Hans Holbein the Younger, oil on panel, late 16th century
One of the first faces to greet me upon entering the museum was Sir Thomas More's (1478-1535). It is impossible to do justice to this man's legacy in a few words. I highly recommend the Wolf Hall novels by Hilary Mantel if you are curious about his role in the government of Henry VIII. I'll just say a few words about his literary legacy. His Utopia, a latin text highly influenced by Plato's Republic, describes an oppressively ordered yet simultaneously idealized society. It spawned an entire genre of literature and has inspired political philosophers into our modern age. Without it there would be no 1984, no Brave New World, and maybe no such thing as a forced labor camp. More is also responsible for creating the vile image of Richard III that the Tudors promoted - that Shakespeare based his play upon - in his unfinished manuscript The History of King Richard III. Canonized in 1935, his biography is both fascinating and troubling, and this gorgeous painting captures the intelligence fueling an obdurate personality.
"When men go to buy a colt, where they are risking only a little money, they are so cautious that, though the animal is almost bare, they won't close the deal until saddle and blanket have been taken off, lest there be a hidden sore underneath. Yet in the choice of a mate, which may cause either delight or disgust for the rest of their lives, man are so careless that they leave all the rest of the women's body covered up with clothes and estimate her attractiveness from a here handsbreadth of her person, the face, which is all they can see."                                                                                                                               - from Utopia, 1516
attributed to John Taylor, oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1610
Attributed to John Taylor, oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1610
A few rooms over was the man who needs no introduction, William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Darling of the Elizabethan stage, poet extraordinaire, and probably the most famous writer since Homer, what more can I really say about him? The gallery has ninety-six portraits of Shakespeare in their collection, a reflection of his celebrity. I firmly believe that Much Ado About Nothing was the inspiration for Elizabeth and Darcy's romance in Pride & Prejudice. Shakespeare's artistic legacy has shaped our literature and language for centuries. For goodness sake, it's a foregone conclusion: Shakespeare's work is the stuff dreams are made on. All's well that ends well.
BEATRICE: But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?
BENEDICT: Suffer love! A good epithite! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.
BEATRICE: In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart, if you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates.
BENEDICT: Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
                                                         - from Much Ado About Nothing, 1598
Unknown English artist, oil on panel, circa 1595
Unknown English artist, oil on panel, circa 1595
It was with reverence that I next gazed upon the next visage, belonging to one of my favorite poets: John Donne (1572 -1631). A shinning star of the metaphysical poets and dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, Donne is a man who fascinates but whom I'm not sure I'd actually have liked to meet, much like his distant kinsman, Thomas More. Unlike More, Donne renounced his Catholicism in exchange for social acceptance and eventual advancement in the state sanctioned church. His lusty verses stand in stark contrast to his clerical career, but regardless of all his contradictions, his poetry is undeniably brilliant and way ahead of its time. This romantic, brooding portrait suits him very well.
‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?
O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because ‘tis light?
Did we lie down because ‘twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.
Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say,
That being well I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so,
That I would not from him, that had them, go.
                                                              - from Break of Day, 1622, 1633
The tour can be taken in its entirety at! Please join me:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe

It's been forever since I wrote a review! And I read a bunch of great Austenesque novels over the summer, so I have a lot of backtracking and sharing to do. I believe my best reviews are written when when I have just finished a novel, so I fear I won't really be doing these books justice. However, a late and short review is better than no review at all. Believe me, I know.

I had the very great pleasure of meeting the author of this first book after many years of corresponding (and even of more admiring her work) at this year's Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Jane Odiwe was just as lovely as I always knew she would be. In fact, all the Austenesque authors I met while in Bath seem exceptional people to know. Must be something about those of us who have Austen as a muse.

Ms. Odiwe, also a painter, seems to live a life inspired by Austen. No wonder she should be compelled to bring our dear authoress to life in her novels. Jane Austen Lives Again feels like the culmination of the journey Ms. Odiwe has been leading us on through her last few novels. In Searching for Captain Wentworth (read my review here) she took us through a portal to Regency Bath, where our heroine meets Jane Austen. In Project Darcy the heroine encounters the ghost of Tom Lefroy while staying at the Ashe Rectory near Steventon, triggering episodes in which she finds herself inhabiting Austen's body. Perhaps it was inevitable that Ms. Odiwe would next make Austen her heroine instead of a using a modern surrogate.

Jane Austen Lives Again is not really a time travel story. It's more of a Frankenstein story, though far less gothic. The time is 1925. Dr. Lyford, descendent of Jane's doctor during the illness that proceeded her death, has reanimated her, cured her, and taken quite a few years off her age at time of death in the process. Now determined to make her way in a new world, she gets a position as governess to Sir Albert and Lady Milton's five daughters, each of whom bears a resemblance to one of Austen's heroines. They live a rather bohemian lifestyle in their crumbing ancestral castle. Jane takes them in charge, of course. There is so much more to the story - romance, health complications, makeovers, wild motorcycle rides - but what stand out to me most of all is Ms. Odiwe's ability to write like she's painting. I've spoken of this is in probably all my reviews of her work, but it is fascinating to watch her capture this post-WWI world, which is so very different from the one she usually describes and so very incongruous from the one with which we usually associate Austen. I love this super vivid introduction of Lady Milton:

Lady Milton dragged on her cigarette holder and blew ring of smoke into the air. Her ankles were crossed, and as the scarlet Louis heeled slippers with pom-poms of swansdown tapped against the other in agitation, the kimono fell away from her knees to reveal pale shapely legs. Jane thought she must have been very beautiful once, and stared with fascination at her heavily made up face, powdered and rouged, with kohl-black eyes lined with paint.  

We're in a whole new world! I can see Lady Milton liked she stepped off an old New Yorker cover.
Jane Austen Lives Again is perhaps my favorite of all the novels Ms. Odiwe has written to date. What a joy to view a different time and place through Austen's eyes, so skillfully rendered! Writing this review, I want to start rereading it and relive the adventures of Jane, along with her most interesting charges, Mae and Alice Milton, once more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Prince Regent and Crew: Room 17 of the National Portrait Gallery, London

George IV doesn't get a lot of credit. Quite frankly, he's not very deserving of it. However, he did set the tone for the final years in which Austen lived, and though she spent most of her life under his father's rule, it is the Regency period with which we associate her. His best legacy is his patronage of the arts, and as an early admirer of Austen "suggested" she dedicate Emma to him. George IV might have been a ghastly leader, but he and his times maintain a hold on the collective imagination, and while I was exploring the National Portrait Gallery in London earlier this month I took particular interest in portraits of him, his contemporaries, and his associates. Here is a quick tour of Room 17 of the gallery, dedicated to George IV's regency and reign (1811-1830).

by Richard Cosway
watercolor on ivory
by Richard Cosway
watercolor on ivory
circa 1780-1782
There are no less than four portraits of George IV in this room. I think that might be the most I saw of anyone in the entire museum. The two oldest are miniatures on display in a special case and date from the late 18th century. The first image portrays a younger, carefree prince, bright with promise of future mischief. He is about 20 years old, and it has been speculated that the miniature was commissioned for then-mistress Perdita Robinson. The second, in which he wears masquerade garb, was painted ten years later and is definitely a love token, as it is set in a locket with a a plait of hair on the back. The recipient might have been Maria Fitzherbert, the woman he illegally married in 1785, or another mistress. He officially parted with Mrs. Fitzherbert two years later (though they would later reconcile), that he might marry his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, the following year. Desperately in debt, his father promised to bail him out if he went through with the marriage to a woman whom he had never met and came to despise.

Maria Anne Fitzherbert
by Sir Joshua Reynolds
oil on canvass, circa 1788

Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick
by Sir Thomas Lawrence
oil on canvas, 1804
George IV and his legitimate wife had one child, Charlotte Augusta of Wales, within a year of their marriage before separating. Princess Charlotte, unlike her parents, had the sympathy of the people, and when she died after days of agonizing childbirth at the age of 21 a massive public mourning was observed.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
by George Dawe, oil on canvas, 1817

by Sir Thomas Lawrenceoil on canvas, circa 1814
This flattering but unfinished portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence was originally intended for use on a medal that was never struck. Lawrence was forced to defend this unbelievable likeness. Three years into his regency at the time it was painted, George IV had already reached his famously large proportions, years of decadence taking their toll. Still, it's a gorgeous painting. I have a thing for unfinished portraits.

after Sir Thomas Lawrence, oil on canvas, 1815

Above find a work completed by Lawrence the following year. Again, it's very flattering (the Regent was well into his 50s), but I suppose that's what you have to do as portraitist to a monarch. I think this is how we often imagine George IV, in his elaborate military regalia. The Regency years saw Napoleons final defeat, but not because George IV was some sort of an awesome military leader, as portrayed in this portrait. He did, however, have a highly capable general and politician in Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
by William Salter, 
oil on canvas, 1839
George III died in 1820, and the following year his son was finally coronated. Before he would ascend the throw, George IV attempted in vain to have his marriage to Queen Caroline annulled. Having been abroad for years, she hurriedly returned to England after George III's death and was greeted by exultant crowds. The matter was debated in the House of Lords, the painting below depicting the sixth day of the proceedings. When she was acquitted of adultery (of which she was most certainly guilty), George IV banned her from the coronation, on which day she fell ill. She died a few weeks later, claiming to have been poisoned.

The Trial of Queen Caroline 1820 by Sir George Hayter, oil on canvas, 1820-1823
Also displayed in Room 17 are portraits of George IV's brothers, busts of artists and politicians of the day, and a portrait of Horatio Nelson, whom I will address another day. I conclude with thoughts on why a tumultuous time period such as the Regency should have such romantic appeal to modern audiences. How much did George IV reflect and sculpt the times in which he lived? Is it the very chaos of his era that enthralls us? I could dwell on such questions forever, and this room of the gallery is the perfect place for such contemplations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jane Austen's Portrait

I'm home! I had a fabulous time with family in Scotland then on my own in Bath at the Jane Austen Festival. I learned so much, and my current intention is to reinvigorate my blog by sharing my adventure with you. What better place to start than with the lady who made it all happen?

by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolor, circa 1810

I flew into London the day before the festival began and spent the night there, so I might have time to visit the National Portrait Gallery. I had missed this museum on my two previous visits because no one else in my traveling party was particularly interested. Other sights always took priority. As it turns out, it was a very good thing for me to go alone, because it allowed me to get lost in the collection for three, undisrupted hours. It was fabulous! Unsurprisingly, I was particularly excited by the many portraits of writers whose works have shaped my life and mind. I am putting together a virtual "scribblers tour" of the gallery for my next Austen Authors post (I'll crosspost here), but I want to use this forum to take a more in depth look at Jane alone.

by James Andrews, watercolor, 1869
published by Richard Bentley, stipple engraving, 1870

Let's be clear up front: the portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen is easily the most unsatisfying likenesses displayed in the entire gallery. It's really awful, and that is precisely what makes it so intriguing. As the plaque inserted beneath the glass box which contains the portrait so accurately states: "Few English novelists have commanded such popular affection and critical respect as Jane Austen." And this is the best we can do for her portrait? For over a century, artists have used this sketch as the premise for more "satisfying" renditions of Austen. It is this legacy which helps authenticate the portrait: James Edward Austen-Leigh used it as the basis for the watercolor he commissioned in 1869 for use as the frontispiece to his biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen. Painted by James Andrews, it is his watercolor from which the varied engravings of her image are derived. However, there is still dispute over the portraits authenticity. As Claudia Johnson notes in Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures, there is no recorded mention of Cassandra's portrait prior to 1869. The NPG's website states:
This frank sketch by her sister and closest confidante Cassandra is the only reasonably certain portrait from life. Even so, Jane's relatives were not entirely convinced by it: 'there is a look which I recognise as hers', her niece wrote, 'though the general resemblance is not strong, yet as it represents a pleasing countenance it is so far a truth.'
So is this Jane? If so, she appears almost surly in it, as if she can little spare the patience to sit for her sister. Austen-Leigh's biography, which he wrote was conceived "in a spirit of censorship as well as communication," clearly tried to remold his literary aunt into something acceptable to the family's Victorian sensibilities. He gave the public an image of a demure spinster, which does not mesh well with the acerbic nature of the novelist's voice. For this reason I much prefer Cassandra's drawing, even with all its deficiencies, than the prettied up version. I can more easily imagine Jane as an unwilling sitter than a wallflower.  

by Ozias Humphry, oil on canvas, 1788 

There is another portrait: one that fulfills all the expectations that Cassandra sketch so sadly disappoints. The Rice Portrait is the subject of hot debate. I admit: I am biased in its favor, and not just because it would be absolutely glorious were it her! First there is the fact the National Portrait Gallery, in its early days, attempted to acquire the portrait, at the time describing it as a portrait of Austen. It was only after the purchase fell through that the gallery cast dispersions on its authenticity. Next is the fact that while the portrait was long believed to be the work of Johan Zoffany, high definition images of the portrait have recently revealed the signature of Ozias Humphry (who had a history of painting portraits of the Austen family) as well as a date: 1788. The date is important for a variety of reasons but primarily because scholars had previously argued that the portrait, based on the clothing, had to have been painted in the early 19th century, when Jane would have been too old to be the sitter. Elite art historians and scholars are still reluctant to validate the portrait, maybe because it would place such a priceless object in private hands? I watch the debate eagerly for resolution, but there seems to be none in near sight. For more information, please visit

by Cassandra Austen, watercolor, 1804

The only image we have of Austen that is positively, indisputably her is only of her back. As beautiful as Cassandra's other portrait is homely, it is perhaps my favorite of them all. How appropriate that we cannot see her disputed face! The author remains enigmatic, which is just as it should be. After all, every reader of Jane Austen has their own Jane. We hear her narrative voice. She speaks to us with an intimacy few other writers capture. We each have our own vision of who she is, from proper gentlewoman to devilish wit. Perhaps if we were certain what she looked like, our imaginations would not be so free to view her in the guise we choose. 

(Note: I have not discussed the "Byrne Portrait" in this post as I have yet to hear anyone but Paula Byrne insist on it's authenticity. Still, it offer another interesting possibility. I suggest this article for the full details:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Marriage, Over the Anvil

It's been a long time! Too long. I am now a year into to my expat life in Switzerland. My daughter has started kindergarten, and suddenly I can find time to blog once more! Yeah! I'm not sure what my frequency will be for a time - I'm trying to finish writing all the books I abandoned a year and a half ago - but I have to start somewhere.

That somewhere is Scotland. I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow to reunite with dear family and have an all around excellent time. I haven't been there since I was fourteen, an age at which I did not yet see Austen associations everywhere, but my adult self feels the need to mark my journey with a discussion of the infamous Gretna Green marriages over the anvil, which three of Austen's novels utilize as a plot device.
"We were within a few hours of eloping together for Scotland. The treachery, or the folly, of my cousin's maid betrayed us. I was banished to the house of a relation far distant, and she was allowed no liberty, no society, no amusement, till my father's point was gained." - Colonel Brandon, Sense & Sensibility 
"I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel." - Lydia Bennet, Pride & Prejudice
Why Gretna? Anywhere in Scotland might do, and several other border towns were well known for performing runaway marriages. The Marriage Act of 1753, aimed at curtailing underage marriages and those without parental consent, declared that the banns (an official wedding announcement) be read on three Sundays during Sunday services in the home parishes of both bride and groom. This gave anyone objecting to the marriage an opportunity to stop it. Faster marriages could take place by special license, but if the bride or groom were under twenty-one they required parental consent. So what's your Regency Era Romeo and Juliet supposed to do? Make a run for the border, of course.
"You may not have heard of the last blow--Julia's elopement; she is gone to Scotland with Yates." Lady Bertram, Mansfield Park
It was called marriage over the anvil because Scottish wedding ceremonies did not have to be performed by a clergyman, and often the first person available to perform a ceremony would be the blacksmith, stationed in proximity to the coaching inn. Only two witnesses were required to make the marriage legal. The practice continued unabated until 1856, when Scottish law was changed to require a twenty-one day residency before a ceremony could take place.

Gretna remains a popular wedding destination, and tourists flock to the old smithy to touch the historic anvil, which is supposed to convey luck in love. I won't make it there this trip, but it would be delightful to visit someday, perhaps renew some marriage vows. An elopement to Scotland sounds romantic, but as countless Regency heroines have learned the hard way, it really wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Still, the aura of romance persists, and I feel the lure.
"... Sophia and I experienced the satisfaction of seeing them depart for Gretna-Green, which they chose for the celebration of their Nuptials, in preference to any other place although it was at a considerable distance from Macdonald-Hall." - Laura, Love and Friendship

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Catwalk - An Amazing Fashion Exhibit at the Rijksmuseum

Here are some pictures from my latest post at Austen Authors. Read the complete post:

I was fortunate to be in Amsterdam this week and see Catwalka glorious exhibit of clothing from the 17th through mid-19th centuries at the Rijksmuseum. Oh my goodness! It was the most impressive display of clothing of any sort, let alone historical pieces, I have ever seen. Take away the clothes and the display and mannequins are themselves works of art. Add the clothing ... I have no words. I cried. Yes, beautiful clothing apparently has the power to turn me into a watering pot.
I cannot do a comprehensive review of the entire exhibit, but I want to share a few gowns of interest from Jane Austen's era. Keep in mind, these are from The Netherlands and France, not England. Forgive my photography. I did as best I could while being overwhelmed and teary eyed. Descriptions are copied from the exhibit.


Dress (Mantua) with Train, c. 1759
"On her wedding day in 1759 Helena Slicher wore this gown with a skirt no less than two-meters wide! The skirt is supported by large panniers, side hoops around the hips. Unusually, this dress combines two different types of court dress. The bodice with a 'tail' follows the English court dress. a mantua, while the loose train was popular primarily on the Continent."
Note that the wallpaper in the room where this gown is displayed mimics the embroidery pattern of the gown.

Redingote or Great-Coat Dress, c. 1786-1789
"The origin of the redingote lies in long men's coats with a cutaway front, the riding coat.It is a striking example of the influence men's fashion exerted on women's fashion. A redingote for ladies consisted of an overcoat or gown, and a loose skirt in a contrasting colour, which enhanced the coat-like effect. Olive green and pale pink were a popular combination at the end of the 18th century."

Gown, c. 1790-1810
"At the end of the 18th century the wide skirts became narrower, and the waistline was raised to under the bosom. The narrow sleeved were so long that they extended to the middle of the hand. They were set in far at the back to a typical lozenge-shaped panel, the shape of which is emphasized by ornamental stitching in a colour that contrasts with the red silk of the dress."

FullEveningDressBackFullEveningDressTrainDetailFull Evening Dress with Train, c. 1808-1812
"Cornelia Johanna van Nellesteyn-Steengracht may have worn this evening dress to a reception given by King Louis Napoleon at the Palace on Amsterdam Square. The embroidery pattern of the skirt makes on think of gowns worn at the court of Napoleon I. This dress, however, is not embroidered with gold, but rather gilt-brass thread - which would have been looked down upon in France."


Wedding Gown with Train and Rosettes, 1812
"Margaretha Johanna Weddik Wendel wore this gown when she married Baron Hieronymus Nicolaas van Slingelandt on 25 November 1812. It follows the early 19th-century fashion of full evening and court gowns, which usually had a tulle ruffle at the neckline and sleeves, and a decorated hem. The decoration consists of a satin border, pleated ribbon, roses, and loose petals."

    Ball Dress of Blonde Lace, c. 1815-1820
"Lace had been out of fashion since the French revolution. However, it regained its popularity when Napoleon decreed it should be worn at court in 1804. This dress is made of hand-made silk bobbin lace known as 'blonde'. The name is derived from the often light colour of the silk from which it was often made. The material is very fragile, and dresses made of it are exceedingly rare."


Wadded Coat (douillette), c. 1820
"In French douillette means soft, smooth, and comfortable. These wadded coats became fashionable in the Netherlands from the 1820s. This one had a matching ornamented belt at the back. The origins of the puffed sleeves, filled and gathered by means of vertical bands, is found in the 16th century."

Riding Habit, c. 1826
"The tailoring of the wide skirt of this riding habit takes account of the fact that women rode side-saddle. The skirt was extra long because the legs, naturally, had to stay covered while riding. Sewn along the inside hem are fabric loops, with which the skirt could be pulled up to facilitate walking. The tight-fitting jacket offered little freedom of movement."