L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Grand - Madame Grand/Catherine de Talleyrand-Périgord, Princesse de Bénévent by Vigée Le Brun and Gérard

Portrait by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783.

Very loosely adapted from the Metropolitan Museum's website - both paintings are in their collection - and other sources:

Noël-Catherine Verlée (or Worlée; 1761, Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu  – December 10, 1834, Paris), was the daughter of a minor French official posted to India. At the age of barely sixteen Catherine married a civil servant of Swiss descent working in Calcutta, George Francis Grand. The couple separated soon after, due to her brief but scandalous affair with Sir Philip Francis, a British politician. Subsequently, Madame Grand removed to London.

In about 1782 she moved to Paris where, being a beautiful blond, ill-educated but musical and clever, she became a very fashionable courtesan; the portrait that Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted of her in 1783 when she was only twenty-two attests to her lively personality and stunning looks at the time. She returned to Britain just before the French Revolution, but by 1794, with the Revolution waning, Madame Grand had returned to France.

Madame Grand now entered into a highly visible affair with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, later prince de Bénévent, the brilliant - and infamously wily - statesman and former bishop of Autun, who had become a principal figure in the emerging government of the Directory. When she was arrested on suspicion of espionage in March 1798, Talleyrand secured her freedom. That same year, having been estranged from her husband for more than ten years, Madame Grand obtained a divorce in absentia.

Portrait by François Pascal Simon, baron Gérard, circa 1804-5.

Elaborate negotiations with Napoléon and the Vatican were required before the former bishop was allowed to marry, at Neuilly, on September 10, 1802; despite the First Consul's strong reservations, Napoléon and Joséphine signed their marriage contract. Upon their first official reception at the Tuileries, Napoléon is alleged to have remarked, "I hope that the good conduct of citoyenne Talleyrand will cause the fickleness of madame Grand to be forgotten." (The alternate - and more likely - version of the marriage negotiations is that Talleyrand was actually quite reluctant to regularize their union, and had to be coerced by Napoléon for the sake of propriety and his political career.)

With her less than respectable personal history, Napoléon ensured that Madame de Talleyrand was rarely at court; his Empress' own scandalous past was problem enough. At any rate, the couple quickly drifted apart, living separately; Talleyrand had already taken an official mistress, Madame Dubois, when he married, and was soon preoccupied with other women. Eventually, he arranged that his wife should go and live - luxuriously - in London. She returned to Paris in 1817, during the Restoration, and lived there quietly until her death at the age of seventy-three.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Three young ladies in hats - pastel drawings by Guy Hoff, circa 1925.


Guy Hoff (1889 - 1962), American artist and illustrator. Born in Rochester, New York, he was trained at the Art School of the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, and the Art Students League in New York City. His first commercial illustrations were done for the Niagara Lithograph Company in Buffalo. In New York, he designed program covers for the Shubert Theatres and then sold his first magazine cover to Smart Set, which introduced him to the national market. Over the years, in addition to work for Smart Set, Pictorial Review, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, he also did advertising illustrations for Procter & Gamble, Lux, and Ivory Soap. His last commercial work was done in 1938, after which he concentrated on pastels and paintings for exhibition purposes.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

People in rooms II

Otto Beit in his study in Belgrave Square, Sir William Orpen, 1913.
Johannes Westrik and his family, by Tibout Regters, 1762.
The lady on the right has her knitting and dainty ball of yarn.
La mort du général Moreau, by Auguste Couder, 1814.
Muerte de don Alfonso XII (El último beso), by Juan Antonio Benlliure y Gil, 1887.
The King of Spain died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-seven in 1885. Here he is surrounded by his widow, Queen Maria Christina, and
their two daughters, Infanta María de las Mercedes, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta María Teresa; the Queen was pregnant with a son,
Alfonso XIII, who would be born a king six months later and reign until going into exile at the start of the Spanish Civil War.
The Villers Family, by Jean-Bernard Duvivier, 1790.
The family's attire and their home's furnishings are in the very height of fashion.
The family of King Louis-Philippe, French School, circa 1835.
The figures look quite waxen, but the satin drapery is marvelous.
King Gustav III of Sweden visiting the Royal Academy of Arts, by Elias Martin, 1782.
Every face is a portrait. (Save the model's, I presume.)
Théatre à Paris, by Adolph von Menzel, 1854.
The lady in the box above with her opera glasses; you'd think her proximity to the stage would make them rather unnecessary.
Domestic interior, German School, circa 1775-80.
The details in this painting are wonderful; among the books, candlesticks, and urn on top of the secrétaire, is a half-empty bottle of wine.
Barely noticeable is the long length of thread or yarn, looping from the hands of the standing woman to the dainty implement on the table.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Souls in Purgatory - illuminations from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is an illuminated manuscript in the Gothic style, produced by an anonymous Dutch artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves. It is one of the most lavishly illustrated manuscripts to survive from the fifteenth century and has been described as one of the masterpieces of Northern European illumination. This book of hours contains the usual offices, prayers, and litanies in Latin, as well as supplemental texts, and is decorated with one-hundred and fifty-seven brilliantly colored and gilded illuminations. The book was commissioned for Catherine, Duchess of Guelders and Countess of Zutphen, by either her father, Adolph I, Duke of Cleves, or her husband; the occasion was her marriage to Arnold, Duke of Guelders, on 26 January 1430. The manuscript was probably only finished - at the earliest - four years later, and more likely about 1440. The Hours allegedly had one other owner after Catherine's death. And then it disappeared for some four hundred years.

It only resurfaced in 1856, in the possession of a Paris book dealer. At some point around that time it was divided into two volumes, being altered to give the appearance that that had been its original form. The two halves went separately through several important collections until, in 1963 and 1970, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City purchased both halves and reconstructed the correct sequence of the original, single volume. During its nineteenth-century disassembly, nine to twelve leaves were removed and are now presumed lost.

"Souls Tormented in Purgatory."
"Souls in Purgatory Consoled with the Offering."
"Souls Released from Purgatory."

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The art of selling Garbo - posters and other ephemera, advertising imagery for the films of Greta Garbo

A Woman of Affairs, 1928.

The publicity department at MGM very quickly realized that the FACE was pretty much the only thing necessary to herald a new Garbo picture. But, as these images show, they did some wonderful things with that wonderful face. Stylistically, these vary wildly, and the images produced for the European market are often much more artistically daring. I should also mention that I can't always figure which of these are original designs, contemporary with the films, and which may have been produced later, when a given film was reissued.

Anne Karenina, 1935.

It should come as no surprise that so many of these display text in languages other than English; though she remained the studio's most prestigious star, as the Thirties progressed, the foreign market for her films became much more profitable than the domestic. With the success of Ninotchka in 1939, just as all-out war was beginning in Europe, there looked to be hope of turning that around. But two years later, with the embarrassing misfire of her next film, Two-Faced Woman, released only a week before Pearl Harbor, it didn't look much like there was any market clamoring for a Garbo picture. This, really more than anything else, was what stalled her career, a career which - famously - refused to be resurrected.


 The Torrent, 1926.
Garbo's American debut, and only her third starring role.

The Temptress, 1926.

Flesh and the Devil,  1926.

Love (Anna Karenina), 1927. 

The Divine Woman, 1928. 
The only film in which Garbo starred that is now considered lost; just a 9-minute reel still exists.

The Mysterious Lady, 1928.

A Woman of Affairs, 1928.

Wild Orchids, 1929.

The Single Standard, 1929.

The Kiss, 1929. 
Garbo's - and the studio's - last silent picture.

Anna Christie, 1930. 
"Garbo Talks", her much anticipated sound debut.

Romance, 1930.

Inspiration, 1931.

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise), 1931.

Mata Hari, 1931.

Grand Hotel, 1932.

As You Desire Me, 1932.

Queen Christina, 1933.

The Painted Veil, 1934.

Anna Karenina,  1935.

Camille, 1936.

Conquest (Marie Walewska), 1938.

Ninotchka, 1939.

Two-Faced Woman, 1941.
The catchphrase "Go Gay With Garbo" should have been a warning of looming artistic and box-office disaster!