Thursday, 20 October 2016

Trouvaille: Mlle Chevigny

There is woeful little information, though had a rather long career (especially if compared with the tragic end of young Mlle Chameroy), but maybe that is the reason why she was less celebrated later in life than Mlle Chameroy was in death? 

Contemporary reviews are very favourable though, as much as the poem what opens this post is flattering, though apart from two costume sketches I couldn't find any other picture of the celebrated dancer turned actress. The poem refers of her return, apparently she was absent from the stage due to illness, and returned two years later, of a slightly fuller figure, what removed her from the dancers limelight towards acting.

Costume sketches of the ballet the Le Retour d'Ulysse, (Return of Ulysses) in 1807 (You can read a review in English here). The last figure on the first picture is Eurydée, the wet nurse of Penelope who recognises Ulysses, the role performed by Mlle Chevigny, for what she earned much praise.
On the right, Mlle Chevigny in the role of Eurydée

Just because Berthélémy's drawings are so nice, a second one. Not picturing Mlle Chevigny
Details & source: 

Titre :  
[Le retour d'Ulysse : trois pl. de costumes / par Jean-Simon Berthélémy] 
Auteur :  
Berthélémy, Jean-Simon (1743-1811). Dessinateur 
Date d'édition :  
Identifiant :  
Source :  
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Bibliothèque-musée de l'opéra, D216-2 (4-6) 
Relation :  
Le retour d'Ulysse : ballet héroïque en trois actes / chorégraphie et argument de Louis Milon. - Paris : Théâtre de l'Opéra-Montansier, 27-02-1807 
Relation : 
Provenance :  
Bibliothèque nationale de France 

And of L'enfant prodigue, (the prodigal son) the second figure from the left

The second from the left, in yellow tunic

Titre :  
[L'enfant prodigue : trois pl. de costumes / par François-Guillaume Ménageot] 
Auteur :  
Ménageot, François-Guillaume (1744-1816). Dessinateur 
Date d'édition :  
Identifiant :  
Source :  
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Bibliothèque-musée de l'opéra, D216-3 (10-12) 
Relation :  
L'enfant prodigue : ballet-pantomime en trois actes / décors de Jean-Baptiste Isabey. - Paris : Théâtre de l'Opéra-Montansier, 28-04-1812 
Relation : 
Provenance :  
Bibliothèque nationale de France 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Trouvaille: Mlle Chameroy

And again in the Journal what would be end of December 1803.
A very beautiful portrait of Mlle Chamroy is on sale at Mad. Masse, the papetière (a papeterie is a boutique, where paper and writing tools are sold), at Rue Helvéticus, near Louvois.

Sounds intriguing. A reference to a Mlle Chameroy, but who was she, and who would have known her? As it happens - everyone would. It's as if today you'd say "a photo of Amy Winhouse". Even if you'd never saw a performance, you'd know that she was famous, and died tragically young just a couple of years ago.
It's the same thing here. Mlle Marie-Adrienne Chameroy was another young star of the ballet scene, but died tragically young in childbirth; Laure Junot mentioned her death in her memoirs. (my comments are in brackets. For the complete memoirs follow the link. Laure Junot's memoirs need to be taken Cum Grano though...)

Apropos of the pirouetttes of Mademoiselle Chameroy, an event connected with her had recently made much noise. The poor girl pirouetted no longer in this world. She was dead, had died in childbed... attended and greatly lamented by Vestris. (We just read about Mme Vestris...) The Curé (priest) of Saint Roch deemed the profession of the deceased and the manner of her death (in childbirth, while still being a "Miss") doubly scandalous, and in all charity refused her admission within the pale of the church.

Though can we take Mme Junot's word for gospel? The auctionhouse Invaluable, who sold this miniature of Mlle Chameroy in May 2016 thinks so: 
After her death in childbirth at 23, her funeral, which was to take place at the Church of Saint Roch, attracted a large crowd of her fans. When the doors of the church remained closed, the rumor spread that the priests there had refused to perform the service because of Mlle. Chameroy's profession. A near-riot ensued, only calmed by the soothing words of the actor Joseph Albouy Dazincourt of the Comedie Francaise. The funeral procession then continued to the church of St. Thomas, where the funeral took place. 

Marie-Adrienne Chameroy (1779-1802) made her debut as a dancer at the Paris Opera in 1796 as Terpsichore in the ballet Psyche. Considered one of the most beautiful dancers in the corps, she attracted many admirers for her grace and vivacity. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Trouvaille: Little Helpers to gather sleeves gracefully

Already for a couple of days jewellers are making diamond (possibly paste?) rings, what ressemble earrings: these rings are made to be threaded through a practical eyelet in the sleeve of a pretty woman, to gather and lift that sleeve with grace:
It's a famous painter who thought this fashion up.

Sadly LeMésangère doesn't share with us, what painter. But as Mme Vigée Lebrun painted Mme Vestris with such a sleeve decoration, I think it was already wider spread in 1803, and made its way out from the pages of a journal where it has already been publicised earlier to the canvas of expensive and famous painters.


Description of the nmwa webpage: The identity of this woman is far from certain although some scholars believe that she might be Anne Catherine Augier Vestris (1777–1809), a French dancer who went by the stage name Aimée. Anne Catherine was the wife of dancer Auguste Vestris, who came from a famous family of performers. 

An 11, Tunique de Grande Parure 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Trouvaille: Dancing is soo complicated and tiring these days...

That's January 16, 1804
Dancing today is so complicated, so intricate and fatiguing, that in an assembly twenty good dancers meet four good gentlemen dancers: after five or six years of training, a dancer is exhausted; the ladies, who are more graceful by making less of an effort, or rather to whom this kind of exercise is more favorable, the ladies, as I say, are dancing well, dancing much and are dancing for a long time.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Trouvaille: The Velletri Pallas, the Blockbuster in December 1803

Just imagine, how wonderful it would be if you are meeting in 'Good Society'*, and the topic of choice isn't the weather, but art. And even better, ancient Roman art!

One cannot present oneself in good society* these days without saying something about the Pallas of Velletri, and without reciting some passages from Valérie, the latest fashionable novel.

We've already read a little bit about Valérie in a recent post, but what is so special about the Pallas Velletris?  

I am sure that you have seen pictures of the Velletri Athena, even without knowing her name: 

C Wikimedia Commons
A print from 1810, at the V&A 

© The V&A  

She was discovered near Velletri in Lazio in 1797, and entered the collection of the Musée Napoléon** in December 1803. This translates that this wonder if the antique world made her appearance just days before this issue of the Journal des Dames was published. If you have ever stood in front of this imposing goddess (or a copy of it), who appears serene, beautiful, knowing, offering shelter, you understand how she became the talk of society. She was the embodiment of this new era, of a period when the spirit of consular Rome was considered to be the guiding light.

Monsieur being spellbound by a copy of her a couple of years back. The plaster copy's home is in the collection of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
© A. Reeves

More modern information can be found on the Louvre's website: 

* the 'Bonne Société was defined by Helmina de Chezy, a contemporary observer and society correspondent as members of former court circles, of good society, but actively excluding Nouveaux Riches who obtained their fortuned by speculation during the revolution. 

** The Musée Napoléon is known today as The Louvre. But back in 1803 the collection was renamed Musée Napoléon. By the way - did you know you can also search the Louvres Collection database online? 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Trouvaille: a little less in the head

It's no secret that I along with other people love good zingers (Dowager duchess, I'm looking at you...), and for anyone with such a taste, the Journal des Dames is a treasure trove, usually signed off by Centyeux. (Nom du plume of the editor)
Sadly not everything translate well into English, but I'll love such snippets, and I'd like to share:

That reads 27 December 1803, as usual courtesy of the BNF

An elegant fop's hair is blockingly cut at the front, and rather short/shaved on the sides: on top of the head the hair is cut high and teased into the shape of fishbones; on the sides there is some sort of empty bit named Luck's Way, at the forehead a bushel of hair falls down to the eyes, another bunch falls in curls like a tail. 
That is the description of current styles given by Mr Crépon (creper = teasing hair, Crepon = hair rat), the wig maker. This analysis leads to the conclusion that there is much to say about the outside of a fop's head: there would be much less to analyse on the inside. 
O cerebrum caput etc....

P.S.: I'm by no means well equipped using use hair dressers terms, but to me it reads as some sort of 1980ies mullet hairdo ;-)

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Trouvaille du Jour: Dance practice

Courtesy: The British Museum

"Why do people attend balls if they don't know the dances?"
Ever caught yourself asking this question during an event? Or ever been asked this question? 
Fear not, you are not alone, nor is it a recent phenomenon.

We're still in December 1803 ;-) yes, this edition proved to be a mine of interesting bits and bobs: 

Today's dances are so difficult that they ceased to be entertainment, and became work. Once upon a time, if one asked a lady to dance, she would accept, whether she learned that dance or not.
Though nowadays at least two years of lessons are required, before one ventures into a contredanse. Of twenty ladies asked to dance, nine-teen refuse by saying "I am just beginning, and by no means advanced enough".
In some circles of society, where the hostess isn't yet advanced enough, four sprightly dancers are asked to dinner, and as many good female dancers, who will throughout the evening delight the assembly: This way one will be entertained as well.... By watching others dancing.

Trouvaille: If everything becomes too much...

It's a well known phenomenon today, that we search to distract and occupy ourselves. We exceed our ebnergy, run from event to happening, and when we are tired, many try to numb the tiredness with more excitement (Binge watching your favourite series is not that relaxing, because it still bombards your senses with sound and picture...)

Anyone who thinks "That was different, in Ye Goode Olde Times", I think we are not that different.
Again, Journal des Dames, 30 Frimaire An12 (December 22, 1803)

The Trouvaille is spread over two pages (three if we count the title), please excuse the frankensteining
Source as usual: BNF

There wasn't an instant these the past eight days, in what I didn't try to evade myself; I've felt all the fatigue attached to the need of amusement. I've seen (attended) balls, dinners, spectacles, without gaining a single moment of joy.... The solitude during these parties is bare, ungiving. 
Natures solitude though always helps us to gain something for our soul; the one of mere objects prevents us to be with ourselves and gives us nothing in return.
Ext. de Valérie*

*Valérie relates in my opinion to a pre-publication of Madame de Krudeners's book, what was published only a few months later. I wonder what kind of favour or sense of business moved our Monsieur Le Mésangères to public this excerpt? Doing a favour to Chateaubriand? 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Mademoiselle Duchesnois and Phèdre

Most of us have heard the name either in relation to Napoléon Bonapartes mistress, or as a concurrence of Mlle Georges, a fellow actress (and another mistress of NB)

I've stumbled over Mlle Cathérine-Josephine Duchesnois in the Journal des Dames (on BNF). She was a celebrated actress, and these two snippets from the same issue illustrate how present she must have been in those days. A real celebrity, somebody who took the scene by surprise, and who was there to stay.

The date of 30 Frimaire An 12 reads as 22 December 1803, a bit over a year after having charmed and bewitched Paris as Phèdre in August 1802, Racine's tragedy what everyone would have heard or seen for the past generations.

The days of comedy have become the tragic days at the Théâtre Français since Molé (Molière) has passed on: Only Tragedy is fashionable these days. One goes and sees Voltaire, one loves Racine (Author of Phèdre), one runs crazily to Corneille; while the actors influence these movements far more than the pieces they perform. It is a good day when Talma performs; even better with Mlle Volnais and Mlle Georges show up; but the most excellent days are those when Mlle Duchesnois gives an appearance.

A painting what is for sale is is currently on show an engravers studio, close to the Café de Foi at Palais du Tribunat, a portrait what greatly resembles Mlle Duchesnois. 

Sadly the journal doesn't give us a precise description of the portrait. Though given her recent success as Phèdre, and the trademark diadem the role brought along, it might have been any portrait with a lady wearing a diadème. 

Pictured above is Mlle Duchesnois, once in an engraving by a non-mentioned painter on the source site, once in her title role Phèdre, courtesy of the BNF

I have read Phèdre as a teenager, and considered it to be a 'Greek Tragedy, as bad as Oedipus'. I guess I was simply to young to understand or appreciate the piece. In later years I rediscovered the multi layered personality of Phèdre. The woman of duty, of the woman who loves, who despises herself for this love. The woman who falls prey to madness. And the woman who is willing to atone the wrong she felt she did by the sacrifice of her own life. 
And what an extraordinary actress it would have needed, to present Phèdre in her failings and in her dignity. Mlle Duchesnois was not as beautiful as Mlle Georges, she was described as rather plain, but with a spontaneous delivery, a warm and sensual voice.

Apparently Mlle Cathérine-Joséphine was just such an actress. Aged 25, she convinced the Paris audience of the fate of the tragic queen in 1802, and had immediately a very steady fan base, like Joséphine Bonaparte who orchestrated a second chancer for her in Paris, after a disastrous debut in Versailles; or her colleague, the very esteemed Talma, a legend on the boards, who made her his constant acting partner, crowned her on stage, thus firing up a jealous conflict between her and Mlle Georges. (Both Mlle Duchesnois and Mlle Georges became Members of the Comédie Française in 1804. On the same date, because anything else would have fired up the conflict even more)

Baron Gerard's portrait of Mlle Duchesne

While we have no possibility to see her perform the role together with Talma, I would like to direct a little attention to this woman. She was an artist, not just merely 'one of Bonapartes mistresses', and apparently an inspired actress, who had her apprentissage not as such, but as a couturière!  
And while you might have read Phèdre in school and considered it dull to no end (as I did), I would love to inspire you to give the small tome another try, it may make you appreciate the craftsmanship what went into personifying such a role.

For my German readers, there is a special treat: Reclams edition of 'Phädra' was translated in 1804 by Friedrich Schiller. (Yes. That Schiller) And while it render Racines verses, Schiller gives us the Spirit of the Classic period in the clear language of beauty, as much treat to read as the original.

Links for further reading:
Wikipedia about Mlle Duchesnois (her real name was Rufin, not Duchesnois, by the way)  
And a bit longer biography, published in relation of her tomb on Cimetière Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Mlle Duchesnois found her last resting place (in French):

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Trouvaille: How to dance with a trained dress in 1806

The "Toilettengeschenk für Damen" - or "A Gift for Ladies"
CC Zero, courtesy of Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf

I feel blessed and privileged to have the fourth issue in my personal library, the year 1808 to be precise. This is a marvellous annual publication, published by Georg Voss in Leipzig.

The first three issues are available for download at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf

If you follow this link, you will find yourself at the main page, where a click on "PDF" next to the publication allows you a One-PDF download, instead of the "bit by bit" on the direct links.

The Publication is destined to every lady who wants to improve her accomplishments, includes treaties on elegant movement, music (for beginners and more proficient musicians), embroidery (and knitting!), literature, poetry, drawing, dancing and domestic economy. 

CC Zero ULB Düsseldorf, a knitting pattern and instructions.
Zweites Toiletten-Geschenk, 1806

I'd say, if I'd be a lady back then, this might have been one of my yearly subscriptions of choice, and even today I am scouring antique dealers to find other volumes.

I hope in time I will be able to digitise the year 1808, as it's too good a publication not to share, and it's one what is not online at the moment.

But today I'd like to invite you into the year 1806. It was inspired by a conversation I've had with a dear friend today, the old chestnut of "Should dance dresses have trains, or not?" and I remembered the Zweite Toiletten-Geschenk: 

While perusing the delightful publications, an illustration in the dance section of the second tome caught my eye. It was a lady, coming out of a minuet*, holding a train. 

I've immediately let go of the bit I was actually reading, and searched the description. Yes! It is the illustration of how to hold a trained dress when dancing. because the writer thought, that as trains will remain fashionable for quite a while, he'd better give a hint on how to manage it as elegantly as possible: 

Transcription of the German text (page 121)
Figur 6 hat eine Schleppe. Da solche noch lange Mode bleiben dürften, ob sie gleich beym Tanz unassend sind, so ist doch zu bemerken, dass, wenn es einmal eine Schleppe seyn muss, sie am Tanzkleide recht lang seyn möchte, um, mit Geschicklichkeit aufgenommen, der Draperie eine gefällige Leichtigkeit zu geben - wobey die Füsse die notwendige Freyheit behalten. Eine kurze Schleppe ist für das Auge unangenehm beym Tanze. Das Kleid ist gespannt um die Füsse, und Steifheit tritt an die Stelle der Freyheit.

Fig. 6 has a train. As those will remain in fashion for quite some time, despite being ill suited for dancing; it should be mentioned that IF it needs to be a train, it should be rather long on a dance dress, thus be taken up with skill, to create an airy drapery - and the feet keep their freedom of movement. A short train is ugly to the eye when dancing. The dress pulls around the feet, and stiffness takes the place of freedom.

Voss emphasises the round arms, and despises too edgy figures;
thus encourages his readers to practice wavy movement and carrying of their arms

Even after all those years since I've read this passage, it makes me happy and giddy to have come across yet another glimpse, yet another facet, yet another angle of the time, and finally I found the time and the inspiration to sit down and share this nugget with you. 
If you stumble about original sources dance dresses with trains and how to deal with them, please do not be shy, I'd be happy to see other sources. Many people go by Jane Austen, when in Northanger Abbey it is mentioned how Catherine and Isabella pin up their trains "They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other’s train for the dance and were not to be divided in the set;[…]", yet I am more than curious to read other references.

I'd like to end this post with two more drawings on elegant movement (the issue also included exercises on how to achieve such elegance):

Dance Positions

Positions of dance and again, elegant hand and arm positions by the dancers
*Yes, the minuet was still part of a dancer's curriculum. Every ball of consequence would open with one, and it was deemed to be _the dance_ what needed to be mastered to be able to dance (slow movements give away sloppy footwork much more easily...)