Sunday 28 September 2014

Tussaud head of Marie-Antoinette

Head of Carrier
Yes, yet more! This head of Marie-Antoinette is reproduced from a photograph in the Collection de Vinck in the Bibliothèque nationale (département Estampes).  It is identified as from Madame Tussaud's and dated 1906. This gives us a date for the equally fine and very similarly mounted Carrier reproduced in the Romance of Madame Tussaud (1920).   (Compare also the Robespierre with the ribbon round his chin which I have since also seen identified as from Madame Tussaud's)
Wax heads of Marie-Antoinette are attested at Tussaud's only from 1865, but royal tableaux were a feature of Curtius's waxworks at an early date.  

Here is another old picture of the royal heads, posted on Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette; apparently it was on sale on e-bay for 330 Euro; I wonder if anyone paid?.  See:

Friday 26 September 2014

Is this the face of Marie-Antoinette????

Marie-Antoinette in the Temple prison, by Alexandre Kucharski.
Oil on canvas.  58cm x 68 cm. Described as in a "Parisian collection

This startling and hitherto completely unknown portrait of Marie-Antoinette is now much reproduced on the internet.  The origin of the images seems to be the book Portraits des femmes (2006) by the Olivier Blanc, who is a well-known French art expert and freelance historical writer - the picture features prominently on the cover of his work.  

According to Blanc (p.171-4) this is an uncatalogued portrait in oil, by the court painter Alexandre Kucharski, painted at the Temple some time after 10 August 1792 and showing Marie-Antoinette in semi-mourning costume following the death of the Princesse de Lamballe.  It is known that Kucharski gained access to the Temple to sketch his famous last portrait of the Queen, so the presumption is that this represents an earlier sitting, worked up into a finished portrait in the studio, possibly at a much later date. Blanc, who has clearly examined the picture, says that the frame gives no clues to dating within ten years; possibly it is as late as the end of the Directory or even the Empire period when Kucharsky's reputation was revived by his portrait of the singer Madame Barbier-Walbonne. The flesh tones and use of white silks in the two paintings perhaps suggest a similar date.

Sunday 21 September 2014

The two shirts of Louis XVI.....

Being executed is a little hard on the linen....

As previously posted, one of the items in the Collection Bancel sale of 2003 was the shirt/ nightshirt Louis XVI changed out of on the morning of his execution on 21st January 1793.

The evidence of provenance is straightforward. The shirt is accompanied by  a manuscript note,  "Chemise left by the King Louis XVI at the Temple 21st January 1793". The shirt remained in the family of Louis's valet de chambre Cléry until 1882 when the husband of Cléry's great-granddaughter sold it to M.Philippe Gille.  There are records for its sale in Rouen in 1896 and by Drouot in Pescheteau on 20 March 1965 (Lot no.43)

Saturday 20 September 2014

Memories from the Temple - Collection Alain Bancel

Alain Bancel was a collector with an obsessive interest in the French Revolution's saddest victim, the little Dauphin Louis-Charles, posthumously recognised as Louis XVII. Over thirty years, he managed to amass in his modest apartment in northern Paris a collection to rival that of the Carnavalet. 

Unhappily on M. Bancel's death in 2003 his collection was "victime du fisc" and had to be dispersed. It became one of the auctions of the season. There were 470 lots,with an estimate of 450,000  and the sale eventually realised 760,000 €. 

Some of these rare pictures and objects have now found their way into public collections.  But how extraordinary to see photos of them jumbled together in true 18th-century style in M. Bancel's home!. (Photos from the website Musée Louis xvii.)

Sunday 14 September 2014

Marie-Antoinette's final portrait

Portrait of Marie-Antoinette
by Alexander Kucharski
24 x 18 cm
Apart from David's famous sketch of the Queen on her way to the scafford,  this portrait, by the former Court painter, Kucharski, is the very last portrait of Marie-Antoinette from life.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Marie-Antoinette at the Château du Cambon

Here is another nice place for the holiday itinerary!  The Château du Cambon in the Auvergne, beautiful in itself, is venue for18th-century themed concerts and events, amd home to an obsessively accumulated collection of works of art and memorabilia relating to Marie-Antoinette.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Saturday 6 September 2014

Death of the princesse de Lamballe ..cont.

The story continued....

The 10th August and its aftermath

p.256:  On the afternoon of 10th August 1792 the Princess, together with Madame de Tourzel, accompanied the royal family as they made their escape across the Tuileries Palace gardens to the Legislative Assembly and took refuge in the reporters' box.  The Princess was so ill that she was removed for a few hours to the adjacent Convent of the Feuillants and the Queen implored her not to return but to travel straight to the duc de Penthièvre at Anet.  Madame de Tourzel later reported her to say that, had she not recovered, she would have attempted flight, knowing that she could be of no use to Marie-Antoinette.  In the event she returned to the Loge after a couple of hours. The party was later joined by Cléry, Madame de Campan and Pauline Tourzel.  Mlle Mertins, the Princess's femme-de-chambre also escaped, bringing with her all the money she could find, which the Princess then divided into three, keeping one portion herself and giving the other two to the King and Madame Élisabeth, with whom she shared a mattress for the night.  The royal party spent three days in the Convent, conducted to the Assembly every morning, before finally being conveyed to imprisonment in the Temple.  Some correspondence was exchanged during this time. The duc de Penthièvre apparently received letters from his daughter in-law through the intermediary of Mlle Mertins, as did  Madame de Ginestous.  A letter to the Princesse de Tarente, which both ladies claimed had been written from the box itself, was intercepted but proved to be merely a request for clean linen.  Two guards Devin and Priquet testified to a  further furtive exchange of letters - but their evidence may have been falsified to create suspicion (see Mémoires historiques iv, p.219-20; Fassy, p.84).

Wednesday 3 September 2014

The death of the princesse de Lamballe

Portrait by Marie-Victoire Lemoine, dated 1779
Sold at Christie's in April 2012

On this day, 3rd September, in 1792 the Princesse de Lamballe, companion of Marie-Antoinette, was bludgeoned to death outside the La Force prison, her body stripped, her heart torn out, her head hacked off and impaled on a pike, and her pathetic remains paraded in bloody triumph through Paris over several hours.  Exact details are disputed and her murder was not, of course, the only act of Revolutionary violence that September, Nonetheless the brutality of her death continues to exercise a fascination due to the contrast with her privileged aristocratic upbringing and reputation for refined sensibilities. The archetypal victim, the Princess in many ways represented a substitute for Marie-Antoinette herself. 

Monday 1 September 2014

The Dulcimer player

Here is another marvellous  automaton!

Video, made to accompany the Metropolitan Museum exhibition of 2012-13, showing the Dulcimer player "in performance".

"The Dulcimer player" ("Joueuse de typanum")
David Roentgen & Peter Kinzing
The height of figure is 53 cm. 
The instrument measures 31.5 cm x 70.5cm x 36.5 cm

This beautiful automaton from the Musée des arts et métiers was the fruit of a collaboration between the celebrated German cabinet maker David Roentgen and the clockmaker Peter Kintzing.  Created in secret at Roentgen's workshop in Neuwied near Coblenz, it was presented to Marie-Antoinette at Versailles in 1784. In a letter of February 1785 Prince Johann Friedrich Alexander of  Wied-Neuwied reported that David Roentgen had demonstrated to the French court "a doll that plays music on a clavichord" (in fact it is a percussive instrument so more properly a dulcimer).  The piece was valued by Roentgen at 800 louis d'or, though he accepted a mere 500. The queen, aware of its scientific interest (or possibly not knowing what else to do with it!) promptly deposited in the cabinet of the Academy of Sciences in March 1785. Roentgen himself was rewarded with high honours - he was given the title of royal ébéniste-mechanicien in 1779 - and Kintzing was named clockmaker to the queen.

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