Category Archives: Fashion

Masks of fashion: Clementina and the room of stars

I’ve wanted to find a good reason to come back to Clementina, Lady Hawarden and her brief career exploring costume, fabric and light within the confines of a few rooms in her house at Princes Gardens. I only recently thought of an obvious way to look at her work as a fashion photographer as I suggested she was in my first post about her.

04 Clementina Maude

Here, in the room with the starred wallpaper, her daughter and principal model Clementina Maude, an elaborate dress draped around her adopts a pose which shows off the way the material falls over her body. You want to call the pose langorous or thoughtful, which is the impression it gives, even though you know the young Clementina had to hold the pose for several minutes while the plate was exposed. Although the photograph has suffered over the years you can still see the contrast between the side directly lit by the light from the window and the greater detail visible on the other side.

04 mario testino

The light is falling from the other side in this picture by one of the modern masters of fashion photography Mario Testino and although the shutter speed was measured in seconds rather than  minutes the same care has been lavished on the model’s pose and the way the dress hangs.

It may have been the search for available light that drew Lady Clementina to the windows of her improvised studio but she comes back to them repeatedly.

06 Clementina Maude

Clementina again in some kind of fancy dress, Bohemian or gypsy perhaps, steps through the shutters from the balcony.

Below, a model negotiates a more complicated arrangement of wooden screens and windows in an equally sparsely furnished 19th century room.

06 Les-Secrets-de-Lambassade-by-Piotr-Stoklosa-10 2011 Calendar of the Polish Embassy in Paris

She has the same attitude of trepidation in this picture from a calendar for the Polish Embassy in Paris by Piotr Stoklosa.

Lady Clementina’s other favourite prop was a mirror.

01 Clementina Maude

As she knew Lewis Carroll (he visited the house and bought several examples of her work), you might want to start on Alice and Through the Looking Glass (not published till after Lady Clementina’s death) and soon there would be several sentences devoted to modern fantasies about the Victorian period. You can do all that yourselves quite easily. I’ll just stop for a while and listen to an album. I’ll pick something non-Victorian like Can, or Wire

When I get back we can remember that mirrors are always mysterious and always slightly threatening. Remember that quote from Borges?

01 Glamour Germany nov 05 Roslyakova

[The file name of this picture tells me it's from Glamour magazine (German edition), November 2005, and the model is Elena Roslyakova]

Here Clementina poses with the same mirror.

07 Clementina Maude

If you look closely I think you can see that her mother has draped that white material with dark stitching on the border (which I pointed out in the first post) over her skirt. She probably isn’t wearing a crinoline underneath. Her mother is trying to achieve a softer shape. You can barely make out Clementina’s reflection.

I’m not sure whether Gisele Bundchen is posing by an actual mirror in the photograph below or whether the photographer has caught the reflection in a window.

07 Harper's Bazaar US June 07  Gisele Bundchen

She isn’t wearing a crinoline either as you can see. The pose, with one foot on the chair brings out the unstuctured flow of the dress. Clementina might not have posed exactly like this but some of her mother’s pictures show that she wasn’t bound by convention when creating her photographs.

Clementina V&A 1862-3

In this variation on a pose featured in the first post Clementina is barefoot and casual looking, as minimally dressed as a modern model, The shadowy light gives her an air of mystery and demonstrates a trust between model and photographer which could probably only have been achieved by a mother and daughter in the 1860s.

Infashion magazine 2010 Evelina Mambetova 8

In this 2010 picture from In Fashion magazine Evelina Mambetova has found a similar kind of pose combining a kind of casual awkwardness with an enigmatic stare.

Can you bear much more of my amateur fashion-speak?

The point for me of looking at old photographs is finding the connection between then and now in the touches of modernity you can detect in photographs taken more than a hundred years ago.

Below, in an ordinary day dress Clementina has a air of 21st century ennui as she stands by the door of the room with the starred wallpaper.

10 Clementina Maude LCH011 1862

Like many of the others the photograph is damaged and sections cut away but you can still recognize the melancholy in the figure which transcends condition and technique. This is one of my favourite Hawarden pictures, and it was hard to find a modern equivalent.

This, perhaps:

07 Sarah Luss inVogue Italia  -Valentino couture spring 2023 – by Gian Paolo  Barbieri 07

[Sarah Luss wearing a Valentino dress from 2013 photographed by Gian Paolo Barbieri for Vogue Italia]

The model’s stare is neutral in this case though the dress is dark enough to create the shadows.

Or this?

10a dior-fall-couture-2012 02

[Dior 2012]

The model looks uncertainly back at the photographer which is effective, but perhaps with some photographs the same look can never be achieved by accident.

Here Clementina poses with an odd but highly decorative set of miniature drawers in a cabinet which was another of her mother’s favourite props.

02 Clementina Maude

Below another model stands in front of an odd cabinet.

02 Vogue Paris June 04  Daria Wervbowy

[Daria Wervbowy photographed for French Vogue in 2004]

Below, Clementina affects to sleep on what looks like a makeshift bed.

03 Clementina Maude

Clementina sleeping was another of her mother’s favourite subjects. She doesn’t look completely relaxed though.

03 woman on c

By contrast, this (unknown to me) model isn’t even attempting to sleep. But I think Lady Clementina would have appreciated the fall of the dress material to the floor and the light coming from behind.

The last comparison is another version of the sleeping model.

05 Clementina Maude

In this case Clementina shows every sign of having actually dropped off while reading a book. Sleep is another mysterious area of life, subject to endless speculation and fantasy. It’s more evidence for me that Lady Hawarden was as preoccupied with the strangeness of existence as any other artist or writer of the period and that the impressions we read into her work – eroticism, feminity, dreams and death are not fantasies of our own construction but part of her intentions.

This is unfortunately another damaged picture showing signs of age. It’s been compared to Lord Leighton’s Flaming June (painted long after Lady Hawarden’s death – could Leighton have seen it?). I haven’t been able to locate a close parallel in modern fashion photography, but I like this picture by Norman Parkinson of  the model Jean Patchett in repose.

05 Jean Patchett by norman parkinson

This is a game you could play endlessly. Why not try it yourself? Here’s one of Clementina playing a classical (or occult?) role with a single star.

Clementina Maude 1863-64

Any suggestions?

 

Postscript

As is often the case I was working on this post along with another speculative one when it occurred to me that I had better write something for this week, and the scanner was temporarily locked in the basement during some building work so it had better be something that was almost ready to go. As a result I didn’t have quite as long to search for images which echoed Lady Hawarden’s work as I thought I would have. Some of them are more exact parallels than others. But you get the basic point I expect. Of course I could have just said “light-fabric-mirrors-women”.

Most of the modern fashion images come from the archives of  http://dustjacket-attic.com/ , one of the best websites concerned with fashion and design, which I highly recommend. http://www.fashiongonerogue.com/ is another good one. Like other bloggers say, if I have infringed anyone’s image rights by using them here just let me know.

I think this may not be the last time Clementina, Lady Hawarden is featured here. The more I look at her pictures the more there seems to be in them. You can see many more at the V&A website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/l/lady-clementina-hawarden/

Oh yes, and that Borges quote: “Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable to God, for they multiply the redundant images of Man”. This sentence has been translated in a variety of forms over the years, but this is how I remember it from my first reading of Fictions back in the 1970s. Lady Hawarden and Lewis Carroll might well have had an interesting dinner party with Borges.

Finally, I have a World War 1 piece on the Library blog here.


Shopping in the 50s: the Kensington High Street experience

Although I spent my childhood far from Kensington, in the 1960s I did once visit the High Street and its famous triumvirate of department stores, Barker’s, Derry and Tom’s and Ponting’s. Even as a disinterested teenager I could recognize the distinctive high class air of the three establishments. Many people I’ve spoken to have reported that Kensington High Street was regarded as a cut above shopping destinations like Oxford Street, if not quite as exalted as Knightsbridge. The 1950s were the heyday of that shopping experience.

Barkers High Street Kensington 1955 K61-1003An artist’s impression of Barker’s in 1955 with Derry and Tom’s on the right. The slightly curved, prow of a ship frontage and the series of flags demonstrates the  absolute confidence of the John Barker company in its store.

This night time picture of Derry and Tom’s from 1933 shows a similar stylistic pride in its image.

Derry and Toms 1933 (Ponting’s on the other hand was very much the least prestigious of the three. But it was the first one I wrote about on the blog - link.)

The three stores catered primarily for the middle class woman who had shopping as one of the key activities in her job description. And as their customers came from far and wide the shops used in-house magazines and catalogues as part of their promotional efforts.

Shopping cover July 1954July 1954’s issues of Shopping was concerned with Barker’s satellite store in Eastbourne and was geared towards summer fashions.

Shopping pp10-11A bright summer’s day at the seaside but no beachwear in sight.

Copy of Shopping pp10-11It looks a bit windswept in fact.

Derry and Tom’s of course had its own exotic location:

Derry and Toms 1950s 009 cover - colourThe famous roof garden, an integral part of the store identity.

The 50s were also a heyday for the commercial artist.

Derry and Toms 1950s 006The store catalogues were not just about fashion. There were furnishings:

Derry and Toms 1950s 001Haberdashery  (note that there is a whole Hall devoted to linen::

Derry and Toms 1950s 002And Christmas gifts for all the family:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for all the familyIf you can’t make out  the small print what about the Triang Minic Garage Service Station or the Toy Fort, or the Chemistry Set (with Bunsen Burner)? There’s a His and Hers towel set (thick Turkish towels at 17/6), or some Beaver Lamb Back Gloves (32/6). The Pedigree Dressed Bunny  at 17/11 shows how soft toy technology has advanced since the 50s. For the curious, the Gilbert Harding Question Book (an early version of QI?) And for Her, a Novelty Nightdress Case or a Nylon Straw Evening Bag.

But for husbands, the best bet for a present for her indoors was something from the lingerie collection:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for the wife Most of the year the ladies were shopping for themselves, and the stores offered “a delightful experience”.

Derry and Toms 1950s 005 colour

The in house magazines had helpful hints as in these month by month suggestions:

Shopping pp18-19

And after all that shopping you might want to get away from it all back in sunny Eastbourne:

Shopping pp14-15 - Copy

Postscript

Whenever I do a shopping related post someone always asks me when I’m going to do something about Biba? The  unfortunate answer is that the collection has almost no pictures of Biba in the period when it took over Derry and Tom’s. So it’s my turn to ask: does anyone have any photos of Biba in that era (particularly of the interior) that we could scan and use on the blog?

Curiously, while working on this week’s post I found some interior pictures of Pettit’s, the least known of the High Street’s shops, which I might use one of these days.


Costume Ball 4: Ladies only

It’s the time of year for parties so we’re back at that social event of 1897, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball which has proved to be one of the most popular subjects on the blog. The Duchess and her party organiser must have been well aware of the interest the Ball would generate. The Lafayette photography company set up their portable studio in a tent in the grounds of Devonshire House, and the photographers must have been working hard to get through nearly 200 subjects in the course of the evening. But it would have been worth it. They would have been able to sell postcards and prints of the guests to a public which was already generating an early version of what we now call celebrity culture. In addition there were expensive souvenirs. The book I’ve scanned these pictures from is a large heavy volume produced in a limited edition.

This selection features only female guests. Their costumes were the main focus of interest for the photographers so I’m following this example as any popular magazine edition would have done. As I’ve noted in previous posts (1st,2nd,3rd) the costumes were mainly historical with the 16th,17th and 18th centuries providing most of the subjects. But there were also literary, mythological and artistic costumes.

Lady Ampthill, as “a lady of King Arthur’s court”.

Lady Ampthill p219 as a lady of King Arthur's court

And here, Queen Guinevere herself:

Lady Rodney as Queen Guinevere p114

Lady Rodney’s costume designer has a slightly different take on fashions at Camelot. A similar free reign could be taken when creating costumes for characters out of antiquity.

Miss Keith Fraser as Delilah p152 (2)

Miss Fraser as Delilah, a Biblical character familiar to most people of the time.

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti page 101

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther. Vashti is sometimes called a proto-feminist icon for her refusal to appear before the King’s guests at a banquet.

Some of the costumes were more conceptual:

Lady Herschell as Night p251

Lady Herschell looking slightly unhappy as Night (costumes expressing ideas like night and day were quite common at fancy dress parties).

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe page 82

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, daughter of Zeus and Hera. Did she bring that bird herself, I wonder or did the photographer have it handy, in his box of props?

Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after Cosway page 60

There were some costumes inspired by artworks including this one, Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after a portrait by Cosway, and in a similar vein:

The Hon Mrs Reginald Fitzwilliam after a picture by Romney

The Hon Mrs Fitzwilliam after a portrait by Romney.

But as I’ve said, the majority of the guests came as historical figures. In this case the photographers were unable to identify the costume worn by Mrs Leiter:

Mrs Leiter p245

Suggestions welcome. Other ladies were more readily identifiable if sometimes a little obscure:

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos as Caterina Cornare Queen of Cypress p144 (2)

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos (a fine title) as Caterina Cornare, Queen of Cypress.

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense  p139

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense. I’m assuming that this is Hortense de Beauharnais, stepdaughter of Napoleon and daughter of Josephine. She was Queen of Holland as the wife of Louis Napoleon and the mother of Napoleon III.

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame de Tallion - Incroyable p186

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame Therese de Tallion an “Incroyable” according to the caption in the book, one of the fashionistas of post Reign of Terror Paris, although my cursory research indicates that the Incroyables were the male ones and that the correct term for the women was Merveilleuses (marvellous women). Hortense de Beauharnis was also a Mervelleuse in her younger days.

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland.

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan page 62

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan, a person I haven’t been able to find out anything about, but it’s a good costume.

Lady Lister Kaye as Duchesse de Guise, time Henri III p131

Lady Lister Kaye as Antoinette de Bourbon, Duchesse de Guise and maternal grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots.

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton Lady in Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots p207 (2)

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton, a lady in waiting to the same Mary Stuart, and possibly one of her own ancestors.

Lady Alington as Duchesse de Nevers, Dame de la Cour de S.M. Marguerite de Valois p213

Lady Alington as the Duchesse de Nevers, a lady from the court of Marguerite de Valois. She looks to me as if she has been very patient with the photographer but is now ready to go.

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney AD1773  page 240

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney, another 18th century lady who has evaded me today.

And finally, posed as if walking away:

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte page 59

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte, possibly the thief and adventuress who was involved in the complicated affair of the Queen’s diamonds in the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It’s an incongruously disreputable note on which to finish with this grand and respectable event.

Postscript

The Ball took place in July, which must have made some of those heavy costumes uncomfortable. Not really appropriate for this time of year either. One of the other characters who’ve appeared in the blog, Jerry Cornelius held a spectacular party in the Final Programme. So from him I take this message: a happy new fear to all my readers.

Title page - Copy


Rite of spring: Mr Ruskin’s May Queen

Ruskin and Rossetti VAW copy

John Ruskin wouldn’t sit down for this picture. However poor the state of his health he felt it was unthinkable for him to sit in the presence of Rossetti so the great artist held him up. Ruskin was a man of high ideals and aesthetic principles. He had been one of the early supporters of the Pre-Raphaelites so Rossetti’s loose morals and the strange ménage at Tudor House wouldn’t have bothered him. But nevertheless it would have been hard to find two more unlikely companions in the whole of Victorian England. Rossetti represents the sensual side of the Victorian imagination let loose about as much as it could be. Ruskin of course represents the repressed imagination and it was that respectable side of his nature which drew him into collaboration with John Faunthorpe the Principal of the teacher training establishment in the King’s Road, Whitelands College.

Copy of Whitelands College PC109C

1902 John Faunthorpe from 1924 WA

[John Faunthorpe 1902]

Faunthorpe was a fan of Ruskin’s. He admired the great man extravagantly, idolised him even. So in1880 inspired by Ruskin  he floated the idea of starting a May Queen Festival at the College. Ruskin had form in this area, he had tried to start something similar at a school in Cheshire but parents had objected (Ruskin’s divorce / annulment from his marriage with Effie Gray and her subsequent marriage to Millais had been a great scandal). Between them the two men worked something out which combined Ruskin’s love of picturesque old English ritual and Faunthorpe’s desire for high Anglican ceremony. The notion of a may queen may also have appealed to  Ruskin because it involved pretty young women for whom he had a sentimental regard after the failure of his marriage and the derailment of his romance with Rose La Touche. The Victorians in general were given to sentimentalizing youth (perhaps because they frequently saw it snatched away by sudden disease and death, the very fate of Rose la Touche who died at the age of 27).

Ruskin donated a set of his books each year to be handed out by the new Queen, and paid for the design of the first in a series of crosses which were given to each Queen. The May Queen was chosen by the votes of the students (she should be “the lovablest and the likeablest” was Ruskin’s mawkish guidance to the voters). The first was Queen Ellen I.

1881 Queen Ellen I

Unfortunately for the ceremony Ellen was in mourning at the time and wearing black so a white shawl was found for her to wear. Ruskin pestered Faunthorpe for a photograph and then rather ungraciously said the Queen looked like she was 38. (She was 20). Although he did visit the College regularly he never attended the May Day ceremony. Perhaps he preferred the festival as a romantic ideal. After Queen Ellen the Queen and her maidens had dresses made for the occasion.

Ruskin had his protégé Kate Greenaway design a dress for the Queen which was passed on for four years.

1891 Queen Jessie 02

[Queen Jessie 1891]

But as the Festival continued it became customary for former queens to return and take part in the festival so the Queen needed a unique outfit.

1892 Queen Elizabeth II 02

[A small and faded view of Queen Elizabeth II, 1893]

1895 Queen Annie Bawden May 1895 CM259

[Queen Annie II, 1895]

May Day is a festival dating back to pre-Christian times. It’s related to the Celtic festival Beltane and the Germanic Walpurgis Nacht. Faunthorpe wanted to emphasise the Christian elements, and Ruskin had exalted ideas about feminine innocence and purity. But despite that this version of May Day still had its May Pole, and retained the flowers, garlands, branches and wooden staffs which still have their older pagan connotations. Here’s Queen Annie again in her throne room.

Queen Annie II 1895 CM258 Queen enthroned - Copy

They look like they’re starting to get the hang of it. Some former queens are present (see if you can spot Elizabeth II). They’re beginning to look a little like a female Masonic lodge.

Ruskin died in 1900 but the Festival no longer needed his blessing and seemed to grow in importance and complexity. If you remember I first dealt with the May Queen in Games for May. In that post I linked the Festival with the Chelsea Pageant just because I found the pictures together but the more I find out about the two events the more I think they belong together as part of the same current in the first decade of the 20th century. The Edwardians seemed to have a propensity almost amounting to mania for dressing up and engaging in theatrical rituals and performances, especially out of doors. In an age of technological innovation perhaps they were reliving the myths and legends of an older England. An England of their imagination.

Behind the stern walls of the College was a quadrangle with ivy-covered walls where the ceremonies could take place out of sight of the busy streets outside.

1899 Queen Agnes I and bodyguard CM259

[Queen Agnes I 1899]

The May Day festival took a whole day and required much preparation. The entire student body of about 150 got white dresses paid for by the college. There were services in the college chapel, a procession, an abdication ceremony, an election (although it became expedient to have the election before May Day so the new queen could be fitted for her dress) a masque, or some “revels”, and the crowning of the new Queen who would give out gifts of copies of works by Ruskin to selected students.

In 1906 there happened to be three queens in the College at the same time, the new Queen Florence, her predecessor Evelyn and the 1904 Queen Mildred.

1906 Queen Florence with Queen Mildred -left-and Queen Evelyn

Mildred in particular looks like she’s just come off the set of one of those 1970s Hammer films like the Vampire Lovers. Or (as I’ve said before) the cover of an album by a 70s English folk rock group, especially in the masque picture below.

They pulled out the stops on this one. Florence proceeded to her coronation with her maidens in tow.

1906 Queen Florence and maidens

And Mildred took the lead in a masque in which the students played flowers and trees and paid homage to her.

1906 masque featuring Queen Mildred and the cast of flowers and trees

In 1909, the year after the Chelsea Pageant there were more elaborate ceremonies. Here is Agnes II, with her chamberlains.

1909 Queen Agnes II & chamberlains

On the throne with the Dowager Queen Dorothy.

1909 Queen Agnes II & Dowager Queen Dorothy 1902 painting behind

Behind them is a painting of the 1902 ceremony. Check out the leopard skin.

There was even a special appearance by this lot:

1909 nuns

Not real nuns of course, just some of the Pageant performers from 1908 who just couldn’t resist coming back for an encore. It might have been their last chance to join the procession with the women in white.

1908 procession 02

And oddly, it seems to me that at that point they had peaked. The May Queen Festival continued of course, carries on to this day in fact, but in the second decade of the century the ceremonies gradually became less elaborate and the College slowly seemed to stop making quite such a big thing of May Day. Or it could be that young women were getting more serious about their profession and less serious about quixotic ritual. I heard someone on the radio recently saying that the Edwardians had a kind of innocence based on hope, the hope that the new century was going to bring progress and prosperity. By 1910 perhaps the zeitgeist was looking a little less hopeful than before and the revellers decided it was time to put the costumes back into the dressing up box.

Still, there were many more May Queens at Whitelands and when they gathered together for the ceremonies there was quite a bunch of them, now engaged in charitable works as well as Christianised neo-pagan rites. They even had a leader, the Mother Queen who was the oldest of this select group.

1912 Queen Ellen the mother queen

The first May Queen, Ellen I, now out of mourning, in her own robes, leading the procession again in 1912. She died in 1923, mourned by her fellow queens, but never forgotten.

Postscript

That was quite a long post. Just as with the Chelsea Pageant I discovered a lot more material than I had imagined we had. Enough for another post next May Day if you can wait that long. I showed the pictures to a colleague and she said “it looks so pagan” – so it isn’t just me who thinks that.

The picture of Ruskin and Rossetti comes from the book the Victorian art world in photographs by Jeremy Maas. There is supposed to be a copy of it in William Rossetti’s memoirs but our copy had that page missing. There was an interesting picture of Maria Rossetti though which I intend to use in a future post.

Whitelands College moved to Putney in 1930 and has since moved again. It is now part of the University of Roehampton. The May Day Festival continues and they have May Kings now as well as May Queens. This year’s festival is on May 18th.

Postscript to the postscript

See comment below. Queen Thyra (1890) from Malcolm Cole’s book on the May Queen Festival,

1890 Queen Thyra


Return of the Edwardian sartorialist – Sambourne’s Kensington street style

I have good reason to be grateful to Edward Linley Sambourne. My original post about his street photography (Street Style 1906) has been the most popular single item on this blog and has brought in many readers who might not otherwise have heard about the Library Time Machine. What is it about his street photography which is so compelling?

The first point is one I made on that first post. We are used to thinking of the Edwardian period as the last great period of formal dress for women and men, the last gasp of 19th century fashion and the ancien regime of costume before the revolution of the Great War and the 1920s. Sambourne’s pictures show another side to the early years of the 20th century, a casual attitude to dress demonstrated by the mostly young women in them. The roots of the dress revolution are apparent from the 1890s onwards in candid photographs and picture postcards. Sambourne’s pictures are one instance of this movement.

The other point is another one I have made on previous occasions. We shouldn’t think of these photographs as curious items from past times. These pictures are of the present. When Linley Sambourne roamed the streets of Kensington with his hidden camera between 1905 and 1908 he was catching images of the now.

Have I spent too long on opening remarks? Let’s look at some pictures.

LSL39 Notting Hill 20 Jul 1906

20th July 1906 in Notting Hill Gate – even in summer gloves are worn and one of these two women carries a muff. They’re in a hurry, striding along, oblivious to the photographer.

Back in May of the same year in nearby Kensington Church Street:

LSL43 Church St 2 May 1906

This woman is slightly more formally dressed than the first two. Perhaps she is on her way to work. Sambourne liked to record women at work as below:

LSL45 Cheniston Gdns 29 Jul 1906

This picture taken in Cheniston Gardens shows a young maid engaged in the perennial and tedious task of cleaning the steps. You might think this is another example of Sambourne’s secretive gaze, spying on her working life but to me it has the look of a posed picture. Sambourne had many contacts in the Kensington area across the social classes – people he used as models for his studio photography and the young maid may have been one of them. I think it’s more obvious in this image:

LSL46 Cheniston Gdns 26 Jun  1906

A different set of steps, and (I think) a different woman but she looks to me as though she is responding to a request from Sambourne to hold that pose for a moment.

There is probably a great deal to be said about the interest shown in maids by gentlemen of Sambourne’s age and class but in the absence of firm evidence we can probably acquit him of improper thoughts. As has also been discussed on the blog and in comments, the concept of privacy with regard to photographs taken in the street was underdeveloped in Sambourne’s time. It’s probably true that as an upper middle class man he thought that his right to pursue his art outweighed any violation of his subjects’ privacy. (Some photographers still believe that today.)

To complete a trio of servants here is a maid taking a break, no doubt well deserved:

LSL47 Cromwell Road 26 Jun 1906

The next subject is someone much closer to Sambourne’s own class, a distinctly middle class married woman.

LSL60 Cromwell Road 15 May 1907

In May 1907 she is escorting her two sons along a tree-lined Cromwell Road with just a few horse drawn vehicles in the background. Cromwell Road looks more like a prosperous wide street of upmarket houses as it was originally intended than the major transport artery of today.

LSL19 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

This is one of those pictures where the woman is looking right at the photographer as though she knows what he is doing.

LSL20 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

I think this may be a picture of the same woman from behind. They were both taken on the same day in the same place so that may be a reasonable assumption.

Perhaps you recognize this woman:

LSL04a  21 Jul 1905 720

I think it’s the same woman who featured in the first Sambourne post photographed in Earls Court Road in 1905. (I’ve looked back and forth comparing details of dress and features. I know that some of my readers are very eagle eyed so I won’t commit myself absolutely.) It’s a slightly less flattering image but that is a feature of candid photography. Everyone has seen poor pictures of people who normally look good in photographs. I would say she had been caught by the flash but I’m not sure if Sambourne’s camera had one. Actually the detail I like is the dog sniffing something out in the background so I hope she would forgive me for showing her not quite at her best.

This picture is another example of the big hat, still a common fashion item at the time:

LSL48 Church St 2 Aug 1906

This view is of Kensington Church Street, with some horse drawn buses in the background.

Another family group, from the front and the side:

LSL62 St Albans Road May 1907

LSL61 St Albans Road 10 May 1907

This was in St Albans Road, well off the main streets of Kensington and well out of Sambourne’s main patch.

Another of his pictures from the rear:

LSL21 Kensington 27 Jun 1906

Finally, I’ve been saving one of Sambourne’s best pictures till last. This picture is simply captioned Kensington. It looks a little like one of the streets running off Notting Hill Gate but really it could be any number of streets.

LSL24 Kensington 3 Jul 1906

Sambourne captures a young woman of the early twentieth century walking confidently forward looking straight into the eye of the camera. Forget the photographer. She is looking out at us.

Postscript

Just as this time last year I’m about to start a month of posts related to this year’s CityRead campaign. The book is A week in December by Sebastian Faulks. The posts will all be transport related and the first will be A tale of two tube stations.

One of the many bloggers who wrote about Sambourne after my first post coined the phrase Edwardian Sartorialist to describe him. I can’t remember which one, but my thanks to her/him.

The Sambourne pictures belong to Leighton House Museum. If you would like to reproduce any of them in a book or magazine ask my colleagues there.

The other Linley Sambourne posts are here (Holland), here  (Paris)and here (at the beach).

The text is written by me so if you run a website based in Spain which likes to reprint vintage photographs why not write your own words?


Trelawny at the Royal Court 1898

Currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse in London’s West End is a modern version of Arthur Wing Pinero’s play of 1898, Trelawny of the Wells, directed by the well know film director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Hanna). Here are two of the actors:

Rose Trelawny and Imogen Parrott

The characters of Rose Trelawny and Imogen Parrott , played by Amy Morgan and Susannah Fielding. Back in 1898 the play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. Rose Trelawny was played by this up and coming actress:

T05 Oh, this dreadful half-hour after dinner

Irene Vanburgh,  who had known Lewis Carroll when she was 16, became one of the most famous stage actresses of her day and was later made a Dame,  here in a picture captioned “Oh, this dreadful half hour after dinner, every, every evening.”

The 1898 Imogen Parrott looked like this:

T16 Look at the sunshine!

The interesting thing about Trelawny for me is that it has always been a historical play. We’re used to costume dramas on television and film so the two modern actors don’t look odd to us – it’s just the past, when quaint costumes were worn. But the costumes the 1898 cast were wearing were also old fashioned to the “modern” audience. The play is set in the 1860s and one of the themes is how the old melodramatic styles of theatre were giving way to realism. But a large part of the comedy in 1898 was the 1860s themselves – “the scarecrow period of British taste” as Malcolm C Salaman calls it in the official souvenir programme of Trelawny. He looks back at the 1860s in much the same way as modern commentators look back at the 1970s (the decade that taste forgot etc). The principal target of the comedy is the costumes of the women, specifically the crinoline dress to which he devotes the first six pages of his text. Here is a typical sample:

“..and see winsome Rose Trelawny, pretty Imogen Parrott and comely Aviona Bunn …in their flounces and frilled frocks of enormous circumference, to their pork-pie hats with feathers, or coal-scuttle bonnets, their back hair hanging in baglike nets of chenille, their elastic-sided boots, and their garish parasols assisting an incongruous complication of colours, are not our aesthetic sensibilities tempered with tender complacency, as we realise a sense of old-fashioned quaintness we remember that our mothers used to be garmented even so, while in such apparel were our maiden aunts wooed and won?”

Salaman goes on at some length even listing different varieties of crinoline and quoting from old catalogues. I realised that for him and his readers, crinolines were not only amusing but also unfamiliar. After all they weren’t able to watch adaptations of Dickens or Trollope every evening on TV as we can, and none of them had ever seen The King and I or the Innocents (the film of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw) for me two of the most striking examples of crinoline wearing in cinema (oddly both of them starring Deborah Kerr). So maybe we can forgive Mr Salaman’s obsession.

Unfortunately we can’t see the colours he mentions but here are some more of the costumes:

T02 I'm hitting them hard this season

Imogen Parrott again, I think.

T03 Ho, ho, ho Oh don't Mr Colpoys

A bit of comedy going on there with some other members of the cast.

T07 Frederick, dear, wake

The man’s whiskers attempting to compete with the crinoline in this picture, and below a distinct touch of melodrama:

T08 Is this whist, may I ask

I’m at a bit of a disadvantage having never seen or read any version of the play so I don’t know who the white haired actor is playing but he certainly looks like he’s in a melodrama.

Here he is in two scenes with Irene Vanburgh:

T12 Read no more! Return them to me!

Good pointing there, and a touch of Svengali in this one:

T10 Cordelia! Cordelia - with Kean!

There were sub-plots involving comic servants:

T09 I discovered 'em clustered in the doorway

And a number of scenes involving several cast members sitting around:

T11 Life, a comedy by Thomas Wrench

This is a scene from the play within the play – “Life: a comedy, by Thomas Wrench”. I think this would be another ( or a rehearsal):

T17 Oh! My dears! Let us get on with the rehearsal!

As you can imagine it all ends well, with a toast:

T00 Trelawny! Trelawny of the Wells!

The lovers are happily united:

T01 He forgets everything but the parts

Did Arthur Wing Pinero imagine that in 2013 he would have two plays on in London? (The Magistrate, featuring John Lithgow recently finished a run at the National Theatre). Did he think that audiences would still be enjoying Trelawny of the Wells over a hundred years after its first performance? He would have been pleased I’m sure but perhaps not entirely surprised. The caption for this picture reads: “Isn’t the world we live in, merely a world – such a queer little one!”

T15 Isn't the world we live such a queer little one!

Postscript

I’ve written a companion post to this one – A brief history of the crinoline, which is on the RBKC Library blog here

If  like me you like to consult imdb while watching TV you may appreciate the fact that  John Lithgow appeared in a production of Trelawny as a young man in which the role of Imogen Parrott was played by Meryl Streep. Here is a picture to prove it:

trelawney-of-the-wells-1975 meryl streep as imogen john lithgow as gadd

No crinoline visible there.

Pictures from the current production of Trelawny are from the Donmar Warehouse website where there is an excellent gallery of images.

Try Googling Trelawny for more, including a colourful version staged in Pitlochry and the version with Lithgow and Streep.


18th century escapades: the votaries of dissipation at Ranelagh

In April 1776 the gentleman who called himself Momus, the Laughing Philosopher went on a ramble and wrote an account of it in the Westminster Magazine. After a walk in the park he found the day so salubrious that he proceeded down the Chelsea Road. Carriages went to and fro so he concluded that “the Rotunda was open for the reception of the polite world.” He was not incommoded by dust “in consequence of the road being watered”. Nor was he prevented “from joining the votaries of dissipation by not being dressed au dernier gout”.

He fell in behind two ladies who were complaining at having to arrive at so early an hour.

Empty vol1

He was fascinated by the head of one of the ladies “which appeared to be fluffed out to an enormous size but what chagrined me the most was to see it decorated with a prodigious quantity of cherries which looked most invitingly plump and juicy”. For himself he had no desire to taste the fruit. It seemed to him they were set in a “dunghill composed of hair, wool, grease and powder”. But another woman nearby “being in a longing condition [i.e.pregnant] cast such wilful glances at them that I actually believed she would have snapped at them had she been tall enough to reach them”

Fruit stall

When the first woman took her seat in the Rotunda the pregnant lady sat as close as she could. Reaching out to touch the fruit she could not contain herself and “tore the whole superstructure to pieces”. As it turned out the fruit was not fit to “be pressed by her lips” and she was obliged to pretend to faint to cover her embarrassment. Momus reports that another lady with a vegetable based hairdo suffered a similar mishap.A hairdresser was summoned to effect repairs. (was this a common occurrence?)

Momus drew a moral from the occasion: “the first beauty in the kingdom will gain more real admiration by the enlargement of her mind than the expansion of her head.”

I don’t suppose he really believed that.

Miss Comeingueout of Opera

I’m assuming the giant hairdos in this  picture are exaggerated for comic effect. This might be closer to actuality:

Ladies magazine

Momus’s night at Ranelagh was evidently pretty typical. Far from that was an event which took place some eighteen years later advertised below:

Chevalier d'Eon announcement from vol 2 crop

The Chevalier D’Eon is history’s most famous transvestite. Or is it as easy as that? The more you look at his life the more disagreement there seems to be. The simplest view is that after a career as a soldier, diplomat and spy he seemed to have fallen out with the French government and agreed to live as a woman for some reason which is not entirely clear. After the French Revolution he lost his government pension and made a living selling off his possessions and engaging in demonstration duels such as the one illustrated below:

Chevalier D'Eon  2

This picture is of a classic D’Eon duel at Carlton House in front of the Prince of Wales, the future Prince Regent.

Far more sensational accounts of his life exist however. Giacomo Casanova wrote in his memoirs: It was at that ambassador’s table that I made the acquaintance of the Chevalier d’Eon, the secretary of the embassy, who afterwards became famous.  This Chevalier d’Eon was a handsome woman who had been an advocate and a captain of dragoons before entering the diplomatic service; she served Louis XV as a valiant soldier and a diplomatist of consummate skill.  In spite of her manly ways I soon recognized her as a woman; her voice was not that of a castrato, and her shape was too rounded to be a man’s.  I say nothing of the absence of hair on her face, as that might be an accident.”

Later in his memoirs the great lover takes the opposite view and recounts the story of a 20,000 guinea bet on the gender of the Chevalier. The bet was never won or lost as the Chevalier refused an examination.

The Chevalier lived in London in the role of a middle aged lady even though his pension had dried up. Perhaps he’d settled into the role.

Chevalier D'Eon

There are more sensational stories though such as the disputed account of a spying trip to Russia in female clothes as “Lia de Beaumont” in which guise he infiltrated the maids of honour to the Czarina. As a young man D’Eon was a member of the King’s Secret, a clandestine group of agents working for Louis XV.

The young Chevalier D'Eon aged 25 crop

This picture of the Chevalier from a biography published in 1895 shows a much younger version of his female alter ego which would make the Russian story slightly more plausible (though still unlikely). Was this picture part of the fantasy or evidence that some of the wilder stories were true?

Most accounts agree that a postmortem examination of D’Eon confirmed that he was a man. The psychologist Havelock Ellis referred to cross-dressing as Eonism possibly on the basis that forms of sexual deviance should always be named after a European aristocrat.

D’Eon has also been described as an early celebrity – a manipulator of his own public image. He wasn’t altogether successful but fantasies and images have floated around during his lifetime and long afterwards.

Discovery of the Female Freemason - Copy

“The discovery of the Female Freemason” 1771.

lia de beaumont from deviantart

A cosplay version of the Japanese anime character Lia de Beaumont, the Chevalier’s sister.

One thing is clear however. The Chevalier seems to have been a favourite at Ranelagh:

Chevalier d'Eon announcement from vol 2 crop 2

In the engraving below he is again described as the Chevaliere D’Eon.

Chevalier D'Eon from vol 2

So the votaries of dissipation had a sentimental side.

Images from this post are from a scrapbook in the Local Studies collection about Ranelagh compiled in the 19th century, except for the picture of the young Chevalier which is from Ernest Alfred Vizetelly’s The true story of the Chevalier D’Eon (1895), the Female Freemason which is from Edna Nixon’s Royal Spy: the strange case of the Chevalier D’Eon (1966), and the photo of “Lia de Beaumont” which is from NadiaSK’s DeviantArt gallery (http://nadiask.deviantart.com/ ).


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 710 other followers

%d bloggers like this: