2/23/2009

Fashion of the week - Dresses of 1879

This is an example of dresses from the year of 1879. The picture is from the French magazine La mode illustrée and shows two women and a girl. One of the women is dressed in an evening dress, which you can just see the back of, while the other woman is dressed in more common day-wear and the little girl is wearing a coat, complete with cap and muff.

This is yet another example of how these fashion plates combine dresses shown in a way which can hardly be seen as a good example of how it would have acted out in reality.

The dresses, on the other hand, is more typical of the time, with a very slim and slender figure, following the silhouette of the wearer closely. The evening dress is in a light yellow colour and adorned with both ribbons and lace - evenings were not a time when you saved your money, if you had any to begin with.

The day-wear is more sombre, in a darker blue shade, and it looks like it could be meant to be in velvet (though basing such an assumption on just a drawing can be dangerous). Then there are a fringe in the same colour on the skirt - also indicating this really is a dress for the upper classes.

The little girl is wearing clothes which mimic the adult's, but with a much shorter skirt - as was the habit of the time, the length of the skirt was determined by the wearer's age and did not reach a full length until the wearer was deemed to be an adult herself.

2/21/2009

Little My

Name: Little My (Swedish: Lilla My/ Finnish: Pikku Myy)
First appearance: The Exploits of Moominpappa (1950)
Creator: Tove Jansson
Weapon/ability: Aggressiveness
Race:
Mymble
Age:
Born in the first book but eventually becomes an independent character in her own right

Little My is one of the most popular characters from the stories about Moominpappa and his family and friends, written by Tove Jansson from 1945 and onwards - even though she does not appear until the fourth book. She has a really bad temper, get angry and aggressive at the drop of a hat, but is also a determined person who gets things done and doesn't put everything off to the last minute. She is also quite loyal.

She is born as a daughter of the Mymble, a word used in Jansson's circle of friend to mean 'love', and is the sister of Daughter of Mymble and Snufkin. She is later adopted by the Moomin-family.

In the first books she is very small, just as her name indicates, sometimes even carried in the pocket of her older brother. Her older sister tries to raise her, but it does not go very well, and the project is eventually abandoned. She comes to live with the Moomin-family, learning to like winter and not being cast down by circumstances.

Her name is derived from the Greek letter
μ (mu - which in Swedish is transcribed as 'my')

2/20/2009

Photo of the week - Eugenia von Boos

Date: 1880's
Photographer: Selma Jacobsson
Sitter: Ada Eugenia von Böös
Provenience: Stockholm, Sweden

The teenage girl posing for this photo in Stockholm, Sweden is one of the the approximately 1.3 million Swedes who left their native country for the US. The main reason for emigration was to avoid poverty, and even though this girl never worked in a field on the brink of starvation, it was the financial situation which forced the girl and her mother to leave for a new home.

The girl was born as Ada Eugenia von Böös, circa 1870 (I don't have her birthdate, but when she died in May 1966 she was 93 years old), and over in the new country she was generally known as the countess Eugenia von Boos - she was of noble birth, the title was not just a scam to sound more interesting. She would later marry and add the name Farrar to her own, a name she kept after the divorce from her husband. She was a great singer, her singing was what kept her and her mother fed and dressed for several years, and at the turn of the last century she was a well-known opera-singer in New York, famous for her charity (primarily aimed at families of convicts) and on friendly terms with, among others, Buffalo Bill (a.k.a. William F. Cody). But her greatest claim to history was she was the first person to sing on a wireless radio-broadcast, in New York in 1907 - she sang 'I love you truly'.

The photo must, considering the sitters age and the place the photo is taken in, be from the 1880's and I would venture a guess to the middle of the decade. She is wearing a dress in a sturdy material, probably wool, but she wears some jewellery - rather simple in design, but this was not a time when it was very common at all, and it says something about her position in life. Her hair is cut very short, like a boy's hair-cut, which was very uncommon. A young girl at this time most often had long (preferably curled) hair hanging down on their back and bangs - and Ada only has the second part right. A common reason for cutting a girl's long hair off was if the girl was ill and in bed, when the hair really could get in the way - but it's impossible to tell if that is the case here.

Ada, to the family known as 'Great Ada' (to separate her from her cousin with the same first name, but who was born a few years later), was my maternal great-grandmother's first cousin. She was to live the rest of her life in the US and died in New York.

2/14/2009

Portrait of the week - The stolen kiss

Few things are better for Valentine's day than a painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a French rococo painter who did a series of very sweet pictures - preferably of young men and women.

This painting is called 'The stolen kiss' and is painted sometime 1786-1788 and depicts a young woman who has sneaked away from her company (hinted behind the half closed door) to have a small encounter through a door. The girl's dress is typical of the time, both in cut and colouring.

It is a part of a series of paintings he did on the subject of kisses. The painting does not depict any named persons, but the face of the girl is very like that of Fragonard's daughter Rosalie (1769-1788) who was a favourite model of her father.

For a better look of the dress you can go here.

The painting can now be found at the State Hermitage Museum, Russia.

2/11/2009

Hair-do of the week - Louise, vicomtesse d'Haussonville, 1845

This is a detail from a painting portraying vicomtesse Othenin d'Haussonville, done in 1845 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. She was born as Louise, Princesse de Broglie in 1818 (and she died in 1882). When she was 18, in 1836, she married the vicomte - who was both a historian and a member of parliament. Louise herself was known for her liberal views and published several books - including a biography over Byron. This portrait of her was very popular among family and friends.

Due to the way she is painted it also gives a close to perfect view of how her hair is made, the back of her head being reflected by a mirror. The 1840's was the time of the soft impression when it came to the hair. It was parted in the middle and then shaped in soft curves around the upper part of the face, being very smooth and without curls. But as can be seen here, the hair at the back was not forgotten. The hair was long and braided. It is impossible to tell by looking alone the number of braids, but considering the thickness, two seem to be a likely number. The braids were then gathered and pinned up at the back of the head - and kept in place with a comb. As extra flair a red bow is then added to the side of the head, giving it the perfect finished touch.

2/10/2009

Goddess of the week - Gaia

Name: Gaia
Sphere of influence: Earth
Location: Greece
Famous portraits: A few - mosaics, vase paintings and reliefs

Gaia is the first goddess of the Greeks. She comes from the god Chaos, and she mothered a few children without having a father for them, all by herself (parthenogensis). One of these children was Uranus and with him she got even more children - despite her being able to pull it off herself at first, it would seem. This union brought about, among others, Cronos - the son who would eventually castrate his own father with a sickle his mother gave him. Uranus had done some evil things to their children and Gaia could not forgive him. The son cut his genitals off and Gaia got impregnated with the semen which fell to the earth.

All this according to Hesiod in his Theogony.

Gaia was very much a mother goddess, she was the personified Earth, and a nurturing life-giver. She had numerous children - so many it is hard to keep track of them all - with many different men (and as mentioned, some by herself too). These motherly attributes were also present in depictions of her - like this one.

2/07/2009

Woman of the week - Helena Snakenborg

Name: Helena (Elin) Snakenborg; Helena, Marchioness of Northampton
Born: c. 1549 in Sweden (probably in Fyllingarum, Ostrogothia/Östergötland, where the family had land and estate)
Died: 10 April 1635 at Redlynch, Somerset, England
Married to: 1. William Parr, 1st Marques of Northampton (married 1571)
2. Thomas Gorges (married 1576-1610)
Children:
Elizabeth (1578-1659)
Francis (c. 1579- before 1600)
Frances (1580-1649)
Edward (c. 1582 - before 1653)
Theobald (1583-1647)
Bridget (1584-c 1634)
Robert (1588-1648)
Thomas (1589 - after 1624)
Occupation: Maid of honour

Helena was born in Sweden, daughter of Ulf Henriksson,
a High Councilor of Sweden, and his wife Agneta Knutsdotter. At the baptism she was given the name Elin Ulfsdotter (i.e. daughter of Ulf). She was a member of the best circles of the country, being on friendly terms with the royal family. When the princess Cecilia Vasa left for England, Helena was one of the ladies to accompany her. She was then about 16 years old. When arrived in England she caught the eye of William Parr (the brother of Katherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII) and though he was much older, she encouraged him, and wrote letters home about his high rank and the beautiful gifts she received from him. The only problem was that the man was already married. Despite this, Helena stayed in England when Cecilia was forced to flee the country in 1566 - it was not just the matter of a rich suitor, she was also a favourite with the queen, Elizabeth I, who made her a maid of honour.

She was to remain a friend of the queen throughout Elizabeth's life, despite a couple of bumps on the way. Her first marriage, when William Parr finally was widowed in 1571, was not a bump, though. The couple married in May 1571 - but Helena was widowed in October the same year. The couple had no children and she returned to the queen's service. As Parr left no children and no heir to the title Helena got to keep her title of Marchioness for life. What was a bump, on the other hand, was Helena's second marriage, to Thomas Gorges, who was 'just' a gentleman. The couple married secretly in 1576 when the queen refused to giver her consent to the match. When Elizabeth found out she was furious, Helena was exiled from court - and her husband incarcerated in the Tower, in London. Eventually the couple was forgiven and could continue with their lives as before. Thomas was knighted in 1586.

Now Helena shared her time between her family, the couple had eight surviving children, and the court. She had her hand in the diplomatic connections with Sweden, due to her connections with the royal family. She and her husband were granted the estate of Sheen, close enough to the court for them to be able to both be at home with the family and serve the queen.

Elizabeth passed away in 1603 and Helena was the chief mourner at the funeral procession - a great honour indeed. After this, with a new king and queen, Helena was no longer one of the highest ranked maids of honours, but retired for the most part to the country, but both she and her husband served at court from time to time. Sir Thomas passed away in 1610 and after this Helena mostly kept away from the public eye. She died herself in 1635, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

It is not a hundred percent certain this portrait really is of Helena Snakenborg, but it is not unlikely - that some portrait of her should have been made is likely and the age of the girl is correct. The portrait also matches descriptions of her looks, being red-haired and brown-eyed, fair skinned and a general beauty.