4/30/2009

Woman of the week - Fanny Elssler

Name: Franziska, Fanny, Elssler (also spelled Elßler)
Born: 23 June 1810, Gumendorf outside Vienna, Austria
Died: 27 November 1884, Vienna, Austria
Married to: None.
Children: Franz (died in 1873)
Therese (1833-1870)
Occupation: Dancer

Fanny Elssler was one of the most famous ballerinas of the 19th century. She was the daughter of Johann Florian Elssler, who worked as copyist for the Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn. He was to eventually become a valet to the famous composer (and was present at his death). Fanny was trained in ballet from an early age and made her début before the age of seven. She was often performing with her two years older sister Therese (1808-1878). The older sister was to be overshadowed by the success of Fanny, but they continued to perform together – Therese finally leaving the stage when she had gathered quite a fortune and could look forward to a comfortable life, though in the end she chose to marry, at the age of 42 she became the wife of Adalbert Prinz von Preussen, the youngest brother of king Friedrich Wilhelm III.

The beginning of the great success for Fanny Elssler came at her performance in Berlin 1830 – with her sister. This was to mark the beginning of international travels and performances in Europe and the US. One of her most famous performances was doing the La Cachucha in the role of Florinda in the ballet Le diable boiteu, written by Jean Coralli and Casimir Gide. This was even to be captured on prints of the time, and even in porcelain. She was to stay on stage and perform until she retired, as her sister, having earned a fortune which could make it possible for her to have a comfortable life henceforth. She lived outside of Hamburg. But she died in Vienna, and was buried there at the Hietzing cemetery.

Her personal life was not quite as straightforward as her career. In 1827 she met Leopold of Naples-Sicily, prince of Salerno, and son of Ferdinand IV, king of Naples. With Leopold she had the son Franz, who was to commit suicide in 1873. In 1829 she met Friedrich von Gentz (1764-1832), a writer and politician who had to withdraw from public affairs in 1830 and lived the reminder of his life on his castle at Weinhaus, and Fanny stayed with him there – when she was not out performing. After the death of Gentz she was to get reacquainted with an old friend from her youth, Anton Stuhlmüller, with whom she in 1833 had the daughter Therese. Therese was later to marry into the prestigious noble family of Webenau, but she died in 1870.

4/24/2009

Pop-culture woman of the week - Chun-Li

Name: Chun-Li (チュンリー Chun-Rī, from the Chinese 春麗 Chūn-Lì)
First appearance: Street Fighter II (1991), from Capcom.
Creator: Akira "Akuman" Yasuda
Weapon/ability: Chuan Fa-fighting technique, her most famous attack is Hyakuretsu kyaku (百裂脚 Hundred Rending Kicks), commonly known as Lightning Kick.
Race:
Chinese
Age:
Born on March 1, 1968

Chun-Li was the first woman to appear in a one on one-fighting game as a playable character, when she entered the stage in Street Fighter II in 1991. She has since then appeared in every game in the series, as a playable character - but along the way had had the company of other women too (like Sakura, Rose and Cammy). She is sometimes referred to as
"First Lady of Fighting Games".

Chun-Li's name means "spring beauty", with chun meaning spring and li beauty. She has no known last name.

In the game she is introduced as an Interpol-agent, working undercover, and searching for the one responsible for the murder of her father. It is revealed to her it is the crime-syndicate
Shadaloo, run by the evil man M. Bison. But in this first game Bison gets away, and she swears vengeance. This continues in the following games.

In the games Chun-Li has two different outfits (and a third is added in Street Fighter IV, from 2008). The first one, the one seen in this picture, is a version of the qipao, also known as cheongsam, a Chinese dress from Manchuria - but open at the side to allow freer movement when fighting. In the second game she appeared, in this was changed to a blue body-suit and a small vest on top of it - though the qipao was later added as an alternative dress. In the Street Fighter IV game there is another dress available for Chun-Li to wear, available in a wide range of colours.

Chun-Li's hair-buns are known as "ox horns", a Chinese hair-do for children, and silk brocade and ribbons in her hair - this is to signify mourning for her dead father. Another feature in her appearance is her spiked bracelets.

4/16/2009

Photo of the week - Ada Wennlund

Ada Wennlund
Date: Around 1900
Photographer: Anna Nordlöw-Björk
Sitter: Ada Wennlund
Provenience: Gävle, (Gefle with old spelling), Sweden

Ada was born in 1881 in Stockholm, the older sister of Ragnhild Wennlund - who is my maternal grand-mother's mother. She was in the family referred to as "Little Ada", to keep her apart from her cousin Ada von Böös. She was later to marry the brother of Ragnhild's husband and take on the surname of Ringholm.

It is not the best of scans, but the photograph in itself is quite nice and interesting - rather solemn in the depicting of the young woman. Her clothes are simple, but simple in cut only, there is no reason to suspect it was cheap in any way at all, she was a girl from a well off middle class home. The sleeves of the blouse are extremely narrow and contrast to the big ruffled collar. The collar seems to have been made of some kind of very sheer fabric, but probably not lace on the collar itself. On the other hand there is some lace hinted at the neck. It is also possible there are some kind of lace trimming at the end of the sleeves, hard to tell for sure, but there is something there. The skirt has nothing extra added, and seems to have had the same colour as the blouse - at least it is the same kind of lightness to the two pieces. To this clothing are added the extra touches of both a necklace - a medallion - and a thick bracelet.

The hair is the most extravagant part of the picture. The hair has obviously been curled to make those rather hard, formal shapes on the top of her head. A few curls are left to soften the frame of the face, but the rest is pulled back and up, making it look like the hair is almost trying to defy the laws of gravity - and since this was long before the use of hair-spray that is quite an accomplishment.

4/15/2009

Fashion of the week - Day dresses of 1840

This picture comes from the Austrian magazine Wiener Zeitschrift, printed in Vienna. This is from the issue for July 1840, and shows two women in day dresses - but the white one could possibly be described as a walking-dress too. It can be somewhat of a fine line between the two types of dresses since many women at the time hardly would have offered to have a specific dress for walking - though a day dress in good shape would have to be preferred if no such distinction was to be made in the woman's wardrobe; the walking-dress was what would be worn when visiting people in the day-time.

As we see here, the big sleeves of the 1830's had by now disappeared into something much more practical - and in the daytime long sleeves were always worn. But the shape of the skirt is much the same as previous years, as are the sloping shoulders, which is quite a contrast to the broad and straight shoulders preferred on men.

The checkered fabric on the woman to the left is also typical for both the 1830's and 40's - the clothing industry had made patterned fabrics a much cheaper commodity than it had ever been before, and it became widely popular now that anyone, or at least close to anyone, actually could afford it.

Another typical trait of the fashion in this example worth pointing out, is the ruffle at the end of the skirt, a very popular thing at the time - on skirts which otherwise were very plain in cut. These ruffles seem to have a corresponding thing going on at the top of the dresses too, over the bust - being straight out ruffles in one case and more of a folded fabric in the other - making it one of the more eye-catching part of the dresses. I doubt the aim was to make people stare at the busts of women, it is much more likely it was about making the upper part of the torso wider, which made the lower, corseted, part seem even smaller. A narrow-looking waist was about the most important thing on the silhouette of women at the time.