Sunday, 1 January 2017

A Paris, où elle tenait salon

It is a phrase we read every so often, but sometimes I think we as in "people of today" don't really understand the meaning.

Tenir salon is often misunderstood as being a hostess with generous supply of coffee, tea and cake, where great minds meet and greet. But is it? I think Wikipedia has a nice introduction to it: 
"A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation" 
It's not the quantity or the quality of your tea, but the quality of the mind what would entice interesting people to attend your salon. When we read that Rahel Varnhagen or Johanna Schopenhauer, or Germaine de Staël or Elisa Baciochi or the dowager duchess Anna Amalia, Caroline von Humboldt and many more held salon, it's like a badge of honour, saying that these women were intellectually on a level with their guests, and also gifted with diplomacy and tact. 

Watercolor by Caspar Melchior Kraus, of an evening gathering at the dowager duchess Anna Amalia (ca. 1795). Goethe Nationalmuseum, Weimar

To give an example: a great beauty or a rich lady could easily give a soirée, and certes, some big names and other celebrities would show up. But they would not be salons. You could have spirited conversation at the Tivoli. Or the Frascati. But that wouldn't be salons. 
That name is reserved to someone who inspires mutual conversation with a great mind, what entices that man or woman (though men were more accepted to be intellectual…) to attend your salon, and you might do a bit of name dropping to invite somebody else, and thus widen the circle.
A painter might be interested to hear, what a scholar of ancient history might think of specific great myth, and again that historian would be interested, how a writer or an actor would interpret that feeling, and a politician would try to understand how to mingle it with recent events and they and everyone else would go home feeling that they would have gained a little more insight in that  topic.

Some of the greatest salons didn't even offer any refreshments, or very little, and you'd better bring your own buttered bread along or eat before you attended the gathering. The conversation was the real delight.

And in that light, really think that we ought to pay much more attention to the phrase "She established a salon" or "salonnières", as this leads us to some of the most interesting ladies in our time period, what would frankly blow us away with their knowledge, wit and intellect.

P.S.: Charlotte von Schiller is often seen as a droopy little wife of a genius. But she as well as her sister Caroline established a salon. Should tell us a wee bit about them, shouldn't it?

Found this lovely little gravure of a parisian salon at this art dealers:

Monday, 26 December 2016

Johanna Schopenhauer, and why she matters

My friend Sabine blogged about the project, to have a plaque attached to one of the buildings at the Weimar Esplanade, to remember Johanna Schopenhauer, and the donations being collected for it.

One might now ask: "Who was that woman? And why does she matter?" Or "Schopenhauer? You must mean Arthur. Because, who's Johanna?"

Johanna Schopenhauer was for many years not much more than a name attached to a couple of handsome portraits of a woman with strong features and rather dull writing to me. Though it changed after Sabine sent me a copy of Carola Sterns biography about Johanna.
And there she came alive. Not just as a mother of grumpy Arthur. But as a woman inspired by her surroundings, by the writers and thinkers of her time. As a woman who inspires thought and reflection, compassion and a duty to stand for her own convictions.
In a time period, where women were either ostracised or ridiculed for their thoughts and works, she's one more who's spirit survived the centuries, and speaks to us today.

Johanna Schopenhauer and her daughter Adele, by Carola Bardua

Johanna was widely travelled, she recounts her journeys (we have to thank her for quite some of the early romantic views on Scotland and England) spoke several languages, had the education and polish of an accomplished woman. 
Johanna also experienced what it is to be a woman in the late 18th century, how legal matters were complicated for her, because as a woman she faced restrictions what we esteem as 'backwards and daft' today. We understand that the Declaration of human rights was the beginning of modernity - yet it excluded women. She's a Bourgeoise, but her salon is frequented not just by her equals, but also by members more elevated circles. Her salon was not a formal affair, but an 'Open door'. If you were witty, and had something to say, you would be welcome. If you weren't, you were welcome non the less, you might just need a bit of starting help to find out, in what direction you want to spread your wings.

To me and many others Johanna Schopenhauer isn't just a decorative figure, but as much part of our beloved Weimar as her contemporaries Charlotte von Stein, the interesting person of Christiane von Goethe and many other, much better known ladies. 
That is why I was thrilled to read in Sabines blog, that the Circle of Friends around the Goethe National museum plans to get a commemorative plaque for Johanna.

I would like to share the text of the Freundeskreis Goethe Nationalmuseum e.V. Weimar, as translated by Sabine Schierhoff

Call for donations to build a commemorative plaque for Johanna Schopenhauer in the Schillerstrasse
 Probably the most famous cup of tea in Weimar was served on the 20th October 1806 from the saloniere Johanna Schopenhauer to Goethe's newly wed wife Christiane. With the immortal words "I guess if Goethe has given her his good name, we can kindly offer her a cup of tea" she tore down the wall of rejection, which the Weimar society had bestowed on Goethe's wife to ostracize her.
For this generous and witty gesture alone Johanna Schopenhauer (1766-1838) truly deserves the respect of Goethes family and friends and all of us til today. But she has plenty more merits, which have helped her to become an essential part of the "Classic Weimar". After the two days of marauding and looting past to the lost battle in Jena on the 14th October 1806, the sophisticated, eloquent and charming generous woman was there to keep the deeply shocked Weimar scociety grounded and gradually give them back hope and strenght. She succeeded to do so with her vespertine tee salons, which were open to everyone once introduced to the circle, without invitation. This informal practice of social gathering for both sexes was new to Weimar and quickly well received.
With the help of the Stadtarchiv Weimar (city's archive) the exact place of this salon could be identified. From 1806 to 1813 Johanna Schopenhauer stayed at the house of court counselor Johanna Caroline Amalie Ludecus, whose pseudonym as writer was Amalie Berg, at the Esplanade, later Schillerstrasse No.10, only two houses away on the right from the Schillerhouse. Unfortunately the original building on the grounds of the former town's wall was replaced in 1896/97 by the Gewerbehaus, which today is seat of the District Craft Trades Association.
So far there's no place of commemoration of the once so highly estimated and famous Johanna Schopenhauer in Weimar; her grave is in Jena, the Schopenhauerstrasse dedicated to her son Arthur. It's time to pay tribute to this grand dame of Weimar with a commemrative plaque. The text would read as follows:
"Hier stand das Haus, in dem die Schriftstellerin Johanna Schopenhauer (1766-1838) von 1806 bis 1813 ihren berühmten Salon führte"
(translation: "Here's the place, where the famous writer Johanna Schopenhauer (1766-1838) held her salon (circle) from 1806 to 1813")
The price for the plaque is approx 1300 Euro. If you'd like to support the project of the Freundeskreis Goethe-Nationalmuseum e.V. for long due commemorative plaque, we'd kindly ask you to donate to:
Freundeskreis Goethe Nationalmuseum e.V. 
Sparkasse Mittelthüringen Erfurt
DE34 8205 1000 0365 0003 37 
keyword: Schopenhauer

The Germab original Text: 
Spendenaufruf zu einer Gedenktafel für Johanna Schopenhauer in der Schillerstraße 
Die wohl berühmteste Tasse Tee Weimars wurde am 20.Oktober 1806 von der Saloniere Johanna Schopenhauer an Goethes frisch angetraute Gattin Christiane gereicht. Mit den unsterblichen Worten "ich dencke wenn Göthe ihr seinen Namen giebt können wir ihr wohl eine Tasse Thee geben", durchbrach sie die Mauer des Schweigens, mit der die Weimarer Gesellschaft die Lebensgefährtin Goethes bis dahin geächtet hatte.
Allein für diese ebenso große wie geistreich formulierte Geste verdient Johanna Schopenhauer (1766-1838) bis heute Hochachtung der Freunde Goethes und seiner Familie. Doch hatte die Schopenhauer durchaus noch andere Verdienste, die sie zu einer unentbehrlichen Persönlichkeit im "Klassischen Weimar" haben werden lassen. Nach den zweitägigen Plünderungen im Gefolge der verlorenen Schlacht bei Jena am 14.Oktober 1806 war die weitgereist-weltläufige, hochgebildet-redegewandte und charmant-großzügige Frau genau die Richtige, um der schockgelähmten Weimarer Gesellschaft zunächst Halt und nach und nach wieder neuen Mut zu geben. Dies gelang ihr durch Einrichtung abendlicher Teegesellschaften, in die sich jeder, sobald er in den geselligen Kreis einmal eingeführt war, ohne weitere Anmeldung einfinden konnte. Diese offene Form der Salongeselligkeit für beide Geschlechter war neu in Weimar und fand großen Anklang.
Mit Hilfe des Stadtarchivs Weimar konnte nun der genaue Ort des ersten und bedeutenden Salons der Schopenhauer ermittelt werden. Von 1806 bis 1813 wohnte sie im Haus der Hofrätin Johanna Caroline Amalie Ludecus, die sich als Schriftstellerin Amalie Berg nannte, in der Esplanade, später Schillerstraße Nummer 10, also nur zwei Häuser weiter rechts neben dem Schillerhaus. Allerdings ist das auf der alten Stadtmauer errichtete Gebäude 1896/97 durch das sogenannte Gewerbehaus ersetzt worden, in dem heute die Kreishandwerkschaft ihren Sitz hat.
Bisher gibt es in Weimar keinen Ort des Erinnerns an die einst so hoch geschätzte und weit über die Grenzen der Stadt hinaus bekannte Johanna Schopenhauer; ihre Grabstätte befindet sich in Jena, die Schopenhauerstraße meint ihren Sohn Arthur. Es ist an der Zeit, diese große Dame Weimars mit einer eigenen Gedenktafel zu ehren. Der Tafeltext könnte wie folgt lauten:
"Hier stand das Haus, in dem die Schriftstellerin Johann Schopenhauer (1766-1838) von 1806 bis 1813 ihren berühmten Salon führte"
Der Preis für eine Tafel mit diesem Text liegt bei ca. 1300 Euro. Wenn Sie dieses von zahlreichen Verehrerinnen und Verehrern in und außerhalb Weimars schon lange geforderten Vorhaben des Freundeskreises des Goethe-Nationalmuseums e.V. Weimar unterstützen möchten, bitten wir Sie herzlich um eine Spende auf folgendes Konto:
Freundeskreis Goethe Nationalmuseum e.V. 
Sparkasse Mittelthüringen Erfurt
DE34 8205 1000 0365 0003 37 
Stichwort: Schopenhauer

Clothing in Motion

Medea had an outing in September, when we went dancing on Wildegg Castle. A member of the public made a wee movie. Mind, we are all happy amateur dancers and the footwork is hardly coordinated as in a professional ensemble. It should give the impression of young people meeting and dancing towards the end of the summer, in preparation of the balls and dances a Winter in town would offer.

I do love the way the clothing becomes alive, and how it guides the movement of the dancers :-)

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The single sheets

We all have seen these sad prints, where on the left side of the paper we can make out that it was once upon a time part of a bound volume. Sometimes that edge get cut away, either by readers who used their magazines much the same way we do today. Or later on by print dealers, who's financial interest purely lies with the print.
The print of the left has no markings, while the one on the right shows where it was sewn together with the other pages of its journal

But we ought not to forget, that already in the time period, print dealers sold individual prints, what were never bound, and I'm tickled pink to have found another such reference in the Journal des dames (early January 1804):

Recently an edition of four pages of flowers, printed in colour on good paper and retouched by hand is aw available at Vilquin, the print dealer located at Grand Cour du Palais du Tribunat. These flowers, united in bouquet by twelve to fifteen on every page, are especially designed for young ladies who busy themselves with the drawing of ornamentation, embroider or paint on fabric.
A text of forty to fifty lines comes with every colour print.
The price of the full edition is 24fr. Single pages, without text, cost you 6fr.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Medea - The Versatile LWD - Roman Style

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman can never be too fine wearing white mousseline.

The LittleWhiteMuslinDress of the period is one of my favourite period wardrobe staples, as it can be upgraded and downplayed with a few well placed accessories. It is an upper class or Sunday garment, as practical work is rather out of the question, though with train or without, I love the simple elegant flowing lines the LWMD creates.

My current favourite is last years Roman Style Dress, or Medea, as I nicknamed her after the first wear. She was created originally as a ball dress, but with the objective to be worn to elegant promenades as well. 
Last year in April, my friends C & F organised a most beautiful Bal de Souscription (Read Sabines report for more details), and amidst sewing for musicians and one other dancer, I thought that I actually also would love a new dress, preferably without train, even if trained dresses were still very much seen on the dancefloor. 
© The British Museum, Acc. No 1856,0712.609

A bit earlier I fell in love with this painting, respectively her dress, the hem. And her veil. And the flowers. In short: the whole ensemble.
Anonyme portrait of a lady, presumably Caroline Murat.
Collection of the Château de Malmaison, and she also served as the poster girl for the Musée Marmottans Exhibition "Napoleons Sisters, Three Italian Destinies"

The only problems were the sleeves, as lovely as they were, I planned to wear my dress to a ball, where dancing would start at 4 in the afternoon until midnight. By the experience of our monthly and bi-weekly rehearsals it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but a sportive event, and I would need my full sleeve chemise as underwear to prevent stains on the dress.

That's when this painting, what went on sale at Sotheby's in the months before the ball came to my help: closed sleeves, and another hint that I will need a red shawl in the future.

Henri-Pierre Danloux

My dress itself is unlined, made from sheer Swiss cotton (very sheer). The bodice is as lowly cut as
the  one of the beauty from Malmaison, and the hem features a more time saving approach to the zigzags, by simple chain stiching. It's front closing with drawstrings, and generally a wonderful no-fuss dress, apart of the fact that one needs a petticoat underneath, a chemise on it's own will not do.

It worked a threat at the ball, and when I did my hair (I bought flowers for my head and ended up handing them out to ladies with greater need than I) I turned to my friends and asked 'Do I look like a crazy tragic actress personifying Medea in all her madness? Yes? Excellent.' That's where the dress received its name.

© Jeanette Klok-Heller

And did it work for dancing? Oh yes. It was light. It was flowing, it made me feel like a goddess, even when I started to become very very footsore

© Eliane Caramanna
© Jeannette Klok-Heller

And now we come to the versatility of it: 

Promenade prior to the ball? Add a shawl/Schall/Châle and you are good to go.
© Sabine Gaus /

A Summery afternoon in a landscape garden? Capote with veil and shawl in coquelicot, beige gloves and some corals makes if elegant yet not overdone for an outing out of town

© Fabrice Robardey
As I've said, this dress has become one of my well loved favourite dresses. It takes so little to turn a whole outfit upside down: 

Again, very casual during a visit to Bagni di Lucca. (And finally one can see the zigzags!) with a little jacket and a hat by the wonderful Charo Palacios who runs her own atelier Angelica Absenta
Picture © Antonia Mandic
But only a couple of hours later we sat in a beautiful little opera house in Barga, and casual wouldn't do for me. Off came the jacket and the hat, drape the shawl over one shoulder and enjoy the show (and thank the gods that you did a proper updo before you put your hat on...)
© Keane /

© Coltrane Koh at
© Coltrane Koh at
I am on the first range of boxes, on the right :-)

You see, I am an advocate of the Little White Dress, and even more so if the Little White Muslin Dress for earlier period. Cotton muslin is easy on the budget. It washes well (pre-wash it before you cut your dress!), can be embellished with some white embroidery (if you feel up to it) and depending on the accessories results in so many beautiful and different outfits.

There is close to no occasion where you will be out of place (Attending court wouldn't do. But I speak of more Bourgeois occasions), where you won't feel pretty and fresh and elegant. 

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.