Tag: Art

James Tissot’s Fashion Plates (1864-1878):  A Guest Post by Lucy Paquette

Today, I am very pleased to welcome art historian and author Lucy Paquette  with a fascinating guest post on fashion in the paintings of Victorian era artist James Tissot!

In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 by 20 1/8 in. (38.4 by 51.1 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

No one captured the rapidly-changing fashion trends of the 1860s and 1870s like French painter James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 – 1902).  Tissot was more than merely a painter of fashionable women.  His mother and her sister were partners in a successful millinery company.  Tissot’s father established a booming business as a wholesale linen draper – a trader in fabrics and dress trimmings to retailers and exporters.  At 19, Tissot moved to Paris to study painting, and he gained the technical skills to record the fashionable female form of this period – tall, slim figures heightened by high chignons, hats, and heels, with silhouettes changing every few years.[…]Continue Reading

A Brief History of Victorian Goldfish Globes and Goldfish-Hawkers

The Goldfish Bowl by Charles Edward Perugini, 1870.
The Goldfish Bowl by Charles Edward Perugini, 1870.

Among fashionable Victorians, there was no parlor ornament so elegant—nor so diverting—as a clear glass globe filled with glittering goldfish.  It was considered to be educational for children who, according to author Charles Nash Page in his 1898 book Aquaria, could learn more in a few hours of observing the goldfish than in “many days spent with books.”  It was also believed to be beneficial for invalids since watching the goldfish swim was “health restoring” and “restful to the mind.”  By the middle of the 19th century, goldfish globes had become so popular that an entire class of street-sellers had risen up to fill the demand.  Operating in both London and the English countryside, these “goldfish-hawkers” were a common sight—especially in the vicinity of the homes of the wealthy and the well-to-do, where they preferred to ply their trade.

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The Beauty Rituals of 19th Century Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab, 1867.
Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab, 1867.

Born in Munich on December 24, 1837, Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie became Empress of Austria when she married Emperor Franz Joseph at the age of sixteen.  Though now widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women of 19th century Europe, Sisi, as she was known to her intimates, was not considered a great beauty in her youth.  Some biographers have even referred to her as sturdy and boyish with a “round peasant face.”  Highly sensitive to any perceived deficiencies in her appearance, Sisi embarked on a lifetime of starvation diets and extreme beauty rituals which have since become the stuff of legend. […]Continue Reading

The Origins of the Unicorn

The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.
The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.

According to historians, the legend of the unicorn first emerged in 398 BC courtesy of the Greek physician Ctesias.  Ctesias wrote an account of India, titled Indica.  He attests that all recorded within his account are things that he has witnessed himself or that he has had related to him by credible witnesses.  This account of India, though largely lost, has been preserved in a fragmentary abstract made in the 9th century by Photios I of Constantinople.  In the twenty-fifth fragment, Ctesias writes of the unicorn, stating:[…]Continue Reading

Shawls and Wraps in 19th Century Art, Literature, and Fashion History

(Portrait of Olimpia Łosiowa, 1818-1820.)
Portrait of Olimpia Losiowa, 1818-1820.

From the Regency era to the end of the 1860s, there was no fashion accessory as versatile and ubiquitous as the shawl.  Available in all weights of fabrics, including silk, lace, muslin, and cashmere wool, and priced for all budgets, shawls graced the shoulders of women in every strata of society.  They were no less well-represented in art and literature of the day.  Shawls were referenced in the novels of such literary luminaries as Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray.  They were also featured in countless portrait paintings, draping the figures of fashionable 19th century ladies of every age.[…]Continue Reading