Monthly Archives: August 2011

Eugenio Recuenco’s C18 Photographs

In my search for all things 18th century Spain, I found these lovelies.  Eugenio Rencueno, a Spanish photographer, creates such evocative images its hard to pull your eyes away.  The lady below is a refreshing change for duels, quite the Julie D’Aubigny, but I believe her posture requires improving.  Either that, or she’s ridiculously confident and plans to tag and bag this fellow in the next few seconds.  One has to wonder, however, what these foolish seconds are thinking by standing so close . . .

Violin Diaspora is also great.  The raggedy fur trimming on the lady’s gown is just fabulous, but what is her violin bow doing to her attendant?  I like how these photos have cheek and plenty of it.

Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress, Plate 2

Oh, how greatly Moll has fallen since arriving on London’s doorstep.  Such was the way with most 18th century prostitutes, rags to riches and back again, except that rags the second time around were death shrouds.  But we’ll get to that later.  For now, Moll has glided into glory, her slippered feet barely entertaining thoughts of touching the ground.  For a country girl with few prospects or hopes of luxury, she is living the dream, but it’s already begun to crumble.

Despite the tumultuous milieu, Moll is at her peak here.  She’s snagged a Jewish lover (notice the thick, black eyebrows!) and although he seems to have given her everything her heart desires, she’s already cavorting with other men.  In the background, her young lover sneaks by on stockinged feet, Moll’s maid holding his buckled shoes, and we have only leave to assume he slithered out of the drawn canopy bed moments before.  Her affluent lover is a bit disconcerted by the scene he’s unknowingly interrupted, mostly because Moll is kicking over the table and making a petite moue at him in her cheeky way.  With the expression on his face, he has to be wondering what’s got hold of his pretentious ladybird.  “She used to be so sweet, so innocent,” he groans. His silent lamentation is the beginning of the end for Moll.

Instead of the shy, new-to-London chit we saw in the last plate, Moll is all about wanton sophistication.  She’s wearing a patch on her forehead, the sign of a haughty or majestic demeanor.  She knows how high she’s risen in a short period and although she seems secure in regard to her fine furnishings and person, she is anything but. Her life has turned into one big, rollicking farce.  She’s a masquerader, her true self concealed beneath so many layers of paint, and at this point, she’s enjoying it.  Her tea is spilling, her pots of rouge and paint breaking, but it’s all in good fun.  Moll finally has tenuous power over someone and she’s exploiting it just as others have exploited her.

Paintings and Appurtenances

As a fallen woman existing on the margins of Christian morality, Moll bears a kinship to the men in the two portraits behind her.  The paintings are of  Thomas Woolston and Samuel Clarke, English freethinkers who placed rationality and nature above doctrine.  The question begs to be asked: as with the larger canvasses above, do the portraits simply belong to her patron or does Moll sympathize with their sitters, judging herself as acting in accordance with the natural order?  For what, she might ask, could be more natural than sex?

The two remaining paintings in the plate recall scenes from the Old Testament.  Like everything else in the house, they are presumably owned by the man who is affording Moll this extravagant lifestyle.  Her gown now has the effulgence of Mother Needham’s in Plate 1 and matches the upper part of the coat on her very own slave.  During this period, ladies were known to hire black boys to serve them tea, a tradition taken from colonialism, and carried out with great pretension back in England.  His presence is highly suggestive of the process of creating wealth that in turn provides for Moll’s lifestyle, but at the same time, he is dressed to mock it.  Like the monkey, he is Moll’s exotic toy, just as she is the exotic toy of her patron.  Indeed, all of Plate two centers on deceit.  But we’re left to wonder . . . who’s fooling who here?

Lighting the Tinder Box

A tinder box looks very much to me like an object to inspire cursing.  It is comprised of a piece of steel with a handle, rough splinters cut to points and smeared with brimstone, a piece of flint, and bits of torn linen, blackened to encourage easier lighting.  The tinder box itself bears a dampener or lid to snuff out the tinder once its lit.

An account from Ballou’s Monthy Magazine from the late 19th century describes the bygone morning and evening  lighting ritual:

In the 1830s, the tinder box was replaced by the vesta or matchsafe, the safe referring to the solidity of the box as early matches were given to self-ignite–not quite to the thing to have tumbling about naked in one’s pocket.  In most cases, the vesta was not actually a box but more like a case with a flat hinged lid and a striker at the bottom.  Plain, undecorated vestas were the most common, but the aristocracy and the well-to-do carried cases in gold and silver with intricate plate designs.  Examples of figural vestas are rare, like this elephant from Antiques Atlas, which hails from the 20th century:

Matches weren’t even invented until a curious chemist named John Walker created a “friction light” by swiftly withdrawing a tinder coated in antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch from within a piece of folded sandpaper or other abrasive material.  He put them to market in 1827, calling them congreves, but Samuel Jones, a more enterprising fellow, improved the matches by adding to the tip a glass bead of sulphiric acid and flammable paper.  Crush and blaze!  He patented his tweaking and sold them under the catchy name “lucifers”.

Charles Sauria, a Frenchman, created the phosphorous match in 1832, a advancement that caused many accidental fires as it ignited upon frictional contact with almost anything.  It also had the unfortunate ingredient of white phosphorous that, while masking the odor emitted with Walker’s matches, contained enough of the chemical in a single package to inflict phossy jaw on the user.  As phossy jaw is a condition involving necrosis, one can imagine this wee little side effect did not go over well.  Abscesses, swelling gums, and tooth aches begone.  1898 arrives and a safety match tipped with phosphorus sesquisulfide and potassium chlorate is patented.  Modern fire with the flick of the hand is born.

A Family Affair: Mozart’s Sister

Eclipsed by her brother’s prodigious talents, constrained by the limitations placed on her sex, and fueled by her passion for music, Maria Anna Mozart’s forgotten story is positively brimming with conflict. 

Or is it?

As the eldest child, the woman her family affectionately called Nannerl was originally the family star, but she soon took a second seat to her  brother.  In the 18th century, women didn’t compose; they performed.  Likewise, they were restricted as to which instruments they were permitted to play, including the violin–what her father calls a “boy’s instrument.” 

Nannerl pursued her music, regardless.  At an early age, she became accomplished at the harpsichord and the fortepiano, but no matter her talents, social impediments prevented her from what might have been a distinguished talent.  Marriage was of the utmost importance to Nannerl’s future, and she was expected to fulfill her obligations like every other woman alive.  That pesky little problem aside, Nannerl’s relationship with music was a source of joy in her life.  Mozart looked up to his big sister, from childhood desiring to be like her, and they enjoyed a close relationship for many years.  Sources disagree as to whether this mutual adoration continued until Mozart’s death in 1791.

Talent-wise, evidence of her composing is mentioned in her letters to Mozart, but these informal compositions would not have been approved of for a public concert.  As her work has withered out of existence, we can no longer know the true scope of her talents, but the film allows us to imagine Nannerl being dragged across European courts, playing second piano as it were, and experiencing a full spectrum of emotions of which we shall only have to guess.  I personally think the lady looks like she’s got a bit of moxie beneath that mischevious smile.

A lush period piece, Mozart’s Sister is an imagined portrait of Nannerl, the question being “what if?”  The film is in French and currently has a limited U.S. release .  If you can’t wait for the dvd, there have been a number of books published, including Mozart’s Sister by Rita Chabonnier, Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser, and In Mozart’s Shadow by Caroline Meyer (YA). 

Watch the movie trailer

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Handsome Devils and Their Digs: Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 8th Duke of Hamilton

Douglas Hamilton with Dr. John Moore and Sir John Moore, 1775-1776, by Gavin Hamilton (yes, a relation–son of James, Duke of Chatellerault)

Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 8th duke of a headache-inducing number of titles– including Duke Hamilton of Scotland, Duke Brandon of England, Duke Chatellerault of France, Marquess of Hamilton, of Clydesdale, of Douglas; Earl of Angus, Arran, and Lanark; Lord Macanshire, Polmont, Abernathey and Aberbrothock of Scotland; Baron Dutton and Hamilton in England . . . Still got your attention?  Good.  Our handsome devil (more devil than handsome, a certain lady wife might say), whom we shall call Double Douglas just once in this post, lived in a big, lovely house called Hamilton Palace.

Hamilton Palace, built in 1695, demolished in 1921. 

**Much of the Hamilton fortune derived from the coal industry.  The mining that took part on the property resulted in the property being deemed unsafe.  So sad!  It once housed priceless art works which in 1882 were sold for £397,562, including a throne from St. Petersburg, floors and doors of black Galway marble,  a grand Corinthian portico, and green porphyry columns taken from the Basilica di Semproneo originally from Ancient Rome. More here.

He was the second son of the 6th duke who had the keen misfortune of dying from a cold after a hunting expedition.  His brother, James, the heir apparent from age two onward, died from consumption–or if we are to trust Dodley’s Annual Register , “his growing so exceedingly fast is said to have been the cause of death”–before reaching the age of 15.  The 7th duke was already 5’8 in his early teens which was apparently thought to be a medical condition on account of vertical largess (5’8 or so being the average male height during C18).

Having lost her first heir, Hamilton’s mother panicked and shipped the newest duke off to the Continent as he was also known to suffer from a delicate constitution.  After four years touring Europe with his tutor, Dr. John Moore, Hamilton returned to England, his vitality restored, his mother happy, and all well and right with his world.  The parson’s mousetrap, however, caught up with him.  Two years after his homecoming, Hamilton entered into an imprudent match with Elizabeth Anne Burrell, daughter of a Mr. Peter Burrell.  This is where the road gets bumpy.

Duchess and Duke of Hamilton, a now extinct portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, painted 1779, a year after they were married.  A sweet portrait; the affection between them is palpable.

To say the least, Mother Duchess was not pleased.  Given the inequality of the untion, one can only assume this relationship between Miss Burrell and Hamilton began as a love match, but it quickly descended into unhappiness.  From Famous Beauties of Two Reigns, it is said of Hamilton,

One gets the sense he was not exactly a gentleman of moderation, at least not when it came to women.  Like many Georgian-era lords, Hamilton did have a regrettable tendency to be the paramour of his loose lady friends–one of the reasons his duchess later divorced him.  Although divorces were rare for the period, the action brought before Parliament by Duchess Hamilton was not an overwrought dramatization of a marriage gone wrong.  On the contrary, it was a sensible move without much bitterness involved.  It is described thusly in Alienated Affections:

“The case of Her Grace Elizabeth Anne Burrell Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon against Douglas Duke of Hamilton and Brandon was extremely amicable and had clearly been agreed on beforehand.  They had been married in 1778, and the libel stated that his adultery began in 1787, without naming the ‘Lady or Woman’ with whom he was then guilty.  The case was founded on another affair, carried on over the months preceding the summons in November 1793.  His mistress was ‘Mrs. Eisten the actress’, and he brought her to Hamilton and took her along to Arran where they could be seen together by all the servants.  Her Grace, having left Hamilton a year earlier, had no trouble obtaining her divorce.  She remarried, but not until 1800, so that could not have been the motive for bringing the divorce action.”

In the Duchess’s mind, this divorce action had roots in Hamilton’s previous affair with the Earl of Eglinton’s wife, neé Frances Twysden, around 1787.  The then 31 year old Hamilton would visit Lady Eglinton at night, including when Lord Eglinton was shortly away at supper.  Their congress occurred with such regularity that the Earl’s servant, Montgomery Lawson, was boldly asked by Lady Eglinton, “if he would admit the Duke of Hamilton into her bedchamber”.  He refused.  She admitted the married duke anyway and so continued her not-so-discreet affair.

For another 12 years, Hamilton continued in as much the same manner as he had before his divorce.  Despite the duke’s stimulating lifestyle, however, he failed to remarry and died at the age of 43.  He did have an illegitimate child with the actress Harriet Pye Bennett (at the time called Mrs. Esten), but never produced issue.  The title passed to his father’s youngest brother, Archibald Hamilton, the 5th duke’s eldest living son.  Archibald Hamilton, the 9th duke, was only 16 years older than the 8th duke, and unlike dukes 5 through 8 who succumbed to illness before their mid-forties, Archibald managed to overcome what had proven to be a delicate constitution in the exalted line and lived until the ripe age of 79.

Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress, Plate 1

Wherein Moll Hackabout, a country miss, arrives in London and pauses at the Bell Inn off Cheapside, a thoroughfare just east of St. Paul’s Church, which westward past Drury Lane and southward to St. James’s connects the primary area’s of the London sex trade.


As with all five plates, Hogarth uses plenty of rich imagery, leaving much to be dissected.  Moll and Mother Needham stand at center stage but beyond them, the dense figures and bustling scenery dim, giving us the impression of the workings that will bring Moll to her downfall.  What we are seeing here is Moll’s first foray into debauchery except she doesn’t quite know it yet.  Mother Needham is gesturing to her with a kindly posture, presumably offering assistance to the confused girl.  Moll’s trunk, bearing her initials MH, sits to the right in the street beside a dead goose with a tag strung around its neck saying: “my lofing cosen in Tems stret in London”.  Thames street, which runs parallel to the river, is home to Moll’s relations, where she is likely headed for a visit, but instead she has been waylaid by the bawd, promised God-knows-what, with the rakish Colonel Charteris looking appraisingly on.

(click for larger view)

Mother Needham and Colonel Charteris

Both historical figures, Mother Needham was the procuress of the most exclusive bawdy house in 18th century London.  Her clientele numerated among the aristocracy as well as the merchant rich, and she would go to any length to acquire new girls.  Trickery was a means of daily profit.  As in Moll’s case, she preyed on girls fresh from the country who had likely come to London to gain domestic employ.  The wagon to the left of Moll, where two girls nervously sit, brought goods and on occasion passengers into town.  All Mother Needham need do is convince them of their good luck in acquiring a post, thereby negating their journey to the intelligence office.  Similar to the vague explanations given to Fanny in Fanny Hill, these girls would have thought themselves ahead of the game as country misses looking to work in the city were a dime a dozen.  Once the seemingly proper Mother Needham conveyed them back to her establishment–Park Place, St. James–she would have arranged a quick debauchery and indebted the girl to her sordid service by means of outfitting the girl in new gowns paid by the Mother herself.

Colonel Charteris,  known at the “rape-master general”, had a reputation for hiring young female dometics for the sole purpose of luring them into his bed.  Even before his trial for the rape of Anne Bond, he solicited girls to work in his household using an alias for fear that if they recognized the infamous Charteris name, they would avoid him at all costs.  His trial in 1730 resulted in a capital felony and a death sentence.  The then 70 year old rake was carted off to Newgate prison, but two months later, he was pardoned by King George II at the insistence of, among others, his victim, Anne Bond.  Charteris, however, was a very rich man and was known to throw his money at important political figures when his foulness ran him aground.  Anne Bond, disgraced by the trial wherein the defense accused her of immorality and thievery, was rumored to have received an annuity from Charteris which would have secured her a steady income where otherwise she would’ve greatly suffered from lack of tolerable employment.

The Background

A few additional details in plate one are worth noticing.  Clockwise from the left of Moll are two toppling baskets, suggestive of Moll’s imperiled virtue.  Above the baskets are the two country girl’s, witness to what may very well await them at the next wagon stop.   On a horse that’s blithely eating hay we have a clergyman who, instead of rescuing Moll from Mother Needham, is cocking his head in persual of a letter or perhaps a list.  To the right of the clergyman’s hat a woman hangs a pair of stocking–undergarments–out to dry.  Eight pairs of hands are shown throughout the plate, each relaying an emotion.  Charteris is fishing around in his overcoat pocket, his fingers alarmingly near the fall of his breeches, whereas the pimp, John Gourlay, is crossing his hands in a speculative manner.

Back at the plate’s foreground with Moll and Mother Needham, Moll is arresting her wrist, the palm of one hand gesturing toward the bawd and, further on, the men.  Mother Needham lays a gentle hand on Moll’s chin, a slight smile on her patched face as she tilts Moll’s face to full inspection.  To the inexperienced, Mother Needham would have appeared respectable.  She is wearing fine fashionable clothing, the expense apparent in the manner her silken gown falls and catches the light.   The numerous patches on her face, although suggestive of degeneracy in our eyes, were a common indication of pock marks.  When used to a lesser degree (although some ladies did wear seven or eight), they announced a deliberate flirtation or lack thereof (see To Patch or Not to Patch).  Mother Needham’s additional accessories–gloves, a fan, and a pocket watch–were also ordinary.  The taking off of one glove for skin to skin contact, the pointing of a closed fan, and the visible watch to suggest a careful keeping of hours, however, were anything but.

Handsome Devils and Their Digs: Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe

If a strong, serious profile makes the man, Lord Stratford Canning is made.  A bit stern of lip, perhaps, and knife sharp of nose, but this fellow has an intensity about him that draws the eye.  Most amusing to me, he actually looks uncannily like an ex of mine, which if I had no respect for his privacy, I would share.  Strange to look at a 19th century face and see a likeness–you would be dumbstruck by the resemblance, I’m telling you!

Lord Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, is 29 in this 1814  portrait and didn’t ascend to the peerage until 1852.  During his lifetime, he was most distinguished as a diplomat wherein he traveled as far as Washington and Constantinople.  He served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empires three times, his first appointment commencing during the Napoleonic wars, and although he was appointed Russian ambassador in 1832, Tsar Nicholas I didn’t think kindly to meeting him.  He was never received and the snub affronted all of England.  England’s foreign office subsequently refused to appoint a new ambassador, assigning the lowlier position of charge d’affaires instead.  The reasons for the Tsar Nicholas’s resistance can be explained by the danger the viscount posed.  As ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, he was well seasoned regarding Russian’s interests in the East.  Russia, fearing his politcal influence, prefered to work with a gentleman who had less intelligence on her foreign affairs.  The strength of the viscount’s personality was also a knock against him.  He was known for his “quick feelings” and “outspoken frankness” which had made him unpopular, among others, with the Russian ambassador’s wife.

Anglican Church, aka Crimean Church, in Istanbul of which Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe laid the foundation

As a result of his career, the viscount was infrequently in England.  He owned a townhouse in Grosvenor and called London home.  Based on what I found in the Gentleman’s Magazine, it appears the viscount was short-changed by his grandfather in regard to inheriting the family estate of Garvagh.  The estate was unentailed, the process of which I am very much in the dark about, and passed to the viscount’s uncle–a younger son–instead of directly to his father.  His father, Stratford Canning, was an Irish member of a banking and mercantile firm, but the family was by no means without any aristocratic relations, if still green around the edges.  His first cousin (the fellow who inherited Garvagh in Londonderry, Ireland) became 1st Baron of Garvagh in 1818 and had a mesalliance with the actress Mary Costello, whom he eventually married.  He later served as prime minister.

In regard to romance and marriage, the viscount wedded twice.  By all accounts, he loved his first wife,

Although he had children, the viscountcy went extinct with his death.  His first wife died without producing an heir and his only son with his second wife failed to have children and died before his father.

For an in depth look at the viscount’s fascinating life, including 19th century political matters and selections from his personal memoirs and letters, see The Life of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe.

Versailles Gilt: A Photographic Journey

I have only about a gazillion pictures of my travels.   Behold a few gilty pleasures from Versailles to glam up your work week . . .