Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It is cold! Older Women in Winter Scarves 1700s

Giuseppe Nogari (Italian artist, 1699-1766) An Elderly Woman in a Striped Shawl c 1743


Balthasar Denner (German artist, 1685-1749) or anche Attributed to Christian Seybold (German artist, 1697-1768) Portrait of an Old Woman


 Giuseppe Nogari (Italian artist, 1699-1766) Old Woman Holding Rosary Beads


 Christian Seybold (German artist, 1697-1768) Portrait of an Old Woman, 1749-50


Balthasar Denner (German artist, 1685-1749) Portrait of an old woman c. 1720


Giuseppe Nogari (Italian artist, 1699-1766) An Old Woman with Rosary Beads


Balthasar Denner (German artist, 1685-1749) Portrait of an old woman


Balthasar Denner (German artist, 1685-1749) Old Woman

Morning Madonna


1520 Hans Baldung (1485-1545) Madonna with sleeping Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ice Skating in 19C America


Louis Rémy Mignot (American Hudson River School painter, (1831-1870) Winter Skating Scene

Regis-Francois Gignoux (French-born American Hudson River School Painter, 1816-1882) Winter Sports


Regis-Francois Gignoux (French-born American Hudson River School Painter, 1816-1882) Skaters by the Mill


Regis-Francois Gignoux (French-born American Hudson River School Painter, 1816-1882) View Near Elizabethtown, N. J


William Charles Anthony Frerichs (Belgium-born American artist) Ice Skating


John Carlin (American artist, 1813–1891) Snow Scene at Utica 1873

Regis Francois Gignoux (French-born American Hudson River School Painter, 1816-1882) Skaters on a Frozen Pond


William Charles Anthony Frerichs (Belgium-born American artist) Skating in Winter


attributed to Winslow Homer (American painter, 1836-1910) Ice Skating

Fanny Palmer (American artist, 1812-1876) Published by N Currier Winter Pastime 1855


attributed to Charles Jones (Welsh-born artist, 1836-1892) An American Ice Rink 1860

Morning Madonna


Virgin and Child 1490s

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, January 16, 2017

1651 Winter Scarves run afoul of the Fashion Police in Massachusettes

Colonial Laws of Massachusetts, 1651
Sumptuary Laws - Regarding What a Colonist May or May Not Wear

ALTHOUGH SEVERAL DECLARATIONs and orders have been made by this Court against excess in apparell, both of men and women, which have not taken that effect as were to be desired, but on the contrary, we cannot but to our grief take notice that intolerable excess and bravery have crept in upon us, and especially among people of mean condition, to the dishonor of God, the scandal of our profession, the consumption of estates, and altogether unsuitable to our poverty.
1670 New England Portrait of Alice Mason, by an unknown artist

And, although we acknowledge it to be a matter of much difficulty, in regard of the blindness of men's minds and the stubbornness of their wills, to set down exact rules to confine all sorts of persons, yet we cannot but account it our duty to commend unto all sorts of persons the sober and moderate use of those blessings which, beyond expectation, the Lord has been pleased to afford unto us in this wilderness.

And also to declare our utter detestation and dislike that men and women of mean condition should take upon them the garb gentlemen by wearing gold or silver lace, or buttons, or points at their knees, or to walk in great boots; or women of the same ran to wear silk or tiffany hoods, or scarves which, though allowable to persons of greater estates or more liberal education, we cannot but judge it intolerable. . . .


It is therefore ordered by this Court, and authority thereof, that no person within the jurisdiction, nor any of their relations depending upon them, whose visible estates, real and personal, shall not exceed the true and indifferent value of £200, shall wear any gold or silver lace, or gold and silver buttons, or any bone lace above 2s. per yard, or silk hoods, or scarves, upon the penalty of 10s. for every such offense and every such delinquent to be presented to the grand jury.


And forasmuch as distinct and particular rules in this case suitable to the estate or quality of each perrson cannot easily be given: It is further ordered by the authority aforesaid, that the selectmen of every town, or the major part of them, are hereby enabled and required, from time to time to have regard and take notice of the apparel of the inhabitants of their several towns respectively; and whosoever they shall judge to exceed their ranks and abilities in the costliness or fashion of their apparel in any respect, especially in the wearing of ribbons or great boots (leather being so scarce a commodity in this country) lace, points, etc., silk hoods, or scarves, the select men aforesaid shall have power to assess such persons, so offending in any of the particulars above mentioned, in the country rates, at £200 estates, according to that proportion that such men use to pay to whom such apparel is suitable and allowed; provided this law shall not extend to the restraint of any magistrate or public officer of this jurisdiction, their wives and children, who are left to their discretion in wearing of apparel, or any settled militia officer or soldier in the time of military service, or any other whose education and employment have been above the ordinary degree, or whose estate have been considerable, though now decayed.

A few 17C New England Winter Scarves - not too fancy

The Freake Limner (American Colonial Era Painter, active 1670-c 1680) Mrs Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary 1674

The scarves & clothing in these paintings are based on typical New England clothing of the period but show flourishes of extravagance associated with wealth in 17C America. The abundance of laces & ribbons on the clothing would have been seen as a mark of privileged social status. Massachusetts law stated that only the very wealthy could display extravagant clothing; sleeve slashes, such as those seen in this painting, could only be worn by members of households whose income exceeded 200 pounds per year.  Yet even the well-to-do, influenced by the predominantly New England Puritan & Quaker ethics of the time, often frowned upon overly fancy clothes as vain & impious. It was more common for wealthy people to wear simple clothes made of expensive fabric. 

The Freake Limner (American Colonial Era Painter, active 1670-c 1680) The Mason Children - David, Joanna, and Abigail c 1670


Portrait of Alice Mason, by an unknown artist, C. 1670.

Morning Madonna

Bernhard Strigel (German artist, 1460-1528)  The Holy Family

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From the Roman Circus to Britain & her American Colonies - Bear-baiting

Yesterday the Barnum & Bailey Circus announced, that it will cease performances in the USA in May.  Showman PT Barnum (1810-1891) did not enter the circus business until he was 60 years old. In Delavan, Wisconsin in 1870, with William Cameron Coup, he established "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome," a traveling circus, menagerie and museum of "freaks." After an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson, "P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show On Earth, and The Great London Circus, Sanger's Royal British Menagerie, and The Grand International Allied Shows United," soon shortened to "Barnum & Bailey's," the largest circus the world had ever seen. However, the circus has a long history from its beginnings in ancient Rome to its appearance in the 1720s British American colonies. 

In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of contests, where bear baiting was a popular draw. The circus of Rome probably was a reflection of the Greeks, who enjoyed exhibitions of animals as traditional attractions. The Roman circus consisted of tiers of seats, lower seats & boxes were reserved for persons of rank; however, the circus was the only Roman public spectacle at which men & women were not separated.  After the fall of Rome, animal trainers with their contests & exhibitions traveled between towns throughout Europe, performing at local fairs.


Illuminated Manuscript Bear Baiting from the British Library, Additional MS 42130, Folio 161r

By the mid- 18th century, outdoor taverns in the British American colonies served as the venue for special performances & curiosities. Popular events drew crowds. Tickets were sold by tavern keepers who advertised & organized the events & provided space for performances.  Gambling on special presentations was common.  Gambling was such a probem in the early colonial South, that the Virginia General Assembly set a 10 shilling fine for gaming with cards or dice at their first session in 1619.  Unlawful games included bear baiting, bowling, cards, cockfighting, and dice. 


England - Bear-Baiting 1500s

In the summer of 1767, New Yorkers were tempted to a little bear baiting at Ranelagh Garden. One English visitor wrote "In the evening we made a party to Ranelagh Gardens. There was a Bear chained to a ring near the house, which seemed to be uncommonly docile and tractable: I took the liberty of taking Bruin by the ears, which he instantaneously resented by making a snatch and bite at my right leg: but I luckily sprung clear of him, and thought myself exceedingly well off with a good silk stocking torn, the calf of my leg much scarified, and a general laugh against me: But Bruin did not reign long, for a few days after he made a more successful snatch at a black Boy, who he killed on the spot, and was the next minute shot through the head."


In the The Pennsylvania Gazette of November 10, 1773, a letter reminding citizens of the vices of the city decided,  "to shew the sense of the first settlers of this province upon the subject, it may be profitable to recite part of the 37th of the laws agreed upon by the Governor and Freemen in England, shortly after obtaining the provincial charter, which is as follows. "That as a careless and corrupt Administration of Justice draws the wrath of God upon Magistrates, so the wildness and looseness of the people provoke the indignation of God against a country, therefore that all such offences against God, as swearing, cursing, lying, prophane talking, drunkenness, drinking of healths, obscene words, &c. all prices, stage plays, cards, dice, May games, masques, revels, bull baitings, cock fightings, bear baitings, and the like, which excite the people to rudeness, cruelty, looseness and irregilion, shall be respectively discouraged and severely punished, according to the appointment of the Governor and Freemen in Council, and General Assembly."

The New-Jersey Journal of February 29, 1798, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, reporting on Legislative Acts and Legal Procededings noted that "The house then went into committee on the bill for the prevention of vice and immorality...a fine of 16 dollars on bull and bear baiting in the state."

How Bear-Baiting got to the British American colonies in the 1600s
England - Bear Baiting Adjacent Bull-baiting and Bear-Baiting Rings, Bankside, London c.1560

Bear-baiting was popular in England from the 16th through the 18th century.  For a long time, the main bear-garden in London was the Paris Garden, that section of the Bankside lying to the west of The Clink, at Southwark.  Arenas for this purpose were called bear-gardens, consisting of a circular high fenced area, the "pit," &raised seating for spectators.  The phrase "bear-pit" is sometime used to describe any unusually aggressive political arena in which direct, heated attacks are common.
 England - Bear-baiting 1600s

A post would be set in the ground towards the edge of the pit and the bear chained to it, either by the leg or neck. A number of well-trained hunting dogs, usually Old English Bulldog, would then be set on it, being replaced as they got tired or were wounded or killed.


England - The Country Squire holding a pup at Charley's Theater in Westminster, London

Depending on the size and fighting prowess of the bear more and more dogs could be released to match the bear's fighting power. In some cases the bear was let loose, allowing it to chase after animals or people.


England - Bear-Baiting 1795

Henry VIII was a fan and had a pit constructed at Whitehall. Elizabeth I was also fond of the entertainment; it featured regularly in her tours. When an attempt was made to ban bear-baiting on Sundays, she overruled Parliament. Robert Laneham's letter describes the spectacle presented by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle in 1575:

Thursday, the fourteenth of July, and the sixth day of her Majesty’s coming, a great sort of bandogs [mastiff] were then tied in the outer court and thirteen bears in the inner . . .
 Well, the bears were brought forth into the court, the dogs set to them, to argue the points even face to face. They had learned counsel also on both parts, what may they be counted partial that are retained but to one side? I know not. Very fierce, both one and the other, and eager in argument. If the dog in pleading would pluck the bear by the throat, the bear with traverse would claw him again by the scalp, confess and a list, but avoid it could not that was bound to the bar, and his counsel told him that it could be to him no policy in pleading.

Therefore, with fending & proving, with plucking and tugging, scratching and biting, by plain tooth and nail on one side and the other, such expense of blood and leather [skin] was there between them, as a months licking (I think) will not recover, and yet remain as far out as ever they were.

 It was a sport very pleasant, of these beasts, to see the bear with his pink eyes leering after his enemies approach, the nimbleness and wayt [wait] of the dog to take his advantage, and the force and experience of the bear again to avoid the assaults. If he were bitten in one place, how he would pinch in another to get free, that if he were taken once, then what shift, with biting, with clawing, with roaring, tossing and tumbling, he would work to wind himself free from them. And when he was loose, to shake his ears twice or thrice with the blood and the slather about his physiognomy, was a matter of goodly relief."


England - Bear Baiting, Published by Thomas Mclean, Henry Thomas Alken (English artist, 1785-1851)  1820

Attempts to end bear-baiting were first made in England by the Puritans, with little effect. The deaths of a number of spectators, when a stand collapsed at the Paris Gardens on January 12, 1583 was viewed by early Puritans as a sign of God's anger, though not primarily because of the cruelty but because the bear-baiting was taking place on a Sunday.


England - Bearbaiting Published by Thomas Mclean, Henry Thomas Alken (English artist, 1785-1851)

Puritan Robert Crowley in 1550 wrote disapprovingly of bear-baiting:

"Of Bearbaytynge.
What follye is thys, to kepe wyth daunger,
A greate mastyfe dogge and a foule ouglye beare;
And to thys onelye ende, to se them two fyght,
Wyth terrible tearynge, a full ouglye syght.
And yet me thynke those men be mooste foles of all,


Whose store of money is but verye smale.
And yet euerye Sondaye they will surelye spende
One penye or two, the bearwardes lyuyng to mende.
At ParyseGarden eche Sundaye, a man shall not fayle
To fynde two or three hundredes, for the bearwardes vaile."


England - Bearbaiting Samuel Henry Gordon Alken (English artist, 1810-1894)
In 1835, bear-baiting was prohibited in Britain by Parliament, Cruelty to Animals Act 1835. Bear baiting's last known occurrence was in the small town of Knottingley.


England - Bear baiting, from The National Sports of Great Britain, Henry Thomas Alken (English artist, 1785-1851) , 1825

From the Roman Circus to the British American colonies & Young Republic - Tightrope Walking

Yesterday the Barnum & Bailey Circus announced, that it will cease performances in the USA in May.  Showman PT Barnum (1810-1891) did not enter the circus business until he was 60 years old. In Delavan, Wisconsin in 1870, with William Cameron Coup, he established "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome," a traveling circus, menagerie and museum of "freaks." After an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson, "P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show On Earth, and The Great London Circus, Sanger's Royal British Menagerie, and The Grand International Allied Shows United," soon shortened to "Barnum & Bailey's," the largest circus the world had ever seen. However, the circus has a long history from its beginnings in ancient Rome to its appearance in the 1720s British American colonies.  

French Engraving La Fameuse Prussienne c 1789

In 1724 Philadelphia, a female dancer or wirewalker performed on a tightrope holding baskets with iron chains on her feet, while "wheeling a wheelbarrow, & spinning with swords."  In 1753, one pleasure garden announced truly extraordinary entertainment for their patrons.  


Archives of the City of Nantes A Tightrope walking in a public pleasure garden

New Yorker Adam Vandenberg employed a wire walker, Anthony Dugee, to perform in a "new House built for the Purpose" in his Mead Garden.  Shows occured in Vandenberg's open structure "weather permitting," & he charged four shillings for pit seating & two shillings for the gallery.  Vandenberg's wire walker advertised that he had performed for the King of Great Britain.  He walked forward & backward on a swinging rope, balancing first a pipe & then a straw on his nose.  He also juggled four balls at once & balanced a twirlling plate on the point of a sword.  Adding to the curiosity, an Indian & a young black boy assisted.  The most amazing part of the act was not the juggling wirewalker, but his wife.  The wirewalker's helpmeet, billed as "the Female Sampson," laid extended between two chairs bearing a 300 pound anvil on her chest while two men struck at it with sledge hammers.  Still precariously stretched between the chairs, the wife then had six men stand on her chest.  After this ordeal, the wife left the chairs & lifted the 300 pound anvil by her hair.  To climax her portion of the show, she planted a 700 pound stone on her chest & then heaved it 6 feet away from her.  Assisting them were a "Negro boy & an Indian." 


Archives of the City of Nantes Tightrope walking in a public pleasure garden

Traveling performers in the Early American Republic trouped from town to town & public garden to public garden in the summers.  Baltimore's Public Pleasure Garden Chatsworth or Grey's Gardens offered an "afternoon's amusement" in 1792.  "The New Company of Tight Rope Dancers, Tumblers, &c, just arrived from Phildadelphia, will exhibit in Chatsworth Gardens...a five o'clock precisely...Tickets, one quarter of a dollar each."


Woodcut from the first text on gymnastics Girolamo Mercuriale (1530-1606).  De arte gymnastica libri sex. Tertia editione correctiores, & auctiores facti. Venitiis 1587.

Tightrope walking, also called funambulism, is the art of walking along a thin wire or rope. It has a long tradition in various countries & is commonly associated with the circus. Funambulism dates back at least to Ancient Greece — that's where the name comes from: funis means "rope" & ambulare means "to walk." In both Ancient Greece & Ancient Rome, tightrope walkers were revered, but their work was not considered "sporting" enough to be part of the Olympic Games. Instead it often became the providence of jesters & other entertainers. 


Roman fresco featuring two satyrs tightrope-walking from the villa of Cicero at Pompeii

Rope-walkers lost some ground in 5th-century France, as they were forbidden to come near churches, & since near churches was where most of the fairs were held, this was effectively a ban on tightrope-walking. But by the 1300s; during the lavish coronation of Queen Isabeau in 1389 Paris, an acrobat carrying candles "walked along a rope suspended from the spires of the cathedral to the tallest house in the city." This trend continued; there were tightrope walkers at the coronation of Edward VI in Westminster in 1547, & at the occasion of Philip of Spain's arrival in London to meet Queen Mary in 1554. 


Ascending the Campanile of St Mark’s, Venice. From an engraving done before the construction of the Sansovino Library in 1536

In Venice in the mid-16C, the annual Carnival gained a new opening tradition — Svolo del Turco (Flight of the Angel) — when a Turkish acrobat walked on a rope strung between the bell tower of the St. Mark's Church & a boat docked on the Piazzetta. 


Descent of Madame Saqui surrounded by fireworks at Vauxhall 1817

Madame Saqui (born Marguerite-Antoinette Lalanne 1786-1866) was a noted French tightrope walker or "rope dancer." She performed many times for Napoleon Bonaparte, often walking a wire with fireworks exploding all around her, & also at the celebration of the birth of his heir by walking between the towers of the Notre-Dame cathedral. She also performed at Vauxhall Gardens & is mentioned in Thackeray's Vanity Fair.  In 1817, Madame Saqui “sparkling with spangles & tinsel & her head canopied with plumes of ostrich feathers” ascended above the crowd & trod the wire at midnight illuminated with blue lights while rockets were fired around her.


r Madame Saqui (1786-1866) was a noted French tightrope walker in public pleasure gardens

An Irishman named John Brenon walked the tightrope in Salem (USA) in 1788 with his legerdemain & a wife to assist him. By way of advertising, he sent up a hot air balloon before the performance. [“William Bentley’s Diary”, December 1788] ‘Such was the effect of the rope-flyers who visited New England, & after whose feats children of seven were sliding down fences & wounding themselves in every quarter.’ [“Dr Bentley’s Diary”, Boston, USA, 31 July 1792]

The good people of Boston, on August 10, 1792, flocked to “New Exhibition Room, Board Alley,” as they called their first theatre, was opened. Plays as such were still under a cloud, so the clever manager of the “Exhibition Room” announced them as “Moral Lectures”, thereby fooling nobody but the pious who did not attend. On the 12th, was presented a moral lecture, “Venice Preserved”, with “Dancing on the tightrope by Monsieurs Placide & Martine” & “Various feats on the slack rope by Mr Robert” between the acts. Four days later, Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” masqueraded as “A favourite moral lecture called… Catharine & Petruchio” & once again Monsieurs Placid & Martine held forth.

French tightrope walker Charles Blondin (Jean Francois Gravelet, 1824 - 1897

In the 19C USA, everyone wanted watch rope walkers walk across Niagara Falls (located on the Canada–USA border). The first to do so was Charles Blondin (born Jean François Gravelet, (1824-1897) was a French outdoor tightrope walker. Blondin came to the United States in 1855. He especially owed his celebrity & fortune to his idea of crossing the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope, 1,100 ft (340 m) long, 3.25 in (8.3 cm) in diameter & 160 ft (49 m) above the water, near the location of the current Rainbow Bridge. This he did on 30 June 1859, pausing in the middle to sit down & drink a beer he pulled up on a rope from the Maid of the Mist. He would return to the Falls again & again, doing crazier highwire stunts each time: riding a bicycle across, cooking an omelet in the middle, going across blindfolded or on stilts, & even carrying his manager across on his back. 


Blondin tight rope artiste walking across Niagara Falls with a man on his shoulders

Next across was William Leonard Hunt (1838-1929), also known by the stage name The Great Farini, one of the most celebrated acrobats in Europe at the time. He duplicated many of the Great Blondin's stunts, & his coup de grâce in 1860, was crossing the Falls with a washing machine strapped to his back; in the middle he stopped to wash several handkerchiefs, which he then gave to his waiting admirers. 


Blondin on the tightrope at Niagara Falls, in an ape costume, pushing a wheelbarrow.

Maria Spelterini (1853-1912) became the 1st woman to ever cross the Niagara River gorge on a tight rope. Spelterini was a beautiful 23 year old woman of Italian descent. She made her debut on July 8th 1876 performing a successful crossing using a 5.7 cm wire located just north of the lower suspension bridge. 


Maria Spelterini,  July 12th 1876, crossed Niagra Gorge wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet.

After the first success Maria Spelterini proved herself equal to those tight rope walkers that preceded her by performing miraculous feats. On July 12th 1876, Spelterini crossed wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet. One week later, she crossed blind folded & only 3 days later, Spelterini crossed with her ankles and wrists handcuffed. 


On the other side of the country there is evidence that Mme Austen, the “Ariel of the Tightrope”, was spurred on by rather special competition in the development of her ability to take the spectator’s breath away. From John McCabe’s journal we learn that the lady made her first particularly sensational tightrope ascension & descension across a busy street in the heart of San Francisco, from the lot opposite the International Hotel to the top floor of that building. This feat she accomplished at about 8 oclock one morning in August 1855. The aerialist had intended to give her performance on the preceding evening, but had been prevented by too strong a wind. Early in October she did succeed in making a night ascension. But now an obtrusive rival appeared. At the same place, some three weeks later, one Signora Caroni, a member of Professor Risley’s troupe of gymnasts, performed the same act without using a balance pole; & then, on the third night afterwards, with Signor Caroni as her partner, she shared the honours of the first double ascension across the street. But not yet was the Italian upstart satisfied with the proof of her superior skill & daring. A month later, when the Risley troupe & the Stark’s dramatic company were sharing the boards at the Union Theatre, Signora Caroni made an ascension “from stage to dome,” over the heads of the audience! Mme Austen would be obliged to wait a while for the perfect opportunity to meet this challenge; but it came, on a March evening of 1857. At the Metropolitan the original “Ariel of the Tightrope” made an ascension, without the aid of a balance pole, from stage to upper tier - a performance described by a not unduly flattering reporter as “terrific”.’ (G.R. MacMinn, The Theater of the Golden Era in Califormia, 1941)

Morning Madonna

Pietro Cavallini, From St Peter Recommending Donor to Virgin Mary 1296-1300

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.