Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The life & age of woman - two 1840s lithographs

I found these two interesting lithographs depicting the stages of a woman's life in the 1840s.  Dated at approximately a year apart they both look very similar in appearance.  However the rhymes underneath the stages of womanhood convey quite a varying viewpoint, especially towards the elderly.  It is also interesting to see the portrayal of dress for each stage of life, seeing what was considered "age appropriate" at the time.

A particular stanza from the 1848 version reminded me of an incident when I was researching my family tree.  My Great g. g. g. grandmother Archer Betman was born in 1772 and married and agricultural labourer Robert Hood. Over the course of 20 years she gave birth to at least 11 children, her last when she was 50 years old (Mardline who did not survive infancy). In 1845 Robert died at the respectable age of 74 leaving Archer as a 73 year old widow.   At some point between the death of her husband and the 1851 census Archer became a pauper and with non of her family prepared or able to look after her she entered a workhouse.  Archer died on the 23rd September 1868 at Elham Work House at the age of 96, she was survived by at least four of her children.  "A useless cumberer on the earth, From house to house they send her forth"

The Life and age of woman, stages of woman's life from the cradle to the grave. New York : James Baillie, c1848. wikimedia commons

In swaddling clothes behold the bud,
Of sweet and gentle womanhood.

Next she foreshews with mimic plays,
The business of her future days.

Now glorious as a full-blown flower,
The heart of manhood feels her power.

A Husband now her arms entwine
She clings around him like the vine.

Now bearing fruit, she rears her boys
And tastes a mother's pains and joys

Like sparkling fountain gushing forth,
She proves a blessing to the earth.

A busy housewife full of cares,
The daily food her hand prepares.

As age creeps on she seeks for grace,
Always to church and in her place.

Now second childhood loosens all her tongue,
She talks of love and prattles with the young

A useless cumberer on the earth,
From house to house they send her forth.

Chained to her chair by weight of years,
She listless knits till death appears.

 "The Life & Age of Woman - Stages of Woman's Life from the Cradle to the Grave", a ca. 1849 wikipedia

1) Infant in cradle:
A wailing infant, first she plays,
Unconscious of her future days.

2) Young girl with doll:
Her girlish pastimes reveal for show
The cares which woman's life must know.

3) Late teen girl in grownup clothes:
Her ripened beauty all confess
And wonder at her loveliness.

4) Bride in white dress and veil:
A husband's arms, in hope and pride,
Enclasp her now, a lovely bride.

5) Young mother holding baby:
A mother's anxious love and care
With toilful(?) heart is hers to share.

6) Dressed to go outdoors:
Now to the poor her hands dispense
the blessings of benevolence.

7) Middle-aged woman (first declining step):
Absorbed in household duties now,
The weight of toil(?) contracts her brow.

8) In black bonnet and holding handkerchief :
She now resigns all earthbound care
And lifts her soul to heaven in prayer.

9) Old, wearing spectacles:
At eighty years, her well-stored mind
Imparts its blessings to her kind

10) Bent over, using cane:
The hoary head, us all should bless,
Who abound in ways of righteousness.

11) Sitting in chair, knitting:
The body sinks and wastes away,
The spirit cannot know dismay.

You can view larger versions of both these lithographs by clicking on the source links.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Quick Update

Just a quick update on ongoing projects.  I'm still knitting my Victorian scarf all be it slowly.  I quickly realised that whilst knitting all 3 balls at once is great for keeping tension equal on all pieces and alleviates the need to count stitches, there is the disadvantage that three balls of wool are a lot more difficult to keep safe from a roving toddler than just one.  Indeed the more balls of wool, the more attractive it seems to my little Rosebud.  Still I managed to get a fair bit done at the sewing group last night, and i will persevere!  Other costume making is at a halt at the moment due to various household calamities - but I haven't forgotten about the sleeve pattern and will hopefully be able to continue with it next month.  Lastly I've set up a facebook page here to promote my blog posts, add any interesting images that don't make it onto my blog and to share any other interesting bits and pieces. So please come along and have a look and feel free to like it and spread the word to any other folks who might be interested :)


Inspirational primary resources - Part 3 Paintings

I love looking at paintings for costume inspiration.  They are available for all periods, are often rich in detail and colour and cover a variety of subjects.  They are also great snippets of social history; the countess in her finery, a family receiving visitors, a day at the races, each moment a time capsule captured by the artist.  Of course we have to be slightly wary of artistic interpretation.  Often images of the working classes were romanticised, people may have received the 19th century equivalent of photoshopping, and of course there may be degrees of artistic license in any painting.  But even then when these changes are obvious, it can tell us something about the society in which these artists and the subjects lived.  I think that's what my favourite thing is about viewing period paintings, peeking through the looking glass into the 19th century; seeing the lady at boudoir in her morning wrapper, a frozen snapshot of the hustle and bustle of the Victorian seaside resort with all it's paraphernalia, little cameos of Victorian life for us to share.   Here are some of my favourite paintings from the period 1830 - 1865, with focus on the costume content.  The last painting is a particular favourite as it is Ramsgate, the town in which i grew up.

  ca. 1833 The Family of John Q. Aymar -Attributed to George W. Twibill Jr

 Note the hairstyle, earings, neckchain, sleeve design and matching fichu / belt




1848 Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna by Franz Xavier Winterhalter (Royal Collection)

 Note the smaller more practicle ribbons used to tie the bonnet and the wider ribbons for decoration.

 Bracelet and glove

  1852  The eve of the wedding -  Jerry Barrett

 The lurker in the background



 Black shoe and cream wedding boots

Straw bonnet - i like the rounded ends of the ribbons

  1862 Strange faces – Frederick Walker

 Bonnet with contrasting bavolet and ties


Matching parasol - with a book on top!  o_O

Dress and apron

c.1860s A Victorian Family at the Seaside Charles Wynne Nicholls

 Spoon bonnet, paisley shawl and small sewing basket

 Hairnet, fringed parasol, straw hat and purple gloves

 Sheer dress, straw pillbox hat, long handled parasol and large lace shawl

1852 - 54 Ramsgate Sands (Life at the seaside) William Powell Frith - Royal Collection

Shawls, petticoat, bonnets, gloves and uglys (a folding sunshade worn on the front of bonnets)

 Bonnet, shawl and parasol/umbrella

 Bonnets, bonnet veil and parasols

More uglys 

Shawl and parasol

Monday, 11 February 2013

Inspirational primary resources - Part 2 Period photographs

I love looking at period photographs. So often you see faces that tell a story, ones that make you laugh, ones that make you cry. The daguerreotype with the assistant gently pushing the toddler back in to view, the hidden mother who is under a tablecloth to stay out of view, the dandy with his enormously large hat, or the sad pre-mortem taken as a memento for the loved ones left behind. 

Such a cutie
 Photo of Lucy Crouse- Crouse Series Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project in 2005

Family Portrait: Parents with Their Three Children, c. 1850- Smith College Museum of Art

These images also hold a huge wealth of costume information. One major benefit compared to the other inspirations I have (or that will be) listed are that these are real clothes on real people.

Big Eyed Beauty 1/6 Plate daguerreotype c.1850s - mirrorimagegallery flickr

Museum of Photographic Arts collections - 1855

There are of course the odd exceptions; staged shots in costume, fancy dress and satirical images, or occasionally you will see an ill fitting dress where lady has borrowed an item from the photographers wardrobe. Unlike fashion plates that show you the ideal of what people will be wearing during a certain year, photographs will show you the actuality of what was being worn. 

 Mr and Mrs Iltide Thomas c.1850s - LIGC National Library of Wales

Portrait of a family 1855 - Museum of Photographic Arts Collections

 I particularly like generational photos that often show the difference between the younger generation and their forebears.

Portrait of the Prime Family 1852 - Library of Congress

  Family portrait - George Eastman House Collection

This is another benefit of photographs against fashion plates, in photographs you can find people from different socio-economic backgrounds and of all ages. 

 Mrs Fisher (1784 -1868) wife of Archibald Fisher, a labourer and carter from Rothesay c.1848

Newhaven fisherwomen, Jeanie Wilson and Annie Linton 1845 - University of Glasgow Library

 Fashion plates tend to focus on the teens to twenties females, with a plentiful sprinkling of children, occasionally babies, very rarely toddlers (having a two year old myself I've had great difficulty in finding fashion plates with children in the 2-4 year bracket), and I can't think of a single fashion plate where I have seen someone who could have been considered of advancing years. Men's fashion plates, though existing, are also not particularly plentiful.

 Victorian Family - mirrorimagegallery flickr
I love all the little details in this daguerreotype.  The jewellery (especially on the girl), belt, whitework sleeves & collar, lace mits, headdress, satin waistcoat.  Also like that the lady is wearing her glasses, which in quite unusual for a portrait of this era.

 Miss Coddington c.1852 - National Library of Ireland

Of course period photographs have some shortcomings. The first known photograph of a human wasn't taken until 1838 with the first known portrait in 1839, so you can only research after these dates. 

The original daguerreotype boyfriend
Self Portrait of Robert Cornelius- first known portrait photograph 1839

Miss Dorothy Catherine Draper - June 1840

Colour photography only really took off after 1900, so apart from the occasional hand tinted image we can only guess at what colours might be lurking in the greys and black of an image. 

Mother and Child Hand Coloured Ambrotype (Collodion Positive) c. 1860
whatsthatpicture - flickr 
I wonder if they were originally in matching colours or if there is a little artistic license being applied?

 1/6 Plate daguerreotype of either a husband and wife or brother and sister - Mirrorimagegallery flickr
I really love this image, especially her hair.  Can only imagine what colour her dress and ribbons would have been.

 Precise dating can also be a problem. While some photos come with inscriptions that handily give us the date of an image, and many will have the photographers studio (which will help narrow down the date to when they were operating), sometimes it can be difficult to establish a date. I've seen many images of mature ladies wearing crinolines and adopting older styles well into the bustle period. Sometimes you will see styles that look as if they belong to two separate decades, were they ahead of the trend in some respects, or only just adopting a style that was already established? And sometimes you will just see something unique, in an era filled with hand-made garments you will see flashes of ingenuity, artistry, flair and the little hand finished touches that we still love in hand made items today.

1/6 plate daguerreotype- mirrorimagegallery
I adore this bonnet with its decorative velvet ribbons and the way the feathers create an aurora round her.

Quarter-plate daguerreotype (3.25 x 4.25 inches) circa 1853 - the American museum of photography
 Beautiful bonnet trim and zigzag fichu

Unidentified woman, with jewelry woven into hair - Missouri History Museum
Absolutely stunning

There are many sources of period photos online. A general google search of any of the following terms should bring up a plethora of images : daguerreotype, tintype, ambrotype, calotype, CDV. 

And I shall leave you with one of my all time favourites.....

Proud Mother and Laughing Infant, 9th-Plate Ambrotype, Circa 1860
lisby1 - flickr