Saturday, 20 July 2013

Summer Textile Wanderings

Sophie Crouzet (c. 1801)
Louis Hersent (1777-1860)
Oil on fabric
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Grace Rainey Rogers Fund 1943.659
Image No.  CVL 491275   
In view of the seemingly endless current heat wave across some countries of the Northern Hemisphere, I am posting this beautiful portrait I found this afternoon as I was doing research on pens, pen stands, inkwells, etc. It is of interest on many levels although none of them to do with knitting. First of all, the sitter looks a little hot. She may not have been - her hair on her forehead might been somewhat lank no matter what the season as it is of one with the rest of her hair style. She looks, however, the way I feel today, in my 21st century equivalent of a thin, and far less pretty, summer dress – slightly provoked as perhaps she was interrupted as she was seeing to her correspondence. I, too, have been slightly provoked of late as I have been neglecting Mlle. Sophie's era, the one I usually spend the most time in, for a while now, so her gown looks twice as pretty to me as I very much miss the late18th/early19th century. 

I miss the simple elegance of the armbands on her sleeves, and the furniture and the plain but molded walls behind her. I miss wearing this most comfortable style of historic dress in my repertoire. I almost miss sewing this kind of gown, fitting the three pieces of the bodice by hand sewing, in those sheer fabrics and patterned cottons. Well, perhaps not quite, as I still hold too many memories of teary-all-night-sewing sessions the night before an event of this era.

I do miss spending hours trawling thorough paintings, drawings and other sources for gowns, shoes, accessories, hair styles, etc., and discovering lovely paintings such as this one and all of the information held in it.  As for the subject, her arms and face look exquisite in this image – you can almost reach out and touch her.

There are several versions of this painting available on the Internet.*The one above has a cool grey shadow in the corner whereas the one below has more of a golden glow about it as well as a better view of the table. It is probably not difficult to guess which version I prefer today.

For the textile historian, the best image of Sophie Crouzet’s gown and its details, can be found at 

Note the more vivid detail on the arm bands, the corded waistband and the rosettes at the back of the now blue gown as well as the gloss on the ceramic pen stand. Poor Sophie, though, does look rather warm and a bit tired, in this image.

I know just how she feels but it was fun to be off and running again, tracking down the details of an early 19th century gown.

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