29 January 2015

the rooms of an "Outlandish Cousin"

Recent photographs have come to light taken by scientific inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude-Joseph. Niépce has been credited with the earliest surviving photograph, c 1827. This enlightening discovery from the Frenchmen predates Joseph's earlier photograph, and most delightfully depicts the rooms of Countess Eliza de Feuillide, French emigre, cousin and later sister of Jane Austen. The room-specifically- was the Countess' small bedroom in her living quarters sometime after she fled the Terror in France; why these photographs were taken is unknown. Perhaps fellow Frenchmen -the Niépce brothers, were briefly in England around 1796. This grand confluence of history-art-literature-decoration and fashion is a revealed here exclusively at little augury-with the use of digitally enhanced images.

Eliza de Feuillide returned to England after many years with her mother & her son Hastings in 1790 , just after the Revolution & the onset of the Reign of Terror. (Hastings was 4 at the time-and would live to the age of 15.)  Her husband Count de Feuillide remained in France, was arrested for conspiracy, and guillotined in 1794.

 "To Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide this novel is inscribed by her obliged humble servant The Author." -Jane Austen's dedication in Love and Friendship, written in 1790

Jane Austen's brother Henry Austen was courting Eliza at the time these photographs were made. The pair were married in December 1797.

Jane would have been about 21 years old at the time-having already completed her first substantially sophisticated work-Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin writes of Susan, "Told in letters, it is as neatly plotted as a play, and as cynical in tone as any of the most outrageous of the Restoration dramatists who may have provided some of her inspiration ... It stands alone in Austen's work as a study of an adult woman whose intelligence and force of character are greater than those of anyone she encounters."

In Lady Susan we glimpse traces of her cousin Eliza- with the courtship between Henry and Eliza mirroring Lady Susan's courtship with Reginald de Courcy.

1780 French portrait miniature of Eliza
"It is reckoned here like what I am at present. The dress is quite the present fashion & what I usually wear"-EdF

Of her rooms, Eliza would write to her cousin Philadelphia, October 17th 1796: 
I got here early on Wednesday Afternoon and found nothing ready for my reception...a Beau who occupied one floor was not yet gone out, and how to squeeze my family into a part of this small house when the whole hardly suffices for it, I knew not-at length after a great deal of bustle plague & fretting, we contrived to find sleeping room- ... The house is the nicest little Box You can imagine but I do not like the situation for it is quite at the world's end... and I find it the most inconvenient thing imaginable to reach a Shop of any description...  (from Eliza de Feuillide to Philadelphia Austen)
Direct to me No. 3 Durweston Street baker Street Portman Square London

“She must find herself extremely comfortable, at least I know I should greatly enjoy a good house, and a nice carriage that cost me neither trouble nor money.” EdF (writing of an acquaintance living with her brother)- from the letters of Eliza de le Feuillide

Austen's novel Elinor and Marianne was also likely completed by 1796 -later to be published as Sense and Sensibility. The year these photographs were taken, Austen was just 21 years old and also working on First Impressions, later to become this author's favorite Austen novel-Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen had indeed, fallen in love by 1796-with Irishman Tom Lefroy.
Austen wrote,"I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together."

 stills and dialog from the movie, Becoming Jane, found here-at welovejaneausten

Henry Austen: What do you make of Mr. Lefroy? 

Jane Austen: We’re honoured by his presence. 

Eliza De Feuillide: You think? 

Jane Austen: He does, with his preening, prancing, Irish-cum-Bond-Street airs. 

Henry Austen: Jane. 

Jane Austen: Well, I call it very high indeed, refusing to dance when there are so few gentleman. Henry, are all your friends so disagreeable? 

Henry Austen: Jane. 

Jane Austen: Where exactly in Ireland does he come from, anyway? 

Tom Lefroy: Limerick, Miss Austen...

The Lefroy family did not approve of the match, intervened, and Lefroy removed himself from Jane's orbit.
Tom was definitely Jane's one that got away.

Eliza's rooms seem to have served her- filled with many pages from periodicals of the day she obviously saved for sentimental reasons (portraits of Marie Antoinette) -and for reasons of fashion, something she would take the lead on as Countess in the Austen family.

Pieces from her life in France, a late 18th century painted bed, & a Louis XVI chair of the period,  bits of painted furniture, and a Regency chair somehow become a part of the de Feuillide entourage. Shawls made from Indian saris popular in the day, (Eliza was born in India), appear to be scattered on the bed and chair, along with a discarded gown.

Eliza wrote of Jane and her sister Cassandra, "My heart gives the preference to Jane, whose kind partiality to me indeed requires a return of the same nature." Jane's Outlandish Cousin-self described died in 1813, Jane Austen her close friend, cousin, and sister would be present by her bedside.

Brian Southam, Jane Austen's Literary ManuscriptsDeirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen’s “Outlandish Cousin”: The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide
Le Faye's book reviewed here

about the movie Becoming Jane, here at the Fansite

26 January 2015


British Designers Star on the Red Carpet at the SAG Awards

Gwendolyn Christie of GAME OF THRONES at the SAG Awards wearing GILES

British VOGUE

Kiera Knightley of THE IMITATION GAME at the SAG Awards wearing ERDEM

British VOGUE

14 January 2015

2 to know...

& still seeking Sargent.

John Singer Sargent's bit of skirt & Alexander McQueen Spring 2015 by Sarah Burton

31 December 2014

G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald

or, Tales from the Vienna Woods...

“All the music of the 19th century seemed to surround us. Roses and pleasure and dancing were everywhere."
- Diana Vreeland, Special Consultant, Costume Institute, Forward, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era

In celebration of Little Augury's year end-and its beginning on New Year's Eve 2008, Austria is In the Air. From Paris-to London-to the States, one can almost hear the strains of Strauss... Carolyn Quartermaine is in Austria at the moment, & Philip Bewley is on the West Coast, but they are in concert when In Vienna.

 (all photography by Carolyn Quatermaine, and text by Philip Bewley)

Carolyn Quartermaine’s recent trips to Vienna have inspired a new photography series. A designer and artist as well as photographer, Quatermaine’s depiction of Vienna and its environs are a pictorial dreamscape: a time-slip into that city’s Baroque interiors, coffee houses, gardens and woods. Quartermaine employs photography to convey idea and mood. The shots are often oblique suggesting movement... as though seen from the corner of the eye.


Quartermaine’s Vienna is a series of impressions and imagery, each one relating to the next: the sunlight though a balustrade and imperial white painted gates wrought like lace; the sinuous and serpentine lines of a Thonet bentwood settee and woodland leaves swirling in circles like a waltz. For all of the romantic associations in Quartermaine’s subjects, there is always a watchful restraint in all her work, conveying just enough and no more. Utilizing new technologies in photography with an iPhone, iPad and her own unique apps, Quartermaine’s photography combines the evocation of heady atmosphere in a rigorous, minimal way, at once engaging the imagination of the viewer and pushing the medium of photography into the 21st century.


“It's the thing that isn't obvious or noticed,” Shares Quartermaine. “When I look at groups of photographs after I’ve taken them, I see that I’m always linking between things.  Intuition and instinct are ALL. It’s the tiny things no one thinks important that are far closer to the soul of anything.

Quartermaine’s interest and fascination with Vienna began years ago, and this visit became very personal. “My granny was Austrian so this place was strangely familiar. It's all there: the rooms, the coffee, little lace curtains, the intimacy.”

All that we associate with Vienna is contained within each of Quartermaine’s photographs: the coffee houses with forests of Thonet hat-stands and the artist Gustave Klimt and his companion and model Emilie Flog; court architecture and music and the beautiful and tragic Empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi, glancing over her shoulder wearing a diadem of diamond stars. “There is something different about those bars and coffee houses. You just feel that people actually read in them.  And then there are the aromas, and the cake.”

 “Vienna…those paintings by Klimt, seeing the pattern on Emilie’s dress, and then you see of course the tiles but you also see the trees, leaves and the shadows and its all the same. Emilie, Klimt’s companion, wearing a white gown appearing like paper…like a moonlight walk.” Quartermaine adds, “Then there is that Hapsburg magic and the sheer weight of it all. In the area around the grand gate the cobbles resonate with the sounds of the horses’ hooves. Peering through flowers, through leaves, through lace, through gates… architecture, nature and trace memory all coalesce.”

The portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1865) of the star-crossed Empress Elizabeth, one of the most fascinating and romantic personages of Hapsburg Vienna, has always beguiled viewers to Vienna, including Diana Vreeland who wrote, 
“I fell in love with the divine full-length portrait of the empress Elizabeth with her magnificent hair filled with diamond stars. I rarely believe anything I see in a painting, but I make an exception for Winterhalter’s portrait of Elizabeth. He shows her, as she was, a fantasy, a dream. Fantasy queen of a fantasy world, a dream empress of a century in flight from itself.”

In personal correspondence to Quartermaine, Florian Köchert, member of the Austrian court jewelers Köchert, writes in some detail on the background of these legendary diamond stars: “Sisi’s (Empress Elizabeth) husband, the emperor, ordered 27 Stars from Köchert given to her at their wedding day as a gift.

 Sisi was inspired for the diamond stars watching Mozart's Magic Flute at the opera. In that particular performance the Queen of the Night wore a dark blue dress full of stars, wearing stars also in her hair. She disregarded the royal court and the people in it, and became nocturnal. She went horse riding at night, exasperating her ladies in waiting. She preferred the night, as there were no people around and she was able to do as she pleased. Sisi, I believe, felt like a queen of the night herself.”

Quartermaine brings the viewer directly into Sisi’s world, into the places where the empress walked; evoking the sounds she would have heard. There are echoes of splendor and ruin, delight and yearning. In her foreword to the book, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era, Diana Vreeland addresses this particular Viennese atmosphere:

“The empire of Austria-Hungary as we are showing it to you is a sumptuous array of 19th century aristocratic elegance –the court clothes, the liveries, the equipage, the military uniforms, the whiteness of the gloves, the polish of the boots. Here is Vienna, a graceful city in a graceful time, its streets and avenues filled with stately carriages and the glory of the animal; the lovely women in pale clothes, so fond of fresh flowers, strolling through the delightful parks of the Achonbrunn; the gallant men with their splendid dragoon helmet shining in the sun and bright green aigrettes blowing in the wind.

Beneath the ostentation of the scarlet and the gold, of the gilt and brass, beneath the clatter of swords and hoof beats, there was something more touching, more poignant. It was the rule of the emperor that no nobleman could appear at court except dressed in uniform. They were prepared to do battle with every enemy except that which would vanquish them –time.”

Quartermaine reflects on her Viennese impressions: “You feel that the roses there are gathering and moving. There are those sounds in the woods reminiscent of swishing tulle and lace and silk. The leaves swirling too, like a waltz and again, the roses. They did seem different there and I don't know why.”


- Diana Vreeland, Special Consultant, Costume Institute, Forward, The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era
(Based on the exhibition Fashions of the Hapsburg Era: Austria-Hungary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979-1980)
Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, distributed by Rizzoli, 1980


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