At the Cluny museum

Paris, day 2. Conversation over a breakfast of bread, jam, croissants, tea and espressos centers on visiting the Cluny Museum and especially seeing the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. On arrival, we discover that the tapestries are currently on tour in Japan while their room gets a make-over.

Flip.

As it happenened, this omittance turned out to be not such a bad thing; instead of sitting and staring in awe at the said tapestries before lunch cravings power us round the rest of the museum at high speed, we wander at a leisurely pace prudently admiring all the exhibits.

As you can see from my photos, my camera has a particular liking for uncanny/ headless statues, unconventional representations of Jesus (pulling his step-dad’s beard and riding a donkey on a skateboard) and tapestries depicting unusual gestures of love.

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Fragment de “nappe de Pérouse”: licornes / Fragment of a tablecloth “from Perugia”: unicorns
Italy (Pérouse?), 15th century
Linen and cotton dyed with indigo

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Retable / Altarpiece depicting the Visitation
Ile-de-France, 2nd part of the 14th century

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Groupe sculpté: la Sainte Famille / The Holy Family
Alsace(?), c. 1500. Wood, polychrome

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St Margaret
Master of Pacully (?), End of the 15th century

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The Virgin Mary and St John from a group of the descent from the cross.
Tuscany, 1220-1230, Wood, polychrome.

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The animals disdaining to eat St Stephen.
Brussels, c. 1500. Wool and silk tapestry.

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Church pews
Eastern France(?), 15th century (modern assembly), wood.

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Fox preaching to chickens

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Christ des Rameaux / Palm Sunday Statue of Christ
Southern Germany, last quarter of the 15th century. Wood, polychrome

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Le Retour de la Chasse / Return from the Hunt
Southern Netherlands, c. 1500-20. Wool and silk tapestry.

Dad and Harrietparis11Finally, here’s a picture of my Dad and sister, who made the beautiful dress she’s wearing – and when I say made I mean she made a lino cut, printed the fabric and sewed it together largely by hand. I hope it survives to be admired in a hundred, five hundred, a thousand years time.. but just in case it doesn’t, I’ve got it on camera.

I’m looking forward to going to THIS tomorrow

Kerry Taylor Auction Sale.

I’m going to have a nosy around the preview with my sister, tempering bank balance sighs by saying “I could make that!” (..if I had the fabric, time and awesome sewing skills of a 17th century French couturier, ahem). Thanks for the heads up, sis.

An elaborately embroidered black glazed cotton jacket, probably Guixhan Miao people, Chinese, early 20th century.

In other news, I was just rudely awoken from an epic nap by a very sweet man selling Sky packages. Evil tosser. Time to wipe away the giveaway dribble marks and knit to World on 3’s latest offering.

Deathshead Buttons

Talking of buttons.. these are the ultimate for me. Handmade true-to 18th century buttons with the best button name in the world.

Please take a look at the rest of Hannah’s blog – it shows all the other incredible things she does on her Costume Interpretation course, like recreating 1860s underwear and a 1770s French Sack Back (made with handprinted fabric).

Hannah Sutherland

My third and final uni project is a 1770s Sack Back with compere front. Like many 18th century buttons, the ones featured are known as “Deathshead” (or deaths head). These are created by winding lengths of thread/silk/yarn around a button mould. Today i got far too into trying to conquer the art, so i didn’t stop to take progress photos. I have 12 to make in total, so plenty of time for that. I’ll try and do it step-by-step as i found it really confusing trying to follow the written instructions i had initially. Thank God for YouTube!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deRMQ0I16TA

So these are the buttons i need to recreate…

 

and with a little help from the wonderful people at WM Booth, Draper. (http://www.wmboothdraper.com/)I managed to create these..

 

 

It took me about 1 1/2 hours to go from knowing nothing to making these 3, so it wasn’t too…

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Back in London

No posts recently, sorry! My main excuse is that I’m just back from a week teaching art and art history in Ukraine. It was a very exciting visit and I’m looking forward to returning next month and exploring the city of Donetsk with my camera. Unfortunately, my current camera battery lasts about ten minutes tops, so no pictures from this visit.

After a couple of frenzied months, knitting has slowed down a little lately. My green swiggle jumper and I aren’t talking right now. Although we’re completely and utterly made for each other there are still some serious relationship issues. After some denial on my part, I’ve come to realise that we need to take a couple of steps back – namely reknitting the armhole edges of the front.

Tomorrow renegotiations begin.

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In the meantime, I’ve rekindled love for my sewing machine. Some beautiful blue stripey silk found in a fabric shop in Glasgow last month is gradually coming together into a shirtwaister dress. It’s working out nicely despite the fabric (and, incidentally, my mind) unravelling faster than you can say ‘seam allowance’.shirtwaister2

William & Jane Morris

Jane drawingWilliam Morris, drawing of Jane Morris in medieval costume, 1861, pencil and ink on paper, 51 x 41cm.  © William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Last month I gave a short talk at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow about a piece on display. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to research and talk about a drawing I love and give my interpretation. Here’s a typed version of what I said, with a few extra dates and details.

This is a drawing by William Morris, of his wife Jane. It was made in 1861, two years after the Morris’ marriage. The drawing seems unfinished; in fact it is a preparatory sketch for a wall painting.

Jane may well look familiar; she is best known as the muse and model of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and is recogniseable as the subject of a number of his paintings. She remains something of a celebrity-figure: for much of 2012 she starred on posters across London for the Tate exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, as the central figure in Rossetti’s painting Astarte Syriaca of 1877.

Before her marriage to William, Jane’s surname was Burden. She was born in Oxford in 1839, to Robert Burden, a stableman, and his wife Ann Maizey. It was here in Oxford, in 1857,  that she first met Rossetti. Jane and her sister were attending a performance of the touring Drury Lane Theatre Company, when she was spotted by Rossetti, who declared her a ‘stunner’ and invited her to sit for him. She began modelling for him, and then, after Rossetti introduced her to his friend, for Morris. Painting, however, was not Morris’s forte, and he made only this drawing and one painting of his wife. Once while trying to paint Jane, his wrote on the canvas “I can’t paint you but I love you”.

As I have said, Jane is best known as a model for Rossetti’s paintings. She modeled for him from their meeting in 1857, long after Jane’s marriage to William in 1859, and up until Rossetti’s death in 1882. As Jan Marsh has pointed out, Jane’s “long love affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti has become the stuff of legend”. The deeply affectionate nature of their relationship is obvious from surviving letters, as well as the large amount of time they must have spent together for Rossetti’s paintings. Throughout this complex relationship, however, Rossetti and William Morris remained friends, and fellow workers as partners in the firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and co.

Jane and this drawing form part of the close connection between the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts & Crafts movement. After William and Jane married in 1859, their friends helped to decorate and furnish their new marital home, Red House. Morris made this drawing as a preparatory sketch for a wall painting which was planned for the house, but never executed. It shows Jane posed as if she is about to board a ship; the ladder she is about to step onto, and the planks of the vessel can be seen faintly sketched around her.

There are differing interpretations as to the subject matter depicted; she may be Iseult, the Irish princess who fatefully fell in love with Tristan aboard a ship heading for Cornwall, but it seems more likely that she represents Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships.

Morris has put particular care and attention into the hair and fabric in his depiction, especially the beautifully-patterned sleeve lining of Jane’s dress. This reflects his turning towards the decorative arts at the time, as he sets up the firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and co. the very same year, then in 1862 made Trellis – his first wallpaper design.

The subject matter of the drawing and medievalising costume show Morris’ interest in past eras. Through art and design, he harked back to what he believed to be periods of greater craftsmanship, freedom and creativity, in contrast to the industrialism, artifice and restriction of Victorian Britain. These sentiments were shared and expressed by his friends and associates in the circle of the firm and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Jane herself seems to have shared these sentiments. She and William worked closely on needlework projects, together unpicking old pieces of embroidery to discover and recreate old techniques. She was a skilled seamstress and is likely to have made the dress she wears for this drawing, as she did for Rossetti’s painting The Blue Silk Dress of 1868. The dress she wears for William’s drawing harks back to the medieval period and is loose flowing. It would have been easy to move in compared to conventional women’s clothing of the time, which controlled and shaped women’s bodies with corsets and crinolines. In photographs of Jane and her two daughters, they wear similarly loose, unconventional clothing.

It is easy to see Jane Morris as a still, silent and demure muse, because the paintings and photographs we ‘know’ her through are still, silent and demure. We often make the mistake of interpreting sitters, particularly women, through the medium by which we see them. However, once we realise that our perspective is distorted, we can see them in a different light.

What I find most interesting about this drawing is how it reveals Jane Morris’ contribution to the Arts & Crafts movement and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She may have sat or stood still for this drawing and many other works, but she also contributed to them by her actions and movements, notably her skill in dressmaking and embroidery. This drawing reveals a collaboration between William and Jane.

None of the many paintings, drawings or photographs of Jane show her smiling, but in real life she did! A friend of Jenny & May Morris regularly visited the house, and remembers Jane for her “delicious and chuckling laugh with which she would greet our youthful extravagances”.

Bibliography

Tim Barringer, Jason Rosenfeld, Alison Smith (eds.), Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avante-Garde (Tate, 2012)

Jonathon Benington, Simply Stunning: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Dressing (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museums, 1996)

John Bryson and Janet Camp Troxell (eds.), Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris: Their Correspondence
(Oxford University Press, 1976)

Jan Marsh, The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (Quartet Books, 1998)

Jan Marsh and Frank C. Sharp (eds.), The Collected Letters of Jane Morris (Boydell Press, 2012)

Linda Nochlin, The Politics of Vision: essays on nineteenth-century art and society  (Thames & Hudson, 1991)