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Born on This Day: The Bridge Builder

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Born this day in 1708,  the French architect and structural engineer Jean-Rodolphe Perronet was admittedly not technically a ‘builder’ but he was the man responsible for the design and construction of many key bridges in 18th-century France. Perronet improved the network of bridges and roads across France, and established the first school for training bridge […]

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Selecting Furniture & Sculpture Part I

It's a bit of a balancing act! Dog balancing on two chairs on the balcony of 5 Princes Gardens, albumen print, Clementina, Lady Hawarden, London, ca.1861. V&A PH.457:330-1968

Today’s post has been prompted by a comment from Robert Thornhill on a previous entry. Robert asked for more information on how and why choices were made in selecting furniture and sculpture objects for the new galleries. I previously described the overall process of selecting objects back in the early days of the blog, but […]

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‘little meat and a great deal of cabbage and turnips have driven us out of Würzburg … This 22nd day of October in the year 1716’

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Large writing cabinets, such as the impressive example below, were often important indicators of a gentleman’s status in the 18th century. This cabinet is a fine example of the best craftsmanship of the period and its large size and intricate detailing indicates the importance of the person for whom it was made. It also held within it a secret […]

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Born on This Day: Giovanni Battista Piranesi

This engraving forms the title page of a volume. It depicts an ancient stone, with a cameo portrait of Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the centre. The portrait is a copy of a self-portrait by Piranesi, copied by his son for this volume. There are Roman engravings both above and below the cameo. Underneath the stone there are several classical motifs, including an armoured soldier, a city plan of Rome, and Roman vases. VA E.3958-1908

In the late-18th and early-19th centuries, increased travel and archaeological discoveries, at sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, led to a revival of interest in ancient and classical decoration. The work of architect and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) helped to pioneer this rediscovery of Roman remains and he was one of the […]

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Born on this Day: François Boucher

Portrait of François Boucher, reception piece by Gustaf Lundberg for the Académie Royale de Peinture presented on January 28, 1741. Musée du Louvre

Having caught the autumnal lurgy which seems to be making its way around the city at the moment, I was off work yesterday. This meant that I’ve been pipped to the post by the V&A’s Facebook page in marking the birthday of the French court painter, draughtsman and etcher François Boucher. I’ve refrained from changing […]

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Born on This Day: Augustin Pajou

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The celebrated French sculptor Augustin Pajou was a contemporary of Clodion, Houdon and Pigalle but is today (despite his obvious skill!) not as well known outside of France as he perhaps should be. Born on 19th September 1730, Pajou grew up in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, then one of the poorer sections of Paris, the son […]

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The Brown Suit: Coup de Bouton!

Steel buttons: Coup de Bouton, etching by William Humphrey, c. 1777. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

In my last post I mentioned how ‘Anglomania’ influenced the adoption of darker colours for men’s daytime clothing among the middle and upper classes in late 18th-century France. This move towards a more somber palette brought about a dependency on buttons to create the maximum sartorial impact. A basic rule often seeming to be ‘the […]

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The Brown Suit: Anglomania

The upper-body of the suit, shown as it would have been worn with a cravat around the neck.

As well as illustrating a svelte figure, this wonderful brown suit also exemplifies staple day-wear fashions for the middle and upper classes in late 18th-century Europe. Its slim-fit, noticeably snug across the upper-body, and the height of the coat collar attest to the owner’s fashionable taste. The breeches reach over the knees and are a tighter fit than […]

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The Brown Suit: Audio Recordings

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The other week I found myself in the Textile Conservation studios, a microphone in front of me, contemplating how much sweat may have soaked into a coat. I should quickly make it clear that it wasn’t a coat being worn by a perspiring colleague, but rather a very smart wool coat dating from the 1780s. […]

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Born on this Day: Charles-Louis Clérisseau

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  Today our moment of ‘birthday-prompted’ attention is focused upon the artist, architectural draughtsman and antiquary Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-180). Clérisseau has been described as creating a vital link in the chain of architectural excellence that prevailed in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. He was sent to study at the French Academy in Rome in 1749, where he worked with […]

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