Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Women at Home in Paintings of the 1800's

Arranging Roses
by De Scott Evans

At the Kitchen Window
by De Scott Evans (1847-1898) American

The  Tack Room
by De Scott Evans

Picking Wildflowers
by De Scott Evans

Grandma's Visitors
by De Scott Evans

Looking at Drawings

Adolpho Belimbau 1894 (Italy) 1845-1938

Portrait by James Tissot, 1836-1902, France

In contrast to these 19th century scenes of women at home, this is an interesting description of life for women after the French Revolution (1788-1804) in which all restraint and propriety was set aside:

(With their culture destroyed, they lived a free-for-all existence:)

Never did the French nation offer its observers a stranger, more incoherent, various, and extraordinary sight than in the early period of the Directory. Everything—habits, traditions, language, throne, altar, manners and customs—had been swallowed up in the Revolution... As no tradition of that past remained, nor any possibility of extemporising a whole society, with new rules, new customs, and new dress, in the space of a single day, these were all borrowed, in a lump, from ancient history and extinct nation. Each individual was bedizened and made up according to his or her own sweet will, each talked his or her chosen jargon. It was a universal travesty, an unlimited carnival, a neverending senseless orgie. Nobody can look back, from these latter days, on the general character and petty details of the libertinage of those, without being tempted to believe the whole thing a colossal joke, a tremendous caricature, invented by some humorist of the school of Rowlandson or Hogarth...

(Immodesty was rampant)

The ladies insisted that their dresses should show every contour, and be of transparent fabrics. In vain the doctors spent their breath in assertions that the French climate, temperate as it was, did not admit of clothing as light as that of ancient Greece. The counsels of the disciples of Hippocrates fell on deaf ears, and, at the close of the year VI, Delessart found himself in a position to assert that he had seen more young girls die during the reign of nakedness veiled in gauze, than during the forty years preceding it.

(Young women did not stay home, and domestic occupation was replaced by partying)

The Revolution had forced them to live in the street; the home joys, the witty drawing-rooms of former days, the love of things noble and high-souled, it had no power, nor any desire, to bestow. They had no beliefs, no faith, no clear conception of good and evil; and so, unchecked, they slipped ipto the life of sensual pleasures, with no special perception of enjoyment, beyond the merest animal gratification.

That fierce Republican, Sebastien Mercier, who was to live until 1814, and who was in a position to bear witness to the disgraceful dissipation of the new regime, has added, as a postscript to his " Nouveau Tableau deParis," the following curious pages on the more than affable nymphs of the year VIII:

"Their three rules—and these are faithfully obeyed—are to read novels, dance, and live in idleness. Twenty years ago, no young girl would have ventured outside her parents' house without her mother: she walked under her mother's wing, and kept her eyes studiously cast down. The only man she dared to look at was him she was allowed to hope for, or choose, as her future husband. The Revolution has swept away all this submission. Young girls go about, both day and night, in perfect freedom. Their sole occupations are to walk and drive, to amuse themselves, to make merry, have their fortunes told, and quarrel over their admirers. Scissors and thimbles are all cast aside.

This piece, from the same online book expressed astonishment at the rapid change of fashion:

Fashion had a settled place of origin, a centre and fixed periods of existence. Now it springs up, I know not where; it is supported, I know not by whom ; and ends, I know not how! . . .

My notes: I believe that young women, especially the home school girls, should be familiar with these descriptions because it shows how important it is to cling to that which is good, no matter what the trends.  It helps us to understand what is behind the crazy fashions perpetrated upon the world by some designers.  No one has to follow the trends, and there have always been beautiful alternatives.

Read more here.


Anonymous said...

Very Beautiful~ Thank You! I'm in need of inspiration to sew some new pretty skirts! Hope you have a lovely day! Rosemary

Lydia said...

I hope to have a sewing series in the future.

Rocky Mountain Homemaker said...

I just love the photos. I would love to having something beautiful and graceful like them in my home!

Lady Kara said...

Lady Lydia,

I love historical posts...My favorite painting is the one in the kitchen with the mother looking out of the window. You are right about it being a good example in the study of modesty and trends.

God bless,

Lady Kara

Anonymous said...

March 8th, was International Women's Day, and I just thought I should extended a belated Happy Women's Day warm greetings to you:)

The secular world has its own connotations they add to this day, but the Godly woman too has her own connotations.

You have been a tower of positive influence to the God fearing Christian Womankind and I salute your efforts. A Hellen Adelin kindred spirt.

Happy Womens Day,
May God Continually Bless Your Work.
Many Blessings.
Barbra from Uganda.

Lydia said...

The online book about the aftermath of the cultural revolution, described the way the girls lifted the hems of their dresses to reveal their knees, as scandalous. The entire report could have been describing western fashion today.

Anonymous said...


Fear not, there are still inspiring women working inspiring works of the 'ordinary', the 'everyday', the fuel and fire of life!


These ladies are inspiring!! absolutely inspiring!!

they are simply living the life of 'everyday' and giving - oh me!! I know folk in my family and friends who would have been incredibly uplifted and encouraged if they could have recieved help upon the birth of their little ones!

and her biscuit (cookie) recipe sounds delicious!

for practical dress ideas, look at www.thekingsdaughters.com and their affiliate 'Candle on the Hill' for patterns.

http://www.liliesapparel.com/ produce beautiful clothes; their style is fancier but they produce plenty of practical-wear that is also feminine wile remaining durable and workable.

Working in skirts...

a) a generous skirt that does not cling or is not tailored, with plenty of room to move (this applies to dress-make also).

b) hem length between 1-3 inches above the ankle allows excellent movement without compromising modesty. Trust me, the skirts will not be a trip hazard.

c) appropriate underthings; leggings and socks with serviceable shoes or smart boots for winter wear; good sandals with pettipants and an airy cotton slip for summer - an anti-stat slip will prevent skirts and pettiblouses clinging to leggings and socks in winter.

Let's leave a beautiful photographic legacy for generations to come that clearly shows loveliness in even the humblest of tasks. As the world around us grows uglier and colder, let us be a light in the darkness and provide beauty and uplift for those around us - and show our fellow sisters that it is still being done by many, many women today! Do we want to look like the slave citizenry of Orwell's 1984 and the millions in their Mao uniforms, or do we want to inspire ourselves and others?? Which will it be? Work in sensible skirts and dresses is incredibly possible!!

Women, get your little girls out of trousers and let them run about in skirts and pantaloons !! A dear friend of mine does just this and her little one is not impeded in the least, and let me tell you, she is a cyclone of a child who puts the active in hyperactive!

Just do it!! Don't give a tinker's about the naysayers in the streets or vipers in church who seek to do nothing but cut down the striving sister in Christ with their barbs and vile man-like feminism!! Readers, you know who you are, and SHAME ON YOU FOR DEFACING THE IMAGE OF CHRISTIAN WOMANHOOD!!!

Remember, OUTWARD ACTION/BEHAVIOUR IS THE FRUIT OF INWARD REALITY!!!! Any student of sacramental theology will be able to point this out.

Jill Farris said...

This is very helpful history to know.It is easy to forget how very quickly cultures can change.

I am going to read this to my children.

Jill Farris

Miss Linda said...

"The ladies insisted that their dresses should show every contour, and be of transparent fabrics." This particular sentence in your message caught my attention. It seems that even after so very many years ladies are still demanding the same thing. Dressing this way simply announces to the world that you think of yourself as merely an object.

A woman of God knows that which is most precious should be hidden from foreign eyes and does not cheapen herself by displaying her physical beauty to any but her husband. This was a very informative post, Lady Lydia. Thank you for sharing it!
"The king's daughter is all glorious within." (Psalm 45:13)

Lydia said...

Read on in the original publication about the way the girls would use the excuse of lifting their hems away from the mud, to pull their entire dress above their knees. The author expressed dismay at this lack of modesty in public. They would not want to see what is going on today. The Christian woman has a wonderful opportunity to be an example in propriety, demureness, modesty and trust in God.