June 17, 2013
Everybody at a certain point harbors the desire or curiosity or simple, sheer interest to gather a collection of various things in diverse quantities, some parameters more eccentric than others. Empress Elisabeth of Austria, commonly nicknamed “Sissi“, a character to whom Madame has dedicated a plethora of posts, had her own phenomenal assortment which put together a considerable number of photos immortalizing the most beauteous women of the age. But I already wrote about it here. Yet what I didn’t know at the time when that account of her oddities was given and subsequently learned to be a crucial factor in explaining her peculiar idea of a collection refers to the strikingly similar propensity for putting together images of beautiful ladies which dominated the life of Sissi’s uncle, King Ludwig I o Bavaria. No longer content with getting most of the pulchritudinous grand dames of the time in his bed for fleeting moments of passion, the monarch who is (in)famous for abdicating the throne following a tempestuous scandal involving his mistress, Lola Montez, determined to forever own the marvelous physical charm of these resplendent females. And thus took shape the Gallery of Beauties, the original inspiration for Empress Elisabeth’s identically themed albums.
This chamber, wholly dedicated to the celebration of corporal attractiveness, exhibits a selection of 36 portraits ordered by Ludwig between 1827 and 1850. They were all commissioned to have the same size so as to perfectly fit in the allocated space and all feature the enchanting profiles of mid 19th century women coming from sundry social backgrounds like the German aristocracy or the European middle-class. This way, characters who otherwise never spoke in real life were forced by circumstance to keep each other company while hanging on the walls of the King’s gallery of visual splendor inside Nymphenburg Palace. So Ludwig’s sister, Sophie (between brackets: the mother of Emperor Franz of Austria, Sissi’s husband), rested alongside such notorious figures as English aristocrat Jane Digby, actress Charlotte von Hagn (a former concubine to Franz Liszt) and, inevitably, Lola Montez, quite an outrageous arrangement, given the epoch. Sort of like compelling Whistler’s Mother to face Courbet’s “Origin of the World” non-stop.
Don’t you just fancy having a place resembling this?
June 11, 2013
I thought it fit to conclude the series of most glamorous balls held in the last century with one which took place at Château de Ferrières, the Rothschild residence that hosted the first party of the cycle too, thus enforcing a certain impression of circularity much needed to complete the sense of times past.
Marisa Berenson, actress and model, depicts the fabulous evening so vividly I find it quite ineffectual to attempt a personal description of an event I was part of in my dreams solely, so I can merely inquire about how you regard this type of exquisite social gathering and otherwise live you to relish the accreditable recountals of a witness and participant.
May 26, 2013
Love triangles and promiscuity seldom flourished so exquisitely than at the Papal Court in Rome up to about 3-400 years ago. As some “The Borgias” fans might’ve already noticed, Vatican city was quite a den of lavish sins back in the days of Michelangelo and didn’t stop being one until long after Bernini’s days, which is why the following episode of his life should not come as a surprise.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the preeminent protege of the Popes Urban VIII and Alexander VII, like all reputed artists, had some apprentices to do his less important commissions in exchange for advice and guidance. And these anonymous apprentices, emphasizing one in particular, had wives. Female presences to whose charms the great sculptor could not frequently resist.
One such ravishing woman by law reserved for a single husband, was Constanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, spouse of Matteo Bonarelli and licentious lover of Bernini.
So much was he enamored with her that, to fully convey his passionate sentiments, Gian Lorenzo produces the above bust, a Constanza he could caress in marble, the immortal, unwithering variant of his beloved. It was the zenith of their affection.
And soon they’d reach their nadir… one terrible way too.
Since Constanza was unfaithful to her hubby, cheating came natural to her and not long after her storming affair with Bernini commenced, she found herself involved with a second paramour, none other than Gian Lorenzo’s younger brother, Luigi.
Alas, a naturally suspicious Bernini soon felt her betrayal and thought a most basic scheme to catch the two in flagrant delicto: he simply announced his going to the countryside to tend to some business, insidiously expecting the couple to make a wrong move… which didn’t let itself waited.
Luigi, unconscious of any danger, immediately visited a lonely Constanza yearning for consolation to be “welcomed” by a furious Bernini who almost beat him to death.
Amusingly (or tragically, depending on your point of view), this telenovela-like story didn’t stop here, but to continue it and learn the climax of the whole affair, I recommend the following documentary:
April 18, 2013
Between the myriad other occupations Leonardo was engaged in across his lengthy life, one of the lesser known (albeit as valuable as the “Annunciation”) are his absolutely riveting fables about an extensive range of subjects cunningly related. Being the epitome of the Renaissance man, it was merely natural for a genius painter, sculptor, architect, musician, inventor, mathematician et cetera to skilfully master the ancient art of fabricating moral stories that could effortlessly equal Aesop’s, whose work had barely been rediscovered and fairly accredited only decades before.
I was familiar with da Vinci’s literary products from a tender age thanks to a book of his I stumbled upon in the family library at age about 9. Then and now, one of my all time favorites from the polymath is a peculiar anecdote mockingly describing why Muhammad prohibited alcoholic drinks:
The Wine and Muhammad
Wine, the holy liquor of the grape, once rested in a gilded cup on Muhammad’s table, honor of which he was extremely proud. But an adverse thought troubled him instantly:
‘What am I doing? Why am I feeling so overjoyed? Is it that I fail to realize my death is approaching and soon I’ll have to leave this golden sanctuary for the abominable, fetid caves of the human body? Do I not anticipate the dreary moment when my perfumed liquid will turn into disgusting urine?’
The Wine cried out for the gods to hear, beseeching revenge for such unjust a faith and implored the Providence to put an end to so much humiliation. He asked that, since in his country grew the juiciest grapes, least these be spared the shame he was experiencing.
Then almighty Jupiter made the Wine Muhammad drank get to his head and influence his judgment so as to lose his mind. Thus the prophet committed a number of mistakes that grave that when he finally came to his senses, he banned all sorts of alcohol.
Hence the vineyards were abandoned with their fruits intact.
Terse and witty as one would expect of Leonardo but still quite hilarious in context, don’t you think?
Hardly a few years passed since the Moors lost their last Spanish stronghold in Granada to the Catholic Kings and the Europeans began mocking them persistently!
April 8, 2013
Perhaps because I have sadistic velleities or just an eccentric appetite for slightly scandalous deeds which delight me to such extent that I quite managed to become addicted, whenever I’m in need of spicy historical records I turn to Italy, whose patrimony of mischievous figures, rich criminals and lascivious damsels never ceases to quench my thirst. I don’t know if it has anything to do with living in the Boot and having mainly depraved popes, but they definitely put mediatized characters like bloody Elizabeth Bathory to shame. Think Lucrezia Borgia- she could do more than kill helpless maidens and bathe in their blood to gain eternal youth (Naomi Campbell seems to have repeatedly attempted to test it unsuccessfully -boo, humdrum human rights disapprove- which means it isn’t so astounding).
Italians, on the other hand, have a certain something, a natural flair seasoned with one ravishing vice inherited as specific trait from their fiery ancestors, the Borgias, Orsinis, Medicis, Sforza and so on, unlike the French who were rather subverted by vanity, a particular section of generally named “vice” Italy’s inhabitants had (though I assume they still have) galore. It’s suffice to say this enchants me (it does).
Returning to the main topic, to satisfy my perpetual desideratum for anecdotes I frequently resort to evidences from Rome, Florence or Napoli, the main gathering nests of the wealthy and infamous. Yesterday, to enlarge my research area, I was reading Staley’s “Lords and Ladies of the Italian Lakes”, a highly vibrant compilation of rumors and stories set in the vividly painted Lombardy Lakeland (rival to England’s similarly called region) and just stumbled across a single-paragraph biography of Adeliza de Borgomanero. Profession: part-time murderess, nothing unusual, in fact, for the gloomy Middle Ages, but still juicy and only good to savor today.
Adeliza de Borgomanero’s half-legend, pretty sad in the end, follows an interesting row of events and rumors embroidered around her numerous intriguing habits, culminating in her premature death.
She was born circa 1350 in a family of minor nobles, enough to secure her the proper background for marrying a local count from Val d’Ossola region, elder and boorish, I assume, yet without documented evidence. We can scarcely imagine how the wedding might have been due to the complete lack of reports, but let me tell you it was ensued by a hearty feast and inexorably grand if we judge by the period’s traditions.
At any rate, Adeliza, the sinful child, couldn’t refrain her congenital iniquity and did a thing or two (again, unaccounted by history) apparently inappropriate because old, tedious hubby exiled the young girl to a remote Bellagio castle, situated in the vicinity of Lake Como (which will be a faithful accomplice to her atrocities).
Wrong move if he had any intention of rehabilitating his wife since it barely exonerated Adeliza, point from where she, officially discharged of marital duties, began to knock together her own personal court. For a graceful lady, with a small fortune (money speak, after all) at her complete disposition, I bet it wasn’t such a laborious job.
Lovers were definitely not missing from the jolly assembly and, as she gave the impression of having a weakness for both tall, muscular men or more romantic, effeminate boys (exclusively gallant ones), soldiers and troubadours surrounded her castle. With them began the actual gossip about her disputable morals.
Countess Adeliza was said, inspired by Quenn Giovanna II of Napoli (who had promiscuous affairs with much younger men she then compelled to take their lives, threw over the balcony in the sea, assassinate, etc) to have demanded her paramours to commit suicide post the consumption of their sexual revels. The brave fools who refused obeying her desire were not much luckier: a servant was charged with dropping them through steel racked oubliettes in the lake below (remember I mentioned Como Lake’s implication in the murders) and none survived.
Either way, let’s remark she was a delicate lady who didn’t like to dirty her hands so those crimes were more probably made to prove her authority, her sovereignity over men (the thing women wand most, by Adeliza’s contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer) and less to satisfy a devilish thirst of blood.
But she became a vampire-siren figure in the popular lore nonetheless, living in a metaphorical (or not?) charnel house.
More original than slaughtering your servants, right?
Adeliza passed away inexplicably at only 20 years of age, in 1370, leaving practically nothing historians can list apart from the legends. And what beautiful legends.
April 7, 2013
The pas week has been a hectic ping-pong with several events I had to squeeze in my program and diligently prepare, though I cannot complain for taking part in any of them since they are direct fruits of either my work or my resolute desires across the last few years.
I’ve been invited to make a visit to the town residence of the Royal House of Romania and been (briefly) received by Princess Marguerite, I’ve had to pull through an essay meant to be my entry for quite a promising contest then finish the editing of my novel novella (“Vicious“) to be able to publish it in time and handled its launch concomitantly with that of my author blog. This, plus a couple of other troubles.
No wonder the “Parties of the Past Century” series has yet to be completed.
However, here’s the next roaring social gathering which brought together most of the era’s elite:
Le Bal du Siecle
The Mexican multimillionaire Charles Beistegui, a professed eccentric also known as the modern “Count of Monte Cristo”, was the host to the most lavish, flamboyant and altogether magnificent masked ball ever given in honor of the old aristocratic times. His Venice Palazzo Labia, a splendid 17th century residence, was put to its use glamorously and costly decorated to fit the magnitude of the event Charles promised to be the assembly of the century.
Luxurious rococo gowns of rich materials were displayed with a profusion of jewels and thus the elegantly adorned guests could only be distinguished from the likewise decor by the mere barrier of movement. Famed names such as Orson Welles, the Aga Khan, Barbara Hutton, Dali, Gene Tierny or Jacqueline de Ribes relished the extraordinary parade of refinement, the presence of exotic black people with their peculiar animals (camels included), the amazing atmosphere.
It was an evening of perpetual wonder, the sort wars exclusively can impel one to organize just for the most humane need of forgetting one’s misery.
March 29, 2013
Pheme has been, as luck would have it, quite a golden companion of mine the pas few weeks: I was told how “lovely” Madame looks through the Liebster Lauds and have been awarded a prize for her beguiling versatility… only to enhance the row of esteems bottom right with an extra nomination for the “Very Inspiring Blogger” that Liz back at “The Pragmatic Costumer” found fit to bestow upon yours truly. Somewhere in the higher spheres a providential creature has mysteriously decided on helping me… no reason in sight.
But returning to things rather more mundane, the award’s canonic laws:
Thou shall display the award and link back to the person who nominated you.
Thou shall state 7 facts about yourself.
Thou shall nominate 15 bloggers for the award (in other words, be a philanthropist).
Thou shall notify the winners.
My random 7
1. I’m not far from being a sociopath.
2. The sole literary/ historical character I’ve actually managed to fall in love with is Homer’s Achilles (and yes, prior to Brad Pitt).
3. I’m both a gourmand and a gourmet… currently on diet for a Charlize Theron (or Sissi) figure.
4. If Hannibal Lecter were a real-life character I’d definitely be his disciple… for the sake of psychology.
5. By far the best movie seen this current month was “Carnage”.
6. My e-book “Vicious” is going to be launched next week.
7. Also, on Wednesday, I’m scheduled to pay a visit to a certain royal whose identity I’ll divulge in a future blog-post.
My 15 meritorious nominees
Hail quality blogging!
March 17, 2013
Back when Madame was a mere beginner in blogging, “Versatile” and the “Kreativ Blogger” distinction were the first she’d ever aspired to. Surely, along the way, the debonair lady of this site acquired a few others she hadn’t previously heard of, like the “Liebster Lauds“, “Lovely Blog” or “Blog of the Year 2012” (forgive the exceeding repetition of the word “blog” which apparently all awards contain…) but never ceased to hope she’ll one day seize those honors initially desired.
Ironically, it is a namesake of mine that bestowed upon Madame the coveted laurels: Patricia Jordan (http://westcoastlivingcanada.com/) , passionate photographer, writer and traveler whom I thank for the esteem.
And now, having passed through the introductions to more pragmatic matters, the VBA rules:
- Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
- Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy.
- Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
- Include a link to the mother-site: Versatile Blogger.
- Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
(in a perfectly random manner as not the divulge any preference)
- Tiaras and Trianon
- the Pragmatic Costumer
- Empress Chronicles
- Life Takes Lemons
- Saints, Sisters and Sluts
- Team Gloria
- Sifting the Past
- Good Gentlewomen
- Versailles Gossip
- Cafe Royal
- Education of Madame X
- Les Favorites Royale
- Edwardian Promenade
- WTF Art History
7 Things about Myself
- I’m the proud master of a miniature Schnauzer imaginatively called Nyx after the Greek goddess of night… because she’s black.
- I’m a decided bibliophile who also owns 3 over 100 years-old books… and works to increase the number.
- I’ve never genuinely been in love with anything but art… and myself. Save some cursory infatuations.
- My personal verb is “to be“.
- I’m an INTJ of a psychological profile similar to Hannibal Lecter’s.
- I’m a dedicated admirer of all novels Salman Rushdie.
- I’m decisively myself… since everybody else is already taken.
March 13, 2013
One could never guess what genuinely amusing event devoid of any anticipation turned Wagner’s Tannhäuser première in a complete fiasco. It is the prerogative of the haughty19th century Parisian aristocracy to surprise both poor Richard, the contemporary and modern auditory with a reaction that changed the faith of an opera now considered one of Wagner’s best.
Facts are comically of an elementary character.
On this very day, 13 March 1861, the Salle Le Peletier was meant to host the first representation of Tannhäuser in France after exhausting months spent with a consuming number of over 160 thorough rehearsals which Wagner never failed to attend given that he was exceedingly keen to impress the public. A public composed from such characters as Emperor Napoleon III and Pauline von Metternich one cannot simply afford to disappoint.
And with the dozens of preparations undertaken, it shouldn’t have been the case . In fact, everything was arranged for Wagner to repute a success.
But what actually happened?
Here’s the account almighty Wikipedia gives:
‘Wagner had originally hoped the Parisian première would take place at the Théâtre Lyrique. However, the première was at the Paris Opéra, so the composer had to insert a ballet into the score, according to the traditions of the house. Wagner agreed to this condition since he believed that a success at the Opéra represented his most significant opportunity to re-establish himself following his exile from Germany. Yet rather than put the ballet in its usual place in Act II, he chose to place it in Act I, where it could at least make some dramatic sense by representing the sensual world of Venus’s realm. ‘
This midget alteration of the custom gave way to a veritable disaster.
‘There was a serious planned assault on the opera’s reception by members of the wealthy and aristocratic Jockey Club. Their habit was to arrive at the Opéra only in time for the Act II ballet, after previously dining, and, as often as not, to leave when the ballet was over. They objected to the ballet coming in Act I, since this meant they would have to be present from the beginning of the opera. Furthermore, they disliked Princess von Metternich, who had arranged the performance, and her native country of Austria.’ [any recall of the French revolution, anybody? any analogy to the way they treated Marie Antoinette? or perhaps your mind goes back to the Vienna Congress in 1815?]
‘Club members led barracking from the audience with whistles and cat-calls. At the third performance on 24 March, this uproar caused several interruptions of up to fifteen minutes at a time. As a consequence, Wagner withdrew the opera after the third performance.This marked the end to Wagner’s hopes of establishing himself in Paris, at that time the center of the operatic world.‘
In a nutshell, this is the story of how a genius was ruined by frivolous manners.