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Friday, April 29, 2016

Gravelot

This week's blog post comes to us from collections intern Rebecca Schott.

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Hubert Francois Gravelot was a French illustrative artist during the early half of the 1700’s, and is credited with bringing the French Rococo style to English decorative art. Gravelot began his career by studying art in Paris and Rome but eventually settled on making maps. In 1732, he was invited to travel to England to help engrave an edition of Religious Ceremonies by Picart. He continued to live in England where he made a fortune designing engravings that would decorate English classics, political satires, fashion plates, and gold and silver ornaments.


Hubert François Gravelot, "Britannicus" [1768]. Illustration for Oeuvres de Jean Racine. 1945.63.15. Collection of the Rosenbach

 Gravelot was known to be a careful artist. In fact, he would sketch a scene multiple times in order to construct the best composition.  The Rosenbach has some of these elegant Gravelot sketches in our collection. Most of them are illustrations of various plays in which the characters occupy distinctly Rococo rooms. 

This is interesting because Rococo began as decoration for the private rooms of the French king, Louis XIV, and later moved on to other forms of art like painting, sculpture, and fashion.  Rococo interior design is characterized by delicate features composed of small curves that would be made of wood or stucco. These features would be placed on interior walls in intricate, floating designs.  

Hubert François Gravelot, "L'Orphelin de la Chine, Sc. Dern." [ca. 1768]. 1954.358. Collection of the Rosenbach
The Rococo style can be seen in French painting beginning with the art of the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. Rococo painters usually focused on portraiture, mythological scenes and pastoral landscapes where aristocratic figures would frolic on leisurely outings.  Artists would also use pastel colors in their painting and incorporate lush, curving greenery reminiscent of the forms in Rococo interior rooms.

The intricate forms of Rococo rooms translated well to furniture and decorative arts where tables, chairs, and mirrors would be graced with delicate designs. Instead of placing furniture against a wall, they would be freestanding to accentuate a lightness and versatility. It was important that furniture could be rearranged in order to accommodate different social gatherings.   

Gravelot includes Rococo designs in his carefully constructed drawings of interior spaces. For example, in his drawing for the play L’Orphelin de la Chine elegant, looping designs decorate the walls. The Rococo elements are toned down for his drawing of the play Berenice by Jean Racine, but it is still easy to notice the small details that adorn his spaces. Even his decorative works bring to mind fancy Rococo features.     


Hubert François Gravelot, "Berenice" [1768]. Illustration for Oeuvres de Jean Racine. 1945.63.15. Collection of the Rosenbach


Friday, April 22, 2016

R.I.P. Cervantes and Shakespeare

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the deaths of both William Shakespeare (whose 450th birthday we celebrated two years ago) and Miguel de Cervantes. Traditionally it has been claimed that both men died on the same date: April 23, 1616, but modern scholars have thrown a wrench into the works by suggesting that Cervantes probably died on the 22nd  (his funeral was on the 23d) and reminding us that Shakespeare's death date is itself only inferred from his funeral date on the 25th.  Of course, even if they had both died on April 23d, it wouldn't have been the same day, since England was still on the Julian calendar, while Spain was on the Gregorian, so April 23 in the two nations was ten days apart. (By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, William Wordsworth also died on April 23--many years later, of course)

Cervantes and Shakespeare lived during the birth of the modern world, when their nations were in constant conflict as Spain began to decline and England to rise as world powers.  Despite the conflict, flourishing new developments in art and literature crossed borders. Don Quixote was known in Shakespeare’s England, and Dr. Rosenbach wrote his dissertation on some of its influences there.  Both writers were among his favorites and well-represented in our collections.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha. En Madrid: por Juan de la Cuesta, 1605. C2 .C419d 605. Collection of the Rosenbach.
This first edition of the first part of Don Quixote is one of only 18 copies known to survive today.  Most of the 400 that were printed were sent to the Spanish colonies in the New World, and some of those were lost in shipwrecks on the way.  The book was popular enough in Spain to have four more editions within the year, and another five by the time the second part was published in 1615.

Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda (pseudonym). Segundo tomo del ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha …En Tarragona: en casa de Felipe Roberto, 1614. C2 .F363s. Collection of the Rosenbach.
The first part of Don Quixote ended with the promise of a second part, but Cervantes did not finish it until 1615.  Meanwhile, a writer calling himself Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda (his real identity remains unknown) obliged impatient readers with his own continuation.  Interestingly enough, although he appropriated Cervantes’s characters, he did not pretend it was the work of Cervantes; in fact the book contains a number of unfavorable references to the original author.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, autograph document signed.Ecija, Andalusia, 6 February 1589. C2 .C419 MS2. Collection of the Rosenbach.
The Rosenbach owns the only three documents in Cervantes’s own hand in the Western hemisphere, all relating to his work as a commissioner of supplies for the Spanish fleet.  Communities did not always want to produce the grain they were required to provide, and Cervantes was imprisoned twice for discrepancies in his accounts.  This is a report of expenses incurred in 1588–1589 for a mill owned by his supervisor, Antonio de Guevara.

William Shakespeare, The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, as it is now acted at his highness the Duke of York’s theater.London: Printed by Andr. Clark for J. Martyn and H. Herringman ..., 1676. EL1.S527 ha676. Collection of the Rosenbach.
Dr. Rosenbach ’s Shakespeare collection originally included copies of all four folios and the first quarto (single) edition of each play; these were sold to Martin Bodmer in 1952, but the Rosenbach still houses a rich collection of Shakespeareana, not only early folios, but also many fascinating later printings of the plays. This 1676 edition of Hamlet tones down some of the play’s rough language and indicates with quotation marks the extensive cuts that were made in the Duke’s Men’s performance, as “This play [is] too long to be conveniently acted.”

William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s King Lear: As altered by N. Tate, newly revised by J. P. Kemble… London: Printed by C. Lowndes, [ca. 1796]. EL1 .S527le 796. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Although now hailed as one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, King Lear’s story of a distressed and disabled monarch has had a troubled past. Seventeenth-century audiences, fresh from the English Civil War and the exile of Charles II, did not appreciate the tale of a fallen monarch, and in 1681, Nahum Tate reworked the play as a love story in which Cordelia survives and King Lear resumes the throne.

Here's to both Cervantes and Shakespeare, two towering literary figures whose work has reached readers and audiences for four centuries; may they continue to entertain and inspire generations to come.



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the co-author of this post.





Elizabeth Fuller is the Librarian at the Rosenbach
and the co-author of this post.

Friday, April 15, 2016

William Morris

We have posted before about William Morris's Kelmscott Press, which strove to elevate the craft of hand-printing in the late 19th-century. but the Rosenbach also has an interesting example of Morris's work in another arena: textile design.

William Morris & Co., textile.[1883-1917] 2005.102. Gift of Mark Samuels Lasner. Collection of the Rosenbach.
William Morris (1834-1896) wore many hats in his life: poet, novelist, artist, printer, manufacturer, political activist, and more. He preferred, however, to describe his profession as “designer.” In all his endeavours, be they books or textiles or beyond, he was reacting against  what he saw as the Industrial Revolution’s proliferation of ugly, inferior goods and, worse, its dehumanization of work. orris believed the purpose of design was “to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use [and] make.” These principles were at the heart of the late 19th/early 20th-century Arts and Crafts movement, of which Morris was a leading figure, and seem timely again today with the rebirth of interest in craftsmanship in everything from clothing to beer.

William Morris & Co., textile.[1883-1917] 2005.102. Gift of Mark Samuels Lasner. Collection of the Rosenbach.
The Tale of Beowulf Done Out of the Old English Tongue. Translated by William Morris and A. J. Wyatt. Kelmscott Press, 1895. FP K895b. Collection of the Rosenbach.

As with his work for the Kelmscott Press, Morris's textile patterns were inspired by an interest in medievalism and a belief (shared by other British design reformers) that two-dimensional objects should utilize flat, stylized designs, rather than the hyper-realism common in Victorian styles. The specific pattern in our textile is the "Rose" and an 1883 drawing for the pattern is preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Their notes indicate that it "is one of only three printed textile patterns in which Morris depicted birds. He had claimed in a letter to Thomas Wardle dated 25 March, 1877 that he was studying birds to put into his next design."




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster at the Rosen-Blog.




Friday, April 08, 2016

Words on Wordsworth

Given that it is both Poetry Month and William Wordsworth's birthday (his 146th) I thought it might be a good time to showcase a few Wordsworthian items from our small but fascinating collection of the poet. We have several letters from Wordsworth to Joseph Cottle, who published his Lyrical Ballads, but for this post I'll focus on some of the printed works in our collection. 

One such piece is  Wordsworth's copy of Memorials of a Tour of the Continent 1820, published in 1822. This book of poetry was inspired by his 1820 European tour, which he had undertaken with his sister Dorothy, his wife Mary, and some of Mary's relations. Wordsworth scholars like to point out that this tour was a re-run in reverse of a 1790 walking tour that Wordsworth had done with his friend Robert Jones. They also note that although we often think of Wordsworth in terms of  the Lake District and domesticity,  mobility and travel were also key aspects of his life and personality.

Our copy of Memorials is signed by Wordsworth in pencil at the top of the title page.
William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach.

It also includes some of his penciled corrections to the text, as in the case of this page from the poem "Processions."

William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach..
 Finally, there are some handwritten lines of verse on one of the rear blank pages.

William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach.

One of the aspects of our collection which I really love is that our Wordsworth holdings reflect the connections between other writers and Wordsworth.  Our copy of his 1807 Poems, in Two Volumes (which includes his famous "I wandered lonely as a cloud") is inscribed on the half-title from Wordsworth to his friend and fellow poet Robert Southey.

William Wordsworth, Poems, in two volumes. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807. EL3 .W926p. Collection of the Rosenbach.

We also have a copy of Wordsworth's posthumously-published book The Prelude that was owned by the New England poet and author James Russell Lowell. Lowell signed and dated the half title in 1850.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind ; an Autobiographical Poem.  London: Edward Moxon,1850. EL3 .W926pr. Collection of the Rosenbach.

This copy was ultimately given by Lowell to the publisher and poet James T. Fields in 1866, as evidenced by another inscription on the paste down. Lowell's esteem for the book is evident in the letter tipped into the front, which explains that "I never liked to give away anything of which I had an abundance. It were giving just nothing. Therefore I send you  the "prelude"--and you may reckon it against Hazlitt's "Liber Amoris" which you gave me."

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind ; an Autobiographical Poem.  London: Edward Moxon,1850. EL3 .W926pr. Collection of the Rosenbach.
I think I'll wrap up here, but as a final (and unrelated) note I will give everyone the answers from last week's April Fool's post. The faux titles were: The true and disturbing tale of Samuel Salt or, The madness of a lion and Vegetables too cheap, an account of the strange and surprising occurrence  in Leefwich. All the others were (believe it or not) real titles from our collection.




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster at the Rosen-Blog.

Friday, April 01, 2016

April Fooling

The idea of April Fools is nothing new. In the 18th century, bookseller William Creech, who published Burns's poetry, responded to an April Fools' joke with this retort:
I pardon, sir, the trick you've play'd me
When an April fool you made me ;
Since one day only I appear
What you, alas ! do all the year.
In Stubbs' calendar, published monthly throughout 1839, William Makepeace Thackeray tells a comic tale of (as Longfellow put it) "the meanness of a mean man who doesn't recognize his own defect." In chapter four, Stubbs ditches the woman he has planned to marry, because her prospects of wealth have declined  and declares his devotion to a richer, but plainer and ill-tempered, lady. This illustration by Greorge Cruikshank, shows the scene of "April--Fooling" where he is discovered by his former love.

George Cruikshank, "April---Fooling." 1839. 1954.1880.3637. Collection of the Rosenbach

The tables are ultimately turned on Stubbs, when it turns out that he has cheated a family member of the rich bride-to-be and the wedding is called off. As he explains, "I thought I was a made man. Alas! I was only an April Fool!"

Hoaxes are a time-honored tradition on April 1, with newspapers printing fake news stories and  in the modern age crazy stories surfacing across the internet. We'll close with a puzzle of our own. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors came up with some pretty amazing titles (see our previous post on The Strange and Unaccountable Life of Daniel Dancer, Esquire, Who Died in a Sack, Though Worth Upward of £3000 a Year). Which of these are actual titles of books in the Rosenbach collection, and which are fakes?

  • The barren fig tree or, the doom and downfall of the fruitless professor
  • The comical revenge, or Love in a  tub 
  • The true and disturbing tale of Samuel Salt or, The madness of a lion 
  • Tumble-down Dick or, Phaeton in the suds. A dramatic entertainment of walking, in serious and foolish characters
  • The life of John Buncle, esq. containing various observation and reflections, made in several parts of the world, and many extraordinary relations
  • Vegetables too cheap, an account of the strange and surprising occurrence  in Leefwich


Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster at the Rosen-Blog.