Pretty, Pretty Porcelain

Demonstration of the translucent quality of porcelainJoanna here, talking about porcelain,
as in what you make dishes of,
(also electrical insulators, scientific crucibles, and toilets, though these predate our historical characters by a good bit and are thus of less immediate interest than they might otherwise be.)

Porcelain is arguably the luxury product of the Georgian and Regency eras. All those fancy dinner parties …? Porcelain is what they were eating off of.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About … The Waltz.

Let's start at the very beginning.

Wenches breugel-wedding-dancer

Actually this looks like fun

Where did the waltz come from?
Back to pretty much the dawn of history, Rural folk frolicked in their traditional folk revelries with pair dances and circle dances and line dances  of all kinds. This stuff that doesn't get into the archeological record. Literate folk saw no reason to record the details.
But we have pictures.

Wenches laendler_allemande_fig

A Contre Dance Allemande

Polite ballroom dances like the waltz evolved out of this madness.

So did "country dancing", which was what they were doing in English assembly halls and ballrooms in late Eighteenth Century to early 1800s. These were not so much "country" as in 'I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool' but "Contre". Contre-dance — highly mannered French group dance. Kinda like . . . well . . . square dancing.

Here's an example of a country dance. See Darcy and Elizabeth talk while they dance. That's a conversation all snipped up and intermittent, isn't it?

But country dances were also somewhat like this on the right.
Touching goes on. Arms around waists. Side to side touching. Emotion. "All the feels", so to speak. Hubba hubba.
Dancing madness in a contre-dance.

Wenches waltz_rowlanson-1806_2

In 1806 Waltzing sneaks in

Anyhow, those wild and crazy Europeans waltzed in their ballrooms long before the dance leapt the Channel. Ye Staid Old English considered waltzing risqué in 1790 and 1800. A man touching a woman's body with only four layers of clothing in between? His hand resting on her back! Horrors!

Many a waltz sneaked in under the radar in the early years of the century.Not quite quite dancing. Vulgar dancing.


But so much fun. By 1810 to 1812, social leaders like the Countess of Shaftesbury and the Duchess of Devonshire played the waltz at their balls.  The waltz had arrived.

In 1810 a man could write,  

"To see so many lovely and elegant young women moving with grace and activity, their charming faces light up with pleasure, and their eyes sparkling at the admiration they excited, was, to an old fellow like me, a sight truly delightful, though I could not help agreeing with Werter, who said, his wife should never dance a waltz."
                                   the Royal Cornwall Gazette (17th November 1810).

Wenches waltz 1

The wild, wild waltz

In 1811,

". . . he passes his arms along hers, and holds her by the elbows; she does the same to him; and when the dance begins, he dances round with her, turning towards the left . . . , If there be room enough, the Gentleman holds his partner by the tips of the fingers. Certainly the dance now in question is danced in a far different way among the inferior orders of society, as they hold each other tight by the middle, and thus in each others embrace go round like whirligigs."
         Morning Post in 1811

Elbow holding. What is the world coming to?

So why was the waltz so shocking to contemporaries?  Maybe not so much what managed to get touched . . . but for how long.  I think, the uneasiness was about extended physical connection. Long eye contact. Maybe even the chance to hold an uninterrupted conversation.  Radical idea, men and women talking.


The somewhat less wild waltz

A contemporary said, "it is susceptible of degrees of personal familiarity which render it liable to gross abuse."
Who shall disagree?

What's your favorite dance to do or to watch? English Country Dancing? American Square? Clogging? Irish Dance?
One lucky commenter takes home their choice of one of my books.


The Pastel Regency

 Finger_PaintingJoanna here:

I have fond memories of my early attempts at the visual arts.  Fingerpainting appealed to the squidgy, primitive side of me.  My big box of crayolas was a regiment of reassuring order.  And then there were poster paints.  So bright.  So vivid. Purple houses.  Green — I mean GREEN — fields.  Red cats.

When I run out of red, I use blue.
     Pablo Picasso

But settling down to talk about history. 

A-drawing-lad_nicolas-bernard C18

He's using a brass pastel holder.

Regency visual artists were about half way along the technological journey between the Neolithic Cave painters and one of those high-tech computer painting programs.  The fine work, the beautiful work, the Regency artists created was accomplished with the most simple tools and a limited array of colors.
Let me talk about pastels, because one of my characters, Pax, uses pastels.  I think of it as a portable and democratic art form in Georgian and Regency times.

Portraits in these readymade crayons offered tangible advantages over oil for the artist and the sitter: they required fewer sittings as there was no drying time; less paraphernalia; the materials were easily portable and the costs were lower.
      The Rise of Pastel in the Eighteenth Century, Margery Shelley

Pastelportraits ack the met

Just a whole bunch of pastels.  From the Met

They called pastels 'crayons' in the Regency — so confusing — because the waxy colored sticks we think of as 'crayons' wouldn't be invented for another century. 

These pastels were made by grinding natural white chalk — something you can pick up off the ground in places like Southeast England — into a fine powder. You mixed this with pigment and a binder like gum arabic.  You rolled the mixture into thin cylindrical sticks or long square sticks and dried them.  These were 'soft pastels'.  They were just super concentrated colors that transferred readily to the paper. 

A-drawing-lad_nicolas-bernard C18 detail

detail picture above

You had a potential for vivid color, but in a medium likely to crumble and come apart in your hand and smear.  So the pastel sticks were fitted into a sort of metal holder that protected them and provided control and precision for the artist. 

Conte crayon holder antique

A holder for conte pastels, about 6 inches long, brass




 Because pastels were intended to be inserted into a holder, they were thinner than the ones we use today.  A square shape gave them stability in the holder. 

ETA: I've not yet found an illustration of someone drawing with plain naked pastels, but it's very possible this is how it was actually done.  It's the way pastels are used today, so why not in 1800?





The first pencil, or rather crayon, that I possessed, was given to me by that right worthy cronie of my uncle Zachary, William Hogarth. It was one of those which may be still remembered by 'men of my standing'.  One end was of common commercial black-lead, the other red-chalk, ready pointed, and inclosed in a case of need.
     Literary Gazette and Journal, V 4, John Mounteney Jephson, 1820

Conté_crayons wiki

conte pastels and a holder.

 The most exciting recent innovation for our Regency pastel artist would have been the Conté crayon,  invented in France in 1794.  These were made from kaolin clay and graphite and fired in a kiln.  They were much harder than the chalk-based soft pastel sticks, and came in a smaller range of colors.  They could be sharpened.  They were good for tight, crisp lines and fine detail, and often used to lay down the first sketch on paper. 

Our Regency artist dealt with the fragility of those pastels by 'fixing' the finished art with dissolved Isinglass.  Isinglass, as you doubtless know — doesn't everybody? — is made from the dried bladders of fishes.  This was dissolved in alcohol and distributed in a fine spray of droplets over the paper. 

Which brings us to a consideration of color …

Constable's 1837 Tin box bladders white stone glass vial pwdered pigment

John Constable's oil paints, 1837

Oil paint came in only a few colors.  Oils were a couple decades from living in metal tubes.  In the Regency, they came in bladders that had to be pierced for each painting session.  They dried up quickly and had to be used fast, so artists didn't keep a wide range of colors handy about the atelier.  They mixed what they needed from ten or a dozen basics.

This to the left is Constable's paint box with its paint bladders.  About twelve of them. 

W reeves 1784 to 1789 paint box  from whimsies one time permissiontn

A nice 1794 paintbox with about a dozen blocks of paint and a couple of conte pastels




 Watercolor came in more shades. 

Regency watercolors looked surprisingly modern — little squares or oblongs with about the texture of today's watercolor, stamped with the maker's name.  The binder contained honey to give a softer, gummy texture. 

Since colors could be mixed as needed on a ceramic palette, even a very fancy watercolor box held a dozen or twenty colors.  Ackermann — yes the same Ackermann who made prints and produced Ackermann's repository — offered 68 prepared color choices in 1801.

(So many of these watercolors were so very poisonous.  I'm sure there's a good Regency mystery here somewhere.)

Pastels, on the other hand, came in myriad shades.  In the Regency these were available commercially and had been for a century.

As those students who attempt the art of crayon-painting may be readily supplied by the shops with every kind of crayon, we shall not enter into the manner of their preparation
     Pantologia: A New Cyclopaedia, John Mason Good, 1813

These dozens of prepared colors were not just convenience, but a necessity arising from the way the medium worked.  Pastels could be 'smudged' on the paper to create a blended hue or added in layers for subtle shading, but the artist had to start with a wide selection of excellent colors.

No great success in this mode of Painting can be expected, unless you have procured Crayons of brilliant tints, that are tender, corresponding with those in Nature.
     A Treatise on the Art of Painting, and the Composition of Colours, ‪M. Constant de Massoul‬. 1797

What startles and amazes is how few pigments they had. 

This is the palette they worked with, mostly from ground, natural stones:

Selection of Minerals

natural minerals used as pigments attrib Michael Price 











List of colors
Lead white
Ivory black
Naples yellow
Indian yellow
Prussian Blue
Yellow ochre
Red ochre
Rose madder
Burnt sienna
Brown madder
Cassel earth
Ultramarine blue


From this — everything.
All the art.  All the pastels and oil paintings and watercolors.   
I am so amazed.

Paint box with oils:  John Constable (English, 1776–1837), Paint Box, 1837. Tin box with
hinged lid housing eleven bladders, tied with string and filled with
pigment, a piece of white stone, and a glass vial of powdered pigment, 2
x 13 x 3 3/8 in. (5.1 x 33 x 8.6 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art
Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (photo by Michael Agee)


If you were a Regency artist, what medium would you have chosen?  What would you have painted?

Some fortunate person from the comment stream will win one of Joanna's books — their choice.