Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Free Garçon of Color with a Book by Andrew LaMar Hopkins, 2012, via his blog
This isn’t contemporary to the period (1830’s), but I found the accompanying essay so interesting that I had to post it.
(I’ll only link to the pictures because they’re big and Tumblr has been making adding pictures to the body of your posts difficult lately.)
I have been planing a visit to my beloved New Orleans for the past few weeks. Getting in the sprit I have had energy to paint. I have been working on some Historical New Orleans scenes and I will share with you today one that I have completed. Titled “Free Garçon of color with a book” the painting depicts a 1830’s Creole interior scene with a fashionably dressed Free boy of color.
Before I describe the elements of architecture and decoration of this interior I will talk about “The Free people of color” A free person of color in the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, is a person of full or partial African descent who was not enslaved during the time of slavery. In the United States, such persons were referred to as “free Negroes,” though many were of mixed race (in the terminology of the day, mulattos, generally of mix European and African descent.
Free people of color was especially a term used in Antebellum New Orleans and the former Louisiana Territory, where a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed. There were also free people of color living on the American East Coast, other parts of the South and in the Caribbean and Latin American slave societies. There colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to appearance and to the proportion of African ancestry.
A free boy of color with his puppy is fashionably dressed in the French Romantic style of the 1830’s. In the 1830’s, men and boys wore dark belted knee-length tunics or coats, and light colored trousers.
The largest group of Free people of color lived in Antebellum Louisiana. Free people of color, or gens de couleur libre, played an important role in the history of New Orleans and the southern part of the state, as well as the former Louisiana Territory. When French settlers and traders first arrived in the colony, the men took Native American women as their concubines or common-law wives; and when African slaves were imported to the colony, they took African women as wives.
As the colony grew and more white women arrived from France and Germany, some French men or ethnic French Creoles still took mixed-race women as mistresses or placées and sometimes set up households with Free women of color before they officially married into white society. In the period of French and Spanish rule, the free people of color had developed formal arrangements for placées, which the young women’s mothers negotiated, often to include a kind of dowry or property transfer to the young women, freedom for them and their children, and education for the children. The French Creole men often paid for education of their “natural” (illegitimate) mixed-race children from these relationships, especially if they were sons, sometimes sending them off to Paris to be educated.
Free people of color developed as a separate class between the colonial French and Spanish and the enslaved black African workers. They often achieved education and some measure of wealth; they spoke French and practiced Catholicism, although there was also development of syncretic religion. At one time the center of their residential community was the French Quarter. Many were skilled artisans who owned property and their own businesses. They formed a social category distinct from both whites and slaves.
Free people of color were also an important part of the history of the Caribbean during the period of slavery and afterward. Again as the descendants of French men and African slaves, they achieved wealth and power, particularly in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. It achieved independence as Haiti in 1804. In Saint-Domingue, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other French Caribbean colonies before slavery was abolished, the free people of color were known as gens de couleur libres, and affranchis. They were also an important part of the populations of British Jamaica, the Spanish Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and Portuguese Brazil.
The main subject of the painting shows a free boy of color of mixed racial parentage holding a book. 19th century portraits showing the subject holding a book meant that the person could read. He is fashionably dressed in the French Romantic style of the 1830’s. In the 1830’s, men and boys wore dark belted knee-length tunics or coats, and light colored trousers.
A 18th century Creole fireplace with a wrap around mantle and upper Trumeau
The focal point of the room shows a Creole fireplace. Although Louisiana has tropical weather most of the year some winters can become a little chilly. Most homes built during the 18th and 19th century had fireplaces in just about every room. Creole homes had Creole mantelpieces like in this case. They are called wrap around mantles. The sides of the mantel extend and wrap the chimney breast. The ornate wooden part above the mantle is referred to as a Trumeau on 18th and early 19th century Louisiana inventory’s. In 18th century France a Trumeau was a decorative wooden panel above a mantel that incorporated a mirror and decorative painting.
In Louisiana a Trumeau was just decorative paneling above a mantle where one might place a mirror and painting on top of the molding. Mirrors or painting were usually not incorporated into the piece like in French Trumeau’s. Some of the finer homes of Louisiana and New Orleans had the upper mantle Trumeau included into the rooms.
The Architectural features of the room date from the late 18th century and are in a early Neoclassical Louis XVI style but characteristic of Louisiana. This style of interior decoration continued well into the 19th century. The painted mantel and Trumeau are Louis XVI in style and have carved and applied ornamentation such as the medallions, Ionic pilasters, festoons and the lozenge shape were very popular designs in late 18th century Louisiana architecture. The room has a very plan molded chair-rail molding and the baseboards are marbleized. The floors are bare wide cypress boards.
Rugs were not popular in Louisiana because of the tropical climate they did not fair well and deteriorate fast in the humid weather. Plus wool rugs were hot to walk on most of the year in the tropical Louisiana weather. Grass/straw matting was much cooler and was used more then rugs during this time.
The sides of the mantel extend and wrap the chimney breast.
The painted mantel and Trumeau are Louis XVI in style and have carved and applied ornamentation such as the medallions, Ionic pilasters, festoons and the lozenge shape were very popular designs in late 18th century Louisiana architecture.
We know much about Louisiana interiors of the 18th and first half of the 19th century due to inventory’s. In French and Spanish Louisiana and even after America bought Louisiana extensive postmortem household inventories, were required by law in France and French Louisiana. Theses inventories give us a sense of how homes of many classes of people living in Louisiana were furnished. Where furniture was placed, wood’s and fabrics used. And even description if something was old, very old are new at the time the inventory was made.
Architecture and decoration are powerful ways of expressing one’s identity, The Free people of color of Louisiana were architects, builders, furniture makers, cabinetmakers & iron smiths. Things can tell us about the lives and lifestyles of there owners. We know from 18th & 19th c inventory’s that Louisianans love to keep and mix old furnishing and decorative arts with newer items in a room. Ancestry meant every thing in Louisiana back then as it does today. Having a 50 year old armoire handed down from your grandmother was cherished just as much as a newer piece of furniture. Rooms were furnished with fine French style local made furniture as well as with imported pieces from Europe, as is the case with this room.
A 1820’s mahogany Louisiana armoire with beehive turned legs.
Louisiana Colonial architecture is simple but elegant and sometimes understated on the outside. 18th & 19th century visitors wrote that some exteriors of building were not that impressive, but the interiors could be luxuriously furnished, painted and decorated. My painting shows two pieces of Louisiana furniture, to the left a circa 1750-90 elegant cherry cabriole leg Louis XV style table copied from a 18th century table I have in my collection. Tables like this were multifunctional and could be used for display as in the painting, games like playing cards, tea or as a occasional table. To the right of the painting is a 1820’s mahogany armoire with beehive turned legs. Armoires were popular pieces of furniture in Louisiana with homes having no closets, armoires could be used in just about every room of a Louisiana house for storage. This armoire show some American influence that came into Louisiana furniture after the 1803 purchase of Louisiana. The “beehive” shaped leg was wall known on the East Coast but in Louisiana it is bolder in form. The decorative arts in the room are a mixture of the old and newer items. Over the mantel on the lower part of the Trumeau is a gilt bronze French wall clock in the Neoclassical Louis XVI style circa 1775.
A circa 1750-90 elegant cherry cabriole leg Louis XV style table copied from a 18th century table I have in my collection.
On the top part of the Trumeau is a Old Master copy of St. Rose of Lima by Carlo Dolci. Creole’s were Catholic and displayed religious artifacts and art in there homes. Copy’s of famous paintings like this were made in Louisiana and also came from artist in Colonial Mexico. Saint Rose of Lima, (April 20, 1586 – August 24, 1617), was the first Catholic saint native to the Americas, She was born in Lima, Peru. On the cabriole leg table is a French Empire Old Paris porcelain vase of garden flowers and a glass fish bowl with goldfish. People in the 18th and 19th century had pet’s like fish and puppy’s just as we do today. Over the cabriole leg table is a 18th century Neoclassical French Gesso And Giltwood Barometer. On the mantel are five porcelain cups, (one behind the boy’s head) lined up in the French manner awaiting guest. On the ends of the mantel are a pair of English Regency patinated bronze argand lamps in the shape of Rhytons. The design of these lamps, like many Classical Argand lamps, were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman urns and bronze vessels. The work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi was a rich source of inspiration for early 19th-century designers currying to the tastes of a populace fascinated with ancient cultures and focused on the electrifying, on-going archaeological discoveries in Southern Italy.
On the ends of the mantel are a pair of English Regency patinated bronze argand lamps in the shape of Rhytons.
Geneva-born philosopher and inventor Francois-Pierre-Ami Argand (1750-1803), finally received a British patent for his lamps developed a few years earlier in Paris on March 15th, 1784 (patent no. 1425). His invention which promised “a lamp that is so constructed to produce neither smoke nor smell, and to give considerably more light than any lamp hitherto known” consisted of a tubular wick held between metal tubes, a rack and pinion wick riser assembly and a tall, narrow chimney that fit closely around the wick causing air to be drawn up through the center of the flame as well as around its outside creating more thorough combustion. It was designed to burn rape-seed (colza) and whale oil issuing from an oil reserve or “font” positioned so that the oil would flow from the force of gravity to the burner. Hailed by Rees in his encyclopedia of 1819 The Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature saying “it may be justly ranked among the greatest discoveries of the age” and by Benjamin Franklin who noted it was “much admired for its splendor,” Argand’s invention was the most important advancement in home lighting since the discovery of fire.
The Raymond Children by Robert Peckham, ca 1838 US (Massachusetts), the Metropolitan Museum of Art
These both appear to be boys, even if the boy on the right is portrayed a little unconventionally. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen portraits where a boy is holding a doll.
"A PRESENT FOR JOSEPH" is written on the mug in the background.
A lady in a white dress and shawl before a Viennese landscape (19th century). Workshop of Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (Austrian, Romantic, 1793–1865). Oil on canvas.
Waldmüller was a representative Biedermeier painter. The Biedermeier period in art was a transition between Neoclassicism and Romanticism as it was interpreted by the bourgeoisie. The rising middle class’s cultural interests in books, writing, dance, and poetry readings were subject matter for Biedermeier painting, which was either genre or historical and most often sentimentally treated.