L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, March 24, 2017

Changing your gown but not your pose (or artist) - two portraits of the Grand Duchess Vladimir by Boris Kustodiev

1911. This appears to be a preparatory sketch for the finished painting which was only completed two years later.
1913. In the final version, the Grand Duchess is portrayed wearing an entirely different court gown and jewels.


The Grand Duchess wearing exactly the same court gown and jewels as in the first painting; considering that the pose is also exactly the
same in this photograph and in both paintings, it may be possible that the artist worked from photographs rather than from life.
The famous "Vladimir tiara", now in the collection of the British royal family, worn in the two images above and in the first painting.
An earlier image of the Grand Duchess wearing the sapphire and diamond necklace worn in
the second painting and showing the original setting of her sapphire and diamond tiara.
The new version of the sapphire and diamond tiara (1909) and the devant de corsage (1910) worn in the second portrait; both by Cartier.


Edited - heavily - and adapted - a lot - from the Sotheby's website:

This second portrait of the Grand Duchess Vladimir (1854-1920, sometimes referred to as "Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder"), is dated 1913. Kustodiev completed the painting almost two years after making his initial study. The subject was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Friederich Franz II and Augusta of Reuss Kostritz. Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin would become a key figure in the life of the Russian capital after her union with Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia (1847-1909), son of Emperor Alexander II. Among other things, Grand Duke Vladimir was President of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg and the Grand Duke’s financial support - from his private funds - allowed many artists to flourish beyond the conservative boundaries and culture of the Imperial court. The Grand Duchess Vladimir took over the Presidency of the institution after the death of her husband in 1909; in Kustodiev's portrait she stands before a bust of her husband, and the Imperial Academy of Arts can be seen in the background, its presence symbolic of their lifelong involvement with the arts.

Kustodiev painted the dominating figure of Grand Duchess Vladimir, proud and dignified and covered in spectacular jewels – she was famous for her jewelry. In fact, it is said that she spent much of the annual pension of 1 million gold francs she received after the death of her husband on her jewelry. In Kustodiev’s portrait, she wears her famous sapphire and diamond diadem commissioned from Cartier 1909; the firm re-used stones belonging to the client, the central sapphire weighing 137.20 carats The tiara later belonged to her niece, Queen Marie of Roumania, whose daughter, Princess Ileana, sold it back to Cartier in the Fifties. The stomacher (devant de corsage) worn by the Grand Duchess was also made by Cartier, again using the client's stones, in 1910. The necklace and earrings appear to be Russian and of an earlier date.

The Grand Duchess fled St. Petersburg in February 1917. She settled in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus until February 1920, when she finally left Russia. Remarkably, her jewels which she placed in a secret safe in the Vladimir Palace, had remained undiscovered by the Bolsheviks despite repeated searches. Albert Stopford, a British secret agent and family friend, recovered the jewels and the Grand Duchess’ jewelry eventually found its way to Cartier, Paris in a diplomatic pouch; Cartier has archival photographs of all of the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s jewels taken around 1920. After the Grand Duchess’ death on September 6, 1920, the jewels were divided among her children: Grand Duke Kyrill received the pearls, Grand Duke Boris the emeralds, Grand Duke Andrei the rubies, and Grand Duchess Elena the diamonds.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Perversely beautiful, or merely perverse - mythological subjects by Bartholomeus Spranger

Detail of below.
Venus and Adonis, circa 1595-1597.
Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venere (Bacchus and Ceres Leaving Venus), circa 1590.
 Hercules and Omphale, circa 1585.
Ulysses and Circe, circa 1580-85.
Glaucus and Scylla, circa 1580-82.
Ares on the Battlefield, circa 1580.
Minerva Victorious over Ignorance, circa 1591,
Hermes and Athena (fresco), circa 1585.
Perseus and Andromeda, circa 1597.
Jupiter and Antiope, circa 1580s.
Hercules, Deianira and the Dead Centaur Nessus, circa 1580-82.
Hermaphroditus and the Nymph Salmacis, circa 1581.
Venus and Mars Warned by Mercury, circa 1586.


Self-portrait, circa 1580-85.

Bartholomeus Spranger (name variations: Bartholomaeus or Bartholomäus and Spraneers. 21 March 1546, Antwerp – 1611, Prague), Flemish painter, draughtsman, sculptor, and etcher. His had a very particular style, combining elements of Netherlandish painting with Italian influences, in particular the Roman Mannerists. His first important teachers were three Antwerp landscape painters. Later he traveled to Paris, arriving a few weeks before his nineteenth birthday. From there he went on to Italy, first Milan, then Parma, then Rome. Five years later, in 1570, he was appointed court painter to Pope Pius V. In 1576 he was called to Vienna by Maximilian II; the Holy Roman Emperor died shortly after his arrival. But his successor, Rudolf II, was even more keen to employ the artist. In 1581 he was appointed court painter (also valet de chambre), and a wealthy marriage was arranged for him. His home became a center for artists in Prague - the court having moved to that city - and he remained there until his death at the age of sixty-five.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Crown in a box - and the coronation of Charles X by Gérard.

Detail of Baron Gérard's coronation  portrait of Charles X.

The French crown jewels having been stolen during the Revolution, a new crown had to be made for Louis XVIII. Napoléon had finally left the stage - again - and the Bourbon Restoration was successfully established, but Louis still thought it politically imprudent to go through with a coronation. So, after modifications, the crown was used for the first and last time at the coronation of his brother and successor, Charles X, at Reims in 1825. The crown went into storage at the fall of Charles in 1830; his cousin, the new "Citizen King", Louis-Philippe, also thought that a coronation would set the wrong tone with the French populace. After he was overthrown, eighteen years later, the Bonapartes came back to power, and Napoléon III - who would also eschew a coronation - had the crown dismantled in 1854, the stones re-used in new jewelry. Then, sixteen years after the collapse of the Second Empire, the frame itself was melted down. A year later came the famous sale of the French Crown Jewels; republican France would never again have use for a crown.

The écrin-couronne; made of stamped and gilded Morocco leather on a wooden base, the crown's fitted case survives.
Gérard's scene of the coronation of Charles X, circa 1827.
Detail of above.
There are many copies and variations of Gérard's coronation portrait, circa 1825.
Detail of above.
A large-scale miniature of Gérard's portrait, the work of Henry Bone, 1829.
Detail of above.
Detail of the Bone miniature.


Lastly, a plaster cast of the crown; casts of finished work were very frequently made by jewelers, especially in the case of important commissions. The crown was originally executed and later adapted by Christophe-Frédéric Bapst to the design of his uncle, Evrard Bapst. The base is in the shape of a band surmounted by sixteen fleur-de-lys alternating in size, the eight largest of which form the bases of arches which gather in the center and are surmounted by a finial in the shape of a fleur-de-lys. The entire surface of the crown was set with diamonds and sapphires - while the surface of the plaster cast is still covered in pencil markings, notes to specify the location of each particular stone.