Just the other night I re-watched the 1980’s hit movie “Amadeus’.
While I had watched and enjoyed this movie many years before, I viewed it from a different perspective this time. After spending the last 10 years in France, I had more of an appreciation of the life, fashion and furniture of the times than I did when the movie was originally aired.
The movie was replete with magnificent fashion and furniture of the 18th Century including typically French Louis XV and XVI furniture.
Mozarts life extended throughout both reigns of French King’s Louis XV and XVI and indeed both styles of furniture predominate throughout. See below, the difference in styles. One interesting note, is that the galbe leg which first made it’s appearance during King Louis XV’s reign, was designed to mask the fact that King Louis XV had bowed legs.
The one thing I noticed, which hadn’t occurred to me before, was the size of the 18th Century women’s hairstyles and hats. In fact, the hair and hats were enormous and exaggerated to the point of ridiculous. I had always assumed that painters had taken artistic license and exaggerated both hats and hairstyles but that was not the case.
While watching Amadeus, his wife, Constanze and her friends were photographed many times wearing enormous hats and sporting hairdoes that would make the average North American woman topple.
The photograph below shows the muscian Salieri talking to a friend of Constanze.
I mentioned to larry how large the hair styles were and he promptly responded ‘Well now you know what bonnetieres were made for”
In fact I already knew what they were made for, but now the size of these bonnetieres made sense. They were needed to store these magnificent bonnets of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
During the second half of the eighteenth century much of European and American fashion followed the styles of Paris, France. In France the nobles of the court gathered at Versailles, the palace of the French king.
There, they had little to do except gossip and design more and more excessive fashions. Men began to wear tall wigs, made of human hair, horsehair, or goat’s hair, that were dressed into complex masses of curls. Women placed a horsehair cushion or a wire frame on their heads, then wrapped their own hair over it and piled it high in enormous decorative hairdos, which sometimes rose several feet above the head.
Proud hairdressers gave their creations dramatic names, like coiffeur à l’espoir (hairstyle of hope) or coiffeur de la Liberté (hairstyle of liberty) and often topped them off with huge ornaments, like sailing ships, windmills, and whole gardens of flowers. Both men and women held their styles in place with large amounts of hair pomade made from beef fat and covered the whole thing with powder, usually made from wheat or rice flour, sometimes scented and dyed blue, pink, or violet.
Perhaps one of the most important effects of the lavishly styled hair of the French court was caused by the powder itself. At a time when French peasants could barely afford the cost of a loaf of bread, French noblemen and noble-women stood in powder rooms covered with protective cloths, while servants dusted their hair with great quantities of flour. Poor people who were already angry about the extravagant lifestyle of the wealthy grew even more resentful over this waste of perfectly good food on simple vanity. In 1789 this anger exploded in the French Revolution (1789–99). The poor turned furiously on the rich, determined to get revenge for all the wrongs that had been done. Elaborate hairstyles were replaced by shorter, more natural styles.
A Bonnetiere is simply a long narrow single doored armoire, used by aristocatic French ladies for storage of their large hats and coats. Usually found just inside the entrance to any fine French home of the day. They started to become popular in the late 18th Century when hairstyles and bonnets of the day became enormous.
This Bonnetiere is a fine example of how beautifully the contrast between contemporary construction and antiques work adding interest to on otherwise stark and potentially boring and predictive interior.
Now men of the 18th and 18th Century too were not forgotten. They had a similar armoire only two door and separated by a middle drawer. These were referred to as home debout which stands for ‘standing man’
This is an example of a double doored Homme Debout.
Typically an Homme Debout is a single doored cabinet with the drawer in the middle. However, we currently have none in stock to give an example of these unusual pieces.
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