The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - The chalked floor

 

 

like chalk-figures drawn on ballroom floors
to be danced out before morning!

 

William Hazlitt
The Conversation of Authors
1826

 

 

As one of the first Regency traditions that I came across and became utterly enamoured with the concept of the chalked floor has pulled at me for two years now, during both the planning and working periods involved in The Regency Wardrobe. The Regency Chalked floor is an ephemeral concept, they were danced on and destroyed in an evening after all, but this makes them all the more intriguing.

 

At first it seemed I would struggle to find any written information about them but from various sources I did eventually accumulate a certain number of references to them. This article is about a chalked floor for a ball at The Royal Pavilion, Brighton:

 

Taken from (and to read more) please see: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=HlROAAAAcAAJ&pg=RA3-PA30&lpg=RA3-PA30&dq=chalked+floor+brighton+pavilion&source=bl&ots=pqThSX0Ngk&sig=ACfU3U3VRUivGAg1cWN5e5VsP28zMLEfWA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRoaPymY3pAhWwShUIHTGjAoEQ6AEwG3oECBEQAQ#v=onepage&q=chalked%20floor%20brighton%20pavilion&f=false

 

This was one of the first and is one of the longest and best descriptions I've found anywhere on this subject:

 

- nb. the following passage is taken directly from and accredited to: https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/the-now-vanished-ephemeral-art-chalking-the-regency-ballroom-floor/ I have put in bold the sections that most spoke to me as I went on then to design my own -

 

"And so they would be danced out, never to be seen again. But while they lasted, they enhanced the ballroom decorations for the evening, amused and/or charmed those who would soon dance across the surface of those ballroom floors, even as those same dancers consigned the lovely images to oblivion while they enjoyed themselves...

 

The practice of chalking the floor of a ballroom appears to have originated near the turn of the nineteenth century, among the beau monde, and was employed on very special occasions for important balls and other notable events which included dancing. One of the primary reasons for chalking the floor was for the safety of the dancers. The soles of most dress shoes at that time, for both men and women, were of plain, smooth leather. Such soles could easily slip on a smooth waxed ballroom floor in the course of a dance. It had become the habit of many dancers to rub the soles of their shoes with chalk before they began dancing for the evening, to give their slick-soled dancing slippers a better grip. At some point, some clever host or hostess hit upon the idea of chalking the entire floor, to ensure the safety of all their dancing guests. But they did not just scatter chalk across the floor. They hired artists to draw beautiful patterns over the floor in chalk which would be danced out over the course of the evening. But regardless of their fleeting nature, the chalk designs on the floor would provide a visual treat to the guests before the ball began as well as eliminating slippage as the dancers whirled about the ballroom.

 

There is no definitive information on the origin of the practice of chalking ballroom floors. But perhaps the first host to have chalk patterns drawn on their ballroom floor was a naval man, as it was common practice by the beginning of the nineteenth century to lay out ship designs in what was known as a "mould loft." These lofts were large open areas with equally large floors which were described as being as big and as smooth as the floors of a ballroom. Ship plans, which had already been drawn to scale on large sheets of paper, were next drawn full-size in chalk on the floor of the mould loft. These chalked patterns were then used to make wooden templates for the parts which would be needed in the construction of the ship. Once that ship was constructed, the chalk templates would be rubbed out and wiped away, ready for the next set of plans to be laid down. The sight of these chalk drawings on the mould loft floor might very well have sparked the idea of drawing designs in chalk on a ballroom floor.

 

It was considered de rigueur to brightly light a ballroom for a ball, preferably with a chandelier and several girandoles. The use of chalk designs on the ballroom floor was therefore very advantageous for those who had ballrooms with floors which were a bit the worse for wear. The decorative chalk patterns would cover and disguise an old, worn or stained floor, which might spoil the effect of an elegantly decorated ballroom...Floral designs were very popular for chalk designs, often larger images of the same varieties of flowers which had been used to decorate the ballroom. Arabesques were also fashionable....Mythological and fanciful motifs might also be seen, such as nymphs, mermaids, centaurs, satyrs, sea gods and/or classical heroes. Heavenly bodies, such as the sun, the moon, stars, planets, comets and shooting stars were also popular motifs. For those who had the right to bear them, their coat of arms might be chalked on the ballroom floor. At one ball during the Regency, the guest of a gentleman who had had his coat of arms chalked on the ballroom floor that evening is reported to have quipped that his host was dancing on his arms as well as his legs. Floral patterns were most common for engagement or wedding balls, though if either the bride or the groom had a coat of arms, that might be chalked on the floor, often in the centre, surrounded by flowers. If the bride and groom both came from families with coats of arms, the coat of arms of the bride might be quartered with those of her new husband in the design which was chalked on the floor for their celebratory ball. The dance floor was frequently chalked for masquerades, oftentimes with figures in keeping with the theme of the masquerade. There are suggestions that the more risqué masquerades had equally risqué drawings chalked on their floors for the titillation of the dancers.

 

When a ball was given to celebrate a special event, the designs chalked on the ballroom floor might be in keeping with the theme of the ball. At the annual hunt ball of 1813 in Warwick, the figures chalked on the floor included a man in the full hunting dress of a member of that hunt, mounted on a horse who was in the midst of a leap over a barred fence and a full-length figure of Guy of Warwick in a complete suit of armour. In November of 1818, the British Ministry in London held a ball for the American delegation. One of the delegates, Harrison Gray Otis, wrote to his wife about the ball. He estimated there were at least 250 people in attendance and there were two rooms set aside for dancing. In keeping with the political nature of the ball, the floor of each room had a unique chalked design. In one room, a great white circle was chalked in the centre of the room, in which was placed the armorial shield of Great Britain, encircled by the motto of the Order of the Garter, the Prince Regent’s crest and other symbols. In the second room, the floor also had a large white chalked circle, but this one contained the arms of the United States and was encircled by a set of symbols uniquely American.

 

On 25 November 1823, The Royal Suspension Chain Pier in Brighton was officially opened. That evening, Captain Samuel Brown, the man who had designed the pier, and his wife, Mary, gave a ball at their home on the Marine Parade in celebration. The guests were delighted to find, when the ballroom doors were thrown open, that a magnificently realistic drawing of the Chain Pier had been executed in chalk on the ballroom floor... the Chain Pier...was destroyed by a great storm in 1896...

 

In her article, The Rules of the Assembly: Dancing at Bath and Other Spas in the Eighteenth Century, for JASNA, Allison Thompson states that the practice of chalking ballroom floors was a something which was done at only the highest levels of society, and was in fashion between the years of 1808 to 1821. Though many dancers in the eighteenth century did chalk the soles of their shoes prior to dancing, or hosts spread chalk on their ballroom floors before the festivities, I have found no evidence to suggest that artistic chalk drawings were seen on ballroom floors in England until the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, there is evidence that, in both England and America, ballroom floors were chalked with fanciful designs on special occasions until nearly the end of the nineteenth century. For example, in 1833, King William IV and his Queen, Adelaide, wishing to provide a special treat for their young niece, Victoria, gave a juvenile ball at St. James’s palace for her on her fourteenth birthday, and invited a number of young people her age. The ballroom floor was chalked with a series of fantastical devices intended to amuse and delight the young dancers. Coming-out balls for many young ladies, right through the end of the century, included a chalked design on the ballroom floor. There is also evidence that the chalking of ballroom floors was not restricted to the upper classes. There are letters and diary entries which indicate that many large landowners hosted an annual ball for their tenants at their country estates and often had simple designs chalked on the ballroom floor, much to the delight of those in attendance. Some community assembly rooms chalked their dance floors from time to time for important evenings of dancing, though this seems to have been less common than chalking of floors at private events.

 

The patterns chalked on ballroom floors were typically designed and executed by professional artists based on the requirements of the host or hostess. However, there were some ladies, like Louisa Adams, who preferred to draw the designs which were to decorate their ballroom floors themselves. Should an unmarried daughter of the house draw the designs, one can be in no doubt that her proud mama would be sure to make that fact known to any potential suitors who might attend the ball that evening...

 

Much simpler chalk patterns were often to be found on dance floors across England, placed there by dancing masters when teaching their students. The patterns of the steps were chalked onto the floor to make it easier to learn the sequence of movement. Typically, the ladies’ movements would be chalked in white, while the gentlemen’s movements would be chalked in black, though any two colors might be used. A separate set of dance patterns would have to be chalked on the floor for each couple engaged in the lesson, and for each different dance they were learning during that session. In 1822, Thomas Wilson, Dancing Master of the King’s Theatre, published An Analysis of Country Dancing, Wherein All the Figures Used in that Polite Amusement are Rendered Familiar by Engraved Lines: Containing also, Directions for Composing Almost any Number of Figures to One Tune, with Some Entire New Reels; Together with the Complete Etiquette on the Ball-Room, in which can be found a wonderful selection of these dance instruction patterns, as well as written details on how to correctly execute the movements.

 

During the Regency and into the middle of the nineteenth century, both white and colored chalks were often used to draw the designs on ballroom floors. All-white designs were sometimes seen, and could be done to great effect, though typically, they were rather less expensive than those designs executed in color. But by mid-century, some authors of household management books were advising their readers that ballroom floor chalk designs should be executed only in white chalk. These arbiters of domestic economy decreed that colored chalk spoiled ladies gowns and dancing slippers. For example, in Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-Book; A Manual of Domestic Economy Containing Approved Directions for Washing, Dress-Making, Millinery … , of 1850, on page 436, Eliza Leslie advises:

 

Ball-Room Floors. — In preparing a floor for dancing, avoid using any sort of coloured chalk. It rubs off on the white satin shoes of the ladies, and spoils them immediately — ruining also the hems of their white dresses. The chalk for ball-room floors should always be white.

 

This does make sense, as by this time skirt hems were longer than had been those in the Regency, and they would certainly have gathered chalk dust as a lady danced around the room in the arms of her partner. The floors of debutante balls were regularly chalked at this time, and since debs were expected to wear white, colored chalks on the ballroom floor would most certainly have shown on the hems of their dresses, while white chalk would have been barely discernible....Hostesses often let it be known that there would be a chalk design in their ballroom for a special ball, as that had the effect of ensuring the prompt arrival of most of the guests. Since the designs would begin to blur after the first dance, and be quite illegible after two or three more, those wishing to see the transitory art would have to be present in the ballroom before the dancing began. But there were also hostesses who wished to keep their ephemeral designs a secret until the doors of the ballroom were thrown open to their guests and the patterns on the floor were revealed under the bright light of the glowing chandelier above. There were a number of critics of the practice of chalking dance floors, as they disapproved of both the expense of the art and the loss of time in the making of it. It could take anywhere from a day to a week to execute the chalk designs on a ballroom floor, depending on the complexity of the designs and the size of the floor. If a professional artist was employed, the cost could be quite high, even though the work of art would be destroyed soon after the ball began. Costs would be lower if the chalk work was done by amateurs, but it could take longer, thus, in the eyes of the critics, distracting the amateur artists from more important work. But it does seem that the critics were in the minority. Most people did enjoy the fleeting moments of pleasure, and possibly surprise, they were afforded by an elegant design chalked on a ballroom floor before they took to the floor with their partners and danced out the chalked art.

 

Like William Hazlitt, quoted above, the poet, Thomas Moore, used the concept of chalked figures on a dance floor to suggest the fleetness of time, and thus of life itself. Below is a stanza from Letter VIII of his Intercepted Letters, or the Two-Penny Post-Bag, first published in March of 1813, in which he draws the poetic parallel:

 

Thou know’st the time, thou man of lore!
It takes to chalk a ball-room floor —
Thou know’st the time, too, well-a-day!
It takes to dance that chalk away.
The Ball-room opens — far and nigh
Comets and suns beneath us lie;
O’er snow-white moons and stars we walk,
And the floor seems one sky of chalk!
But soon shall fade that bright deceit,
When many a maid, with busy feet
That sparkle in the lustre’s ray,
O’er the white path shall bound and play
Like Nymphs along the Milky Way : —
With every step a star hath fled,
And suns grow dim beneath their tread!
So passeth life — (thus Sc–tt would write,
And spinsters read him with delight,) —
Hours are not feet, yet hours trip on,
Time is not chalk, yet time’s soon gone."

 

Sadly, all those lovely designs chalked on all those many ballroom floors have been danced to dust and are long gone, just as is the Regency."

 

From, and with thanks to: https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/the-now-vanished-ephemeral-art-chalking-the-regency-ballroom-floor/

 

From the same author about the floor at the Prince Regent's own grand ball: https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/a-regency-bicentennial-the-grand-carlton-house-banquet/

 

It was certainly seeming that way to me, that is, that there were no images surviving showing an actual illustration of a chalked design from the time. As I progressed with my research however I was contacted by Paul Cooper, a researcher into Regency era social dancing and a dancer with the Hampshire Regency Dancers. He told me he did know of this image (and possibly a couple of others):

A chalked floor at Almack's, a detail from the covers of Paine's Quadrille Sets, from 1818.

Image © BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD, h.798 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

- nb. a quadrille was a type of dance introduced to Britain in 1815, Paine was a musician and Almack's the name of assembly rooms that held popular dances -

 

 

 

He has written three posts that include mention of chalked floor and is preparing a paper. I find it reassuring to know the subject isn't completely forgotten. Please see:

https://www.regencydances.org/paper010.php#almacks

https://www.regencydances.org/paper040.php#ball1

 

They include this passage:

 

"Numerous descriptions of society Balls were published in the London press, some were quite brief and others rather verbose; certain details regularly recur across those descriptions, they help to indicate just how grand an event was considered to be. If a hostess wanted to impress her guests then two of the most important considerations involved illumination and chalking of the floors. These details tend not to be considered for modern recreations of Regency era Balls, but they were of great importance at the time. A particularly wealthy hostess might go further and lure a celebrity orchestra to her Ball (perhaps the Gow Band, or that of Paine of Almacks), or a celebrated chef might be hired to prepare a feast. Flowers and exotic fruit might be liberally distributed, sweetmeats and ices prepared; artificial flowers may be displayed and professional entertainers hired.
Society Balls were usually held throughout the night, suitable illumination was therefore important...The Princess of Wales hosted a ball in 1809 at which the superb suit of rooms made a most magnificent display; they were illuminated by the newly invented Grecian lamps, which have lately been suspended in the centre, from golden rosettes...Floor chalking is an almost lost art form today but it was highly approved of 200 years ago. Chalking involved decorating the floor of a ball room with elegant chalk (or sometimes water-coloured) designs. It's unclear when the convention arose, references to chalking were common from around the start of the 19th century; an early example from a Royal Ball was described in 1804: The chalked floor was more than usually beautiful; the centre piece represented an Imperial crown, with the Admirals of England under, encircled by a mantle composed of red and white roses, the thistle, and the shamrock. Other fanciful devices were introduced, among which were the Prince's feathers, at the four corners of the room. (The Star, 1st April 1804). It was recorded of an Arundel ball of 1815 that the floor is chalked with many emblematical devices, festoons, wreaths of flowers, laurels, &c. The figures of a lion and a horse, as the supporters of the family arms, are introduced in various situations; they are exquisitely chalked by artists from London (The Star, 16th June 1815). Chalking may have served a practical purpose beyond mere decoration; it could, for example, allocate space for Quadrille dancing, it's recorded of an 1820 ball that the floor was chalked for six sets of quadrilles (Morning Post, 29th May 1820)."

 

from: https://www.regencydances.org/paper037.php#preparation

by Paul Cooper

 

 From the Gentleman's Magazine 1811

 

Glover was a celebrated artist of the time:

 

 

Monday 26th October 1812 Morning Chronicle

 

In Allison Thompson's article, as mentioned above, she quotes another poetic mention of a chalked floor:

"...by Thomas Moore, published in 1813:

 

Thou know’st the time, thou man of lore!

It takes to chalk a ball-room floor—

Thou know’st the time too, well-a-day!

It takes to dance that chalk away."

 

She goes on to say: "...the fashion probably did not trickle down to the provincial assemblies, as Austen would certainly have mentioned the chalk dust on the floor and shoes.

 

From: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol31no1/thompson.html

 

But Paul Cooper tells us: "A more modest event might involve simple geometric patterns drawn in chalk..." so perhaps Jane Austen saw only geometric lines and considered them unremarkable.

 

Paul goes on to acknowledge that though: "...a grand event might involve great works of commissioned art from a specialist floor chalker....the design wouldn't last long under the feet of the dancers, it was an entirely ephemeral form of art".

 

In her post about them Donna Hatch explains in more detail the way that balls were accommodated:

 

"Ballroom floors were made of polished wooden floorboards, such as shown in the picture above, but not too polished or the dancers would slip. Most of the time, the drawing room floors were covered with large carpets. But for a ball, they removed the furniture, and rolled up and removed the carpets. Most of the big houses didn't have exclusively designated rooms for ballrooms--that was a bit of a nouveau architectural design. Instead, they had state apartments with an enfilade of smaller, connecting rooms which could be opened or closed off, depending on the needs of the event."

 

From: http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2013/08/regency-ballrooms.html

 

 

 

From Country House Floors by Temple Newsom – Leeds

 

 

And for links between chalked floors and military campaigns such as I'd begun considering for my design:

 

 

From Tracing War in British Enlightenment and Romantic Culture ed. by  Gillian Russell and Neil Ramsey

 

 

 

 From the Gentleman's Magazine 1811

 

Research credit to Jill Vigus

 

 

 

The Chalked Floor design for under the ball gown of The Regency Wardrobe:

 

I started with the idea of designing an area of chalked floor for underneath the ball gown, the feature piece of The Regency Wardrobe collection, that would extend the design on the skirt. During the period I spent working on all the pieces not least that dress I decided also to design another area of floor for under the two military uniforms I was making, as these male figures were meant to be standing within sight of that elegant lady. 

 

I'd already decided there would be a map of the world on the area of floor directly under the ball gown and because of the embroidery connection I'd started looking at maps made as samplers by women of the period. When I found this sampler in the V&A collection it became clear that my volunteers and I would now be trying to reproduce a stitched or drawn map, specifically of the hemispheres of the globe, to be lain beneath the dress:

 

© Victoria and Albert museum

See: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O70389/the-world-sampler-unknown/

For more about the history of samplers please see also: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/embroidery-a-history-of-needlework-samplers

 

To begin reproducing it as part of the area under the floor we first enlarged it and printed it, then we could begin to trace and sew.

 

 

Graphics credit to Alexandra McKellar

 

For the design of the front of the chalked floor, in front of this map, I looked back at references in the texts such as that above. I picked up on some of the highlighted and other areas of the description and began looking to incorporate mythical beasts, mermaids and arabesque patterns. The idea of sea creatures seemed especially pertinent for the area afore the map I'd planned as they were often to be found in illustrations of the globe swimming around the edges of continents, I began with mermaids such as found on this site:

http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_feejee_mermaid

and this: https://cartographicperspectives.org/index.php/journal/article/view/cp79-haft/1377

 

Then I searched for centaurs and all the other types of mythical creature that had been appearing on maps up until this period. I found two particularly wonderful sites:

https://www.strangescience.net/stsea2.htm

https://about.library.ubc.ca/files/2019/02/ColourOurCollectionsUBC_MythicalCreatures_Vol2_FINAL.pdf

 

The images below come from:

https://www.georgeglazer.com/archives/prints/art-pre20/achillesed.html

https://www.strangescience.net/stsea2.htm

http://www.cellantiques.co.uk/p/208/ca1059-french-empire-bronze-model-of-a-centaur

 

 

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It's mentioned in the quote by Paul Cooper above that chalked floor artists might come from London to work on a ballroom floor design. By this point I was discussing the real creation of the real floor I had planned for beneath the ball gown and uniforms in The Regency Wardrobe collection and was discussing it's production indeed with a (scenic) artist from London; Charlotte Bownass.

 

I'd also been to the V&A Clothworkers centre for a visit to see a quilt I'd heard mention of on radio 4, this added the imagery I needed for the floor for the area behind the dress and Charlotte and I began to discuss different types of chalks and the style of the planned drawing. We decided we were looking to reference historical engraving) and when she then went on a trip to New York and sent back these photos of a graffitied wall she'd seen our plan for the sketched outlines of the front of our design was fixed.

 

 

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 For more images please scroll right..

 

Around the back of my chalked floor (for behind the back of the dress) I wanted the feel of the design to become somewhat different. Whilst the front of the dress was to be about pure luxury the back was to hint at something darker, with the shape of canons incorporated into the train of the dress itself, and embroidered teeth (see my post about making the ball gown) placed there likewise. The back of this work was to reflect the costs of the international wars that raged during the Regency and indeed those that have happened since.

 

For the two corner areas of the floor at the back it was the V&A's Ann West quilt, dated 1820, as mentioned above that turned to (please see: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O134051/coverlet-west-ann/)

 

© Victoria and Albert museum

 

The quilt is embroidered with dozens of separate scenes, showing Biblical stories in the centre and surely the whole of a Regency high street around the edge with each type of character who might have been found there.

 

Two glamourous Regency soldiers whom Ann West shows jousting on her wonderful quilt:

 

© Victoria and Albert museum

 

Homelessness, applicable today in relation to ex-military personnel in particular was hitting the news just as I was designing this whole piece and I found a direct parallel in Ann West's quilt. A sailor with a false leg is shown begging on the streets in one of the squares. This was and still is one of the unglamorous after effects of war. It turns out that the Vagrancy Act we still sometimes enact today, to move on those who society still doesn't know quite how best to help was first enacted nearly 200 years ago, in the period I am considering, in 1824. It was bought in because of upper class society's aversion to seeing those men who'd returned from the Napoleonic wars and found themselves on the streets. 

Please see: ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagrancy_Act_1824

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo4/5/83/section/4

 

Today there are organisations trying to help ex-military personnel who find themselves likewise homeless: https://www.soldiersoffthestreet.org/1-les

but it's still a terrible national problem:

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/762456/British-military-veterans-armed-forces-covenant-army-navy-RAF-Homes-for-Heroes-campaign

And Brighton and Hove, from the early 1800's until today, on the very streets that surround the very beautiful Brunswick square, has its own long-term homeless problem.

 

When I contacted BHT (Brighton Housing Trust) about research I knew they'd done into the history of homelessness locally I was directed toward this fascinating overview which covers the whole of the 200 year period I've been considering:

https://bht-heritage.org.uk/30-years-of-rough-sleeping/

 

And though not specific to the homelessness of ex-military personnel there are also interesting Argus articles to be found about the local problem today.

https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/15462849.our-brutal-lives-as-rough-sleepers-on-the-streets-of-brighton-and-hove/

https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/13655575.concern-over-hostel-for-ex-servicemen-at-heart-of-regency-square/

And this video I found particularly shocking:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=71&v=tQ6U77jv1_M

 

 

 

 

 

The Chalked Floor design for under the military uniforms as part of The Regency Wardrobe:

 

Under the uniforms in the back drawing room I was planning for something a bit different. Firstly I thought of a Regency era border area (such as this one):

 

 

I imagined my two uniformed mannequins standing in the top corners and saw the possibility of us drawing waves inside it to represent the importance of the navy at and until this period. This bought to mind the image of Hokusaki's famous wave painting so I researched the dates of his work:

 

 

 

"Born: supposedly 31 October 1760 Edo (present-day Tokyo), Japan Died: 10 May 1849 (aged 88)

Nationality: Japanese

Known for Ukiyo-e painting, manga and woodblock printing

Notable work: The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai (/ˌhoʊkʊˈsaɪ, ˈhoʊkʊsaɪ/, also US: /ˈhoʊkəsaɪ/; Japanese: 葛飾 北斎, pronounced [katsɯɕi̥ka hokɯ̥sai] (listen); c. 31 October 1760 – 10 May 1849) was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. Born in Edo (now Tokyo), Hokusai is best known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景, Fugaku Sanjūroku-kei, c. 1831) which includes the internationally iconic print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa"

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai

 

I thought it fascinating to learn that Japan was closed to the rest of the world during the Regency period.

 

"From 1643 to 1853, Japan was closed to the foreign world by the shoguns, but for some (few) Portugueses or Dutch merchants.
In 1810, a Dutch ship in French service, escaping from Java, took shelter in one of Japan's harbour (can't remember which one) from a British warship (the "Phaeton", if my memory's good) hunting him. The British captain ordered the Japanese authority to deliver him the Dutch vessel, but the Japaneses refused. The British then landed somes marines, captured two Dutch merchants living there as hostages, and threatened to execute them if their prey wasn't delivered to them. This time, the Japaneses agreed and let the British take the ship in their harbour.
After that, the local Japanese governor and the harbour commander made Sepuku (traditional suicide) since they took for them the burden of the dishonor for not having been able to protect the Dutch under their protection.

So, the Napoleonic wars made two victims as far as Japan, even at the time of its closure to foreign world! "

From - http://www.napoleon-series.org/cgi-bin/forum/archive2005_config.pl?md=read;id=52433

 

Showing an image of the sea locked inside an outer border seemed appropriate therefore.

 

Hokusai also produced this lesser know painting titled: Feminine Wave:

 

 

 

 

And he wasn't the only artist producing beautiful wave imagery in Japan during that period:

 

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/44918

see also this version:

https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Rough-Waves--after-Ogata-Korin-/6FF2C2CBD759A19C

 

 

 

I also looked at these images:

 

 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53783

 

 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon_and_Wave,_Tiger_among_Bamboo,_by_Kan%C5%8D_Tan%27y%C5%AB,_Japanese_Edo_period_-_Nelson-Atkins_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC09109.JPG

 

With the idea of the French and British like a tiger and a dragon glaring at each other across the channel in the early nineteenth century, because I was making both French and British frockcoats, and just because I love any drawing that involves this concertina effect this image certainly appealed.

 

 

Drawing and writing directly onto the naval uniform I was making (please see:  https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/stephaniesmart/single-post/2020/05/01/The-Regency-Wardrobe-Collection---research-production---the-frockcoat-of-Sir-Robert-Smart) made me reflect on the historical connections between tattoos and sailors (particularly Captain Cook's crew, please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailor_tattoos ) I was inspired also by coming across this image of a tattoo on a mans arm showing part land, part sea. My uniforms were being inspired by a naval admiral and a largely land based leader:

 

Fromhttps://tattooimages.biz/image/41945-circle-shaped-engraving-style-thigh-tattoo-of-waves-and-clouds/

 

 

My ideas developed next to include two epaulettes (one French, one British) with a little imagery of the land shown either side of the channel. I used these images as my inspiration:

 

 

"ÉPAULETTE DE COLONEL, PREMIER EMPIRE.
Brodée en frisure de torsades et paillettes d'or.
Le corps est brodé or d’un dessin figurant des feuillages, bordé d’une baguette d’encadrement festonnée sur drap de laine bleue foncée, boutonnière bordée d'une baguette brodée ; son écusson est brodé pareillement.
Double rangée de franges en grosses torsades en fils d'or mélangés mates et brillants. Le contour se compose de trois tournantes : une grosse en bourdon mat et filé brillant roulé alternativement ; une seconde intérieure de même finition ; une troisième, du même travail, est appliquée au-dessous de la grosse, à la naissance de la frange.
Très bon état de conservation.
Premier Empire"
- https://www.bertrand-malvaux.com/en/p/13469/epaulette-de-colonel-premier-empire.html

 

 

 

And looked at all of these sites:

 

https://www.rct.uk/collection/421586/unknown-officer-of-the-10th-light-dragoons

 

https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/10thltdragoons1794.htm

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Royal_Hussars

 

https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/10thltdragoons.htm
 

http://britishcavalryregiments.com/30-10H/10H.html

 

https://www.rct.uk/collection/400512/soldiers-of-the-10th-light-dragoons

 

 

These then are the preliminary outline sketches of my designs:

 

 

 For beneath the ball gown

 

 

Behind the dress will be a fan shape and on the hemispheres of the globe illustrated beneath the dress will be stars marking the sites of British naval and military deployments. Perhaps from the Regency era or perhaps contemporary I am as yet undecided:

Please see:

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/careers/why-navy/travel-and-adventure

https://www.army.mod.uk/deployments/baltics/

 

 

This is an amateur image taken during a professional photoshoot at Christmas, shown to illustrate the length of the train. Here then is the dress just awaiting her background floor.

 

 

 

 

 
For beneath the uniforms

 

Of course I would have to seek a dancer who might then destroy the images Charlotte and I were now due to create, so I put out a call: https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/stephaniesmart/single-post/2019/11/08/The-Regency-Wardrobe---research---The-Chalked-Floor

 

 

 

The exhibition of The Regency Wardrobe collection has been postponed due to Coronavirus as soon as the collection has been shown more images of all the pieces will be made visible on stephaniesmart.net

 

This project is being supported by:

Arts Council England, The Textile Society and Great Art

 

 


 

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