The Regency Wardrobe Collection - research & making - Eating Bees & Suspended Beauty, the Ridicules


To carry coins, or scent, or her handkerchief a Regency lady would use a reticule.


"reticule

(ˈrɛtɪˌkjuːl)

n

1. (Clothing & Fashion) (in the 18th and 19th centuries) a woman's small bag or purse, usually in the form of a pouch with a drawstring and made of net, beading, brocade, etc...

[C18: from French réticule, from Latin rēticulum reticle]"

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/reticule

Some people argue that ‘ridicule’ is the only proper Regency term for a ladies purse. In fact it's probable that the terms were used interchangeably. Both come from the French word for a small handbag, réticule, which in turn came from the Latin rēticulum for a small meshwork bag. It is possible that Ridicule was a pun on the French word.


A Reticule for The Regency Wardrobe collection


I planned to make two, but have ended up working on a third. My thinking was that the first reticule I would make would reflect the meshwork style referred to in the original definition of the word réticule; so I began, for the first time, to crochet. I taught myself how to chain stitch and how then to move around in a circle with my crochet hook, and I kept going. From the beginning of the period of researching and making The Regency Wardrobe collection (at the end of 2019) until early 2020 I took this piece of crochet to every appointment I had that might keep me waiting a few moments. Instead of reading a book I would add a few more stitches and so the piece started to grow.


The crocheted part was whole by March 2020, it was the shape of a very small bag and it was to be, I thought, the primary component of the planned 'Blue Tit reticule'. In my head this small bag was to have a shaped paper base, like those below, with illustrations of blue tits on it and blue, yellow and white tassels. During the period of crocheting I'd also been experimenting with the possible shape of a base, and doing the drawing of the birds. I'd been trying out different paper types for the layer beneath the mesh and I'd been experimenting with tassels. None of it was working well or coming together coherently however so I thought several times I would surely have to abandon the piece. Then in the summer of 2020, after the exhibition of the collection had been delayed in May, I went ahead and ordered a perspex case of the shape I'd intended the piece to be shown within. It was to have a clear rod affixed up inside because the bag had always been meant to be shown suspended (flying).


But the crochet form was certainly not giving me the appearance I wanted. Simultaneously i decided to begin a piece of quilling for the base of the frame and to make a cardboard base for the bag that reflected the shape and colours of this quilling. By then I'd looked at many bird illustrations from the Regency period and had moved away from the blue tit. I found a new sort of the paper, to use for the draw string top and it all began to come together. Thus Suspended Beauty was born (please see below for pictures of it as a work in progress). This then was bag one.


Another style from the time that I liked the look of involved a gathered round shape with a flat front. From this inspiration came a pair of pieces, a reticle and a fan that together I have named Eating Bees. This likewise is detailed below.


Research for the Reticles

This is a pretty impressive example of a bag from the late eighteenth century that shows a drawstring effect and metal work. Please see: https://www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en/work/bag-1794

In the Regency bag shapes as a rule became slightly simpler than they had been during the reign of George III. Often made of silk, after 1810 they started to be made of velvet and leather also.

http://agreeabletyrant.dar.org/gallery/accessories/purses/


The drawsting top remained very popular however as did variously shaped bases made of thick paper that were covered with fabric and trim or embroidered or painted upon. This model was replaced around 1807 with elongated fabric bags with drawstrings.

Apparently owned by Jane Austen (?)

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/401031541816340641/


Reticle, anonymous, c 1787 - c. 1807 - https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/BK-NM-5596

"Silk, l 24.0cm × w 25.0cm × h 9.0cm - similar bag from Paris was described in the German fashion magazine Journal des Luxus und der Moden of 1788 as ‘an elegant English lady’s work bag … mostly made of taffeta decorated with flowers’. Fashionable ladies carried their needlework in this type of drawstring purse, which was fitted with a thick paper box as the base."

So it seems such bags might also have have been assigned a single purpose, such as holding needlework.


see also:

https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/1904302--lorrana/collections/accessories?ii=0&p=0

https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/1092875--muschje/collections/tassen?ii=0&p=0

© Museum of London

This reticle is held by the mannequin displaying the pelisse you can see was used as a reference for the Rouleaux Pelisse, part of the Regency Wardrobe collection.



The images above show reticles held by: The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The McCord Museum The Museum of Fine Ars Boston, Lacma and shown on: Threading through Time





And here is a pattern showing ladies how to make a bag of this style,

please see: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/462604192949452763/



It was also not uncommon for a reticule in the first quarter of the 19th century to be formed as a gathered or pleated outer circle surrounding a decorated inner circle with an opening that was gathered together to close. In The American girl’s book: or, Occupation for play hours by Eliza Leslie (1787-1858) instructions to make one of these can be found: https://www.loc.gov/resource/dcmsiabooks.americangirlsboo00lesl_0/?sp=282 (see image 282, page 274)




The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York holds a lovely white example of this style with small whitework flowers embroidered inside the central circle. Painted scenes and beadwork were also often applied as decoration. Click here for another example of one from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston





and here is a similar design but with a more hexagonal shape

https://augusta-auction.com/auction?view=lot&id=18938&auction_file_id=52




Work in progress


Suspended Beauty


Designed so that the reticule will hang above a quilled area...


...whilst working I had to balance the separate parts one on top of each other (and on top of a cannister) to get an idea of scale...


...the illustrations on the base of this reticule are inspired by the art of the zoological illustrator, in particular illustrators of birds.




Many men became well known for their work in the area of bird illustration at this time, including John Gould, but there were women working also not least John's wife Elizabeth Gould, née Coxen (1804 - 1841). Soon after the publication of the Gould’s first ornithological images, she became briefly internationally renowned for producing works of great beauty and accuracy. She died of puerperal fever however, at just 37, after the birth of the couple’s eighth child. There is a series of Gould’s books of birds in the library at Firle Place, as there would have been in many large houses.The sketches of birds on this reticule are reproductions of illustrations by Elizabeth Gould and other artists from this period.


A bit more about Elizabeth Gould:

"Elizabeth Coxen was born to a middle class family in Ramsgate, England on July 18, 1804. Her formal education allowed her to earn a living as a governess, teaching Latin, French, and music. Her life was “wretchedly dull” when, according to legend, she met John Gould in the Aviary of the Zoological Society. Finding themselves to be kindred spirits, they married when she was 24. John, like his father before him, first worked as a gardener and learned taxidermy in order to create garden displays. Through skill and luck, and by the force of his personality, he became the Animal Preserver to the British Museum, and Ornithology Superintendent to the Zoological Society. In an era dominated by the work of naturalists John James Audubon and Charles Darwin, the Goulds began to raise a family and embarked on their celebrated publishing venture. On October 7, 1829, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, John, who died in infancy. In the meantime she was working on the drawings for A Century of Birds of the Himalaya Mountains. The first of twenty parts in the series was published on December 20, 1830, and the following day Elizabeth gave birth to her second child, John Henry. The following year, the naturalist Nicholas Vigors would name a species to honor “the accomplished artist, Mrs. Gould” During work on the next part of A Century of Birds, Elizabeth suffered from another difficult pregnancy and the death of her third child. Edward Lear, the nineteen-year-old bird artist, later famous for his nonsense verse, was working for the Zoological Society when John Gould approached him for temporary assistance. Under Lear’s influence, Elizabeth’s technique quickly advanced with added depth, motion, character, and improved composition. Soon after the publication of the Gould’s first ornithological images, she became internationally known for producing works of great beauty and accuracy, even receiving grudging words of admiration from John James Audubon.John Gould contributed sketches to the joint endeavor, but his true aptitude was as a producer: overseeing the production from beginning to end, identifying birds with rough drawings, conceptualizing and correcting the renderings, as well as paying for the publication. Although he created the mystique of an artist around himself, it was Elizabeth who had the talent. Together they made a tremendous team. He delivered her from a life of tedium, into a life of adventure and a fulfilling career. She provided John with the skill he needed to establish his reputation and supported the charade of his artistry with the statement “Drawn from Nature & on Stone by J. & E. Gould.”

Elizabeth’s greatest adventure began on May 16, 1838. Leaving all but her oldest child with her mother, she and John set sail for Australia. Over the next two years, Elizabeth made hundreds of drawings from specimens for the publications Birds of Australia and A Monograph of the Macropodidæ, or Family of Kangaroos, as well as fifty illustrations for the Ornithology volume of Charles Darwin’s Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle. She also accompanied John into the Australian bush, giving her a thrilling, first-hand glimpse of her subjects. In Tasmania she gave birth to their seventh child, Franklin Tasman.

In August of 1840, the Goulds arrived back in London, but Elizabeth never completed the lithographs of the birds and mammals she saw in Australia. She died of puerperal fever after the birth of the couple’s eighth child, Sarah. She was 37 years old. After her death, her drawings were prepared on stone by H. C. Richter, and at publication, her name was not noted in connection with these works. Although grieved at the loss of his partner of twelve years, the enterprising John Gould continued production of his bird books, beautifully illustrated by a series of artists including H. C. Richter, Edward Lear, Joseph Wolf and William Hart.- https://web.archive.org/web/20060928080345/http://www.lindahall.org/events_exhib/exhibit/exhibits/womenswork/gould1.shtml


For more please see:

https://exhibits.lib.ku.edu/exhibits/show/gould/about/elizabeth_gould

or

https://blog.library.si.edu/blog/2018/03/29/elizabeth-gould-an-accomplished-woman/#.YAAx2RbgpEY



The process of creating quilling involves pinning delicate coils of paper in place. As I worked on tis piece it seemed reminiscent of the way that exotic specimens of butterflies and moths were once pinned to boards by collectors.




Portrayed in this piece are the: exotic Cecropia moth; Small Emperor moth; Atlas moth. There is one butterfly in honour of Henry the 4th Viscount Gage (1791–1877) who likely bought some of the Gould volumes to Firle Place; it is the Tanaecia pelea, the Malay Viscount. These four are portrayed alongside decorative detailing from a large rug found today in the Palladian Drawing Room at Firle, believed to be the closest in style and colour to any that would have been in the house during the Regency period.


Unusually there are gaps left in this piece of quilling to suggest the horror felt by those who preserve historic textiles toward those moths that eat fabric as if the moths had started eating this quilled carpet of which their bodies are a part.


The centre of the quilled design is reproduced from the front of this flat reticule dated 1800, held in the Olive Matthews collection at Chertsey Museum.




Work in progress on Eating Bees


Eating bees is one of a number of pieces in this collection inspired by the quantity, quality and popularity of bird and botanical illustrations created during the Georgian era.


The Reticle shows an illustration of bees






It is created in recognition of the importance, today as then, of all pollinators including insects and bees.



Bee eater, from Birds of Europe - John Gould



Bee eater photographed by Ray Sullivan



The Bee eater on the fan that accompanies a reticule as part of Eating Bees, is drawn not out of cut cartridge paper with tissue paper behind so that it will glow when displayed, in a way that reflects how light passes to some degree through the wings of birds..



The finish on the foliage on the fan is inspired by the use of mother of pearl and lacquer found on many examples of fans from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.



Slowly I built up the number of leaves to make a wreath of quilling around the central image


The beads on the pull ties changed from orange to gold and I doubled the number of chords and tassels. Making paper beads is easy (video clip to come soon)




Austen - The Secret Track


And still I was left with the piece of crochet I'd done at the start and which had proved, after all not to fit the design of the two bags as they had shown themselves to need to be.


Then I read this:

"Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Elton were together. Miss Bates was out, which accounted for the previous tranquillity. Emma could have wished Mrs. Elton elsewhere; but she was in a humour to have patience with every body; and as Mrs. Elton met her with unusual graciousness, she hoped the rencontre would do them no harm.


She soon believed herself to penetrate Mrs. Elton's thoughts, and understand why she was, like herself, in happy spirits; it was being in Miss Fairfax's confidence, and fancying herself acquainted with what was still a secret to other people. Emma saw symptoms of it immediately in the expression of her face; and while paying her own compliments to Mrs. Bates, and appearing to attend to the good old lady's replies, she saw her with a sort of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold ridicule by her side, saying, with significant nods,


'We can finish this some other time, you know. You and I shall not want opportunities. And, in fact, you have heard all the essential already. I only wanted to prove to you that Mrs. S. admits our apology, and is not offended. You see how delightfully she writes. Oh! she is a sweet creature! You would have doated on her, had you gone. But not a word more. Let us be discreet -- quite on our good behaviour. Hush! You remember those lines -- I forget the poem at this moment:


'For when a lady's in the case, 'You know all other things give place.'


Now I say, my dear, in our case, for lady, read -- mum! a word to the wise. I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I want to set your heart at ease as to Mrs. S. My representation, you see, has quite appeased her.'"

- https://www.janeausten.org/emma/chapter-52.php


In this extract I found a new colour scheme, a secret item to include inside a third ridicule and a link with literature of the most apt sort.


During the exhibition I had meant to position at least one bag in the library at Firle Place where the most recent feature film of Emma was made and where certainly Jane Austen graces the library's shelves. I already had Suspended Beauty and Eating Bees made but now it seemed I would be making an unexpected third bag.


As I write this post in February 2021 however, this remains an unfinished chapter. The piece is newly underway, and like the hidden, unlisted track on any good album I wonder if this piece might not in fact feature in the exhibition guide or online during the exhibition along with all the other pieces in the collection. Watch this space and please come to the exhibition to be sure to see it, on site.





The Regency Wardrobe will be exhibited at Firle Place, in 2021. As soon as the collection has been shown images of all the finished pieces including Suspended Beauty and Eating Bees will be made visible on stephaniesmart.net

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