The Mysterious Madame Lanchester
These are all from journals that were A5 size or lightly larger. What is a thrill (and an expensive one at that) is to come across the gorgeous Quarto sized plates from Le Miroir de la Mode.
Despite its French title this was an English production, the work of the mysterious Madame Lanchester, or, more prosaically, Mrs Ann Lanchester. Madame Lanchester, a fashionable modiste and designer, produced designs for Ackermann, Fashions of London and Paris and La Belle Assemblée. She had a shop in New Bond Street c 1803-4 and St James’s Street in 1806-9.
For less than two years, between 1803-4, she published Le Miroir de la Mode to promote her own work. The first print is shown at the top in the cheaper uncoloured version. It was also produced with a vibrant red pelisse. Below is a detail of another plate showing the detail fo the drawing.
It was an incredibly lavish production and only the wealthiest ladies could have afforded it. There were two plates in each issue and the text was given in English, French and Italian. The plates were hand coloured and each had a tissue overlay.
Where Madame Lanchester got the money from for this extravagant publication is a mystery, because in January 1803, when she was in Sackville Street, and described as ‘dealer and chapwoman’, she was declared bankrupt. In the previous year this advertisement had appeared in the Morning Chronicle (24th April 1802).
SALES BY AUCTION
part of the SUPERB and VALUABLE STOCK of MADAME LANCHESTER of Sackville-street.
Messrs. ROBINS beg most respectfully to acquaint the Nobility,
Gentry, and the Public, that they SHALL SUBMIT BY
AUCTION, on the Premises, in Sackville-street, on Wednesday
And two following days, at 12 o’clock.
of the various elegancies of DRESS, ornamented with
superb LACES, the property of MADAME LANCHESTER, going
in a few months to Paris, consisting of White and Black Lace,
Veils and Cloaks of the most delicate patterns, rich laced Caps
And Sleeves, Spencers, Morning Calsons, Handkerchiefs and
Equivoes, Pelices, Morning and Evening Dresses, beautiful
White and Black Laces, ornamental Gold Watches and Trinkets,
a few Boxes of Rouge etc. The whole of the Dresses
Made up in that style of fashion for which Madame Lanchester
Has become so eminently distinguished. – May be publically viewed
On Monday and Tuesday prior to the Sale (by Catalogues only).
Which may be had at 2s each, on the Premises, and of Messers.
However, she must have recouped her fortunes somehow, established herself in New Bond Street and published her short-lived magazine. Between 1806-9 insurance company records place her at 59, St James’s Street but in 1810 she was again declared bankrupt. After that, nothing is known of Ann Lanchester and all we are left with are the exquisite plates to provide serious temptation for collectors on the rare occasions they come on the market.