Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gardening Gloves On Ladies!

I have just managed to spend an entire day in the garden without being rained on! This was so lovely that I thought I would share some Regency prints with a gardening theme in the hope that they will inspire you, even if it is raining again when you read this.

The garden was very important to the Regency lady as part of her elegant surroundings, a way of displaying her taste and income. Having the latest plants, the most fashionable furnishings and statues and a range of interesting walks for her guests would all be of importance. I am not sure whether these two are a married couple or whether a little light flirtation is about to take place! (Le Beau Monde or Literary & Fashionable Magazine August 1807)

The formal garden close to the house was the place for ornamental plants, but anyone with an estate would also have pleasure grounds with shrubberies and woodland walks. Picnics could be held there and there is definitely some rather scandalous behaviour taking place in this detail from a print in the French Modes et Mannieres series.

If you could afford it you would have a gardener, of course, like this chap drawn by Pyne in his book of examples for aspiring amateur artists to include in their own compositions. Their employers, however, often developed an interest in hands-on gardening themselves - which probably was not very popular with the real workers!

This printed plate above shows a gentleman showing off what I first thought was a flower. But close examination shows that it is actually a cutting - it even has the correct sloping cut at the bottom. Presumably it is from some exotic new plant he has acquired for his collection. I suspect his companion is feigning interest - perhaps she would prefer a rose in flower.

Ladies could be involved in gardening too, although their idea of appropriate clothing was not quite what we would put on for some vigorous digging. This print from Ackermann's Repository for 1820 shows an elaborate walking dress and pretty straw bonnet. A certain informality is implied by the untied bonnet ribbons and the loose neckerchief and the lady is not wearing gloves. She appears to have just been watering some foxgloves.

And finally, also from Ackermann, here is a gorgeous outfit for strolling in the garden or posing on a Classically-inspired stone seat. I somehow don't think this lady is going to be potting up foxgloves in that outfit!

Louise Allen


Frank Clarivu said...

the scandalous behaviour you mention is certainly something that caught my eye. I find gardening therapeutic and the weather at the moment (lots of sun and rain) has made everything grow a treat. Was it just the really well off people who could afford gardener's back then?

Louise Allen said...

Frank - I think most middle class/professional people would be able to employ someone to do the gardening, even if he wasn't a live-in memebr of staff

Jan Jones said...

Lovely summery post, Louise. Bit worried as to what the gentleman at the top is doing with that cane. And think watering-girl is more 'posing with plants' than actually gardening :) [I would have thought foxgloves too vigorous to grow in a pot, myself. Wonder if tastes have changed or whether the artist didn't have a clue?]

Louise Allen said...

Jan - I think he's pointing out that foxgloves are unsuitable for indoor pots

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Lovely post, Louise. The couple in the top picture are surely married or related. No gentleman would sit in the presence of a standing lady unless they were either married or very intimate indeed.

I don't know if you've read Henry James's novel 'Portrait of a Lady'. The heroine Isabel realizes that her husband, Gilbert Osmond, is having an affair with Madame Merle the instant she sees him sitting and Madame Merle standing next to the chair.

It's one of those social clues we've lost.

annie burrows said...

ooh, Elizabeth, that puts a whole new slant on the pictures Louise has posted. Must go back and take a second look!

Barbara Monajem said...

Very enjoyable post. You always have such lovely pics, Louise. And Elizabeth, I will remember that cue -- so significant! (Although perhaps an alternative is that he's very rude. Or trying to upset her. Or... Can't help but think in terms of story scenes. ;))

Christina Courtenay said...

I love your prints, Louise, they're beautiful! Have been trying to do gardening myself this week and battling with an army of weeds - can't imagine trying to do it dressed like that :-)