Thursday, October 3, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Queen Victoria in Fancy Dress, 1845

We're back!  Two busy days have passed, and I'm back on schedule.
I though today we'd look at "Fancy Dress."  So, let's get started with one of my favorite watercolors from The Royal Collection Trust.

Queen Victoria in Costume for
The 1745 Fancy Ball
June 6, 1845
Commissioned by the Queen
for her Portrait Album
Watercolor over Pencil
Crown Collection
The Royal Collection
Fancy Dress Balls (or, as we’d say in the U.S., “costume balls”) were quite the sophisticated thing in British Society of the Nineteenth Century.  Everyone enjoyed the freedom of wearing clothes from another time and place.  Queen Victoria was no exception.  This small watercolor and pencil drawing shows Queen Victoria in one of her favorite costumes—a grand gown designed by the royal dressmakers M. and Mlle Vouillon et Laure for the June 6, 1845 Bal Costumé.  The Bal Costumé that year is historically often referred to by the name “The 1745 Fancy Ball.”  The theme that year was to dress as one would have one hundred years prior.  
Queen Victoria was so pleased with her Eighteenth-Century-inspired gown that she commissioned several portraits to be painted of herself wearing the costume.  In her journal entry for that night, she even drew a small sketch of the gown. Though our mental picture of Victoria is of the stoop-shouldered widow in black, we must remember that this was a woman who was once young and in love—a woman who very much enjoyed life. 

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
via The Royal Collection Trust

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