The Way We Lived Then……

I have been looking at some of the new work at Artisans in Miniature today.

I must say there is an incredible diversity and an astonishing degree of realism and beauty in it. I am constantly amazed at the inventiveness of my fellow AIMERS.

Something else, linked with this wonderful work on miniatures, is that a friend ( who is a miniature collector herself), has sent me a postcard from Nostell Priory, a National Trust House in the Midlands where she does something or other, in her spare time, to help out in the shop.

This is the house that is displayed there, built in 1735.

Nostell Priory dollshouse

Amazing isn’t it? It was made slap bang in the very middle of the ‘golden age’ of the dummy board. They don’t have one in the house though…is this an opening for PastMastery?

It set me to thinking about – How we lived then- and how fashions come and go. Go and ……come again.

Some of them ought to jolly well go altogether. Here I have to say ( and no doubt there will be many of you throwing up your hands in horror ), I am meaning things like some of the ‘fashionable’ clothing and particularly the fabric patterns and colours that were all the rage in my youth. They were horrible then and they are horrible now forty years later. 🙂

I am amused to think that I cannot be the only one who <<sighs>> at those wonderful frocks of, for example, the 18th century, with the beautifully tasteful patterns, the glorious riot of exquisite lace and the lovely pointy little shoes ( which would no doubt make you walk like a lady!)

PastMastery miniature of Mme Pompadour in her Rose Bower from a painting by Boucher. 5 inches by 6. Even she only reached the age of 43 despite her softer environment.

Or give you corns!

I know I’m not the only one- because there are thousands of miniaturists out there who, though they can’t wear the frocks themselves, make them for dolls or buy those dolls. ( I on the other hand want to WEAR THE FROCKS – and can, when I wish- by painting myself into them….) See the picture below. I have lost about two stone here! 🙂

Me! 5 inches, as a Jacobean Lady.c. 1630. The outstretched hand is usually resting on a large dog's head.

We have, haven’t we, an absolute fascination for the 18th and 19th centuries and for the Golden Age of Elizabeth? We always imagine that, if we were to be there then, we would be in those frocks, wearing that lace and prancing around on them little slippers!

Probably not so.

Most of us would be in workaday brown with coarse and scratchy petticoats, with holey shoes and very much darned stockings. And we wouldn’t be living in Nostell Priory’s dolls house- Oh no…unless we were below stairs.

Mary From the Dairy...a life sized dummy board at Sulgrave Manor Northants. Actually a tapstress or barmaid. Which would you have been- Mary or Mme de Pomp?

It puzzles me that with all the luxury we have around us today and, let’s face it, we do live in luxury, even the most restrained of us, that the fashion of the moment dictates that we must hark back over and over to those more austere times.

We are constantly being encouraged to de-clutter, pare down, live simply, chuck out …well…yes…most comfort!

Now no one can tell me that frocks like the above were comfortable to wear. Panniers, bustles, stays, farthingales and the like would have made life downright difficult for the women of, whichever age. However, let’s put this in context they grew up with it. They knew no different.

Our ancestors were constantly trying to improve their lot, to make life more comfortable, easier, cleaner and above all more pleasing to the eye in their homes. ( whatever they considered at any given time – that to be ) They strove, perpetually to ‘better themselves’. Not that they were particularly into” keeping up with the Jones’ “. Of course there will have been an element of that but most simply could not afford it. For the average man and woman, though, life was cold, hungry, hard work, filled with few pleasures and lived in spartan surroundings.

Now- call me an old fashioned girl – you can call me worse than that if you wish 🙂 but

Why are we urged, in the media today, to return to it, in our real lives? To:

  • Throw out carpets as outmoded and return to bare boards, despite the fact that they are cold, noisy and draughty- and these are the reasons they ceased to be bare boards.
  • To live with bare stones and bricks as walls- where they were never intended to be in the first place, because they were never designed to be seen because of their poor quality.
  • To have little colour in our homes except beige, white, grey and brown.
  • To ( and I have banged on about this before ) give house room to ‘furniture’ and items that our ancestors would have cringed at. Bits of driftwood masquerading as mirror frames, rusty furniture and apple boxes play acting as coffee tables, hessian sacks filling in as cushions and old tea towels strung up as curtains, to name but a few.

Why don’t we just go back to living with beaten earth floors covered with rushes…and be done with it mmm?

I can understand ‘Going Green’ but I really didn’t think it meant literally turning it green! Some things belong in the garden shed or the greenhouse. – No Apologies…Well…someone has to make a stand. 😉

It doesn’t even really make for exciting photography in these “House and Garden” type magazines. It’s just a fad. They have lost their way. They seem to have run out of ‘new’ things to say. That is why I have stopped buying them. ( Can I be the only one irritated by this? Can I really be such a misguided old fuddy duddy?)

The point of this rant is….how many future miniaturists, when faced with the choice of building a dollshouse for themselves and collecting the bits and pieces to go into it, will look back to the fashions of the beginning of the 21st century and say…THAT is what I want?

Will the Georgian and Victorian eras still be the favourite of the miniature collector, ( with a few high -er class Tudor homes thrown in )?

Well…yes I suppose there will be a few.

But I bet there will still be a much bigger market, for all those lovely, lovely, skilfully executed and very decorative, colourful and characterful and historical miniatures made by people like my fellow AIMERS.

One of my water colours entitled 'The Way we lived Then ' painted in 2006 of a house in Norfolk from a 1953 photograph. I really wouldn't fancy it! No central heating...Brrrr.

< Complaint over! >

One Response to “The Way We Lived Then……”

  1. Bon's Mots Says:

    One word: Indoor Plumbing! (Well, that was two, but you know what I mean…) ;-}

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