Monday, January 31, 2011

Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sissi)
(24 December 1837 – 10 September 1898)

Elisabeth of Bavaria was Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary as the spouse of Franz Joseph I. As such, she held also the titles Queen of Bohemia, Queen of Croatia and others. From an early age, she was called “Sisi” by family and friends.
While Elisabeth had limited influence on Austro-Hungarian politics, she has become a historical icon. Elisabeth is considered to have been a non-conformist who abhorred conventional court protocol and at the same time a tragic figure..

Elisabeth was born in Munich, Bavaria as Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie in Bavaria. She was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and her mother was Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Her family home was Possenhofen Castle.
In 1853 Elisabeth accompanied her mother and her 18-year-old sister, Duchess Helene, on a trip to the resort of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria. Her mother hoped Helene would attract the attention of their maternal first cousin, 23-year-old Francis Joseph, then Emperor of Austria. Instead, Franz Joseph chose the 15-year old Elisabeth, and the couple were married a year later in Vienna at St. Augustine's Church on 24 April 1854.
At sixteen years old, Elisabeth had difficulty adapting to the strict etiquette practiced at the Habsburg court. 
In this oppressive atmosphere, Elisabeth quickly made clear her impatience with the surroundings and the role imposed on her by society as a member of on of the world’s oldest royal courts. Isolated from political events by a dull and conventional camarilla, she was obliged to keep up appearances while, at the same time, being expected to be sensitive to political and diplomatic issues during long audiences with courtiers. Towards these people, Sissi (as her husband sometimes called her) feigned rejection by making up poems imbued with a “geniale Narrenstreich”:

I have woven some caps for you

And decided to put bells on the top;

That way you can go around like buffoons

She bore the emperor three children in quick succession: Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1855–1857), Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932), and the hoped-for crown prince, Rudolf (1858–1889). In 1857, tragedy struck. Elisabeth, against the advice of the doctors, took her two daughters on a vacation in Hungary. Both girls were ill with diarrhea, but while Gisela recovered quickly, her older sister Sophie succumbed to the disease and died; she was two. Her firstborn's death would haunt Elisabeth for the rest of her life and cause a permanent rift between her and her husband, which would gradually grow wider as their marriage slowly collapsed. In 1860, Elisabeth left Vienna after contracting a lung disease, later believed to be psychosomatic. She spent the winter in Madeira and returned to Vienna only after having visited the Ionian Islands. Soon after that she fell ill again and returned to Corfu.

Archduchess Gisela Louise Marie, 1860s

In 1867, national unrest within the Habsburg monarchy caused by the rebellious Hungarians led to the founding of the Austro–Hungarian double monarchy. Elisabeth had always sympathized with the Hungarian cause. Reconciled and reunited with her alienated husband, she joined Franz Joseph in Budapest, where their coronation took place. Following the imperial couple's reconciliation, Elisabeth gave birth to their fourth child, Archduchess Marie Valerie (1868–1924). Afterwards, she took up her former life of restlessly travelling through Europe. Elisabeth was denied any major influence on her older children's upbringing; they were raised by her mother-in-law and aunt Princess Sophie of Bavaria, who often referred to Elisabeth as a "silly young mother."

Elisabeth embarked on a life of travel, and saw little of her offspring. She visited such locations as Madeira, Hungary, England and Corfu. At Corfu, after her son's death, she commissioned the building of a palace which she named the Achilleion, after Homer's hero Achilles in The Iliad. After her death, the building was purchased by German Emperor Wilhelm II.  Later it was acquired by the nation of Greece and converted to a museum.

She became known not only for her beauty. Newspapers published articles on her fashion sense, diet and exercise regimens, passion for riding sports, and a series of reputed lovers. She paid extreme attention to her appearance and spent much time preserving her beauty. Especially her long hair that was a treasure of herself.  
Her barber was one of the most rich person in Vienna because Sissi payed to her a lot of money for taking an meticulous care of her hair. Sometimes brushing her hair took around 4 hours!

Elisabeth followed a strict and draconian diet and exercise regimen to maintain her 20-inch (50 cm) waistline, wasting away to near emaciation at times. This was years before such symptoms could be classified as a classic case of Anorexia nervosa.

The Empress wrote poetry (such as the "Nordseelieder" and "Winterlieder", both inspirations from her favorite German poet, Heinrich Heine). Shaping a fantasy in poetry, she referred to herself as Titania, Shakespeare's Fairy Queen. Most of her poetry relates to her journeys, classical Greek and romantic themes, and ironic commentary on the Habsburg dynasty. In these years, Elisabeth intensively studied both ancient and modern Greek, immersing herself in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Numerous Greek lecturers, such as Marinaky, Christomanos, and Barker, had to accompany the Empress on hour-long walks while reading Greek to her. According to contemporary scholars, Empress Elisabeth knew Greek better than any of the Bavarian born Greek queens during the 19th century.
In 1889, Elisabeth's life was shattered by the death of her only son. Thirty-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf and his young lover Baroness Mary Vetsera were found dead; an investigation suggested it was murder-suicide by Rudolf. The scandal was known as the Mayerling Incident, after Rudolf's hunting lodge in Lower Austria, where they were found.

Rudolf's sensational death increased public interest in Elisabeth, and the Empress continued to be an icon, a sensation in her own right, wherever she went. She wore a long black gown that could be buttoned up at the bottom, a white parasol made of leather and a brown fan to hide her face from the curious. Only a few snapshots of Elisabeth in her last years were taken, by photographers lucky enough to catch her unaware.

Elisabeth spent little time in Austria's capital Vienna with her husband. Their correspondence increased during their last years, however, and their relationship became a warm friendship. On her imperial steamer Miramar Empress Elisabeth travelled through the Mediterranean. Her favourite places were Cap Martin on the French Riviera, where tourism had started only in the second half of the 19th century; Lake Geneva in Switzerland; Bad Ischl in Austria, where the imperial couple would spend the summer; and Corfu. The Empress also visited countries to which no other northern royal went at the time: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. The endless travels became an escape for the Empress from herself and her misery.

On 10 September 1898, in Geneva, Switzerland, Elisabeth, aged 60, was stabbed in the heart with a sharpened file by a young anarchist named Luigi Lucheni, in an act of "propaganda of the deed". When attacked, she had been walking along the promenade of Lake Geneva about to board the steamship Genève for Montreux with her lady-of-courtesy, Countess Sztaray. She boarded the ship, unaware of the severity of her condition. Bleeding to death from a puncture wound to the heart, Elisabeth said, "What happened to me?"[citation needed] The strong pressure from her corset had contained the bleeding until the garment was removed.
Reportedly, her assassin had hoped to kill a prince from the House of Orléans and, failing to find him, turned on Elisabeth instead. Lucheni afterwards said, "I wanted to kill a royal. It did not matter which one."[citation needed]
The empress was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna's city centre. For centuries it has served as the Imperial burial place. After learning of his wife's death, the Emperor reportedly whispered to himself, "She will never know how much I loved her."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Castle Howard, North Yorkshire, England

Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, 15 miles (24 km) north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is not a true castle, but this term is often used for English country houses constructed after the castle-building era (c.1500) and not intended for a military function.
Castle Howard has been the home of part of the Howard family for more than 300 years. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England heritage group.

The house is surrounded by a large estate which, at the time of the 7th Earl of Carlisle, covered over 13,000 acres (5,300 ha) and included the villages of Welburn, Bulmer, Slingsby, Terrington and Coneysthorpe.
The estate was served by its own railway station, Castle Howard, from 1845 to the 1950s.
The 3rd Earl of Carlisle first spoke to William Talman, a leading architect, but commissioned Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the Kit-Cat Club, to design the building. Castle Howard was that gentleman-dilettante's first foray into architecture, but he was assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
Vanbrugh's design evolved into a Baroque structure with two symmetrical wings projecting to either side of a north-south axis. The crowning central dome was added to the design at a late stage, after building had begun. Construction began at the east end, with the East Wing constructed from 1701–1703, the east end of the Garden Front from 1701 to 1706, the Central Block (including dome) from 1703 to 1706, and the west end of the Garden Front from 1707-1709. All are exuberantly decorated in Baroque style, with coronets, cherubs, urns and cyphers, with Roman Doric pilasters on the north front and Corinthian on the South. Many interiors were decorated by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini.

The Earl then turned his energies to the surrounding garden and grounds. Although the complete design is shown in the third volume of Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, published in 1725, the West Wing was not completed (indeed, not even started) when Vanbrugh died in 1726, despite his remonstration with the Earl. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, but construction finally started at the direction of the 4th Earl. However, Vanbrugh's design was not completed: the West Wing was built in a contrasting Palladian style to a design by the 3rd Earl's son-in-law, Sir Thomas Robinson. The new wing remained incomplete, with no first floor or roof, at the death of the 4th Earl in 1758; although a roof had been added, the interior remained undecorated by the death of Robinson in 1777. Rooms were completed stage by stage over the following decades, but the whole was not complete until 1811.

The entrance hall

The long gallery

The drawing room

The dining room

The turquoise drawing room

A large part of the house was destroyed by fire which broke out on 9 November 1940, including the central dome. Most but not all of the devastated rooms have been restored over the following decades. The house has been open to the public since 1952. Castle Howard is one of the largest country houses in England, with a total of 145 rooms. The current owner grew up at the castle and still has not visited all of its rooms.

Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens. There is a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house is prominently situated on a ridge and this was exploited to create an English landscape park, which opens out from the formal garden and merges with the park.
Two major garden buildings are set into this landscape: the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden, and the Mausoleum in the park.

The Temple of the four winds

 There is also a lake on either side of the house. There is an arboretum called Ray Wood, and the walled garden contains decorative rose and flower gardens. Further buildings outside the preserved gardens include the ruined Pyramid currently undergoing restoration, an Obelisk and several follies and eyecatchers in the form of fortifications. A John Vanbrugh ornamental pillar known as the Quatre Faces (marked as 'Four Faces' on Ordnance Survey Maps) stands in nearby Pretty Wood.

There is also a separate 127 acre (514,000 m²) arboretum called Kew at Castle Howard, which is close to the house and garden, but has separate entrance arrangements. Planting began in 1975, with the intention of creating one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom. The landscape is more open than that of Ray Wood, and the planting remains immature.

It is now a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens and is managed by a charity called the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, which was established in 1997. It was opened to the public for the first time in 1999. A new visitor centre opened in 2006.

New river bridge and Mausoleum 
The new river bridge was built in 1744 in the grounds of Castle Howard, the mausoleum was built in 1791 and is still the private burial place of the Howard family.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

If I would be a nymph.. 
                                                                                  I'd prefer to come  from Pre-Raphaelite's painting... 
   The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were soon joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form a seven member "brotherhood".
    The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular, they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him "Sir Sloshua", believing that his broad technique was a sloppy and formulaic form of academic Mannerism. In contrast, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
    The Pre-Raphaelites have been considered the first avant-garde movement in art, though they have also been denied that status, because they continued to accept both the concepts of history painting and of mimesis, or imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. However, the Pre-Raphaelites undoubtedly defined themselves as a reform-movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. Their debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal.

Below I posted some of the most fascinating mythological paintings by Pre-Raphaelites:

John William Waterhouse

Ophelia, 1889

Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896

Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus, 1900

Boreas, 1903

Ophelia, 1910

Ophelia, 1894

Miranda -- The Tempest, 1916

Echo and Narcissus, 1903

The Lady of Shalott, 1888

La belle Dame Sans Merci, 1893

Marianna in the South, 1897

(version 1), 1905

A Naiad or Hylas with a Nymph, 1893

Flora and Zephyrs, 1898

My Sweet Rose

The Princess

The Valkyres Vigil

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet


A Sea Spell 1877

Draper Herbert James

Mourning for Icarus

Arthur Hughes


 Ophelia, 1865

 Charles-Francois Jalabert

Nymphs Listeningtothe Songs of Orpheus, 1853

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Trianon's Gardens and the Hamlet from Louis XVI.
The english garden of Marie-Antoinette, which replaced the botanical garden of Louis XV, emulated the latter's great variety in selection of species, but to aestetic rather than scientific ends. the goal being not assembly of typical representatives of certain plant families but maximal beauty and contrast. Likewise, the Hamleet or Hameau built for Marie-Antoinette at the extremety of the English Garden brings to mingd the ermitages of Pompadour; but these had been small chateaux or middle-class residences without any remarcable archtectural charachter, while the Hamlet imitated peasant houses, at least as shown in contemporary painting. Thus while the rustic posturing of Marie-Antoinette may be said to owe something to her predecessor's modest taste, its character was fundamentally different.

The temple of Love, in the park of the Small Trianon. Built by R. Mique for Marie-Antoinette in 1772-78. The statue "Love carving his Bow" from the masterpiece by Bouchardon (1746) long exhibited in the Salon of Hercules. 

n July 1774 the new queen of Frnace approved the paln for an English garden proposed by the comte de Caraman, who had already created a similar garden for his own pleasure. The gardener Antoine Richard had also proposed a plan. As executed, the Versailles English garden incorporated elements from both of these but was the work of two of the Queen's proteges, Richard Mique and Hubert Robert, for who the post of designer of the king's gardens had been created. The famous painteer of ruins picturisque gardens  in this mode, which had been fashionable for thirty years and was indebted to the classical landscape tradition. In comforrmity with the rules of the genre, this concentrated dose of "nature" included several of the small ornamental garden buildings known as fabriques: a Temple of Love (1777-1778), a Belvedere (1778-1779), and a theater (1779). The Hamlet, built in 1783-85, ten years after the one at Chantilly, originally included, in addition to the queen's house that made it famous, several rustic buildings that have only partially survived: a mill, a reception cottage, a billiard cottage, a small structure in which meals brought from elsewhere could be reheated, a dovecote, a gardener's cottage, a barn, and a dairy. The Malborough Tower, inspired by a famous contemporary popular song, was built as a stand-in for the lord's chateau. An actual farn was also included, but some distance away.

Belvedere in the park of Smal Trianon. Built by R. Mique in 1178-79. 

 The interior of the Belvedere. The ornamental designs, painted on stucco, are the work of Leriche. 

The Grand's Trianon garden.

The walk of the Ahahs. An ahah is a gap or opening in an enclosing wall intended to frame a perspective view. Those openings don't provide an access, at Trianon entry from the outside is precluded by small moats known as saut-de-loup or fox jumps. The Trianon park is surrounded by fence with many such ahahs. 

The revolution spared the gardens of Versailles, partly because Antoine Richard cleverly planter crops on the terraces to preclude their destruction. Louis XVIII did no more than replace on of Louis XIV's bosquets with the charming King's Garden, which, with its variwgated species, plant borders, clumps of trees, and picturisque character typifies early 19th century garden design. By the time of Napoleon III another replantation was required, one whose results wpuld prove sufficient for more than a hundered years: most of the trees destroyed by the storm of February 1990 had entered their second century.

The King's Garden, created in 1818.