Spectrum

Mozartfamilyby Carmontelle ca. 1763

“I’m not naughty – I’m autistic. Sometimes I get too much information. And if you only see a naughty kid, you haven’t got enough”

Watch this video to experience what sensory overl…

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PINK (5): Don’t change colour to be equal

“In the West, to be the equal of men, women imitate them in their worst aspects, which is the best way of remaining inferior to them. That happens even in literature.” (Lydie Dattas)

pink hibiscusPink Hibiscus flower photographed by PJR

blue hibiscusBlue Hibiscus flower photographed by MHP

A woman is “immoral” when she “tries to save her soul by asserting an ideal perfectly foreign to her nature.”  (Lydie Dattas)

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO LELIUS, WHO INTRODUCED ME TO THE GREAT CONTEMPORARY FRENCH POETESS, LYDIE DATTAS. ONE OF HER POEMS FROM Le Livre des Anges II MAY BE READ IN THE ORIGINAL FRENCH ON LELIUS’ PROFOUNDLY BEAUTIFUL SITE, PERLES D’ORPHEÉ.

Pretty and Powerful in Pink

Philippe de Champaigne, 1602 - 1674 Cardinal de Richelieu 1633-40 Oil on canvas, 259.5 x 178.5 cm Presented by Charles Butler, 1895 NG1449 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1449

ABSOLUTE POWER: Cardinal de Richelieu, oil on canvas, 1633-40 by Philippe de Champaigne.
Image: © Copyright The National Gallery, London 2015
“I have the consolation of leaving your kingdom in the highest degree of glory and of reputation”, the dying Richelieu wrote to Louis XVIII, father of Louis XIV. The foundations of French gloire in the reign of the Sun King were laid by Richelieu. He wears Cardinal’s Robes of pink, the liturgical colour of rejoicing in God.

gainsboroughcountesshoweREAL ESTATE, SEX AND FASHION POWER in one woman: Mary, Countess Howe by Gainsborough, oil on canvas, 1764.
Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, London. Image: WGA
This exquisite incarnation of 18th century elegance and aristocracy was the wife of a gouty admiral. She had been born into a wealthy, landowning family and was co-heiress with her sister of their father’s substantial property; her marriage brought her into the aristocracy when her husband inherited the title of Viscount.
She is pretty and formidable, sensually alluring and untouchable. The love with which Gainsborough imbues her portrait and the poetically moody sky is thought by art historians to not be an entire illusion, as he was known to become sexually attracted to his good-looking female sitters, a professional hazard for many portraitists of all epochs.

In the same year Gainsborough painted Mary Howe, on the other side of the Channel, the woman who had redefined, owned and commercialized pink, the king’s mistress and unofficial cultural minister of France, Madame de Pompadour, died.

pompadourboucher

Madame de Pompadour by Boucher, 1759. Wallace Collection, London. Image: WGA
SELF-MADE POWER: elegant, gentle, carnal yet intangible, suggestible but not forceful – this is the quintessentially feminine power of influence crafted by the woman herself.

Such a soft, shell-like pink reminiscent of idealized human flesh tones, is flattering next to a middle-aged woman’s skin, but it is also suggestive of the colour of the sky when the sun rises and sets, and, in the iconography of her relationship with Louis XV, the sun god was the symbol of her lover and master, the king. Her favourite portraitist Boucher, was the genius and pander of pink.

MarilynpinkCELEBRATION OF PINK POWER: Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the pink satin dress designed by Travilla, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953. Image: Wikipedia
Blatant materialism and feminine predatory sexuality find absolution in pure, sweet, shocking pink celebration of being alive.
Marilyn is the girl whose faults we all forgive.

Pink is the colour of joy.

Angel in a pink dress under a pink glass ceiling (2)

“I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! …I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”

If the first dear readers of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre had known the writer was a woman they would have smirked over Jane’s cry for freedom. Oh, poor, plain, chatty Jane! How embarrassing for her. An hysterical woman screaming for attention. Love me love me Mr Rochester even though I’m poor and not pretty.

Under the impression that a man was communicating to them through an imaginary female body, the reader thinks – oh, if HE says so, perhaps there’s a point to all this spiritual and sexual equality thing after all.

And collusion with prejudice, having to play along with patriarchy, was the reason Charlotte wasn’t happy pretending to be a masculine writer. But, traditionally, this was how women had achieved enormous power over sexes and nations.

mariatheresa ghent

Martin van Meytens, Empress Maria Theresa, Town Hall Ghent. Image: WGA
A Serious Woman in a Pink Dress
Like the dress choices of Elizabeth I, and, intriguingly, the present Duchess of Cambridge, everything the great Habsburg empress and European matriarch wore in public was laden with political and diplomatic significance.
The pink dress she wears is covered in Flemish lace, a gift from the states of Flanders. She presented this formal portrait to them as a reciprocal gift, and it still hangs in Stadhuis Ghent.
She was an able, pragmatic and hardworking statesman, who passed many reforms though deeply conservative in her convictions and a devout Roman Catholic instinctively intolerant of religious diversity.
Though she held the real power, she only bore the title Empress by virtue of being married to the elected Holy Roman Emperor, because no woman could be a candidate, and after his death, as co-ruler with her son Joseph II. In her domestic life, too, she observed the glass ceiling: she was an obedient wife who had sixteen children by her faithless husband.
Like many strong-minded women who achieve power on their own merits she was not interested in the cause of female emancipation in general.
It is easy to understand why Elizabeth I never married.

Prejudice is resilient. It is ancient as the time when Eve replaced Lilith – and which of them wore pink, then? Every time the ceiling cracks, it is quickly repaired, by as many women as men, afraid of their shade of pink, the eternal feminine, being subverted by female literary terrorists.

Once upon a time, the most powerful of angelic messengers wore pink when they brought good news.

pink

Fra Angelico Annunciation 1433-34 Tempera on wood, Museo Diocesano, Cortona. Image: WGA
The announcing angel Gabriel is wearing a pink dress and an expensive gold leaf androgynous haircut.
Rose-pink is the liturgical colour of rejoicing.

Pink should not need an apology. There are many shades of pink. I’m not going to give it up; it is a misunderstood colour reclaimed by women writers every day. The best things in life are ambivalent.

Irony is pink.

Yes, dear reader, you can be a woman, wear lipstick, high heels and a pink dress, and be a feminist. You might even grow up to be a writer one day.

Pink. It’s a mistake not to take it seriously.

Yellow and Purple, or A Plate of Figs

Links are a lazy way of making a point; finding degrees of affinity or underlying meaning in coincidences are a substitute for profound originality.

This shamelessly shallow post presents a colour-coded association between the excessive frivolity of the ancien regime and the socialist conscience of modern feminism, between Marie Antoinette’s favourite dress shop and the intellectual salon of Simone de Beauvoir, both in Paris, two centuries apart.

In the 1770s and 1780s, Rose Bertin’s shop on the rue Saint-Honoré was decorated in yellow and purple, including the painted imitation marble at the front entrance.

From the late 1950s to 1980s, Simone de Beauvoir furnished her Paris studio with yellow sofas and chairs on a purple carpet.

This leap-frogging post might be silly, but it is not ironic. By serendipity, after lunch on a hot June day, it has landed on a revelation of women’s history through two colours.

yellow and purpleContemporary purple cardigan and yellow dress c. 2014. Private collection. Image © MHP

Complementing yellow and purple had been fashionable many times before, of course, in horticulture, interior decoration and fashion design, and continues to be; there’s a striking use of the combination in the bed hangings of the Yellow or Velory Room at Ham House, home of the Duchess of Lauderdale, one of the most powerful operators at the heart of government and politics during the English Restoration.

The colours glowed in dark old rooms like dappled sunlight and shade; our ancestors brightened their interiors with hues that in electric light we recoil from as garish.

In any era, any tone, yellow and purple are an imperial choice. A hundred years later, Bertin’s Rococo yellow and lavender (not girlish pale pink or virginal white or fresh pea green or sky blue but majestic purple) declared her right to dictate fashion to rich customers, terrified of being out of date whenever they passed her yellow and purple shop front: I’m new, I’m self-made, I don’t care if you think I’m vulgar, I’m as good as you, you need me to tell you what to wear, I’m more powerful than any of you duchesses and princesses, I’m modern luxury consumerism, based on wealth and success, not birth and education, I’m the future.

Rose Bertin was the first succesful female haute couturier, despised at the time as a pushy business-woman, a jumped-up milliner challenging the social superiority of her clientele. Marie-Antoinette herself, the despised foreign queen hovering in the background, panniered and pomaded, a fashion victim in fantastically huge skirts overladen with lace and flowers, whose dignified death is regarded as the redeeming achievement of a wasted life; the Austrian bitch, the bored, stupid, rich wife, with her ridiculous hair-dos, seems to ask Continue reading