Chocolate - Part 1

Chocolate's been around for a heck lot of time - and people have been addicted to it for a heck lot of time too. In the 18th century, at least not until the end of it, chocolate was a liquid drink, and of course, chocolate tablets did not exist. As a fan of chocolate I'll try to leave occasionally some paintings and historical facts about the "food of gods".

Fact 1: Murders! Chocolate was just the perfect beverage to use as a weapon! It was dark and the taste was strong, so you could not detect easily any poison in it. The number of victims is not small. I for myself think it's a good way to go. One example: once, a nobleman that dedicated himself to the tasting and improvement of chocolate ditched a lady, that planned a sweet revenge. She invited him over to her place and served him a delicious looking hot chocolate - with delicious poison. He drank it all, and the poison acted quickly. Before he died, he called his murderer and his epic last words were: "The chocolate would have tasted better if you had put some sugar in it - poison makes it sour!". Perhaps he knew from the beginning that it was poisoned - but what chocolate lover in his or her healthy mental state would waste a cup of chocolate?

A Lady pouring Chocolate ('La Chocolatière')
about 1744, Jean-Étienne Liotard


And now for something completely different - pimples! If there was a pimple / acne apocalypse teenagers would be happier on this earth. Nowadays we have products to help us fight those nasty little pustules, and a minimal degree of personal hygiene - but how did they do it? As you already know, their hygiene was terrible, and they wore all that powder and rouge - their face must have been spotty like the moon! Why, then, do we never hear anything about that? Sure, the powder must have covered those imperfections, but it was certainly a vicious cycle - you had a pimple; you put powder on your face and it covered it; but as you didn't wash, the powder only made the pimples worse; so you put more to disguise the problem; and so on and so forth. Of course artists did not have a tendency to depict those imperfections in their paintings, just like movie actors in historical movies - and all the other movies anyway - have make-up so they don't have spots.

Anyone with any information about this, please share! :-)

À propos of blood...

I know Halloween 's already far away, but I haven't posted anything in an outrageously long time, so...

I remember reading somewhere about a lovely way to get rid of lice problems. The XVII and XVIII century persons did not pay much attention to personal hygiene - oh, you know, four or five baths a year, if you're a hygiene freak. That and the rumor that Louis XIV only took three baths on his whole life, and that three of his feet toes fell when he removed a sock - everything was so dirty it had almost fossilized. Of course all that make up only made things worse, bur why not cover that smelly body odor with litres of perfume? Or even wear a handkerchief dipped in wine. Yummy.

But now, back to the lice problem. Of course those wigs were just the perfect nests to the next lice metropolis. So how did people occasionally get rid of lice? They took an ivory cylinder that was held around their neck with a ribbon - inside that cylinder was a little piece of cloth impregnated with blood. Gradually, the little beasts were attracted by the blood - and in the end of the day, you calmly disposed of the cloth, disposing therefore of your lice! Effective? Perhaps. Messy? Bloody, at least.


A bloody taboo

Hello again, and before anything I apologize for not writing for so long here. You know the effect holidays have in people. Oh well, they'll be over soon.

This post will be short, and I will be talking of something that is a banned subject of conversation: menstruation. Did you ever wonder how women in those times did? How did they manage to deal with it? I mean, it's not like they could hop off to the closest convenience store.

Well, to the higher classess, they could indeed buy some and they made their own towels and straps. In the lower classess, guess. They just let it flow, leaving sometimes a blood train behind. Eeeew! Should be troublesome for vampires.

On the other hand, women died earlier than these days, and they were pregnant a lot of time, since there was no contraceptives methods and it was their "duty".

I am currently working on a blog project, I'll tell you more when I can!

See ya! :-D :-)


Wit, Women, and Wine...

One of the things a woman had to have to be educated was to be highly born or have money - well, both, in fact. And rich married women were, for the most part, hostesses, which means they entertained people in their houses, providing them with all sorts of amusements. And one of those amusements was witty conversations.

A woman, was she a wife or mistress, entertained for several reasons, one of them being to entertain, in the case of a wife, people that could in a way help her husband in his career, and, in the case of a mistress, the lover or possible lovers. It was a kind of common knowledge that a good wife had to, 1: bear a heir; 2: keep house; and 3: entertain guests.

But not many women entertained for the pleasure of witty conversation. In the eighteenth century, it seems there was less prejudice against a woman with brains than in a later period, such as the Regency. Let's not forget that the eighteenth century was indeed the century of enlightment, and that the clever, highly educated and witty women were not few; women that held salons with writers, philosophers, artists of all sorts, such as Madame Geoffrin. Wit was also visible in letters, that were at first a manly ocupation, but as time went by, gradually transformed into a feminine one, in which ladies could demonstrate all their wit!

If the 18th century was known to be a period of enlightment and witty and inteligent conversation, the Regency was known as the Age of Scandal. Certain behaviours that were considered normal in the society of this period would be absolutely scandalous and unnaceptable in the 18th century. A little more prejudice against women with education and inteligence apperead, and people were more devoted to flirting and dancing all the night long than anything else. More improper and scandalous settings provided guests with games of all sorts, including one game of "guessing the kiss". Wow...

Still, there was a quality that was required if you wanted to be perfect, or at least interesting: you had to be able to make witty conversation and entertain people with it. You could be considered vulgar and uninteresting if you didn't know how to converse in an inteligent manner. And one of the most popular games was charades. Some of them were particularly difficult, and required clever people to solve them.

And to all those men who thought they were the only ones capable of witty conversation, an intelligent brain, and whatever else, I dedicate this. Lord Westmorland, a dandy, said this as an answer to a remark made to him by Louis XVIII: "Je wouldrai si je couldrai, mais je ne cannais pas".


The Glass Harmoinca

Remember I told you, dear reads, in the last post, that I'd talk about the Glass Harmonica? Well here I am!

In 1772, Metastase describes the instrument in one of his letters. He said that curious instrument was made of cristal or glass cilinders or rings, that are put together in order of size (from the biggest to the smallest) and are put in a sort of support that spins fast. The player of the instrument touched the cilinders with bare hands, as if it was the keyboard of an organ or harpsichord, and produced an extremely suave sound...

Gluck himself played this instrument, accompanied with an orquestra, and Mozart even composed for it. But wait, the surprises are not over! Benjamin Franklin invented one glass harmonica himself!

"In Franklin's treadle operated version 37 bowls were mounted horizontally on an iron spindle. The whole spindle turned by means of a foot pedal. The sound was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note. A's were dark blue, B's purple, C's red, D's orange, E's yellow, F's green, G's blue,and accidentals white.With the Franklin design it is possible to play ten glasses simultaneously if desired, a technique that is very difficult if not impossible to execute using upright goblets. Franklin also advocated the use of a small amount of powdered chalk on the fingers which helped produce a clear tone in the same way rosin is applied to the bows of string instruments."

What would you say of that?

There are several different names given tot he glass harmonica according to the language, such as glassharmonica, glass armonica, Armonica de verre in French, Glasharmonika in German, and then a name that I defy you to pronounce: hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. Isn't that one creepy? It's composed of Greek words and basically means: "harmonica to produce music for the soul by fingers dipped in water". Music for the soul... wonderful!

However, the glass harmonica stated to lose its popularity. Rumors (a tipical 18th century thing!) said that players would go mad, and also the animals in the house of the player. The instrument would make people go into a deep transe and depression, and even shorten their lives! It was forbidden in the 19th century. People also feared that the players suffered from lead poisoning, since it was made with lead glass. However, this was never proven, and in those times, not only harmonica players suffered from lead poisoning - many people did!

Before you leave, take this link with you:


The music is by Mozart. Isn't that sound from the other world?

I hope you enjoyed this short introduction of the glass harmonica!


Music - "Le salon de musique de Marie-Antoinette"

Are you desperately scanning cd shops looking for interesting records, wondering what to buy? Well wonder no more! I bought this wonderul cd last month.

It's called Le salon de musique de Marie-Antoinette. It's a compilation of classical musics played at the time of Maire-Antoinette, in her salons, from her favourite composers. For example, Gluck was her teacher!

Marie-Antoinette did enjoy music. She even composed one, did you know? It's called C'est mon ami. And it comes in the cd! Unfortunately, not recorded by Marie herself... Just kidding. The singer is very good though. Here is the list of the musics:

1 - Petrini, Les folies d'Espagne et douze variations

2 - Gluck, J'ai perdu mon Eurydice

3 / 4 - Krumpholtz, Lamante Abandonée La nuit profonde

5 / 7 - Cardon, Sonate pour harpe opus VII nº 1

8 - Krumpholtz, Sonate en fa majeur opus XV nº 2

9 / 11 - Dauvergne, Trois Chansons

12 / 14 - Saint-Georges, Sonate por harpe et flûte obligée

15 - Marie-Antoinette, C'est mon ami

16 - Mozart, Oiseauz, si tous les ans, KV 307 / 284d

17 / 18 - Dusik, Sonatine pour harpe nº 5

19 - Paisiello, Entracte pour harpe d'Il re Teodoro in Vénézia

20 - Grétry, Malgré la fortune cruelle

21 - Martini, Plaisir d'amour

22 - Mozart, Adagio pour harmonica de verre, KV 356 / 617a

Isn't that a lovely playlist? By the way, the cd was organized by Sandrine Chatron, and had the participation of Isabelle Poulenard (Soprano), Jean-François Lombard (Tenor), Stéphanie Paulet (violin), Amélie Michel (traverso).

If you're wondering, I bought the cd at the Cité de la Musique, at Paris. It's a wonderful museum of music, with lots of historical instruments from the eighteenth century, like harps, harpsichords, and also some other curious instruments, like the glass harmonica...

In the next post I'll talk about the glass harmonica (at least I'll explain what it is!). You can see it is featured in the cd (it's the last track, from Mozart).

Well, I guess that's all! So, good imaginary trip to Marie-Antoinette's salon! (I'm sure you'll picture it perfectly once you hear the musics!)