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Oct. 31, 1861
We celebrated my birthday today. I don't feel thirty, but I suppose that is a blessing. Thom told me to go to the dressmaker to have some new frocks made up. I'm hoping to be able to get to town to do that tomorrow or the next day. I'm excited about some new clothing. It'll be nice to have some new day dresses made up. I might even splurge and have a ball gown made.
Who knew that with the war raging on there'd still be balls? I am enjoying the get togethers. I swear we've seen more of our neighbors these last 6 months than we have in all the years we've been here. People are banding together to stay safe. There have been reports from other towns of soldiers (from both sides) burning entire towns down! It's just awful. Destruction for the sake of destruction is just plain wrong.
Thom has been making noise about wanting to join up with the 23rd infantry, but I have been able to convince him to stay home because we need his income. We lost two of our cows these last few months and haven't been able to replace them. That's a loss of milk and money. The chickens aren't producing like they used too so that's a hit as well, and the crops were slow to fruit this year. It's not been a great year for us in terms of the farm's output.
I fear that this war is going to stretch out longer than anticipated because neither side is willing to listen. They're all just so bull-headed!
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Alexandre-Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1865.
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My Brother's Keeper, by Mary Pope Osborne. Book one for Virginia. This one focuses on Gettysburg, from the Battle to the Address. I visited the battlefield many years ago but I would love to go back someday, as I really can’t remember it.
So far Virginia’s trilogy is more enjoyable than a few others. We’ll see if that continues. (And yes, it does explain why she’s a Northern girl named Virginia).
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April 17, 1861
There is not much that I can say about the current state of things. I am afraid and worried. I dream of my children growing up and our family continuing on. I worry about the fervor and the divisiveness of the current state of the union, or should I say unions. I love my state but I think I might love the idea of one nation a little bit more. I cannot speak these thoughts a loud. I pray that Thom is safe as he continues his work at the post office. Regiments are mobilizing everywhere and I worry that Thom will want to involve himself in this fray. I pray that this does not last long.
Emperor Karl V. with Jakob Fugger, c. 1866, by Carl Ludwig Friedrich Becker
Shortly before his death in 1525, Jakob Fugger burned the promissory notes of Charles V in front of his eyes - here in the presence of Cardinal Granvella, a knight and the daughter of Fugger Kaiser serving wine. According to legend, the old merchant did not use normal firewood for this, but expensive cinnamon sticks to show the bankrupt ruler his economic power even more clearly. Becker, however, dispenses with this detail and uses only logs to stoke the fireplace in the painting.
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Towpath near Overschie, Johan Jongkind, 1865
Oil on canvas
33.6 x 43.5 cm (13.23 x 17.13 in.)
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
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Autumn Flowers, c. 1867, by Alfred Stevens
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Alfred Stevens - The Present (between 1864 and 1873)
Alfred Stevens was best known for his evocative paintings of elegant – and often faintly enigmatic – women in gorgeous clothes posed against a glamorous background. They presented an ideal vision of the upper classes of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris and were perhaps a diversion from the turbulent times in which they lived.
The pictures often featured a mirror into which the woman might be shown glancing at her own appearance, but she is sometimes focused on someone or something unseen in the room behind her. There is something of the ‘art for art’s sake’ about these images – in the women and their surroundings. It was enough for both to be beautiful, rich and sophisticated rather than having some inner meaning – this was typical of works of art of the Aesthetic Movement fashionable at the time. And yet in Stevens’s work, perhaps more clearly stated in this picture than in others, there is also something darker. Stevens painted stories, but we are left to make our own interpretations – in the plural, for they can change each time you look at each picture.
In The Present, a young woman sits side-on to us. She wears the relaxed but delicate and costly gown characteristic of the Aesthetic Movement, her hair casually caught back in a soft chignon. She looks down, apparently calmly, at a gleaming ceramic statuette of a snarling tiger, poised to pounce, its expression and stylised pose reminiscent of mythological creatures in Japanese art. Unusually, there is no decorative background, just a plain black wall. The tablecloth is finely embroidered but in a subtle, unobtrusive colour.
The woman is slumped, caught unawares, unlike the majority of Stevens’s self-consciously poised sophisticates. Her head is erect but her lips are firmly pressed together and her eyes are downcast, held by the tiger that glares back at her. Stevens has paid great attention to the detail of its shell-like surface, its arched tail and bulging eyes. It glints in the light – but not enough to detract from the boldly lit note in the woman’s hand, about to slide to the floor between limp fingers. What kind of present is this? Stevens asks the question, but leaves the many possible answers to us.
Perhaps his cultured audience, aware of the fashion for all things Japanese in art and decoration, would have known that in Japanese mythology the tiger isn’t the dangerous, threatening beast often portrayed in European art, but a symbol of courage, strength and sometimes good luck. Stevens himself may not have known, though as a friend of other artists influenced by Japanese art, like Whistler and Manet, it’s unlikely. The subject of the picture clearly interested him enough to paint it at least five times, including one version that was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1866. (source)
Philosophy and Christian Art, c. 1868, by Daniel Huntington
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Portrait of Antonina Proszkowska, Warsaw, Poland, ca 1866
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Lady Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton, when she was Hereditary Princess of Monaco, 1869.
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Prince William of Württemberg, later King of Württemberg, mids 1860s.
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Currently, all I wanna be is a living history actor. Like please let me hang out in 1860s dresses all day and get paid for it
February 20, 1861
Nannie and Hiram joined us for dinner a few days ago and it ended up being a very exciting evening. John and Adalyn play together so well. I was able to get a sketch of them done. The look of pure happiness on Ada's face was just so pure that I couldn't not try to capture it.
There was a bit of excitement at dinner. Hiram, Thom, and Father got into a spirited discussion about the state of the union and how it's deteriorating so quickly. Well the discussion caused some raised voices and the men all assumed that Nannie's distress was from the subject matter, but in reality her water broke!
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Mother took the matter in hand and ordered the men to stay downstairs and told them to mind the children. She then ordered Sharon, our maid, to get water boiling and clean bedding ready. I helped Nannie upstairs to Mother and Father's bedroom. Mother didn't want to disturb little Nancy who she'd finally gotten to sleep just before we'd sat to dinner.
The first baby was born about an hour later. Nannie named her Marcella Elena. We got scared when her labor pains didn't stop. Mother made the decision to try and feel what was going on - thinking that maybe the afterbirth was stuck somehow. She surprised us by telling us she felt a foot! Jenifer Leigh was born breech about 10 minutes after her sister.
Mother and Father set up another bed in their room for Nannie and she was able to recover for two days before going back to her home with all her babies. It was a very busy time for all of us with 3 babies and 3 toddlers, but between Mother, Sharon, and myself we were able to handle it. I was never so glad for some peace and quiet, but I was able to eek out some time to sketch out our burgeoning family tree.
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Portrait of Chief To-Hu (Bear) or (Briar), Iowa, in Partial Native Dress with Headdress and Ornaments and Holding Cane - Shindler - 1869
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October 3, 1860
Our little corner of country just got a little bigger! The railroad company merged with another and they've renamed themselves the Central Virginia Railway. Thom was telling me all about it, because all the new material for our little train station came through the post office. He also mentioned that the new Exchange Hotel has finally opened! It feels like it's been under construction for ages.
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The location of the hotel couldn't be more perfect - it lies right along the tracks near the station. There was talk of a ball to celebrate Christmas and the new hotel, but I worry that the growing tension of the nation is going to taint the festivities. I am no less excited about the chance to dance and enjoy the evening.
Autumn has not shown us her full splendor yet, but with the talk of the Christmas ball I do hope that it hurries up. I need the distraction because I worry about the direction that the country is headed towards. I do not understand why there needs to be a fight. There is always a way to find peace amenably. Thom says I'm naïve, but if our children can be taught and then expected to get along and resolve their differences without violence then why shouldn't I expect grown men to do the same? I do not share these thoughts often with Thom and never with Father. They are not as open minded as they like to think they are. Honestly, I think they're just upset at being told how to live their life by the men in Washington. They don't even agree with most of what's being bandied about. Is it so terrible of me to want the country to find a peaceful resolution so that my family stays safe?
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1868 A Female Samurai
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For one of my finals this semester I’m going to (try) following an 1867 guidebook on making hair jewelry :)
Also probably gonna write up an essay on Victorian mourning art in America (tho not all hair jewelry is an expression of mourning!), I’m excited to dive in