CALLING CARDS ON CONSOLE TABLE (Picture...)
The lady of a Victorian household was kept quite busy with her own domestic chores, so the making of afternoon calls upon friends, who were equally busy, was an area of social life that required its own rules of etiquette.
First, a lady had to establish a day of the week when she was "at home" and stock up on personal calling cards, of the fashionable shape, size, thickness, and style of engraving. Husband and wife had separate cards. Hers might indicate when she was "at home" to receive calls (usually a three-hour period, one afternoon a week). One period manners writer suggested compiling the "at home" days of one's acquaintances and keeping score as to credits and debits. A lady was advised never to call without her cards, as she would also wish to leave cards as a greeting if the hostess were either not at home or indisposed.
There were actually generally accepted coded messages that might be written on a calling card. The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, for instance, advised that when the caller was about to leave the city, the letters p.p.c. were written in the left hand corner. This was an abbreviation of the French words, "pour prende conge", or might, with equal propriety, stand for "presents parting compliments". Another form, p.d.a., "pour dire adieu" (to say goodbye), might also be used.
Calling was certainly made more complicated since many women had the same day at home. However, several calls could be made in a single afternoon if one correctly left her cards, greeted, chatted, took a cup of tea, and exited within fifteen minutes. If there was a slight wait for the hostess, etiquette counselors cautioned, one should never peek at the calling cards of others to see who had recently been visiting or play the piano.
Sometimes the wait might be because the hostess was devoting her full attention to a previous visitor. The hostess might, correctly, choose not to introduce her callers to one another. According to The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, "It requires much tact to know when to introduce friends, when to take refuge under the shield fashion offers, and not make them acquainted with each other. It is a positive cruelty to force a talented, witty person to converse with one who is ignorant and dull, as they will, of course, be obliged to do, if introduced." On the subject of introductions, The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Etiquette notes that "a slight bow is all that courtesy requires."
The married visitor left a card for her hostess, one for the man of the house, and two from her own husband. A house guest would also receive a card. An energetic caller might cover between six and ten "at homes" in a good afternoon. A visit from a new caller required a call-back with three weeks. A dinner guest paid a return visit within a week; a guest at a large reception within a month. Following a funeral, there was a visit of condolence (which the bereaved might politely decline) and a visit was always the proper way to respond to a thank you note. A bride was established into this folkway as soon as she established her own day at home.
Ladies were encouraged to dress appropriately for accepting callers. The dress should be silk and made to fit the figure neatly. Just as an elaborate costume before dinner is in excessively bad taste, neither is the simple dress worn in the exercise of domestic duties suitable. Unless there is a necessity for it, such as the loss of hair, there should be no cap or head dress worn. If calling upon a friend who has met reverses, a caller showed friendship by adapting her dress to her friend's changed circumstances.
JAPANNED CHAIRS AND ORIENTAL LOOKING OBJECTS (Picture...)
In the 1870s, American and English decorators turned their attention to the exotic, and new sources of decorative motifs were found in the Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Moorish, and Persian styles. The appearance of Oriental motifs in Victorian furnishings is perhaps the result of a fascination for the Far East that dates back to the eighteenth century. Goods from China trickled into Europe via Venice, and a vogue for Chinese objects soon developed. From Venice, the fashion went to France and eventually to England. As the demand for Oriental objects increased, Europeans began to imitate Oriental designs, and this led to a style known as the Chinoiserie, which combined both Western and Eastern motifs.
The fashion for the Chinoiserie may have paved the way for the Japanese craze in the late nineteenth century. Japanese ports were first opened to western trade in 1854 by Commodore Perry. In England, collectors began acquiring lacquered furniture, porcelain, glass, and prints. By the 1870s, the Japanese craze was at its peak and Japanese principles of design - - simplicity, grace, and refinement - - began to be incorporated into furniture design. Periodicals such as "The Cabinet Maker" and "Art Furnisher" published articles on Japanese design.
Japanese objects trickled into the United States slowly, but shops dealing in Oriental goods ultimately opened. By the end of the century, they were considered major shopping attractions. Americans had been exposed to Oriental culture at the International Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 and the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. Likewise, the establishment of Chinatowns in major American cities cannot be overlooked as a source for educating and acquiring Oriental objects.
BELTER FURNITURE (Picture...)
Belter was an American furniture maker who developed the use of laminated wood plies to make very intricate and open carving possible by machine. These pieces may be English versions of the Belter style.
The carvings show a mixture of Romanesque and Jacobean turning and decoration. The mirror is the original beveled glass. The tiles were locally made in southern California, at the Pomona Tile Company. The upper tiles show a grotesque classical head and gryphons, while the side tiles use the sunflower and the dragonfly. Sunflowers were a stereotyped motif popularized by the English Aesthetic movement around 1880, often used in art pottery and textiles of the period.
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