White - Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

White was the dominant color of architectural interiors in the Baroque period and especially the Rococo style that followed it in the 18th century. Church interiors were designed to show the power, glory and wealth of the church. They seemed to be alive, filled with curves, asymetry, mirrors, gilding, statuary and reliefs, unified by white.

White was also a fashionable color for both men and women in the 18th century. Men in the aristocracy and upper classes wore powdered white wigs and white stockings, and women wore elaborate embroidered white and pastel gowns.

After the French Revolution, under Napoleon Bonaparte, a more austere white became the most fashionable color in women's costumes. The Empire style was modeled after the dress of Ancient Rome. The dresses were high in fashion but low in warmth; some women, including the Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, died from illnesses caught wearing the thin garments in cold weather.

White was the universal color of both men and women's underwear and of sheets in the 18th and 19th century. It was unthinkable to have sheets or underwear of any other color. The reason was simple; the manner of washing linen in boiling water caused colors to fade. When linen was worn out, it was collected and turned into high-quality paper.

The 19th century American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), working at the same time as the French impressionists, created a series of paintings with musical titles where he used color to create moods, the way composers used music. His painting "Symphony in White No. 1 - The White Girl", which used his mistress Joanna Hiffernan as a model, used delicate colors to portray innocence and fragility, and a moment of uncertainty.

  • A highly theatrical white Rococo interior from the 18th century, at the Basilica at Ottobeuren, in Bavaria.

  • White gown of Marie Antoinette, painted by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun in 1783.

  • President George Washington in a white powdered wig. The first five Presidents of the United States wore dark suits with powdered wigs for formal occasions.

  • Portrait of Josephine de Beauharnais in a classic Empire gown, modeled after the clothing of ancient Rome. (1801), by Francois Gerard. (The State Hermitage Museum).

  • Symphony in White No. 1 - The White Girl, by James McNeill Whistler (1862).

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Famous quotes containing the words centuries, eighteenth and/or nineteenth:

    After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave—a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of man, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.—And we—we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.
    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

    F.R. Leavis’s “eat up your broccoli” approach to fiction emphasises this junkfood/wholefood dichotomy. If reading a novel—for the eighteenth century reader, the most frivolous of diversions—did not, by the middle of the twentieth century, make you a better person in some way, then you might as well flush the offending volume down the toilet, which was by far the best place for the undigested excreta of dubious nourishment.
    Angela Carter (1940–1992)

    Detachment is the prerogative of an elite; and as the dandy is the nineteenth century’s surrogate for the aristocrat in matters of culture, so Camp is the modern dandyism. Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture.
    Susan Sontag (b. 1933)