The 300 Years of Shoes collection - research & making - 1835 - Nebulous in a State of Rest
Nebulous in a State of Rest - 1835
Collection: 300 years of Shoes
Garment: The lost left shoe of a Regency era woman
Materials: FSC accredited paper tablecloth, tissue paper, cartridge paper, embroidery thread, card, pencil, coloured pencil
Background: Printed Paper
This shoe is inspired by the square toed, flat style of shoe fashionable during the 1830-40s. It reflects the fact that as shoe production began to be mechanized shoes in this style might be cut as ‘straights’ ie. the same shape cut for both feet; they would be labelled ‘left’ and ‘right’ inside the shoes.
This shoe is also inspired by Birds-of-Paradise which held particular sway over the imagination of collectors and illustrators alike during this period. Some book illustrations were drawn from description and story only, without an artist ever having laid eyes upon the bird. The images of the bird on the toe and inside of this shoe show one particular bird-of paradise with its tail open and closed respectively. They are reproductions of illustrations created by Jacques Barraband (1769 - 1809), who was considered one of the finest French bird painters of the period. Barraband illustrated many onithologies produced by Francois Le Vaillant (1753-1824). He titled these illustrations The Nebula spreading her Ornaments and The Nebulous in the State of Rest, date issued: 1806
Reflecting the importance of links between French, mostly Parisian, and British fashion at this time the label inside this shoe is written in French but dedicated to the craftsmanship of the cordwainer (shoe maker) William Quartermain of 9 Princes Place who was working in Brighton in1800.
Preliminary sketch of Nebulous in a State of Rest
Early nineteenth century botanical illustrations and engravings are wonderful for their detail, intricacy, accuracy and (just occasionally) for their apparently rather random diversions fact. The images of this bird with it's tail feathers raised and lowered (see below) have become two of my favourites. They now decorate the shoe that will eventually sit as either second or the third in my planned 300 year time line of shoes, spanning 1720-2020.
My early research for The Regency Collection (which the first five pieces from the 300 years of Shoes Collection will be exhibited alongside) involved a visit to the British Museum. Reading this sign in the Enlightenment Gallery helped inform my understanding of the type of world view that climaxed during the period of the formal Regency of which a fascination for both Botany and Zoology was an integral part. This provoked me to search for examples of the sorts of images/illustrations produced by those individuals who knew such passion.
"...As subjects of the zoological artist's attentions, some animals are more equal than others. There is no doubt that bird illustrations predominate -- in quantity, arguably in quality, and certainly in popularity. This reflects the special fascination that birds have had for humans throughout the centuries, owing at least in part to their often colorful and sometimes spectacular plumage, as well as the awe inspired by their mastery of the skies....
...Until the nineteenth century, many ornithological illustrations, usually drawn from skins or mounted specimens, showed a bird perched on a bare branch. Despite some noteworthy exceptions, it was the art of John James Audubon and of John Gould and his colleagues (particularly Josef Wolf) that first consistently imparted motion and life to bird illustrations.
Colored lithographs were an ideal medium to capture the vivid hues of a bird's plumage, with colored engravings running a close second..." - https://digitalcollections.nypl.org
Following this thread I came across books with titles such as:
Please see: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
For the book in which these particular images featured and information about its author please see: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org tells us the following::
Francois Levaillant was born in Suriname. He was one of the first naturalists to study birds in their natural habitat, and traveled widely in his pursuits. Jaques Barraband is considered the finest French bird painters of the period, and illustrated many of Levaillant's ornithologies.
Le Vaillant, François, 1753-1824 (Author), Barraband, Jacques, 1767?-1809 (Artist)
Dates / Origin:
Date Issued: 1806
Chez Denne le jeune [etc.]
Birds of paradise (Birds), Coraciidae, Toucans, Jacamars
Prints, Illustrations, Books
Statement of responsibility:
"Toutes les figures de cet ouvrage ont ete dessinees d'apres nature par Barraband peintre."
Extent: 2 v. 114 col. pl. (2 double) 56 cm., Bound in full red morocco, gilt, Chromolithographs"
Whilst many of the birds that Jacques Barraband illustrated are recognisable as species we know today nowhere have I been able to find a comprehensive opinion as to where the image of this bird comes from, ie. whether it's a type of Bird of Paradise he had seen but which is now extinct or whether it was created from his imagination, perhaps in the belief that such a bird existed.
The title scripted beneath the pictures poetically adds to this uncertainty, for this bird with its tail feathers lowered is titled:
and with them raised: