Friday, 8 January 2016

Many A Heart Is Aching, If You Could Read Them All...

When I was looking for muff pictures for Muffvent I came across this painting...

After the Ball Henri Doucet
Where shall I start with how much I love this image?  I adore pictures where I can spin a story and this is a corker.  Look at the chap, slowly peeling off his gloves with a face like thunder.  The flowers are on the floor, with some violence considering the petals are all over the place.  She is sobbing into a big pillow. So, did he give her the flowers to make up for something he did at the ball?  Did someone else give her the flowers?  Did she have too much sherry and pop out of her frock over the trifle bowl, wiping out the layer of Dream Topping?  Come on, we've all been there.

After the Ball Alfred Stevens
Post-ball regret seems to be a fairly common subject for art, much as it is in life.  Who hasn't made an utter fool of themselves after a couple of glasses of punch and the promise of a quick waltz with a scoundrel? Throw in a hot room and a low-cut dress and it's a miracle any of us get out of there without disgrace.  Chances are we'll end up sobbing against a girlfriend who pats us on the shoulder in an understanding gesture while preparing to grab our hair just in case the fourteen vol-au-vents we scoffed decide to make a surprise re-entrance.  Nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you can hide your embarrassment in the pot of a nearby aspidistra. She does look a bit green about the gills, I'd get that pot plant ready, just in case.

After the Ball Conrad Kiesal
So, the post-ball analysis with a friend is a time honoured tradition.  You can work out who looked good, who look dreadful, who embarrassed themselves over the trifle and who had the biggest fan.  The golden-haired lady holds a mask, which makes me wonder at the sort of party she was attending.  I am always a bit suspicious of masked balls, there is always the perfume of scandal about them.  What is going on behind that massive fan?  She's still got her top on, right?  That's what a giant fan is for, by the way.

After the Ball Charles Baugneit
Of course, if the evening goes well and you managed not to kiss the wrong man or throw up, then the post-ball period can be one of glassy-eyed reverie, remembering what he said, what you said, how many time you danced with him, how good his moustache was and so on.  He's so dreamy, I wish the telephone had been invented so I can sit by it and wait for him to call.  Is the enormous bunch of flowers by her cloak from him?  No wonder she's looking happy.  I'm sure he'll write. 
I'm sure he will.
Any time now.

After the Masked Ball Heinrich Lossow
For some people there is no doubting how good a time they had. Again, she has a mask, the hussy, and a massive fan.  She seems to be enraptured by the amount of jolly, naughty fun she had that evening, considering the pillow squeezing that is going on.  Or maybe she has trapped wind.  Either way, she got a long night ahead of her, thinking about the man who has put a smile on her face.  I wonder whether or not the man in question is in the room as she seems to be looking at someone.  Has she sneeked a chap in behind her enormous fan (the other use of an enormous fan, other than cover your thrups)?  The saucepot!
After the Ball (1889) Henri Doucet
It's not so far fetched, because this young lady seems to have brought home more than a party bag from her night out.  She's flashing him a bit of ankle too!  Mind you, he has to locate her under that massive dress which might take the rest of the night.  At least he brought her flowers, which makes him a proper gentleman. My favourite definition of a gentleman comes from the film Rebecca's Daughters where the maid states that a proper gentleman is someone who doesn't wipe their bits on the curtains.  Moving on swiftly. If you are going to attempt to disarrange a lady's corset, she should get some roses out of it.
After the Ball Julius Leblanc Stewart
To be honest, most of us don't have that much energy by the end of of the night.  I'd like to pretend I'd be getting up to highjinks with any scoundrel who has swung past Interflora, but at my age I just don't have it in me anymore (if you excuse the phrase).  Much like the lady in the above picture, I would probably finally collapse under the weight of my frankly enormous frock and remain pinned to the sofa until I was resuced in the morning by my maid.
After the Ball Alfred Philippe Roll
Lucky is the woman who has a maid to help them out of their frock (for those not lucky enough to have a gentleman do it for them).  All those buttons, laces, pully systems and boning, I'd want an extra pair of hands, warm hands if possible, because otherwise you're going to put your shoulder out.
Still from After the Ball (film 1897) Georges Méliès
I suppose it is unsurprising that someone would have made a saucy film about a young woman getting undressed after a ball with the help of her maid. Georges Méliès obliged with this risque little number which you can watch at your leisure (steady now, those of you with heart conditions) on YouTube. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but if that's what a maid pours over you, I'd rather get undressed on my own or with the help of the chap with the roses (preferably the latter).
After the Ball Madeleine Lemaire
All in all, being so saucy is knackering and some evenings you would probably do best just taking the flowers and having a nap.  After all that dancing, eating, social embarrassment, sobbing and shenanigans in the boudoir, it's best to have a good sleep and worry about clearing up in the morning. Or maybe the afternoon.  Or maybe the maid will get it.
Tell the scoundrel not to make too much noise when he leaves my boudoir, I'm trying to sleep....


  1. Dear Kirsty
    What a fabulous array of young baggages you have unearthed for us. I'm more in sympathy with the lady in the last painting - get home and have a nice sleep!
    Best wishes

  2. I've just finished watching the ancient TV show "The Pallisers" on YouTube and balls seem to have been very eventful places. Glencora is nearly talked into eloping at one, Phineas Finn makes the acquaintance of many wealthy young women at them, and Lord Silverdale falls in love with Isabel Boncasson at one and Lady Mabel Grex realises that she's been a fool and will lose him at the same ball. Heady stuff!

  3. Re-entrance of the vol-au-vents, trapped wind ... so many things I loved about this post! :)

  4. Keeping it classy for 2016, as always...

  5. Happy New Year Kirsty. Looking forward to more of the same throughout the coming year.

  6. Hey, at least none of these ladies has woken up IN a chest of drawers! (It's a long story...)

    Whenever I see these sorts of pictures, I end up thoroughly lamenting how pretty times used to be, and how my wardrobe will never compare to those of these elegant beauties in times past. Especially considering how long all that embroidery takes!

    I would love to go to the sort of ball that Viona (of Viona's Art) organises yearly in Germany - it's like a congregation of all the prettiest vampiric-looking Goths from Europe and beyond, all in such elaborate finery. [Elaborate finery AND music I can dance to... Perfect :P ].

  7. Lovely article and lovely pictures!

  8. Still laughing.... great post Kirsty. You out did yourself. Who knew there would be so many paintings called "After the Ball"? Although the subject matter does bode well in the story telling department. Back to my NYT crossword - not nearly so naughty.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx