Things I didn’t know

Things I didn’t know


“The visiting card was introduced to Europe in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV who was known as the Sun King. In the same century the practice began to take hold in English society. At around the same time, the card moved from its social beginnings to a business purpose with the introduction of the trade card.”


Image from BibliOdyessy.

Louis XIV: King of Bling

Louis XIV: King of Bling

This is an interesting article on Louis’s passion for diamonds and how it began:

Louis the XIV ascended to the French throne and became the Sun King in 1643. Because of his love of diamonds, a better name for him might be “The King of Bling.”

Louis’ love of diamonds made him an odd duck in the fashion world of the time. In the 1600s, and for centuries before that, Europe’s high and mighty didn’t want diamonds, they wanted pearls. In fact, when Christopher Columbus went to the New World, pearls were on the top of Queen Isabella‘s wish list, way ahead of gold and silver (diamonds didn’t even make the list).

But Louis the XIV was having none of that. He was dazzled by diamonds, which were incredibly rare in those days. This was before diamonds were discovered in Brazil or South Africa, when the world’s diamonds came from the river sediments of the Golconda region of India.

Luckily for Louis, an intrepid explorer came along. His name was Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and he’s the greatest explorer you never heard of.

I love Tavernier’s description of Louis at court:

“In the middle of this hall and near the side overlooking the court, as in a theatre, they place the throne when the Emperor comes to give audience and administer justice. It is a small bed of the size of our camp beds, with its four columns, the canopy, the back, a bolster, and counterpane; all of which are covered with diamonds.”

Silver exhibit at Versailles

Silver exhibit at Versailles

From an article on an exhibit at Versailles:

Titled “When Versailles was furnished in silver” (Quand Versailles etait meuble d’argent), the exhibition running November 21 to March 9 brings together 200 massive, mouth-boggling pieces of silverwork gathered from the collections of European royalty, a third of them from Denmark.

“This is the first exhibition ever in the king’s apartment,” Beatrix Saule, Versailles’ chief curator, told AFP. “It will also be the last as there’ll never be anything else grand enough to place there.”

“Our aim was to show why European royalty and visitors would rave after seeing Versailles’ silver furnishings.”

If only I could get there.


Sidenote: Martell is producing a special Sun King cognac in honor of the exhibit.


Le roy representant le soleil lévant

Le roy representant le soleil lévant


This is a wonderful clip from “Le ballet de la Nuit.”

“Sur la cime des monts, commençant d’éclairer,
Je commence déjà de me faire admirer,
Et ne suis guère avant dans ma vaste carrière ;
Je viens rendre aux objets la forme et la couleur,
Et qui ne voudrait pas avouer ma lumière
Sentira ma chaleur.

Déjà seul je conduis mes chevaux lumineux,
Qui traînent la splendeur et l’éclat après eux,
Une divine main m’en a remis les rênes,
Une grande déesse a soutenu mes droits,
Nous avons même gloire, elle est l’Astre des Reines,
Je suis l’Astre des Rois.

En montant sur mon char, j’ai pris soin d’écarter
Beaucoup de Phaétons qui voulaient y monter ;
Dans ce hardi dessein leur ambition tremble :
Chacun d’eux reconnaît qu’il en faut trébucher,
Et qu’on verse toujours si l’on n’est tout ensemble
Le maître et le cocher.

Je cours après l’honneur, doux charmes des vainqueurs,
Quoique mon oeil brillant donne à plomb dans les coeurs,
Le mien pour les plaisirs est aussi froid que marbre ;
Quant à la passion, je ne sais ce que c’est,
Et la belle Daphné me touche comme un arbre
Dont la feuille me plaît.

Je n’ai que depuis peu roulé sur l’horizon ;
Je suis jeune, et possible est-ce aussi la raison
Qui m’exempte des maux que la beauté nous cause ;
De là naît le repos dont mon âme jouit ;
Car enfin tout me voit, j’éclaire toute chose,
Et rien ne m’éblouit.” (menos)


Play with an interesting slant

Play with an interesting slant


“Rabagas,” whom I know on a Sun Court list, has made an interesting post about his translation of a play by Ferdinand Dugue about the Duke de Roquelaure. What’s unusual about this writer’s work is that the subject is consistently of a father’s love for a child. This is a historical play set in the 17th century, and written in the 18th century, but even so, the perspective bears mention.

To quote:

It’s a really good play, and it deals, rather unusually for its day, with the rights of an adoptive parent versus those of a natural parent, and comes down firmly on the side of adoptive parent.

This is the 3rd play by Dugue that I’ve worked on… All three plays deal with a father’s love for his children … This is an unusual theme for the 1850’s and Dugue treats it with sophistication and care, in several different contexts.

So the question for me is: how did men feel about their children in 17th century France. I don’t believe it is possible to generalize. Louis XIV was an emotional man? There are a number of accounts of him giving way to tears in public and he is said to have broken down over the death of a newly-born infant daughter.

On the other hand, he was reportedly unmoved by the death of his teen-age son by Louise de la Vallière, but who knows what he felt, in truth. In piecing together historical realities, we are like the proverbial blind-men feeling an elephant, trying to describe the nature of the beast: it’s a tail, a trunk, an ear. We only have scraps of facts to go by, the rest must be left to intuition an informed intuition, but intuition none-the-less.