The Sisterhood of Patrons and Artists

The painter Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) was t-h-e female celebrity artist of the 18th century. In the story-telling about her career start, men play a vital role: as key events for her recognition as a serious artist in Britain are considered the patronage by the painter Joshua Reynold, and celebrity actor David Garrick sitting for a portrait that caused a stir in the art world. I don’t aim to minimize the influence of male clients, colleagues and patrons on Angelica Kauffmann’s success. However, in this article, I highlight the role of female sponsorship and cooperation during her career in London (1766 – 1781), as it shows how women supported each other in a world that belonged to men.

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Steam, steel and beets: How 5 innovations made the cake cakier

Imagine you are a chef in a genteel household around 1815. Your master and mistress enjoy eating cake, and they also like to boast of the quality of ‘their kitchen’ to the guest of their dinners and assemblies. So, they constantly urge you to stay abreast of the latest trends in baking. Cakes at Royal Parties, they hear, are of a fluffy texture and delicious sweetness.
They give you free rein to achieve similar results, whatever the cost and changes to the kitchen may be. Check out five innovations that help you to succeed in this task. But be aware: baking powder is not yet available!

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Interview with a Chandelier

Cut-glass chandeliers were among the most sought-after luxury products of the 18th century. Only the super-rich could afford to buy them. Thus, chandeliers were often designed to match the interior of a room, meaning that they were custom-designed.
Regency Explorer interviews an elegant chandelier from 1815 about the makers, customers, and the influences from fashion, science and politics.

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How to cheat at Whist in the 18th century

Gaming table in a country house. Would you have dared to play Whist with strangers?

Whist was one of the most popular card games in Georgian England. It began its career as a plain game for common men. With the rise of the coffee houses in London, the gentry picked up the game. Reputedly it was Lord Folkestone who brought the game into fashion in high society around 1728, when he adopted it as a challenging strategic card game requiring good memory, sympathetic partnering and psychological acumen.

The rules of Whist were written down in Edward Hoyle’s “ A short treatise on the game of whist” in 1742. As early as this, methods of cheating were discussed. While Hoyle advocated fair play, the stakes at Whist could be high, and thus tempt many to force luck their way. Besides, cheating at whist is very easy. Continue reading

KABOOM at noon: The meridian cannon

Of course there were clocks, cannons and sundials in the 18th century. There also was an elaborate instrument that seems to be a mix of all of them: the meridian cannon – a sundial with a little cannon announcing 12 o’clock noon with a loud bang.
What looks like a pyrotechnic gadget to amuse your guests or annoy your neighbours is actually a scientific instrument to measure true solar time correctly in an age where many timepieces lost or gained 15 minutes a day.

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Checkmate! Where to learn and play chess as a time traveller in 18th-century Britain

Good news for the time travelling Chess Enthusiast to Georgian England: The game is played by men and women alike. Napoleon, e.g., played chess in his youth, at college, and indeed all this life. The second half of the 18th century even saw the game becoming increasingly popular, with some coffee houses offering their rooms as locations for chess lessons with famous players. Also, the first chess club was founded. Find out here where you can play a decent game of chess or improve your skills from the 1770s – 1820.

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Read like it’s 1804

In 1804, Britain is uneasy. The short peace of Amiens ended the previous year, and now war is escalating in Europe again. Napoleon keeps a large army at the Northern coast of France. The British government builds small defensive forts to protect the coasts of south east England and Ireland against the threat of a French invasion. In December, Spain will again declare war on Britain. What can you read to distract the mind in these difficult times?

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Object of interest: A pianino with a ‘long neck’

In 1709, Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano. From the second half of the 18th century, keyboard instruments underwent many improvements: When London became a major centre of piano building in the mid-1760s, inventive companies such as Broadwood hit the market with the so-called square piano. It was built in a form resembling the clavichord. Compact and less expensive than wing-shaped grand piano, the square piano quickly became the keyboard instrument of choice in the late 18th century – the one Jane Austen’s heroines would play. However, competition for the square piano arose on the Continent: a tall, strikingly looking instrument called the pianino.

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