Pardon our dust while we update this corner of the website.

Woman's Evening Dress: Bodice and Skirt

Artist/maker unknown, French

Made in France, Europe

c. 1850-1855

Jacquard-woven silk moiré taffeta

Bodice Center Back Length: 12 inches (30.5 cm) Skirt Center Back Length: 51 inches (129.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Alice McFadden Eyre, 1926

Social Tags [?]

blue [x]   formal [x]  

[Add Your Own Tags]

During the 1850s in France, there was renewed interest in eighteenth-century literature, art, and architecture and nostalgia for the lost world of Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour, who symbolized gracious living for the aristocracy and newly rich bourgeoisie. The resurgence of interest in rococo artists included reissues in England and France of engravings after the ornamental designs and paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721). For the fabric of this ball gown, two images by Jacques-Philippe Le Bas after Watteau have been combined. It is likely that the fabric was originally meant to have been used for furnishings, probably for a bedroom or boudoir (dressing room or private sitting room). The silk's swing design would have been considered provocative for the time since it had long been associated with seduction. The gown was possibly worn originally by a member of the demimonde such as an actress-or by a naive young woman.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This evening dress of about 1850, with its bodice deeply pointed at the waist, pleated sleeves trimmed with fringe and figured ribbons, and full, bell-shaped skirt, exemplifies the opulence of Second Empire France (1852-70). The fabric itself, a Jacquard-woven silk produced in Lyons, reveals the derivative nature of mid-nineteenth-century textile design, which often used elements copied directly from prints of the work of well-known artists. In this case the images were adapted from two engravings by the eighteenth-century artist Jean Antoine Watteau, who was the object of renewed interest in France during the late l840s. The choice of the swing theme, which was used to symbolize lovemaking during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was especially appropriate for an evening dress, in which the wearer would want to appear demure yet flirtatious. Dilys Blum, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 89.