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This newsletter is written in order to spread experiences within the topic of historic textiles and reconstructions. Our ambition is to amuse you and stimulate interest in the 18th Century. Durán Textiles, who is mainly working with museum collections and Royal Castles, was founded in 2002 by CEO and production manager Laila Durán, with co-worker artist Torkel Henriksson who is doing the artworks and preparing the designs for production. Our production is done mostly in India supervised by Duran Textiles inspectors. 
- The articles are mainly written by Laila Durán but we also have help from colleagues and specialists from several museums and universities.  In the future this newsletter will be distributed four times a year and is free of charge. We hope you will enjoy our stories and offers and help us to spread the letter to friends and colleagues. Contact:

Detta nyhetsbrev skrivs för att sprida erfarenheter inom ämnet rekonstruktioner av historiska textiler och 1700-talet. Ambitionen är att roa och stimulera intresset. Durán Textiles har varit verksamt sedan 2002 och arbetar med projekt för Kungliga Slott och museisamlingar i hela Skandinavien. Laila Durán är VD och projektledare, Torkel Henriksson arbetar med originalen och alla förlagor för tryck och väv. På plats i Indien, där de flesta av tygerna produceras, finns Durán Textiles egna inspektörer.
- Artiklarna skrivs huvudsakligen av Laila Durán men vi får även hjälp av kollegor och specialister från olika muséer och universitet.  Nyhetsbrevet kommer i fortsättningen att komma ut fyra gånger per år och är helt kostnadsfritt. Vi hoppas ni ska uppskatta våra artiklar och erbjudanden och även sprida informationen vidare till Era vänner. Kontakt:



The Masquerade.
By Laila Durán.

The masquerade is one of the oldest forms of exclusive social entertainment and off all parties the masquerade is without doubt the most thrilling. In the seventeen and eighteen century the French court at Versailles was particularly fond of costume parties, and lavish events were held at the palace several times a week. Given the strict formality of court life, the disguise gave the wearer the chance to escape from everyday pressure of duty, as the masque allows the wearer to take on a completely different identity. It gives a feeling of freedom to take on a new persona.

Some years ago when I was dressing a real life Princess for her costume party, she looked at the fantastic costume I had brought for her to wear and said; “The dress is beautiful, but I have always dreamed of dressing up as a maid”. Unfortunately I was not able to oblige her as she was going to the theatre, but I sent for a maids costume and left it in her chamber in case she wanted to change after the play.

In Europe, when we think of the masquerade, we often think of The Venice Carnival. The Italian word “carnevale” means “without meat” and refers to the days of fasting during the celebration of Lent. The carnival was first mentioned in written in 1268 and was a way for the rulers of Venice to give its inhabitants freedom to escape the strict etiquette and Venetian laws of the time. The gentry would change clothes with their servants or friends and put on a masque and in the confusion that followed all was allowed. As one could imagine this was a tremendous success and at one point the masquerade would last as long as six months, this was later minimised to twelve days.

As law keepers tried regulating the wearing of masks restricting the behaviour of revellers, in 1608 a decree spelt out that masks could only be worn at the days of the carnival and at official banquets. In 1776 a new law meant the every woman going to the theatre must wear a mask and a cloak. As the masks became an everyday item the mask makers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in the Venetian society, with their own laws and their own guild.

In France, the Italian borne Catherine of Medici, introduced the masquerade, or masques, to the court. These where essentially elaborate dances which participants attended in costumes and mask. Catherine herself was a very keen dancer and vent to great length to give her courtiers dancing lessons, using ballet instructors brought from Florence.

Off all the French queens no one could rival Marie Antoinette for the frequency and elaborateness of her masquerades. A fashion lover, and to some extent bored, the Queen excelled at entertainment of the masked kind and decided to host two parties a week, one of which should be a masquerade.
In the book “Queen of Fashion” the historian Caroline Weber writes “For the first of these events, held on January 9th, 1775, Marie Antoinette drew her inspiration from a resent snow fall, selecting “Norwegians and Lapps” as the theme. Outfitted in sumptuous, faux-Scandinavian attire provided at the Queen´s behest by the Superintendant des Menus Plaisir ( Steward of Small Pleasures), and his staff, courtiers flocked to the party and lingered well past dawn”.

After this Marie Antoinette decided to repeat her success and each week settling on a new theme to capture the attention of the Versailles courtiers. Caroline Weber notes that “Sometimes Marie Antoinette described an alluringly simple scheme for the colours and fabrics her guests were to wear: for example “white tafetta with flowing tulle” for the ladies and “blue velvet with white (blue-embroidered) waistcoats” for the men.

As a tailor and costume maker today I can only begin to imagine the frenetic hours in the atelier of the costume makers of the time. Getting the commission, where the invitation demands embroidered velvet waistcoats to be worn two, three days later must be horrific even for a master tailor with a staff of thirty to forty people. Especially as these where troubled times, and a dissatisfied commissioner could indicate significant consequences to the tailor unless all costumes was ready on time.

In England, Queen Anne, wife of King James I, was especially fond of the masque, and from her home at Somerset House she staged many lavish entertainments in the early seventeen-century. Still it is a Swiss count by the name of John Heidegger who is generally credited with making masquerade balls the height of fashion in London. In the book “The Party Dress” Alexandra Black writes; “He was an impresario, appointed as Master of Revels to King George the II. He launched a series of parties for the well to do, which guests paid to attend. Heideggers first masquerade was reported in detail by the Weekly Journal of February 15, 1718”.

Now the masquerade was open not only to the aristocracy but anyone who could afford to pay the ticket. This type of entertainment was less connected with the high culture and more to the popular carnival, where behaviour was more spontaneous and imbued in a sense of freedom.
Freedom has always been the heart of the masquerade and the escape is all a part of the appeal.

Lord Byron writes:

And there are dresses splendid, but
Fantastical, /Masks of all times and nations,
Turks and Jews, / And harlequins and
Clowns, with feats gymnastical / Greeks,
Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;

“The Party Dress” by Alexandra Black.
“Queen of Fashion” by Caroline Weber
Lord Byron, in Beppo: A Venetian Story.



A spectacular Venetian masquerade costume.

Painting by the Italian painter Pietro Longhi (1700 - 1785).

”Il Ridotto”.
Detail from a painting by Pietro Longhi.

From Sofia Coppolas film ”Marie Antoinette” starring Kirsten Dunst.

A couple showing their Venetian masquerade costumes at St Marcus place in Venice.

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