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Picturing a World


Paintings and etchings that show the banks of the Seine before they were totally walled and paved are good reminders that historic cities in the 19th C and earlier were much more unfinished than they are today. Early photographs may catch some of the same features, but brushstrokes and color makes the textures of mud and canvas almost palpable.

And this is the first I knew of laundry boats! Images of laundry spread on lines or bushes go back at least five hundred years in Western art. For a 16th C example, click here.For the 17th C, click here. For Berthe Morisot in 1875, click here. Finally, for the fun of it, Grandma Moses! I suppose the motif appeals both because it has those white shapes and any given artist can look to older examples. In a haphazard way, I collect them. But this is a good example of the sort of question authors of historic fiction must ask themselves. I learned about art students sending out laundry from May Alcott Nieriker’s’s Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply (p.9), but not that the blanchisseuses just might have taken Jeanette and Effie’s linens down to the Seine.
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