James Tissot, the son of a tailor and a seamstress, had an intimate knowledge of fashion and a flair for painting all varieties of fabrics, furs, and laces, among other signs of material wealth. Which certainly comes across in his painting above, The Ball on Shipboard. Here we find ourselves in London for a daytime yacht party. The scene primarily includes young women and older men and speaks to a certain level of social striving. But it also includes a major fashion faux pas. . . several of the women have arrived wearing the exact same dress.
Now, it could just be a coincidence. The mass production of fashion is one of the hallmarks of this period. With the rise of the department store, multiple versions of the same dress would have been available to patrons at the time. But that’s pretty unlikely. What’s more probable is that Tissot himself owned or had access to just a few dresses and had models pose for several characters, a theory strengthened by the fact that some of the women look remarkably similar.
The most obvious instance of matching outfits is the two ladies in white dresses with black and blue detailing towards the front right. But as you look closer, there are several other examples. Note the group of women by the railing wearing light blue and green dresses. Even their hats are identical. And there are also three women wearing light pink dresses with burgundy accents: coming up the stairs, walking with a man in the background, and sitting down towards the middle with her back to us.
Tissot might be commenting on the superficiality of fashion with these choices, but regardless. . . quel scandale!
Image credit: James Tissot. The Ball on Shipboard, c. 1874. Tate, presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1937, NO4892.
6 hours 21 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Chicago Splash previews Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, a retrospective on the Bauhaus designer who also made his mark in Chicago—opening at the Art Institute October 2.
8 hours 44 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SUNDAY—Design Episodes: The Modern Chair
Explore the evolution of the modern chair in the 20th century with iconic examples from makers like Charles and Ray Eames, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, and Harry Bertoia, among others.
THE MODERN CHAIR—http://bit.ly/2dD4Xy0
1 day 4 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Supernatural Shakespeare
While Shakespeare’s title characters might have the most name recognition, the Bard’s meddling witches and mischievous faerie folk often steal the show. See this focused installation before it closes October 10.