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Ball dress, May 1839

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ball dress, May 1839

published by Dobbs & Co, published in The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic and Lady's Magazine and Museum, first published in Le Follet, Courrier des Salons, Journal des Modes
hand-coloured etching, line and stipple engraving, published May 1839
8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (203 mm x 149 mm) paper size
acquired unknown source, 1930
Reference Collection
NPG D47854

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Described in the magazine:
Dress of white blonde over satin. Corsage uni (plain), fitting tight to the bust; it is cut on the crossway (en biais) with a seam down the centre of the front and a second on each side. The underneath sleeve is quite short and tight, and has a wide Venetian sleeve over, which entirely shades the back of the arm; the lower part of the under sleeve is finished by a wreath of full-blown roses without foliage. The bottom of the skirt is ornamented with a splendid flounce wrought in gold, a full quarter of a yard in depth, and put on quite plain, a tucker of the same goes round the bosom; a wreath of roses crosses the front of the skirt, reaching from the left side of the waist to the top of the flounce towards the right side where it finishes with a full bouquet. Pink ceinture to match. Coiffure in the Egyptian style. The front hair is very much parted on the brow and formed into thick braids on each side of the face, the back is dressed low in rouleaux, the two being retained by a thick ring of hair; a roll of crêpe lisse goes round the head and passes through the ring of hair at back; long blonde lappets are affixed to the coiffure, falling over the neck and shoulders; at one side the blonde forms a kind of rosette over the ear and at the other is a sprig of gold flowers to match the flounce. Necklace of pearls, white kid gloves trimmed with a ruche at top, white satin shoes.
The sitting figure gives the back of the coiffure; the dress is of blue satin or crape with blonde flounce and tucker.

Events of 1839back to top

Current affairs

The Bedchamber crisis strains relations between the government and the monarchy, after Queen Victoria refuses to dismiss her Whig-appointed ladies of the bedchamber at the request of the new, Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Peel resigns and Melbourne returns as Prime Minister.
The Grand National is first held at the Aintree race course, won by the horse Lottery, and the first Henley Royal Regatta, the rowing event, is held on the Thames.

Art and science

The French and British scientists Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot separately publicise their experiments with the new form of photography.
The prolific journalist Harriet Martineau publishes her three decker novel Deerbrook, the story of middle class country life.

International

The first Opium War with China is sparked after the British government refuses to try six British soldiers accused of killing a Chinese man protecting a temple from looters. Relations were strained as Britain had promoted the drug opium in China to boost trade. Winning the war, Britain secured vital trading rights.
African captives aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad revolt, resulting in a highly publicised court case.

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