Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And a Happy New Year

I found this print on the Lewis Walpole Library and, though it's rather unrelated, it put me in mind of the New Year holiday:

The print depicts a lady in masquerade dress, with clothing arranged in a manner suggestive of a nun, without being a full "costume." Masquerade costumes were often like that--items or details suggested a character or concept, but they did not necessarily have to be a full, authentic costume. And in this case--a lovely young lady who wanted to show her best features--an authentic habit would interfere with that goal.

Then, as now (doesn't every costume party have at least one naughty nun?), the nun costume was a bit tongue in cheek--the print's inscription reads:

On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore

Which Jews might kiss and Infidels adore

Political incorrectness aside, it's a humourous jab at the real object of men's attention at this particular example of piety.

And why does it make me think of New Year's? Well, there's always the opportunity for costume parties as New Year's Eve fetes (though I've encountered most naughty nuns at Halloween bashes). But in all honesty, I found the image of the stiff old mask dropping away and the young face beneath revealed to be rather symbolic of embarking on a new year. In hopes we can pull away a bit more artifice and illusion and get deeper at the core of living this year.


Nicole MacDonald said...

Naughty!! I love it what a gorgeous picture :) And a beautiful analogy

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Brownpaperbaggirl said...

Lovely analogy. I couldn't agree more...allowing facades to fall away and letting something new, alive begin.

Ax said...

Interesting nun and great sentiment! We can all use a little less artifice and a little more depth. And I also resolve to put more effort into cousin talk!

Rowenna said...

A Happy New Year to all three of you! Best :)

GentlewomanThief said...

Happy New Year! Great engraving! I think it's 'after' the Fair Nun Unmasked - there are a couple of different engraved versions of the painting, which is one of my favourites discovered during my research on the masquerade ball: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsam/house/collect_paint_fn.html

Rowenna said...

GwT--thanks for the link! This was probably a late reprint--it's dated, I think, 1780, and may have been in a magazine or the like. There's a lot of duplication on the Lewis Walpole catalog, which is actually sorta cool to see :)