This is portrait, by an unknown artist, of Anne Eugenie Lindström, née de Gonon, painted in the late 1820s or early 1830s.
Anne Eugenie was born in around 1811 and was the adopted daughter of a French wine merchant in Saint Petersburg; François de Gonon and his wife Marie, née Edrieux.
In 1829 she married Leonard Jonathan Lindström who had come to Saint Petersburg from Sweden as a journeyman coppersmith. Here, however he changed trade and in 1835 he is mentioned in St. Petersburgische Zeitung as a distiller. He was successful and the family stayed in Saint Petersburg until 1846 when they moved to a manor house they had acquired in Sweden.
I will, over the following weeks, look at this portrait detail by detail, but first I want to discuss an issue I’ve had reason to consider:
Looking through issues of the French fashion journal Le Journal des Dames et des Modes and leaning towards wanting to date the portrait to 1831,reasons for which I’ll return to in later posts, I started questioning whether my first thought that there probably was quite a lapse in what was fashionable in Saint Petersburg compared to Paris; that the fashions available to Anne Eugenie probably arrived later and stayed longer in Saint Petersburg.
How quickly would news of the latest Parisian fashions have arrived in Saint Petersburg?
In 1803 when the Moskovsky Merkury (Mercury of Moscow) was launched it’s editors claimed that they would be able to furnish its readers with news of the latest trends only 35 or 36 days after they appeared in France. A successful journal of the 1820s and early 1830s was the Damskiy Žurnal (Ladies Journal), published between 1823 and 1833. Just as in other European countries these journals often copied fashion plates from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes. The plate in the issue of the 30th of November 1826 of the French journal did for example show up slightly altered in the December issue of the Moskovskij Telegraf (Telegraph of Moscow).
Many readers did however prefer to subscribe to French fashion journals in order to get the news straight from the source.
Another way to find out what was à la mode was through private correspondence or reports from travellers.
Would Anne Eugenie have taken care to dress in the very latest fashions for her portrait, or would she have regarded that as too frivolous?
There is of course the option that she asked the artist to paint her clothes more fashionable than they actually were.
So, if she had access to news of the latest French fashions only a few weeks after their publication in Paris, and if she cared to follow them, would she have been able to procure what was needed locally?
Saint Petersburg was a bustling, international city. In 1830 it had 450 000 inhabitants. There was a sizable population of foreign born merchants and artisans; 15 000-20 000 in 1832.
The shopping street par excellence was the Nevsky Prospekt, where shop signs were often written in several languages, and where the vast Gostiny Dvor (Merchants Yard); an indoor bazaar was located, but shops were everywhere. There is a much quoted passage in an 1828 or 1829 letter Nicolai Gogol, newly arrived in Saint Petersburg, wrote to his mother in Ukraine in which he lists the different businesses in the building where he rents rooms on the fourth floor, among them a marchand de mode (fashion merchant).
The French merchant Jean-Baptiste Goudoit, who lived in Moscow between 1820 and 1825, imported fashionable articles wholesale from France. There is archival evidence of his furnishing ten shops in Saint Petersburg, the proprietors of which all but one had French or German names.
In his correspondence with his commissioner in France they repeatedly returned to the issue of whether a new item would be of the Russian taste or not and to the conflict between the time it took to transport merchandise from France to Russia — which was done by intermediaries since Goudoit didn’t have the resources to undertake such an operation himself — and the fast changing fashions.
In one instant a shopkeeper in Saint Petersburg; Camille Cerclet, sent back almost all the items she had on consignment from him since they had gone out of fashion.
If Anne Eugenie had access to people travelling to France and other Western European countries she had the opportunity to commission them to shop for her. Pernilla Rasmussen discusses this practice in a Swedish context in her work on sempstresses and tailors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, in which she mentions how diplomats who could pass more easily through the customs often were tasked with private commissions.
And in Vyborg, only a two days journey from Saint Petersburg, the timber trading Hartman family, who favoured English fashions, not only shopped in the English shops of Saint Petersburg, but also regularly asked the captains of their ships to carry items from London in the captain’s cabin in order to avoid paying duties.
Following fashions did not necessarily entail buying the very latest gowns or fabrics from Paris. Having clothes remade to suit what was fashionable, changing trimmings, getting a new belt or hat decoration were other options available and more affordable. And since merchandise from France was expensive you might choose to buy a locally made fabric for a new gown even if you ordered it to be made to the specifications of a French fashion plate.
Published on the 1st of July 2018
Edh family association – a story in pictures from old times http://www.edh-family.com/edh35/index.php/en/b1en
St. Petersburgische Zeitung für das Jahr 1835
Anastasia Bogomolova. Marché russe des modes françaises en 1700-1825 : jeux politiques, acteurs,produits, contrebande. Histoire. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne – Paris I, 2017. Français. <NNT :2017PA01H053>. <tel-01804081v2> https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01804081v2/document
Katherine Bowers, Experiencing Information: An Early Nineteenth-Century Stroll Along Nevskii Prospekt, in Simon Franklin and Katherine Bowers, Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1850. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017http://dx.org/10.11647/OBP.0122
Anne Swartz, Piano Makers in Russia in the Nineteenth century, Lehigh University Press, 2014
Solomon Volkov, St. Petersburg – A Cultural History, Simon and Schuster, 1997
Pernilla Rasmussen, Skräddaren, sömmerskan och modet – Arbetsmetoder och arbetsdelning i tillverkningen av kvinnlig dräkt 1770-1830, Nordiska Museets förlag, 2010
Ulla Ijäs, English Luxuries in Nineteenth-Century Vyborg, in Johanna Ilmakunnas and John Stobart, A Taste for Luxury in Early Modern Europe – Display, Acquisition and Boundaries, Bloomsbury, 2017