Vienna Mores

I am extremely rejoiced, but not at all surprised, at the long, delightful letter, you have had the goodness to send me. I know that you can think of an absent friend even in the midst of a court, and you love to oblige, where you can have no view of a return; and I expect from you that you should love me, and think of me, when you don’t see me. I have compassion for the mortifications that you tell me befel our little old friend, and I pity her much more, since I know, that they are only owing to the barbarous customs of our country. Upon my word, if she were here, she would have no other fault but that of being something too young for the fashion, and she has nothing to do but to transplant herself hither about seven years hence, to be again a young and blooming beauty. I can assure you, that wrinkles, or a small stoop in the shoulders, nay, even gray-hairs, are no objection to the making new conquests. I know you cannot easily figure to yourself, a young fellow of five and twenty, ogling my lady S—ff—k with passion, or pressing to hand the countess of O——d from an opera. But such are the sights I see every day, and I don’t perceive any body surprized at them but myself. A woman, till five and thirty, is only looked upon as a raw girl, and can possibly make no noise in the world, till about forty. I don’t know what your ladyship may think of this matter; but ’tis a considerable comfort to me, to know there is upon earth such a paradise for old women; and I am content to be insignificant at present, in the design of returning when I am fit to appear no where else. I cannot help, lamenting, on this occasion, the pitiful case of too many English ladies, long since retired to prudery and ratafia, who, if their stars had luckily conducted hither, would shine in the first rank of beauties. Besides, that perplexing word reputation, has quite another meaning here than what you give it at London; and getting a lover is so far from losing, that ’tis properly getting reputation; ladies being much more respected in regard to the rank of their lovers, than that of their husbands.

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Liotard painted this picture, known as A Lady pouring Chocolate or La Chocolatière, around 1744 in Vienna. He exhibited it in Paris in 1752 and sold it in London in 1773. It is now in the National Gallery. Unlike many other pictures of this artist it is not pastel, but oil on canvas.

Chocolate entered Vienna only in 1711, when Emperor Charles IV moved his court there from Madrid, nearly a hundred years after Anne of Austria brought it to Paris.

J.E. Liotard de Geneve surnommé le Peintre Turc peint par lui meme à Vienne 1744

Jean-Étienne Liotard, who became famous mostly for his pastels, was born and died in Geneva, but lived and worked most of his life in other places. He studied in Paris under François Lemoyne, who recommended him to the French ambassador to Naples. He spent a few years in Rome and accompanied Lord Duncannon to Constantinople, where he adopted Turkish costume and grew a beard. In 1742 he went to Vienna, where he drew this self-portrait, pastel on paper. He was forty-two years old.

This is not, as I originally thought, his oldest self-portrait to survive, there are at least two earlier ones, with the first dating back to his time in Paris ten years earlier. But it’s probably the first one to show him in Turkish garb with a beard.