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La Toilette de Vénus by François Boucher [Wikimedia]

I had forgotten about Wet Magic until I sold a postcard of it yesterday. It was one of my first adaptations of a classic piece, in this instance La Toilette de Vénus by François Boucher [1703-1770] which can be seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It took me days — my Photoshop skills were almost non-existent at the time — and days and days. The idea of switching her from right to left and turning her into a mermaid came from my love of E Nesbit’s children’s books and specifically Wet Magic in which her protagonists save a mermaid from the circus, and much else besides.

Extract from Wet Magic in which Nesbit quotes John Milton:

‘Now, Francis,” [Mavis] called. And Francis came slowly with his thumb in The Water Babies. It was nearly dark by now, but Mavis had lighted the four dolls’ house candles in the gilt candlesticks and set them on the table round the aquarium.”Look through the side,” she said; “isn’t it ripping?””Why,” said Francis slowly, “you’ve got water in it–and real anemones! Where on earth…?””Not real,” said Mavis. “I wish they were; they’re only dahlias. But it does look pretty, doesn’t it?””It’s like Fairyland,” said Kathleen, and Bernard added, “I am glad you bought it.””It just shows what it will be like when we do get the sea creatures,” said Mavis. “Oh, Francis, you do like it, don’t you?””Oh, I like it all right,” he answered, pressing his nose against the thick glass, “but I wanted it to be waving weeds and mysterious wetness like the Sabrina picture.”The other three glanced at the picture which hung over the mantel piece–Sabrina and the water-nymphs, drifting along among the waterweeds and water-lilies. There were words under the picture, and Francis dreamily began to say them:–“Sabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting.
Under the glassy green, translucent wave…
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thine amber-dropping hair…”‘

La marquise de Pompadour by François Boucher [Wikimedia]

And why Madame de Pompadour? Louis XV’s famous mistress commissioned La Toilette de Vénus for the boudoir at her château near Paris. She was a devotee of the artist and his patroness from 1747 until she died in 1764. According to the metmuseum, ‘…she had acted the title role in a play, staged at Versailles, called “The Toilet of Venus,” and while this is not a portrait, a flattering allusion may have been intended.’ Visit Last Post to read several fascinating articles about Madame de Pompadour by Pippa Rathborne.

Take care and keep laughing!


Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

Please don’t ask me how I feel.rebegot of darkness
In the garden of how I feel
nothing grows
but tears and sighs and bitter aloes.
I cannot speak my sorrow:
it swells inside me, fungating tumour,
choking words and ulcerating thoughts.

In the garden of how I feel,
there is no light; sunken corner
of mind’s eye
diseased, where knotted stems writhe and mould,
mandrakes scream, torn out of earth,
and the angry rustling of ivy leaves
sirens that rats are tunnelling through.

It’s their garden now; dead ones stink
where lily and rose used to be.
by violence of absence mutates,
past and present are displaced –
love severed, nothing looks nor feels the same
that once was seen and felt by her, too.

Please don’t tell me, then, to “move on”-
raw amputee crawling towards
a closed door.
Let me journey in catacombed mindenchanted
to resurrect the garden,

View original post 69 more words

I doubt one can get more incestuous than this post: I am re-blogging my oldest friend Pippa’s re-blog of my original post because her introduction is now engraved on my heart!

Extract from a memoir by Sarah Vernon

Few people’s childhood impressions are recalled with as much honesty and poignant detail as Sarah’s. She conjures the enormity of the smallest things, and the intensity of the desire to own every emotion, every moment.

With many thanks to Sarah, the first part of COMFORT IN A COTTON FROCK is reblogged from First Night Design


I wish Anne would come. Wednesday Anne. I want to help her today: I want to use the dustpan and brush. She’s broken her arm again so she can’t do any cleaning without me. I love her. How pretty you are, she says. I couldn’t do any of this without your help, she says. How I love her. She’s been around for ages and is even older than Mummy and Daddy. She used to clean for Ellen Terry and Ellen Terry was very famous and from very, very long ago. Charles-Who-Had-His-Head-Chopped-Off was around then. I think. I want to be Ellen Terry…..

via Pippa Rathborne’s CONTRAblog: Extract from a memoir by Sarah Vernon

Take care and keep laughing!


Related articles


Backyard © Martin Hübscher

Photographer Martin Hübscher just happens to be married to one of my dearest friends, actress and blogger Pippa Rathborne, whom regular followers will recognise from those of her  posts which have been re-blogged here.

Pippa Rathborne

Pippa Rathborne © Martin Hübscher

Portraits, weddings and events are Martin’s stock-in-trade but leave him to his own devices and he comes up with some lovely black & white shots from the tiny detail [see There’s No Use Crying below] to the larger [see Backyard above].

There's No Use Crying

There’s No Use Crying © Martin Hübscher

Dunorlan ParkDunorlan Park © Martin Hübscher

With thanks to Martin Hübscher for allowing me to publish his photographs on First Night Design.

Take care and keep laughing!



This fascinating post has been re-blogged from Pippa Rathborne’s CONTRAblog.  Enjoy!

Sarah Martha Siddons, c.1795, portrayed and betrayed by the Romantic painter, Thomas Lawrence.
Private Collection. Image source: Wikipedia
“Whenever I meet his eyes…it is like an electric shock to me”


Sally (1775-1803) and her sister Maria (1779 -1798) were both in love with the gifted and ambitious portrait painter Thomas Lawrence, a friend of their mother’s, the actress Sarah Siddons. The whole family had known him well for several years. In his mid-twenties, he looked like a romantic hero, graceful, dark and delicately featured, complete with soul-piercing eyes, and behaved with the destructive emotional immaturity to which many former child prodigies are susceptible. He courted both girls in turn, initially forming an attachment to Sally, then announcing that he was in love with the younger girl, Maria, who was already showing symptoms of consumption. Months later, he confessed that it was really Sally he had loved all along, and his engagement to Maria was broken off. He seems to have been genuinely confused about his feelings – Mrs Siddons, always indulgent of him, thought he was quixotic – but that wasn’t really the point, and entirely escaped the egotist.

Read more

Take care and keep laughing!



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