MINESTRONIES AND MACARONIES

“Why did yankee doodle stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni? Back in Pre-Revolutionary America when the song ‘Yankee Doodle’ was first popular, the singer was not referring to the pasta ‘macaroni’ in the line that reads ‘stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.’ ‘Macaroni’ was a fancy (‘dandy’) style of Italian dress widely imitated in England at the time. So by just sticking a feather in his cap and calling himself a ‘Macaroni’ (a ‘dandy’), Yankee Doodle was proudly proclaiming himself to be a country bumpkin, because that was how the English regarded most colonials at that time”

Mary Darly

Mary Darly

Despite the importance of her work, Mary Darly has remained an obscure and somewhat forgotten figure in the history of British caricature, yet is responsible for its inception as an art form; one that distanced itself  from the earlier models of pictorial satire. She fostered enthusiasm for graphic satire and increased sensitivity and awareness of caricature as an artistic convention as popular work appealing across all social classes.

The ascension of George III in 1762, coincided with the publication with the publication of the first English book about caricature by Darly, who self-described herself as a ”fun merchant”. The style mixed elements of the old, DaVinci and the classics, with ”deniere cri” work of  George Townshend whom Horace Walpole claimed was the first artist to satirize identifiable people. This was what distinguished the style of a William Hogarth from later popularizers such as Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. It was the personal character of the satire embodied in the prints of the Georgian era that gave them their edge at the time. That edge also related  to a line across which caricaturists seem to have been more willing and able to cross with impunity than writers; a line involving insult, libel and the imputation of outlandish sexual mores.

Carrington Bowles. 1772. ''Both the lady in her enormous pyramid of hair and the good doctor in his legal wig and gown are slyly reflected in the picture on the wall above them of two monkeys taking tea.''

Carrington Bowles. 1772. ''Both the lady in her enormous pyramid of hair and the good doctor in his legal wig and gown are slyly reflected in the picture on the wall above them of two monkeys taking tea.''

”Although most well-known cartoonists have been men, one of the most influential early figures in the field was a woman, Mary Darly. Though often overlooked in histories of the subject, women have played a significant part in the development of cartoons and caricature in Britain from its beginnings in the days of Hogarth almost 300 years ago right up to the present… However, the mother of them all, perhaps, was the eighteenth-century artist, engraver, writer, printseller, publisher and teacher, Mary Darly (fl.1756-79), who also wrote, illustrated and published the first ever manual on how to draw caricatures”
Robert Dighton, 1772. ''The Macaroni Painter is Richard Cosway, R.A., known for his foppish dress. The sitter, in full Macaroni regalia, appears entirely satisfied with himself.''

Robert Dighton, 1772. ''The Macaroni Painter is Richard Cosway, R.A., known for his foppish dress. The sitter, in full Macaroni regalia, appears entirely satisfied with himself.''

In the second half of the eighteenth century the hair of the fashionable world in England soared to new heights. There were many prints that  focused on hair and wigs, and on the hairdressers and barbers who created and tended them. These images of “preposterous” hairstyles give evidence of the increased economic prosperity. Trade and the exploitation of the colonies had created an affluent merchant class  that made possible such extreme fashions as well as the luxury goods necessary to them. At the time of publication, the prints also served to communicate and disseminate the latest styles to a broader public.

Thomas Rowlandson

Thomas Rowlandson

English women borrowed fashionable hairstyles from France, particularly Marie Antoinette’s fanciful headdresses, and English men returning from the Grand Tour brought back fashions as well as objets d’art. From the beginning there was ambivalence among the English about extravagant fashion, and the extreme style adopted by the young gentlemen back from their European travels, dubbed “Macaronies,” was usually portrayed as ridiculous and sometimes even as unnatural. In 1764 Horace Walpole mentioned “The Maccaroni Club,which is composed of all the travelled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses,” and a writer in the Oxford Magazine had this to say in 1770: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up amongst us. It is called Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.”

William Hogarth; Election Entertainment

William Hogarth; Election Entertainment

In addition to reflecting an English distrust of Continental ,specifically French and Italian, excess in dress and manner, some of the prints also point up the confusion and sense of disorder caused by attempts at upward mobility. Satiric images abound of men and women putting on the clothes, and trying for the manners and hairstyles, of the upper classes, succeeding to a greater or lesser degree as this first surge of materialism, fueled by the ”Grand Tour” became embraced as a societal value.
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”The image of the macaroni in the 1770s acted both as a cautionary tale and a secret exemplar for the rising middle classes, as they debated how to become urbane cosmopolites while remaining authentically British. The medium of caricature was crucial to this debate, since individual portrait caricature not only unmasked the macaroni’s inauthenticity, but also, and paradoxically, made a desirable spectacle out of his eccentric individualism. In these caricatural images, the macaroni’s hair functioned as a potent and multivalent symbol, representing both fashion and artifice, and blurring the boundaries of gender, class, and nationality. Thus, macaroni caricature in the 1770s was deeply implicated in the contemporary fascination with character and the evolution of the modern self.”

James Gillray. 1796. ''In November, the Duke of Bedford had attacked the pension given to Burke. Here Burke is shown wearing tattered clothes and begging at the gate of Bedford’s mansion. On his back is a bag inscribed, £4000 pr Annum indicating his pensions. He is pleading, Pity the Sorrows of a poor Old Man add a trifle to what has been bestowed by Ministry to stop my Complaints:- O give me opportunity of recanting once more……''

James Gillray. 1796. ''In November, the Duke of Bedford had attacked the pension given to Burke. Here Burke is shown wearing tattered clothes and begging at the gate of Bedford’s mansion. On his back is a bag inscribed, £4000 pr Annum indicating his pensions. He is pleading, Pity the Sorrows of a poor Old Man add a trifle to what has been bestowed by Ministry to stop my Complaints:- O give me opportunity of recanting once more……''

“…the marks that had been codified into the macaroni type [were]: fine sprigged fabric, tight clothes, oversized sword, tasseled walking stick, delicate shoes, and, most recognizably, an enormous wig. This wig, combining a tall front with a fat queue or “club” of hair behind, was the feature that epitomized the macaroni’s extravagant artifice during London’s macaroni craze of the early 1770s. Named for the pasta dish that rich young Grand Tourists brought back from their sojourns in Rome, the macaroni was known in the 1760s as an elite figure marked by the cultivation of European travel.

''Published by J Lockington in 1777, this etching shows a lady with her hair in a gigantic pyramid, protected by an enormous umbrella on a very long stick. Her draped over-skirt projects at the back in mountainous folds (support known as the 'corks's rump'). On these is seated a foppishly dressed man taking shelter under the projection of her hair. A simple countryman, whose hat has fallen to the ground, gapes at the pair in amazement. A fashionably dressed man on the right leers and points at them.''

''Published by J Lockington in 1777, this etching shows a lady with her hair in a gigantic pyramid, protected by an enormous umbrella on a very long stick. Her draped over-skirt projects at the back in mountainous folds (support known as the 'corks's rump'). On these is seated a foppishly dressed man taking shelter under the projection of her hair. A simple countryman, whose hat has fallen to the ground, gapes at the pair in amazement. A fashionably dressed man on the right leers and points at them.''

But as The Macaroni and Theatrical Magazine explained in its inaugural issue in 1772, ‘the word Macaroni then changed its meaning to that of a person who exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion; and is now justly used as a term of reproach to all ranks of people, indifferently, who fall into this absurdity.’ Macaroni fashion was contagious, and as it spread beyond its original cadre into the rising…” (Rauser, Hair, Authenticity, and the Self-Made Macaroni. Eighteenth-Century Studies 38.1 [2004] pp. 101-117).

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