The Chocolate Girl; or, The maid who became a princess

June 22, 2009

 The Chocolate Girl (known also as La Belle Chocolatière, or Das Schokoladenmädchen) is one of the most famous works by the Swiss artist, Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789), and depicts a pretty maid serving a tray of hot chocolate.

An 1840s engraving of Liotard's Chocolate Girl by A. H. Payne

The Chocolate Girl: an engraving by A. H. Payne, c. 1840

The charming story behind the commission of the painting reads like a romantic fairy-tale. It is thought that the girl in the picture, Anna Baltauf, lived in Vienna and worked as a server in one of the chocolate shops which had become hugely popular throughout Europe during the 18th century.  As the daughter of an impoverished Viennese knight, she had little chance of good marriage, however in the summer of 1745, a young Austrian nobleman named Prince Dietrichstein visited the shop. He fell in love with Anna and asked her to marry him, despite his family’s objections, and so the chocolate girl became a princess. As a wedding present to his bride, the prince commissioned the portrait from Liotard, an artist of the Viennese court. Anna is shown in the maid’s costume she was wearing when her future husband first saw her.

The Chocolate Girl by Jean-Etienne Liotard

Das Schokoladenmädchen: the original portrait by Jean-Etienne Liotard

It is impossible to say just how much truth there is to this tale, however it is certain that in 1881 Henry L. Pierce, then president of the Walter Baker chocolate company, visited the painting in the Dresden Art Gallery and was captivated by it and by Anna’s story.  He immediately registered La Belle Chocolatière as one of the first US trademarks and the image has graced the company’s boxes and packaging ever since. The original portrait of Princess Dietrichstein, the Chocolate Girl, still hangs in the Dresden gallery, where it remains one of the museum’s most popular attractions. – Ken Gibb

Images:
The chocolate girl. John Johnson Shelfmark: Cocoa, Chocolate and Confectionery 5 (54)
(ProQuest durable URL)

Copyright  © 2009 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Reproduced with the permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Comments are welcome for sharing with other users, but regrettably the editors of Curators’ Choice are not necessarily able to respond to enquiries.


Momotarō: ‘Peach-Boy’.

June 8, 2009

At first glance, these matchbox labels may transport the inexperienced phillumenist instantly to childhood memories of Roald Dahl’s ‘James and the giant peach’. On further inspection, however, the characters illustrated in these Japanese wood blocks reveal a more obscure origin.

Old man & womanThe story of Momotarō, although largely unfamiliar in the West, is a well known and loved Japanese folk-tale. Momotarō (often directly translated as ‘Peach Boy’) was the miracle child of an elderly couple who had not been favoured with the good fortune of having their own children.

Whilst washing clothes in the river one day, the old woman heard muffled cries coming from inside a giant peach which she had found floating downstream. She had pulled the peach out  of the water with the idea of sharing it with her husband for lunch. On breaking open the peach, she found Momotarō in the middle and claimed him as her own son. The old couple was very happy finally to have a child of their own and lavished upon the boy love, attention, and a good education.Momotaro

When Momotarō reached the age of about 15, filled with a love of his country, and desirous of an adventure, he set off on a quest to rid Japan of the ogres which had been plaguing the Japanese people for a number of years. On his travels he befriended a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, all of which joined him on his quest. When the party reached the Island of Ogres, between them, Momotarō and his friends managed to outwit and destroy each and every ogre. They returned home triumphant, carrying many riches and precious jewels. By ridding the land of ogres, Momotarō and his animal companions not only released the Japanese people from the terror of ogres, but also became very rich and famous. Momotarō and his parents lived happily ever after.

Matchbox labels are eminently collectible today, and there are numerous websites and exhibitions which display fabulous collections ranging in subject from World War II propaganda to portraits of famous actors and actresses. The Japanese matchbox industry started somewhat slowly, as the local market was hindered by suspicions that matches were Christian magic. Once established, however, Japan soon became one of the leading manufacturers of matches, and arguably amongst the most interesting in terms of design and production of the labels.  Those illustrated here were produced in Japan from 1876 to about 1890, using traditional woodblock printing techniques.Triumphant – Elizabeth Mathew

Reference: Japanese prints: Japanese matchbox labels: Ramat-Gan, The Yechiel Nahari Museum of Far Eastern Art, 2005.

Images:

Carrying the peach. John Johnson Shelfmark: Labels 12 (83a) Proquest durable URL

Emerging from the peach. John Johnson Shelfmark: Labels 12 (83c) Proquest durable URL

Lifting the peach. John Johnson Shelfmark: Labels 12 (83b) Proquest durable URL

Copyright © 2009 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Reproduced with the permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Comments are welcome for sharing with other users, but regrettably the editors of Curators’ Choice are not necessarily able to respond to enquiries.