Glorious Years: French Calendars from Louis XIV to the Revolution, Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Wed-Sun – until 29th October 2017
It is fortunate for later generations that Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) not only collected 18th century French furniture and porcelain but also had an interest in social history of the period too, accumulating trade cards, lottery tickets and other ephemera such as the calendars that form the focus of this very special exhibition.
The twenty-six calendars or as they were originally called ‘almanacs’ are having their public debut as they have not been exhibited before. They are a strong reminder of the power of imagery as an educational and propaganda tool from the time of Louis XIV up until the French Revolution when the calendar and time were ‘re-invented’.
The large single-sheet prints features scenes of victories, royal events and peace treaties while the smaller bound pocketbook versions – think the 18th century equivalent of the smartphone – could contain a variety of useful facts, including lists of the royal households, postal service schedules, songs, poetry and some even had erasable pages for note-taking or recording gambling debts.
Alongside these 18th century examples is a specially commissioned 21st century almanac created by the British artist Adam Dant. Using the 18th century examples as an example, Dant has amusingly re-interpreted them by depicting modern British MPS and ministers. It may well indeed gain extra significance as a political snapshot of early 2017 given the forthcoming General Election.