In 2010 we started a very important project that was defined as the „Reconstruction of the gown of Dorothea, the Duchess of Courland “. To be honest it was our first experience in reconstruction of a specific costume from the 18th century portrait. In her state portrait created by court artist F.H. Barisien around 1784 the Duchess Dorothea is wearing refined and elegant late rococo style gown with embroidery decoration.
Friedrich Hartmann Barisien (1724-1796) was at the service of Peter the Duke of Courland during 1770-ies and 80-ies as a court painter. His creative work is characterized by aesthetics of early classicism with romantic nuances of the portrayed persons. The author paid a lot of attention to costume details and textures of fabrics. It was really important for the process of reconstruction of costume.
Duchess Dorothea has left significant traces in the history as one of the brightest women of the age of Enlightenment in Europe. She played an important role in the social, political and cultural life. At the age of 18 she married Peter, the Duke of Courland. Dorothea was in the centre of historic events, when the values of life were changing and new ideologies were born. In the salons of Dorothea and her daughters were made important decisions that influenced the destiny of Europe. Russian tsar Alexander I and many famous politicians including Talleyrand and others showed respect to the opinion of the Duchess.
Portrait of Dorothea, the Duchess of Courland and her daughters Wilhelmine and Pauline, Princesses of Courland, painted by F.H. Barisien, 1784.
The aim of the project was to create a replica of late the 18th century style gown from the state portrait of the Duchess of Courland.
Since the only source was the original 18th century portrait from the exposition of Rundale Palace, the executors of the project ‘read’ fabrics and decorative techniques from the portrait. In the result of analysis, the dress could be described as follows: The purple silk taffeta gown with long sleeves and hooked closure at front with green buttons and matching collar and cuffs. Skirt sides are decorated by embroidery of colourful feathers’ bouquets. Petticoat of light grey satin is adorned by embroidery of floral festoons and bouquets of flowers and fantasy feathers in satin stitch. The lower part of the petticoat has treillage decoration with sewn on pearls. Tulle ruffles with metallic spangles are repeated through-out the edges of the dress.
In May 2010 during the celebration of the 274th anniversary of Rundale Palace the accomplished project of Duchess’ Dorothea dress was presented. It was a great honour and responsibility for both – creation of the costume and its demonstration as very important guests were invited to the celebration.
Below you can find the process of handwork captured in photos and the result.