Ugrás a tartalomhoz Lépj a menübe

Family, Home and Fashion in the First Third of the 19th Century in the Book Illustrations of Johann Blaschke (1770–1833).


Family, Home and Fashion in the First Third of the 19th Century as Depicted in the Book Illustrations of Johann Blaschke (1770–1833)



The number of book illustrations that depicted genre scenes taking place inside the family home were steadily growing in the first decades of the 19th century. The illustrations in the almanacs and advice books for women, the different etiquette guides and moral philosophical treaties all popularized the social roles expected from women. These publications not only explained the social relations, customs and sexual roles but also influenced the contemporary views and behavior patterns. The publishers wanted to teach their readers feminine skills in order to help the young girls become good wives, mothers and housekeepers.

Many illustrations about the life of the family – either tragic or comical – can be found in novels, especially in popular literature. Although the majority of the scenes take place in middle-class homes, there are also pictures based on noble and peasant milieus which expressively showed the readers the culture, furniture and fashion of the social classes either above or below theirs. The readers could not only experience the joys and sufferings of the characters in the pictures but they also had the chance to face their own problems, emotions and doubts. On many illustrations we can see scenes in a garden or pergola, and the pantheistic view of nature also appears on some engravings.

At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries calendars often had fashion plates that could be used as illustrations of fashion history while also showing an expressive picture of the contemporary interior design, lifestyle, social norms, behavioral conventions and gender roles. A particular interaction can be assumed between the fashion plates and the modern middle-class genre paintings: in many fashion plates genre art scenes depict women reading or writing letters, while the movements and settings in the social genre art images are familiar from fashion plates.



Joannes Michael Blaske, according to the civil registry of the Roman Catholic Saint Martin Church (Pressburg), was born in Pressburg in December 12, 1770 to the musician (musicus) Jozef Blaske and Anna Maria Blaske, and he also had a twin named Josephus. During his childhood the family moved to Vienna, where his father – as seen in the account book of the Hoftheater – worked as the first violinist of the court theater in 1782.[1]

Among the illustrations of Blaschke we can find several types, such as historical, mythological, religious, patriotic, geographical, classicist, etc. The number of his illustrations that depicted everyday events, among them scenes about families in their home, were steadily growing in the first decades of the 19th century. This phenomenon was related to the fact that while in earlier eras, according to the academic hierarchy, the illustration of historical and mythological events dominated and portraits were made because of the need for political representation, for the Biedermeier period the depiction of the intimate moments of domestic life started to become more and more important.

The examination of Blaschke’s book illustrations reveal that several of his topics were also favored by the Biedermeier painters. Of course we cannot assume a direct link between the paintings and book illustrations, these analogies show only that these topics were popular during the first half of the 19th century and there was a societal need for them to be depicted in art.

In the scenes similar to genre art the most often found topic was the depiction of the different aspects of domestic lives, and the most popular among these topics were romantic couples. In the previous centuries marriages in Europe were usually based on economic and political interests. In the 19th century, however, more and more marriages were founded on mutual attraction and love, which is often reflected both in Biedermeier paintings and in book illustrations. This is a tendency that – as the pictures show – is true for the middle class,[2] the nobility[3] and peasants[4] too. On many engravings we can see scenes of the proposal.[5]

Another favorite topic of the illustrations was marriage, most specifically parenting.[6] Especially interesting are those engravings about the topic of child rearing which show a different relationship between father and child than how it was depicted in the previous centuries. Earlier the man, who was the head of the family, was believed by the wife, the children and the whole household to have the ultimate authority, and did not have an important part in caring for and educating the children. Those images in the Middle Ages and the early modern period which show the Virgin Mary reading prayers, therefore being part of the transcendent heavenly sphere, and Joseph, who “has a soul like a mother’s”, tenderly taking care of the baby Jesus,[7] were most likely considered at the time to be an atypical family model. However, in the first half of the 19th century – at least according to the illustrations – the idea that fathers too can have a close and intimate emotional link to their children is starting to become more common.[8]

We can most often find pictures illustrating the scenes of domestic life in three kinds of publications. The first one are almanacs and vade mecums for women; the second one are books meant to give women advice, and books about etiquette and moral philosophical tractates[9] while the third one are illustrations of popular literature. These publications and illustrations not only described the contemporary social relations, customs and gender roles, but also shaped and influenced the views and behavioral patterns of the time. The publications for women, for example, wished to teach their readers feminine knowledge so that the young upper class ladies could become good wives, mothers and housekeepers. However, it also must be emphasized that the education of the two genders was in many ways similar, at least theoretically. The youth publications wished to teach both genders not only the acceptance of the existing social order, Christian values and the importance of patriotism as part of the educational interests of the state, but also basic scientific, artistic and literary knowledge. The authors of several youth publications dedicated their works to both boys and girls.

The illustrations of the almanacs for women had an important role in teaching about the correct ways of behavior, occasionally with the aid of contrasting positive and negative examples. One picture series about the twelve months of the year in a calendar made in Wien in 1801[10] nicely highlighted how the middle class, which at the time was becoming economically stronger and fighting for its political emancipation, contrasted its moral values with the faults of the aristocracy. The series depicting the scenes of domestic life had six-six pages: one side showed a mentality that was not wasteful but  found family and rational thinking important, while the other side was frivolous, irresponsible and enjoyed entertainment and pomp. In the family shown as the positive example the husband gives a supporting embrace to his wife breast-feeding their baby[11] and the couple does the household book together in harmony while the young wife points at the dress made by her, illustrating how saving money thus helps the family thrive.[12] The pictures show the importance of middle class simplicity, a loving domestic atmosphere and work ethic. In the counterexamples we can see a family arguing about the dowry,[13] a mother playing cards with her female friends while her baby is looked after by the nanny[14], and a husband despairing about the overwhelming amount of unpaid bills while his wife spends her money buying expensive clothes.[15] Even though the interiors and fashion on the engravings are not significantly different, the examples meant to be followed show the lifestyle and mentality of the middle class while the negative examples are based on the aristocracy, according to the contemporary tropes. That these engravings, not following the customs of the era, are not connected to the poems and short stories in the almanach but rather work as an independent and coherent unit of the picture and the text, together with the detailed explanation of the pictures, emphasizes the editor’s conscious intention of moral education. These literary almanacs and their illustrations had an important role in the articulation of the new values and ideology of the middle class, in many ways putting themselves in contrast with the aristocracy.

The vade mecums for women also gave practical advice on domestic life, the managing of the household and parenting. The Wiener Damenkalender published writings for mothers and nannies about teaching girls how to manage the money and the household.[16] One vade mecum also had a table, which was a kind of diary: this Cassaconto table, into which the incomes and expenses could be inscribed every day, helped the managing of the household and domestic expenses.[17]

A specific aspect of the education of girls is shown in the illustrations of a book series, which was first published by Carl Philipp Funke in 1800[18] and had later editions in 1805 and 1812, which reflected the views of the Age of Enlightenment about pedagogy and philanthropy. On the images, which show the middle class family model as attractive and vivid, the members of the family – the mother, the father and two children: a boy and a girl – are studying the intriguing parts of nature, arts and craft. The illustrations show that girls and boys are taught together, however, these pictures do not take place at home or in the garden, but in the public spaces of education and entertainment. The series of engravings show different methods of education: scientifically organized public museums for natural history and art which make it possible for everyone to learn[19], the observation of plants and animals in their natural habitat,[20] and the direct or indirect learning about crafts.[21]

The images contrast the looser structure of the aristocratic households and big peasant families with the relationship between the members of the small families of the middle class, where the ties between the parents and the children are much stronger. On the engravings – in accordance with the process during which the middle class family became more and more exempt from economic duties, which caused the lessening of paternal authority and helped the structure of authority to be more balanced in the family – the relationship between the members of the family is not based on a hierarchy of dominance and subordination. In these close and supportive families – according to the series of pictures – women could participate in the educational spheres with as much freedom as men. The little girl is educated not only in the traditionally feminine arts, but she is also curious about collections of natural history and the work of miners, and examines the human and animal skeletons and embryos without fear.[22]

Of course, there need to be in-depth researches for the scientific analysis of how much the family models appearing on these series of engravings, and on the book illustrations of the 18th and 19th centuries in general, show contemporary fantasies, philosophical, pedagogical, political views, personal and communal expectations (or even fears) about the structure and function of family and the relationship between the members of the family, and how much they reflect the actual social practices and individual experiences. On one hand the illustrations show – often in an extreme, caricature-like way – the actual changes in society, on the other hand, when describing the examples that should be followed or rejected they give practical advice to their readers about their everyday life.

In the first half of the 19th century it was popular to show partaking in charity, supporting the poor, the needy and the sick and respecting the elderly, which were occasionally linked to a kind of devout religious piousness. The depiction of such pious devotion had a place even in the Austrian royal representation: a painting by Peter Krafft, made in 1834, shows Emperor Francis I. taking part in a poor dead man’s funeral. (Wien, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere). The painting continues the tradition of Pietas Austriaca, and reveals the emphasis placed on middle class simplicity and piousness.[23] Scenes of private devotion and intimate moments of praying were also often depicted.[24]

The illustrations of the novels, poems and almanacs of the Age of Enlightenment often became a kind of chamber theatre which created an intimate space, where the readers could see the important and interesting scenes of the book. The different milieus – such as aristocratic, noble, middle class and peasant – of the genre art scenes of the book illustrations expressively show the readers the culture, furniture and fashion of the social classes either above or below theirs. An engraving of a Viennese calendar made by Blaschke, which illustrates the cozy disorder of a simply furnished room, with a drum lying on the floor and boots with shoe trees; a hat thrown onto the open door of the little cupboard; the light streaming in through the open window overlooking the garden and the easy, relaxed body language of the young soldier lying on the couch, foreshadows the atmosphere of the homey and intimate interiors of the Biedermeier style.[25]

On many illustrations we can see scenes that take place in a garden or pergola,[26] and the pantheistic view of nature during the Age of Enlightenment also appears on some engravings that show the relationship between humans and nature.[27] Funny scenes were popular at the time, as well as the anecdotic narration,[28] and we can also find examples of the moderate description of eroticism.[29]

At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries calendars often had fashion plates that could not only be used as illustrations of fashion history but also showed a picture of the contemporary interior design, lifestyle, social norms and behavioral conventions.[30] A particular interaction can be assumed between the fashion plates and the modern middle class genre paintings: in many fashion plates genre art scenes can be found, while the movements and settings appearing in the social genre art images are familiar from fashion plates. The lady gazing at herself in the mirror with joy and satisfaction is a type of character that appears both for example in the painting of Ferdinand von Lütgendorff, made in 1834, (Frau von Muhr, Museum im Kulturspeicher, Würzburg) and in a fashion plate published in 1820 – coincidentally she is wearing a blue dress in both pictures.

In 1817 and 1818 Blaschke made almost thirty colored fashion plates for a journal in Wien.[31] On a few pictures not only dresses, but also accessories (for example hats), details of dresses and fashionable hairstyles and hair ornaments were shown to the readers.  We can see on the fashion plates the everyday lives of the characters; their domestic (for example parenting) customs and their ways of finding entertainment;[32] ladies with a newspaper or books, writing a letter, caring for their flowers or pets, hosting. One fashion plate was like an intimate Biedermeier genre art: a woman standing in front of a three-legged little table full of flowers is pointing at a little birdie sitting on the open door of a cage.[33] It is difficult to decide whether the iconographic trope was used consciously or it is just a coincidence, but it is certain that the depiction of women holding a little bird, letting it fly free or mourning its death had previously and even during this era an allegorical meaning about virginity and its loss. With its shocking directness stands out that genre art-like fashion plate on which two sitting ladies, one standing gentleman and one barefoot, comfortably-dressed man cleaning his boots can be seen.[34]

During the 1810s–20s Blaschke made several engravings for Toilette Kalender für Damen, which started in the 1790s. The publishers asked Blaschke to make engravings for the anniversary of the calendar in 1831–1832. Some of these depict clothes that reflected the fashion forty years ago, on a few pictures next to clothes that were made in the most recent style. This kind of historical perspective was proof of the longevity of this calendar, which was unusual when it came to such an ephemeral kind of genre. The fashion plate titled „Mode de l’année prochaine” in the issue in 1831 showed extravagant clothes, illustrating the imagined future of fashion.[35] Not just on fashion plates but also in dress albums we can find pictorial references, occasionally genre scenes about the everyday lives of the characters. We can see working and talking peasant girls and young boys, itinerant peddlers selling their wares, romantic couples.[36]

To summarize, the readers in the first half of the 19th century could often see their own lives reflected in the illustrations of the books and almanacs which were distributed to a fairly large group of readers: they could not only experience the joys and sufferings of the characters in the pictures that showed the supported or forbidden loves of young people or the scenes of a good or bad marriage, as well as the life of small middle class families and the relationship between humans and nature, but they also had the chance to face their own problems, emotions and doubts. Today’s readers too can learn about the middle class home and family model at the beginning of the 19th century with the help of these illustrations.


Translated by Rebeka Szaló


[1] Papp Júlia: Könyv és kép a 19. század elején. Blaschke János (1770–1833) illusztrációinak katalógusa. Budapest, 2012, I. 22.

[2] Almanach für Freundinnen romantischer Lecture auf das Jahr 1808, July.

[3] [Kisfaludy Sándor]: Regék a’ magyar elő-időből. Budán, 1807.

[4] Friedrich von Matthissons sämmtliche Werke. Vierter Band. Wien 1815.

[5] Romantische Erzählungen von Carol. Baro. La Motte Fouqué, Reinbek, St. Schütze und Frid. Baron. La Motte Fouqué. Wien 1815; Philibert oder die Verhältnisse. Ein Roman. Von August Kotzebue. Königsberg. 1810.

[6] Toilette Kalender für Damen, 1813. Wien, August; Taschenbuch für Dichterfreunde. Wien 1815. October.

[7] Nativity of Jesus. Miniature. In: Book of Hours, 15th century. France, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Dosso Dossi: Sacra Famiglia, ca. 1527–1528. Pinacoteca Capitolina, Roma, Musei Vaticani.

[8] Österreichischer Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1801. Wien. September; Theater von Kotzebue. Wien, 1810–1820. 4. Band; C.[hristoph] M.[artin] Wielands sämmtliche Werke. Wien, 18111823. 24. Band.

[9] Andreas Meyer: Wie soll ein iunges Frauenzimmer sich würdig bilden? Erlangen, 1773; [Wutka, Antonia]: Encyklopädie für die weibliche Jugend.  Prag 1802.

[10] Österreichischer Taschenkalender, 1801, Wien.

[11] Ibid. March.

[12] Ibid. May.

[13] Ibid. Februar.

[14] Ibid. April.

[15] Ibid. June.

[16] Wiener Damenkalender 1796, 1730; Wiener Damenkalender 1800, 4547.

[17] Wiener Taschenbuch 1804.

[18] Naturgeschichte und Technologie für Lehrer in Schulen und für Liebhaber dieser Wissenschaften von C.[arl] Ph.[ilip] Funke. Erster Band. Zur allgemeinen Schulencyclopädie gehörig. Wien und Prag, 1800.

[19] Ibid. Erster Band; Sechster Band.

[20] Ibid. Dritter Band, Vierter Band.

[21] Ibid. Fünfter Band.

[22] Ibid. Siebenter Band.

[23] Die Biene. Eine Sammlung kleiner Erzählungen, Geschichten, Anekdoten und Miszellen. Von August v. Kotzebue. 2. Band; Toilette Kalender für Damen 1830. Wien.

[24] [Schwaldopler, Johann]: Sagen der Östreichischen Vorzeit. Ein Gegenstück zu den Sagen der Vorzeit von Veit Weber. Wien, 1799.

[25] Damenkalender zum Nützen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1794. Wien.

[26] Friedrich von Matthissons sämmtliche Werke. Wien, 1815. 6. Band.

[27] Gedichte von J.[ohann] G.[audenz] von Salis. Neueste Auflage. Wien 1815; Christian Garve’s sämmtliche Werke. Breßlau [Korn] 1801–1802. 3. Band.

[28] Wiener Hof-Theater Almanach auf das Schaltjahr 1804. Wien; M.[oritz] A.[ugust] von Thümmel’s poetische Schriften. Neueste Auflage. Wien 1816.

[29] C.[hristoph] M.[artin] Wielands sämmtliche Werke. Wien, 1821. 42. Band.

[30] Der Ungar. Intelligenzblatt zum Ungarn. (1) 1842. No. 73. p. 404; Toilette Almanach für Damen. Wien, 1832.

[31] Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Wien.

[32] Almanach für Ernst und Laune aufs Jahr 1804, Wien, April, July.

[33] Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, schöne Literatur und Theater. Wien, 1823. No. 46.

[34] Toilette Almanach für Damen. Wien, 1832.

[35] Toilette Almanach für Damen. Wien, 1831.

[36] A’ Magyar és horváth országi Leg nevezetesebb Nemzeti Öltözetek’ Hazai gyűjteménie. Bétsben 1816. No. 3, No. 7, No. 9, No. 5, No. 12,