Budapest’s House of Art Nouveau is a delightful conglomeration of the possessions of ordinary people during the period of peace and prosperity between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War. This approximate period was known in France as Le Belle Epoque; i wrote about it in several posts about the Paris 1900 Exhibition. The items I admired last spring in Paris were for the elite; the ones I admired in Budapest were decidedly more humble, but just as charming and thought-provoking.
In fashion, the period began with Victorian primness and fussiness. The ladies above pose with an ivory comb perfect for hair styled in intricate billows, braids and loops.
Who was this pretty lady? The aristocracy had themselves grandly painted life-sized, in oils. But members of the new middle class were happy to have portraits of their loved ones in humbler pastels and watercolors.
At some point in the period, respectable women became more daring–possibly inspired by items like this exuberant little nude figurine on a dressing table.
That new boldness led directly to fashions which would not have amused Queen Victoria. This evening dress looks like a precursor of the flapper dress that became popular in the 1920s.
And at home, women enjoyed their new freedoms as much as when they were out and about. On the door of the women’s restroom, I found this charming portrait of a woman wearing pajamas–with pants! And lighting a cigarette from her bedtime candle! The world was changing, in Budapest as in other cities. The House of Art Nouveau is a delightful wander into the past, and a look at what the future would bring.