Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Man Behind Journal des Luxus und der Moden

Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch. Image
courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Journal des Luxus und der Moden was one of the first "real" fashion journals, and in which engravings were an important means of communicating what was new.

The journal was the brainchild of Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch, of Weimar, who was what I would call both an early industrialist -- he ran a whole variety of businesses, of which printing was only one facet -- and booster for his native town.

The journal's "contents were devoted to new developments in clothing, jewellery, furnishings, technology, the fine arts, literature and manners. It set out to educate taste and improve manners, and there was also a section of advertisements", writes Ian Maxted. It made extensive use of local fashions, as well as foreign fashions, English -- for example -- which bothered some, but which the publisher defended.

This was the purpose of the journal, as Bertuch wrote in 1793 in the journal itself:

"As is well known, the purpose and plan of this journal is to recommend the luxuries and fashions of Germany which, properly conducted, can be very beneficial mainsprings of the national economy, but certainly not to do so in a foppish manner, driving them to damaging excess and dissipation, but to supervise, them, to criticize publicly their wilder outbursts, and to subject them to the correcting ridicule of the rational world and good taste. Mainly however our aim is to make Germany more aware of its own artistic prowess, to give our artists and craftsmen more faith in their own powers and more love of art and taste in their work, and to make them knowledgeable about the discoveries and beautiful forms produced by foreigners, above all to secure our purses from the ravages of foreigners."

A cover and fashion illustration from the journal;
Wikimedia Commons lists it as circa 1800 but the
lady's dress is in 1780s style.
Fascinating, eh? I find the idea of corrective ridicule especially interesting, for we have already read some of the scathing things he -- or his reporter -- had to say about 1795 fashions. It reminds me, in a way, of how Vanity Fair sometimes sounds, although, I daresay, hardly in as preciously self-aware a manner.
200-plus years later, it's lucky for us that Bertuch did cover a broad cross-section of the fashionable world, for his pictures and his descriptions provide a superb window from which to view costumes and manners.

Read a fascinating biography of Bertuch in the article Bertuch: Weimar's Literary Midwife, by Ian Maxted. It appears online in the Exeter Working Papers in Book History. Many thanks to Ian Maxted for making this resource available. See also a shorter, wiki-style biography of Bertuch on the Art Directory site.
Plus, you can learn more about the drawing school Bertuch founded, which supplied the journal with illustrations, in the Weimar Princely Free Zeichenschule pages on, a sort of short wikipedia.
Finally, have a look at a whole variety of images produced by Bertuch's concerns on Wikimedia Commons.
Happy reading...


Kleidung um 1800 said...

Very fascinating! Thank you for the links galore. I'm very happy to going to visit Weimar this spring and I'm looking forward to finding out more about Bertuch (and all the writers, philosphers and gentlefolk). Visiting Weimar is like stepping back in time!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Sabine,
Glad you liked it! So you're visiting Weimar, you lucky duck. I have tried to wander the streets using Bing's birds-eye view mapping, but it just isn't the same.

Hope you will wish to share your experience with us on your blog.

Very best,