Trawling through my favourite on-line resource (otherwise known as the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University) I happened to fill in the word ‘cow’ before pressing ‘search’. And why not? You should try it….
And up came this gorgeous bovine, etched by Thomas Rowlandson from a drawing by G M Woodward in 1800. I confess that I had never heard of a restaurant in Paris called “Le Boeuf à la mode” – but Woodward obviously had. The restaurant had been opened eight years earlier by two brothers from Marseilles who came to Paris in 1792. Later, during the Directoire period (ie the last five years of the eighteenth century) it was taken over by Tissot, a leading Jacobin. He introduced the idea of hanging a sign outside the restaurant showing a cow wearing a bonnet and shawl – and every so often the image would be updated in line with prevailing fashion trends. Here is the original French image of the fashionable cow, and which formed the basis for Woodward’s version:
It remained as a popular place for fine dining throughout the 19th century.
This is an interior scene done in about 1830 – note the fashionable cow in the centre, in front of the high drapes.
This is an exterior scene photographed in 1900, followed by a close up of the recently restored sculpture over the front door The restaurant finally closed in 1936, but I have to say I think that the cow drawn by Woodward had more character and style. She is shown wearing a hat, cravat, and shawl and gazes to the right. On her hind-legs she is wearing Hessian-style riding boots and on her fore-legs she wears cross-gartered slippers. A miniature of her boyfriend (i.e. a bull) hangs from her neck. The etching was published by R Ackerman of No 101 Strand on Valentine’s Day 1800, so I thought that it was appropriate to give her another outing 220 years later! Happy Valentine’s Day – especially as it is the birthday of My Dear Lady Wife – to say nothing of it being our wedding anniversary!
To end with: a cartoon with a similar title. Here we have a aquatint published by S W Fores in 1786 called “A la Mode Beef” showing a portly, well-dressed lady carrying a whip, in profile in a rural setting, and with a cottage with a smoking chimney in the background. It appears courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Nope. Sorry, give me the cow any day….