Rock On

Courbet's model hammocks with abandon, 1844.

It’s hammock season. The Victorians and Edwardians brought this 16th century maritime necessity to bourgeois backyard, where they swung with abandon. The item neatly enmeshes several threads running through Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: the illicit thrill of reclining, and of swinging, and the sweetness of doing nothing at all. It was—and is—the perfect spot to flirt, read or simply take in the shade.

Nineteen century artists loved posing their sitters in a hammock. Gustave Courbet, who also appears in the Encyclopedia, gave his lusty take on hammocking in 1844, while British artist Valentine Cameron Prinsep took a slightly more dreamy approach.

Prinsep's dreamy hammocker.