The 19th Century Top 1%

These commissioned highly detailed watercolors give us a glimpse into the immaculate dwellings of affluent 19th century aristocrats. Decked from floor to roof in expensive fixings, these paintings were to be slipped into private albums and displayed seamlessly amongst other premium artworks throughout the residence. Featured as part of the House Proud exhibition.

Gail Davidson mentioned:

“The practice was very much an element of the growth of the industrial classes and the development of conspicuous consumption,” Davidson said. Many of the watercolors, for example, depict interiors filled with plants and organic decorations that reflect not only an interest in the natural world but also a growing trend to own rare and exotic plants. The Villa Hügel in Venice, for example, had a Japanese salon filled entirely with decorative elements that transformed it into a garden-like space; Berlin’s Royal Palace housed a Chinese Room with murals of tropical plants and birds that also soared above the space in a ceiling painting. Rooms of that era also feature real orchids and birds in cages, which people kept not only to impress but also to entertain guests.”

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The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.