Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Château at twilight

Seen from the road in passing

Ruins of the château de l'Ebaupinay 15the century of the Vendel family, 

photo: Médéric Mieusement 1890

burnt during the revolution 

photo: Médéric Mieusement 1890

and inoccupied since that time

Le Breuil sous Argenton

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Aesthetic moments, anyone?

Maurice Sapiro  Saatchi Gallery
It's that moment when you forget the rest, when nothing else seems to matter but a 
certain intensity of feeling. You can't count these by dozens in your life but the very strength of the emotion makes these rare experiences memorable. I'm sure what triggers it is very personal and maybe related to a receptive state of mind.

Have you had at least one of these? With nature, art, music?
I remember having it happen as a young girl riding over a bridge at sunset. Unfortunately, that sounds trite and very picture postcard, but I still remember the wonder of the sun's low-slung light glowing on the metal structure and the way our car was becoming part of the blaze. 
I didn't say a word, not a whisper, 
there in the back seat.

photo: Le style et la matière 
It happened again at an exhibit I was enjoying but where I had in no way expected 
to stumble on something to make me feel like time stood still.

photo: Le style et la matière 
 But there it was, ready to spring from a gown I didn't really like -

photo: Le style et la matière 
 the delicacy of the flowers woven into the glowing orange satin made my heart sing. 
Obviously, no picture could reproduce the sensation.

Worth gown of historicizing style 
mutton sleeves and neo 17th century lace collar
for Mrs Franklin Gordon Dexter 1895
(collection Musée des arts décoratifs)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

La comtesse de Gruffulhe or what to wear to an apotheosis

La comtesse by Helleu
all images Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
Elisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay,
La comtesse de Greffulhe, 

This grande dame has appeared in these pages once before, she who inspired Proust for the character of the duchesse de Guermantes in Remembrance of Things Past. Despite the novelist's immortalization, she hadn't been a personality much in view. But these days my post is being clicked on wildly all because of a certain exhibit about her very wonderous wardrobe. 

I had written about the Comtesse Greffulhe with for starting point a fait divers concerning 
her home. Her monumental apartment as seen during WW II, was a phantom ship during war days. It was so difficult to heat that she had René Prou design a small, utilitarian cabin that was plunked smack dab in the middle of her fine salon with its moldings and towering ceilings 
just so she could keep warm. 

Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay 1860-1952 
photo Otto Wegener 

And here she is, 
staring out of a photograph that was unknown to me before from the exhibit poster -bien emmitouflée- all wrapped up in a coquettish way that has the immense charm of the unexpected from a woman of her rank straight out of the Belle Epoque. 
Clearly, she the comtesse de Gruffulhe never liked to be cold!

photo Otto Wegener 
A sense of mise en scene.
If I had read about her before, studied her a bit, I hadn't realized just how important her own image was to her before seeing the revealing exhibit at the Palais Gallièra,  La mode retrouvée: les robes trésors de la comtesse de Greffulhe -

photo by Paul Nadar

 nor how calculated it all was.

Her extensive use of photography can only be compared to that of the Comtesse de Castiglione, that other image-controling comtessse who was her elder by 23 years. If the fascinating comtesse of Castiglione was melodramatic, la Greffulhe played more in the register of subtlety and refinement. And as a reigning queen of the social scene, she staged her performances with a perfectionist's sense of detail in her costumes. She would arrive late, limit the time of her appearances in breath-taking toilettes that were out-of-time and place, then disappear. What is precious is rare! As for the photographs, they were mostly for herself - and posterity. She framed them for her home, but gave away very few.

© Pierre Antoine
Her wardrobe was the cornerstone of her persona. All the trips to all the best couture houses of the time were more to assure, she said, of what she would not wear, Worth often worked with her  to create the gowns she felt suited her best, and peu importe if no one else was wearing a princess bodice those days.  One dress by Worth was cut from a giant-scale Renaissance patterned silk velvet; he also devised a cape with the gift from the Czar Nicolas II of a Bokhara brocade. The Comtesse was eccentric, strange but always distinguished.

 The exhibit also demonstrates a certain penchant for Fortuny and Babani.

Robert de Montesquiou by Boldoni source Wikicommons
Robert de Montesquiou, also proustified as Charlus, was a true kindred spirit. This uncle of very nearly her same age, encouraged the young Elisabeth in her obsession with finery and in carving out her own style.  As Alexandra Bosc states in the exhibit catalogue, it is probable that, like dandies of the day, Countess Greffulhe attached metaphysical value to the elegance of dress, seeing in this "cult of self" the manifestation of her inner being,

© Pierre Antoine
"Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

Baudelaire said in Le Peintre et la vie moderne that she had
"a burning need to be an original."

The label of his fur-trimmed gown of gold brocade reads Worth, but it was actually designed by the young Paul Poiret when he was employed by that couture house. I recall from reading Poiret's memoirs that he, for one, did not appreciate this client. The Comtesse wore this opulent robe Byzantine to her daughter's wedding at La Madeleine
to which she contrived to arrive early,
that is, before the bride was present.
The papers of the day cooed that it was hard to judge which young lady was to be married and described the gold gown in minute detail hardly mentioning the wedding dress.

It must have been unbearably hot to be the daughter of such an original at times.

© Pierre Antoine

Marcel Proust, however, looked on the Comtesse, imperfect and narcissistic in her search for perfection - with awe and tolerance. Had she found a way to deal with the deception that came so quickly after her marriage and her husband's outlandish philandering? To Henry Greffulhe, she was a trophy, but the hunt was what mattered the most. Mr Proust wrote her a letter from which there is just this thought provoking snippet in the exhibit catalogue,

et je sais tout ce qu'il peut y avoir de héroïsme dans la  beauté
and I know all there can be of heroism in beauty.

dress from 1925 couturier unknown
Metallic lace forms an Egyptian inspired pattern
So she always dressed with care throughout her life,

© Pierre Antoine
 turning to
Jeanne Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Maggy Rouff... and the color black.

photo rmn

Reports say that the Comtesse stayed supple and svelte through yoga and healthful lifestyle, always seeking to improve herself physically, mentally and spiritually. All this is not to say that Elisabeth Greffulhe thought only of bettering herself. She was utterly devoted to music and was a strong patron of the arts. She supported scientific advancement and charitable causes of her time. She also founded a Spiritualist institute that still active today.

© Pierre Antoine
gown by Worth
The scenography takes a daring turn and goes so far as to suggest the Comtesse Greffulhe's death.  Her earthly body is replaced by a gown laid upon a bier; it is so fresh, so tender - dare I say, young? -  she has become a dress of chiffon and taffeta decorated with orchids.

I wonder if she also wore Worth's scent, Je reviens?

photo La style et la matière
Elisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay,
La comtesse de Greffuhle 


© Julien Vidal / Galliera / Roger-Viollet
 images Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
gown by A. Beauchez 

and resurrected in 2016

... une grâce qui trouble à l’égal d'une émotion artistique. Toutes les choses s'adoucissent autour d'elle en une délicieuse âme qui résume dans les plis de sa robe.

...a grace no less disturbing than an artistic emotion. Every thing around her sweetens in a delicious spirit that can be summed up in the folds of her dress.
Portrait de Madame
Marcel Proust

La mode retrouvée: les robes trésors de la comtesse de Greffuhle

The exhibit will travel to New York's FIT museum in September 2016

see also:
 the catalogue of the exhibit beautiful and fascinating here 
La comtesse Greffulhe : L'ombre des Guermantes by Laure Hillerin
La comtesse Greffulhe by Anne de Cossé Brissac

all images Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
except where noted

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Play ground for the head

photos: Le style et la matière
 Ai Weiwei's Er Xi or Child's Play 
- an art exhibit in a department store, Le Bon Marché.

Like three dimensional line drawings...

These bamboo sculptures follow the rules of traditional kite
 construction and are covered with tissue paper. 
The crowd was captivated. 
All the passers-by seemed to marvel at the stores windows.

I like to find out more about things, scratch the surface and ponder,
but I really love this sort of immediate reaction with no need for background,
no intellectualisation.

photo source
Ai Weiwei might not always intend this approach and I might not like
some of his his media-grabbing actions -
but this, Child's Play - without a second thought - was a breath of fresh air in a busy day.

photo: source

English article and more (and better!) photos of the exhibit inside and outside

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

M&O: russet, ochre, black and blush

all photos: Le style et la matière
Richard Ginori

Maison & Objet January



Maison de Vacances


Vandra Rugs

not their best seller, I was told -
but definitely eye catching

& Tradition

No More Twist

a young textile design studio whose name will have you smiling if you remember 
The Tailor of Glouster

Ercuis & Raynaud

L'Atelier du Renard

embroidery on leather



slightly less subtle than in reality


all photos: Le style et la matière

Monday, January 18, 2016

Help! 4500 years of textile history at risk

Félix Fontaine manufacturer, Nicolas Romain designer

In the proud city of Lyon, 
the fabric museum that contains 2.5 million works of textile history 
- many absolute master pieces -
is at great risk of closure. 

Despite the fact that it is recognized as one of the largest and most important 
textile collections in the world, its budget has been cut in favor of Confluences, the
new museum inaugurated in Lyon last year. 

Can you imagine the textile collections of the Met, the V & A, or LACMA 
left to sit inaccessable in some dark storage warehouse ?

And, the textile museum is not alone. 
It is linked to an impressive decorative arts museum which would equally be shut down.

The current exhibit at the Musée des tissus is called Le Genie de la Fabrique.
"The exhibition is a tribute to the city of Lyon and its silk working citizens who were able, through their incredible sense of perfection and inventiveness, to elevate weaving fabric not only to the rank of a remarkable craft but to that of a true art."

The exhibit is set to continue into June 2016. 
but if a solution is not found this Friday, January 22, 

the museum could close in March 2016.

Coptic funerary cushion
French textile technology and design is an extremely 
important part of  textile history, but the collection is not only French.

It contains world textiles that span 4500 years.

Regula Schorta, director of the Swiss Abegg Foundation confirms,

 It is one of the rare textile museums covering almost all fields, topics, regions. Its importance is global. I also want to emphasize the very important role of the museum in the field of restoration of antique textiles and training activities also concern international professionals.*

Lyon silk brocade 18th century
Chambre de la Reine Versailles
design Jean-Francois Bony 1786
image Le Point
At the Victoria & Albert Museum, Lesley Miller is in complete accord: The Textile Museum is one of the most important collections in the world both in size and quality and for its geographical and chronological scope. It is also unique for its silk collections of the local industry that had - and still has - international importance. It contributes to research worldwide through its reserves, its library, its and its permanent and temporary exhibitions.*

*quotes translated from an article by Didier Ryker of Le Tribune de l'Art

designer Agnan Kroichvili
source Marlie
Oh, irony! 
It's just when we are starting to experience 
a renewed interest for fabric design, that this happens. 
Of course, the management of cultural heritage should never be a matter of trends.

Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibit
Maison Lamy et Giraud designer Pierre-Adrien Chabal-Dussurgey  
 Lyon, 1867, presented at the Expositions universelles Paris 1878 

Sarabande   Edith Meusnier 2007

I  don't want to believe the verse from Joni Mitchell will come to pass -

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone -

A good number of you have already signed the petition started by 
Daniel Fruman, textile specialist and collector, 
and I thank you.
For those who haven't yet, you can do so by clicking below.

Please help keep the Museum open 
by signing the petition here
before the last chance meeting of January 22.

Thank you!