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13 March 2011

More Luxe, Calme et Voulpté (every picture tells a story, don't it? - R. Stewart)

This timeworn postcard has been stuck in a corner of my bathroom mirror in every house I've lived in for the past 40 years. Many houses, many mirrors, and somehow, even unframed, it's never gotten lost. Always just stuck in the mirror frame. I was certain Mrs. Vreeland had written about this photograph in ALLURE, but she didn't. I looked. Maybe she wrote about it somewhere
else, but I would swear I remember her mentioning the hairpins in the cold cream jar. Such a prosaic touch in such an ungodly beautiful room. Someone else has noticed the hairpins, I'm sure. The room is the latest in modern chic - all travertine and mirror and hand-loomed rugs and gilt hardware. And a painted encoignure that must have been brought in from elsewhere to hold the potted plants up at just the right height for the composition.

There is a confluence of talents and personalities and social history here that is unusual in a single image. Richard Avedon, one of the major fashion photographers of the day; Dorian Leigh, the  supermodel of the day (who, though she wasn't, could have been Truman Capote's inspiration for Holly Golightly); Robert Piguet, who designed the dress, and whose fragrance, Fracas, may be what's in those flacons on the counter; Helena Rubenstein, who was, well, Helena Rubenstein (later, Princess Gourielli of Greenwich, Connecticut), whose bathroom this was; Jean-Michel Frank, one of the leading lights of French decorating of all time, who designed the interiors of Madame's Ile St.-Louis apartments.

The caption on the card doesn't tell us who designed the jewels, but they appear to be major. Cartier? Van Cleef? 

Let's see; not counting my surmise about the jewels, that's five 20th Century personages, each with his or her own well-established chops, as they say in the music business, directly involved in the elements of the photograph, plus Truman and Holly by association. And a fragrance, Fracas. To borrow from Sandra Bernhardt's lament on the word "pavilions":

No one uses the word fracas anymore, and that truly saddens me.

Fracas: (French ca. 1716  fra-käz) Din, row, brawl, from the Italian fracasso, from fracassare, to shatter. Caution: The scent of tuberoses may provoke unpredictable reactions in barrooms


1 comment:

  1. Hi Max

    All your posts are soooo elegant! See you next week.