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Archive for the ‘Elsa Schiaparelli’ Category

Salvador Dali grew a flamboyant moustache, waxed and up-turned, styled after , influenced by seventeenth-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez

Salvador Dalí grew a flamboyant moustache, waxed and up-turned, influenced by seventeenth-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez. The moustache became Dalí's trademark look.

In 1953, Spanish-born Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) wrote:

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí….”

Salvador Dalí found deep meaning in Jan Vermeer's painting, "The Lacemaker" (ca. 1669-70)

Salvador Dalí found deep meaning in Jan Vermeer's painting, "The Lacemaker" (ca. 1669-70)

In December 1955, that “prodigious thing” meant that he was to borrow a friend’s white Rolls Royce Phantom II, fill it to the roof with 500 kg of cauliflower, and drive it to the Sorbonne in Paris. Then he would disembark and enter the school to give a lecture he’d impossibly titled, ‘Phenomenological Aspects of the Paranoiac Critical Method:’ 

“Some 2,000 ecstatic listeners were soon sharing Salvador’s Dalirium. Planting his elbows on a lecture table strewn with bread crumbs, Dalí blandly explained: “All emotion comes to me through the elbow.” Then he announced his latest finding in critical paranoia. The gamy meat of it: “Everything departs from the rhinoceros horn! Everything departs from [Dutch Master] Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker! Everything ends up in the cauliflower!” The rub, apologized Dalí, is that cauliflowers are too small to prove this theory conclusively.” (1)

As Dalí’s fame grew, his stunts and outrageous pronouncements became more frequent. He was an endless self-promoter, grandiose and pompous. He felt impelled, he admitted, to accumulate millions of dollars. He loved money. To keep the contracts coming, he was determined to keep himself in the public eye. His art and behavior were designed to provoke a response.

Salvador Dalí's most famouse painting, "The Persistence of Memory," 1931. His inspiration for the three melting watches came to him when he had a headache. His wife Gala had gone to the movies with friends and Dalí, ill, had stayed at home. He sat at the kitchen table for a long time, staring at the melting Camembert cheese. Before going to bed, he entered his studio and looked at the landscape he was working on - and decided to add three melting watches.

Salvador Dalí's most famous painting, "The Persistence of Memory," 1931. His inspiration for the drooping timepieces came to him one night when he had a headache. His wife Gala had gone to the movies with friends while Dalí, ill, had stayed behind at home. He sat at the kitchen table for a long time, staring at the melting Camembert cheese. Before going to bed, he entered his studio and looked at the landscape he had been working on - and - Voila! - decided to add three melting watches.

He delighted in playing the buffoon. While Dalí’s pranks were often funny, one was certainly dangerous. Once he donned a deep-sea diving suit before giving a lecture. The helmet was soundproof so no one could hear him. Dalí began to thrash about, flailing his arms soundlessly. The audience roared with laughter, thinking it was part of Dalí’s act. But he was suffocating inside the helmet. It was not until he almost fainted that he was rescued. Accused of going too far,  Dalí would often reply, “It’s the only place I ever wanted to go.”

Sometimes his stunts were offensive, such as when he and wife Gala appeared at a New York costume party dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. Other spectacles bordered on the criminal, like when he discovered that his Bonwit Teller window display in Manhattan had been rearranged. He became so enraged that he hurled a bathtub through the plate glass window and crashed, with the tub, inside the store.

Dalí created The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) in the same shocking-pink color introduced by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparellli

Dalí created The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) in the same shocking-pink color introduced by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

Dalí was endlessly creative in many genres other than painting. He created jewelry, designed clothes (see my post: “Elsa Schiaparelli: Shocking-Pink“) and furniture, painted sets for ballets and plays, wrote fiction, created window displays for department stores, and produced the dream sequence for director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.He recorded a TV ad for Lanvin chocolates, designed the Chupa Chups candy labels, and was interviewed on TV in 1958 by Mike Wallace - during which Dalí imperiously referred to himself in the third person.

(1) TIME, Dec. 26, 1955

(2) “The Surreal World of Salvador Dali,” Smithsonian magazine, April 2005.

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Italian-born fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s

Italian-born fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s

Between the two world wars, fashion design was dominated by two extraordinary pioneers, Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973). Whereas Coco Chanel was a craftswoman who considered dressmaking a profession, Schiaparelli, on the other hand, regarded her work as art and herself as an artist.  

Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by artists in the dada and surrealist movements, particularly by Salvador Dali.  While Chanel’s clothes were known for their simplicity, Schiaparelli’s were known for their daring.

“Shocking-pink” was Schiaparelli’s signature color. She described hot pink as “life-giving, like all the light and the birds and the fish in the world put together, a color of China and Peru but not of the West.”

Schiaparelli shoe-hat which debuted in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection

Schiaparelli shoe-hat which debuted in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection

The designs Schiaparelli created in collaboration with Dali are among her best known. One of her most memorable designs created with Dali is known as the “shoe-hat” (shown here). Note that the hat is shaped like a woman’s high-heeled shoe, with the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead. The heel is of a shocking-pink color. This hat was worn by Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, among others.

Daisy Fellowes was one of Schiaparelli’s best clients. Fellowes was a French-American heiress with a taste for expensive jewels and clothes and a reputation for cutting remarks. “Though a footnote today, for nearly 50 years, Fellowes, the daughter of a French duke and granddaughter of the sewing-machine magnate Isaac Merritt Singer, was the trans-Atlantic fete set’s No. 1 bad girl.” She was also editor in chief of French Harper’s Bazaar, a philanthropist who donated her salary to an orphanage, and the author of a few sexy romance novels.

movie siren Mae West (1893-1980) by Miguel Covarrubias, 1928, for the New Yorker

a caricature of the American movie actress, the provocative Mae West (1893-1980) by Miguel Covarrubias, 1928, for the New Yorker magazine

Among other jewels purchased at Cartier‘s shop at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris, Fellowes owned a stunning 17.27ct pink diamond  called the Tête de Belier (Ram’s Head). It was Fellowes’ pink diamond that inspired the color known as shocking-pink or hot pink. Elsa Schiaparelli took note of the diamond, using shocking pink for the box design of her 1937 perfume which she named “Shocking.” The packaging of the box, designed by Leonor Fini, was also notable for the bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso. The shape was inspired by another of Schiaparelli’s celebrity clients, the American screen actress Mae West.

The Lobster Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli

The Lobster Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli

Another of the Schiaparelli/Dali designs is the iconic “Lobster Dress” which debuted in Schiaparelli’s Summer/Fall 1937 Collection. The Lobster dress is a simple white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster painted (by Dali) onto the skirt.It is rumored that Dali wanted to apply real mayonnaise to the lobster on the dress but that Schiaparelli objected.

Dali’s lobster design for Schiaparelli was then interpreted into a fabric print by the leading silk designer Sache. It was famously worn by Wallis Warfield Simpson in a series of photographs by Cecil Beaton taken at the Château de Candé shortly before her marriage to Edward VIII. (shown here)

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor (1895-1986), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80). UK, early 20th century.

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor (1895-1986), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80). UK, early 20th century.

 Dali had been incorporating lobsters into his mixed media creations since 1934, most famously with “Lobster Telephone” (1936).

"Lobster Telephone," by Salvador Dali, 1936

"Lobster Telephone," by Salvador Dali, 1936

To see more of Schiaparelli’s fashion designs, click here.

A modern room with touches of Schiaparelli pink in the two chairs and flowers in foreground

A modern room with touches of Schiaparelli pink in the two chairs and flowers in foreground

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