Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shocking Schiaparelli - MEETINGS AT THE PALACE - Venice

Elsa Schiaparelli
(Venice, Italy) Elsa Schiaparelli, the cosmic fashion designer who created the color Shocking Pink, was born into an aristocratic, intellectual family in Palazzo Corsini in Rome in 1890 -- her great-uncle, Giovanni Schiaparelli, discovered the canals on Mars; her father was a professor of Oriental literature; her mother was descended from the Medicis. Elsa Schiaparelli - Fashion Artist was the topic of yesterday's inaugural conference of Incontri a Palazzo or "Meetings at the Palace," a series of lectures held in the piano nobile of Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice's Museum of Fabric and Costumes.

Miley Cyrus in Schiaparelli jumpsuit at Oscar parties Feb 22, 2015
Elsa Schiaparelli was a wild child. She liked to be called Schiap, not Elsa. Schiap ran away from home at the age of six and was found three days later marching at the front of a local parade. Criticized by her mother for her homely looks, she spent a lot of time with Uncle Giovanni, the astronomer, gazing at the nighttime sky through a telescope. In 1911, while at the University of Rome, Schiap published an mystical, overtly sensual poem, and her horrified parents sent her to a convent in Switzerland. Schiap went on a hunger strike and got out of the convent, then ran off to England and became a nanny. While attending a theosophical conference, she fell in love with the lecturer, Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor, who claimed to be a Polish count, theosophist and spiritualist, whom she promptly married. They spent several seasons in Nice, then went to NewYork in 1916 on an ocean liner where Schiap became friends with Gabrielle Picabia, the wife of the avant-garde artist Francis Picabia, who would tug her into their circle of famous friends like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. 

Elsa Schiaparelli - Photo: Man Ray
The couple produced a daughter whom they called Gogo, who contracted polio. But Count de Kerlor turned out to be a con man and a womanizer, and when he had an affair with Isadora Duncan, Schiap asked for a divorce, and in 1922, took Gogo to Paris.

Schiaparelli trompe l'oeil Bow Tie Sweater
Schiap quickly became part of the Paris scene, encountering fashion icon Paul Poiret, who supported her fresh ideas. Schiap considered herself an artist who channeled her creative energies into fashion, and since she was touched by the cosmos, there was an element of other-worldliness to her designs. Her rise to fame was due to a simple hand-knitted black pullover with a white trompe l'oeil bow tie that Vogue declared a masterpiece and was a huge hit in the US.

Marlene Dietrich wearing Schiaparelli
According to "For Schiaparelli, fashion was as much about making art as it was about making clothes. In 1932, Janet Flanner of The New Yorker wrote: "A frock from Schiaparelli ranks like a modern canvas." Not surprisingly, Schiaparelli connected with popular artists of the era; one of her friends was painter Salvador Dali, whom she hired to design fabric for her fashion house."

Shocking de Schiaparelli Perfume
Schiap became a success on the Place Vendôme, counting Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo among her clientele. She invented culottes, the evening gown, the built-in bra and dared to expose zippers. In 1937 she launched a fragrance, "Shocking," its pink glass torso bottle based on Mae West's body. She began collaborating with the Surrealists, especially Salvador Dali, with whom she created a lobster dress which was worn by Wallis Simpson.

Wallis Simpson in Schiaparelli lobster dress
Schiap closed her business in 1954, and published her autobiography Shocking Life. She died in her sleep in Paris in 1973.

Kate Blanchett in Schiaparelli
In 2007,  Diego Della Valle, CEO and President of Tod's, acquired the brand Schiaparelli. In addition to Miley Cyrus wearing the brand to the after-Oscars parties, Schiaparelli has been recently worn by such celebs as Kate Blanchett and Lorde.

Lorde in Schiaparelli
Like many originals, Elsa Schiaparelli's spirit continues on long after her body was laid to rest.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Great Girls over Piazza San Marco - VENICE CARNIVAL 2015

Giusy Versace - Flight of the Eagle - Venice Carnival 2015
(Venice, Italy) Giusy Versace soared over Piazza San Marco during the Flight of the Eagle on Sunday, February 15, 2015, the personification of courage, determination and joy. The dynamic young woman with the famous last name lost both her legs in a horrific car accident in 2005. Did that stop Giusy Versace? (Giusy is pronounced "JOO-see;" there is no "J" in the Italian alphabet; "Gi" makes the same sound.)

Giusy Versace
A year and a half later Giusy was walking, then driving and then, astonishingly, running on her super-duper carbon prostheses, becoming a top Paralympic sport competitor, as well as a Save the Dream Ambassador, inspiring people all over the globe with her sunshine. And now Giusy Versace can fly.

Giusy Versace - Venice Carnival 2015
Another young woman who took flight at the 2015 Carnevale di Venezia was Marianna Sereni, winner of last year's Festa delle Marie, a contest which I have described many times before -- in fact, in 2007 I was the first straniera on the jury which selects the twelve most beautiful, or virtuous young women in the Veneto.

Marie 2015
La Festa delle Marie originated from a pirate raid in 943 a.d., according to Venetian legend. In ancient times, Venetians married on only one day each year. A water procession from the Arsenale on the canal “delle Vergini” started the festivities. All the brides-to-be were rowed across the lagoon in decorated boats brimming with dowries, while their future husbands waited at the Church of San Nicolò at the Lido.

That year, pirates raided the procession, kidnapping the brides and the booty. An enraged 

Venetian rescue party executed the pirates and brought the brides back to the ceremony. 
Marianna Sereni- Flight of the Angel 2015
To commemorate the victory in the past, every year twelve patriarchal families would present twelve virtuous young women from poor Venetian families with a dowry, and the designation “le Marie,” or “The Marys.”

Irene Rizzi, "Maria 2015," Marco Polo and the Doge
This year's winning Maria was Irene Rizzi, who was costumed in the style of the Orient when the Twelve Marie made their final appearance on the Grand Stage in Piazza San Marco, yesterday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Martedi Grasso. So next year Irene will leap off the bell tower and soar over Piazza San Marco during the Flight of the Angel.

Flag of San Marco in Piazza San Marco
The Venice Carnival 2015 closed with the Twelve Marie releasing an enormous flag of San Marco with its winged lion over Piazza San Marco. The Venetian flag fluttered slowly up to the top of the Campanile as the Gondoliers sang the Venetian anthem, and the sun gently set on Carnevale di Venezia 2015.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TEMPTATIONS... TENTAZIONI... Venice Carnival Party in a Tower

Tentazioni dinner show
(Venice, Italy) There are many Carnival parties in palaces in Venice, but there is only one party in a tower -- the Porta Nuova Tower deep down inside Arsenale, where Venice once cranked out her ships. The tower was actually not built by the Venetian Republic. It was built in 1810 when Venice was under the domination of Napoleon, who used the Arsenale for the naval base of the imperial French fleet in the Adriatic.

Torre di Porta Nuova
But the Tower is now under the domination of City of Venice after having been restored by funds from the Republic of Italy, the Veneto Region, the Comune of Venice, and the European Union. The night I went to the Temptations Dinner Show there was an enormous Venetian flag projected on the side of the Tower.

Tentazioni dinner show
The show itself was excellent, sultry and seductive, performed by Nu Art, a company from Verona whose members slink around in astonishingly beautiful bodies and not much else. There was a blonde... maybe two blondes... we weren't sure... whose acrobatic feats on a lamppost... and a birdcage...and swinging from strands of silk... were, literally, breathtaking.

Temptations dinner show
The dinner itself was fine and plentiful, but not hot enough, though I imagine it was difficult to get the food from wherever it was being cooked to up inside the Tower. My party had been split into two tables; I was seated at a table in the center at the stage and was physically comfortable throughout the evening, but people closer to the walls of the Tower said they were cold. My personal quibble was that while I liked the idea of all the guests wearing the same simple mask -- black for men, burgundy for women -- that they were made out of plastic in a city famous for the quality of its masks was, to me, scandalous.

Tentazioni dinner show
The price of the evening is €200 per person, including wine, and I thought it was under-priced. Even if all the kinks have not yet been worked out, it is a unique experience. Splurge on a boat taxi, and dress warmly.

Go to Temptations Dinner Show for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

RODIN and CANDIDA HOFER Star at New Dom Pérignon Space at Ca' Pesaro, Venice

The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin at Ca' Pesaro
(Venice, Italy) The French city of Calais is on the English Channel, less than 25 miles away from England. When people swim the English Channel, they usually swim from around Dover, England to Calais, France. The English Channel is the water that separates Great Britain from continental Europe. It has caused all sorts of havoc over the centuries since, physically, Great Britain is not part of Europe -- although the British have certainly tried to bridge that gap on more than one occasion.

The Hundred Years' War between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France began in 1337 as a war between two cousins -- Edward III of England and Philip VI of France -- for the French throne, and ended in 1453. An important early battle was at Calais, which is so close to England that the port makes an excellent trading center for English goods. English Edward not only wanted Calais, he also thought he should be king of France, not French Philip. (I won't get into all the haggling over bloodlines, but they both had legitimate claims to the crown.) But the French aristocracy certainly did not want to be ruled by the King of England!

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington II, C-print by Candida Hofer
In 1346, English Edward attacked the city of Calais. French Philip told the citizens not to surrender no matter what. The people of Calais were besieged by Edward's soldiers for a long time -- some sources say 11 months; some say over a year -- but they finally surrendered. English Edward was so furious that it took so long to conquer the city that he said he was going to kill every inhabitant in Calais. Then English Edward changed his mind -- he said that if six prominent citizens surrendered, and walked out wearing nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the city and the castle, he would spare the townspeople. Six noblemen volunteered to be beheaded, one of them the mayor, Eustache de Saint Pierre, who lead the five other men to the city gates. It is this moment that Auguste Rodin chose to capture in his dynamic sculpture, The Burghers of Calais.

Musée Rodin Paris III C-print by Candida Hofer
However, Edward was married to Queen Philippa, who was kind and compassionate and beloved by the people of England for her good nature. When the queen found out that her husband was planning to behead the Burghers of Calais, she convinced Edward to spare their lives. So the story has a happy ending!

More than 500 years later, in 1884, the city of Calais commissioned the French sculptor Auguste Rodin to create a monument celebrating the act of heroism and identity of the city. The moment Rodin chose to depict was controversial, the public expecting something more classically glorious and heroic. Rodin insisted he had captured the heroism of self-sacrifice.

Place de L'Hotel de Ville Calais I, C-print by Candida Hofer
"PARADOXES" is a series of unusual encounters in the new Spazio Dom Pérignon inside Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art. The encounters in PARADOXES are between young artists and works from the museum's historic collection, which Dom Pérignon helps restore. The German photographer Candida Hofer is the contemporary star of PARADOXES, and the Auguste Rodin sculpture is part of Ca' Pesaro's historic collection.

Kunstmuseum Basel II, C-print by Candida Hofer
Ca' Pesaro owns a plaster mold of Rodin's Les Bourgeois de Calais, which it bought in 1901. However, there are only 12 existing bronze casts of the Burghers of Calais located around the world, and Candida Hofer, one of the most influential photographers on the international scene, was commissioned by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Calais to photograph all twelve. Selections from Douze-Twelve, Hofer's 2001 work are here in the Spazio Dom Pérignon at Ca' Pesaro from January 31 to March 29, 2015.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog