“La Mode Retrouvée” Exhibition — If there is one place where I can recharge my batteries, learn and sometimes be surprised, it is the Palais Galliera. As an avid visitor to the fashion museum, I went to the new exhibition confidently, but full of expectations.
If I must reluctantly confess that I started out with a certain distance from the subject, less conventional than the previous ones, it is in fact to better tell you how much magic operated in the eyes of the visitor that I was and the fashion enthusiast that I am. Intimate and mysterious, fashion, shy and exuberant at the same time, reveals its double face under the big hat of the Countess de Greffulhe by exhibiting what is perhaps forty dresses and many more accessories, most of them gathered in a room reserved for them.
We are presented with a tastefully staged dressing room. The gigantic ceremonial dresses stand alongside more body-conscious pieces, which reveal as many nuances in the countess’s taste as in the occasions for wearing such pieces. For the evening, the day, the weekend, the big and small events all have their own outfit.
Scenes are created in the midst of other larger pieces that create an intimate vision, scenes of life whose greatest departed actress has left the imprint of her body in the folds of a dress, or more subjectively in the association of a corset with an underskirt.
Each dress you discover is a snippet of life; the openness of an era, of an aristocratic milieu and the gentleness of a woman who inspired her contemporaries and in particular the writer Marcel Proust. Through a simple but well thought-out scenography, the Galliera Museum puts into perspective the double universe of fashion and literature. You will discover as many personal letters from the Countess as passages from “La recherche du temps perdu”, including notes written by the writer in which he revels in the charms he lends to the Countess’ deep gaze under the guise of the Duchess of Germante. At the same time, he finds for the fascinated visitor the words that he lacks to describe all the grace that emanates from the inanimate spectacle that is played out before his eyes.
Thus, the latter is no longer presented to the spectator through her unique point of view, but she becomes the object of all reflections and questioning. If we discover in her some aspects that we would qualify today as “star whims”, it is because our countess can well afford it. She was the model for so many talented photographers and painters of her time, all of whom rubbed shoulders with the countess and many of whom found her to be their muse. And even beyond death she remains a source of inspiration for the art world.
This is what the exhibition aims to help us discover through the works of a contemporary artist, “Aurore de la Morinière”, who, steeped in the biography of the Countess, her clothes and all the writings that depict her, produced monotypes and paintings in Indian ink which, in the brilliance of a brush, in the fleeting aspect of an inspiration, aim to make the elegance and charisma of the aristocrat real and tangible. The movement takes hold of the work much more profoundly than graphically precise and there is no need for a face to the body represented for the visitor to be carried by the allure of the countess, more human than ever in these ancillary works.
As you will have understood, it is in my opinion the complete aspect of the exhibition that makes its strength. If, as I mentioned earlier, the subject may at first glance seem less interesting than the last exhibitions held at the Palais Galliera, don’t be mistaken, because that is the tour de force of this exhibition. As a true guide, the rooms of the museum lead you with each step a little more into the heart of the person that the Countess de Greffulhe was, transforming the museum into what could have been her home. The information and textual excerpts about her are placed in frames in the same way as works of art would be in a social salon. It is with regret that we leave the countess, with a few musical notes, but let us treasure what we learn from her presence, her enthusiasm for art and her taste in fashion.
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