Madame Elsa Schiaparelli was incomparable. There is no equivalent to be found. Her imagination knew no bounds.”
“She would have transformed you in less time than it takes to tell – and saved you. She was a bouquet of spells. She was a constellation of the stars, a fireworks display. Watch out! Or be hypnotized.”
YVES SAINT LAURENT
The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli will be offered at auction in Paris on 23 January, 2014 at Christie’s. The collection comes to the market having passed by descent to Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughter, the actress Marisa Schiaparelli Berenson. With passion and extraordinary vision, the legendary Madame Elsa Schiaparelli – a deadly rival of Coco Chanel – was at the heart of avant-garde ideas in 1930s Paris. A powerful conduit between the worlds of cutting-edge fashion and surrealist art, she was a collaborator, friend, and patron to many leading artists of the day, from Salvador Dalí and Man Ray to Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, and Marcel Vertès. Comprising approximately 180 lots, this remarkable private collection features fashion, furniture, fine art and decorative arts which, together, evoke the unique inspirational sensibility adored by so many. With estimates for individual lots starting at $670, the collection is expected to realise in the region of $1,100,000.
The star lots of the sale are a bronze Alberto Giacometti 1936 floor lamp modelled with the head of a young woman (estimate:$81-110,000) and a violet silk blouse, 1939, from Schiaparelli’s Astrologie Collection (estimate: $34-41,000). A further highlight is an intricately beaded waistcoat with ‘Bucking Bronco’ beadwork, inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli’s influential 1940’s trip to Texas and recalling her earlier Circus Collection (estimate: $14-16,000). An unusual yellow linen blouse, with beadwork and black and white floral trim, from 1940, points to Elsa Schiaparelli’s interest in porcelain, which translated to her designs through the use of subtle colours, textures and embroidery (estimate: $14-20,000). Injecting feminine evening elegance with the drama of the Spanish matador, a pink wool bolero, with jet bead trim, also from 1940, shows yet more influences which Schiaparelli drew upon (estimate: $16-21,000).
The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli presents a veritable feast of artworks and objects that reflect their owner’s significant role as a taste-maker. A key trendsetter in the 1930s, Schiaparelli not only contributed her own lively creativity and sponsorship to the contemporary scene in Paris but also enjoyed plundering the past to create baroque counterpoints to the modern (Elsa Schiaparelli illustrated at home, above). This is evidenced in her love of such eclectic delights as baroque furniture, the French Second Empire style and blackamoor figures, which all reflect her wonderful sensibility for all that was extravagant and evocative.
The collection ranges from an atmospheric portrait of Schiaparelli’s daughter by Leonor Fini (1908-1996), who collaborated with Schiaparelli, notably designing the bottle for her famous perfume Shocking in 1937 (estimate:$41,000-67,000); to a series of ten photographic portraits by Man Ray (1890-1976) that includes the solarised study Elsa Schiaparelli, circa 1928-30, a favoured image chosen by Schiaparelli to illustrate her memoir, Shocking Life (estimate: $14,000-20,000). Man Ray is a telling artist to associate with Schiaparelli: a Dadaist and a Surrealist, he was also, like her, completely at ease straddling the worlds of commerce and pure creativity.