Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lina Cavalieri The Face That Launched A Thousand Plates

Italian designer Piero Fornasetti once quite famously asked of himself: “What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” His admittance: “I don’t know, I began to make them and I never stopped.” is almost as charming as the plates themselves.

Piero Fornasetti

 Born in 1913, Piero Fornasetti was a Milanese painter and interior designer. One day he came across an image of the Opera singer Lina Cavalieri in a French, 19th century magazine, looking as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa. This image inspired Fornasetti to create his series of over 350 plates.

Each plate expands on the initial plate as he moves through themes such as illusion, architectural perspectives, the sun, and harlequins. Each plate explores the ideas of classical beauty and the mysteries of femininity. The wistful smile and saucer eyes of Lina Cavalieri engage the viewer through Fornasetti’s distinct black and white graphic style. The look is classic and timeless, a design icon to enhance your home surroundings.

Lina Cavalieri (25 December 1874 – 7 February 1944) was an Italian operatic soprano known for her great beauty.

Born Natalina Cavalieri in Viterbo, Latium, Italy, she lost her parents at the age of fifteen and became a ward of the state, sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. The vivacious young girl was extremely unhappy under the strict raising of the nuns, and at the first opportunity she ran away with a touring theatrical group.

Blessed with a good singing voice, a young Cavalieri made her way to Paris, France, where her stunning good looks opened doors and she obtained work as a singer at one of the city's café-concerts. From there she performed at a variety of music halls and other such venues around Europe while still working to develop her voice for the opera. A soprano, Cavalieri took voice lessons and made her opera debut in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1900, the same year she married her first husband, the Russian Prince Bariatinsky. Eventually she followed in the footsteps of Hariclea Darclée as one of the first stars of Puccini's Tosca. In 1904 she sang at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo then in 1905, at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso in the Umberto Giordano opera, Fedora. From there, she and Caruso took the show to New York City, debuting with it at the Metropolitan Opera on 5 December 1906.

Cavalieri remained with the Metropolitan Opera for the next two seasons performing again with Caruso in 1907 in Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Renowned as much for her great beauty as for her singing voice, she became one of the most photographed stars of her time. Frequently referred to as the "world's most beautiful woman," she was part of the tightlacing tradition that saw women use corsetry to create an "hour-glass" figure. During the 1909–1910 season she sang with Oscar Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera Company. Her first marriage long over, she had a whirlwind romance and marriage with Robert Winthrop Chanler (1872–1930), a member of New York's prominent Astor family. However, this marriage lasted only a very short time and Cavalieri returned to Europe where she became a much-loved star in pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg, Russia, and in the Ukraine.


During her career, Cavalieri sang with other opera greats such as the Italian baritone Titta Ruffo and the French tenor Lucien Muratore, whom she married in 1913. After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a cosmetic salon in Paris. In 1914, on the eve of her fortieth birthday — her beauty still spectacular — she wrote an advice column on make-up for women in Femina magazine and published a book, My Secrets of Beauty. In 1915, she returned to her native Italy to make motion pictures. When that country became involved in World War I, she went to the United States where she made four more silent films. The last three of her films were the product of her friend, the Belgian film director Edward José.

Married for the fourth time to Paolo d’Arvanni, Cavalieri returned to live with her husband in Italy. Well into her sixties when World War II broke out, she nevertheless worked as a volunteer nurse. Cavalieri was killed in 1944 during an Allied bombing raid that destroyed her home in the outskirts of Florence.

La Cavalieri's discography is slim. In 1910, for Columbia, she recorded arias from Faust, Carmen, Mefistofele, La bohème, Manon Lescaut and Tosca, as well as the song, "Maria, Marì! (Ah! Marì! Ah! Marì!)." In 1917, for Pathé, the soprano recorded "Le rêve passé," with Muratore.

She was painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini (acquired by Maurice Rothschild) and by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947). The latter is now the property of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the gift of Nicholas Meredith Turner in memory of his wife the soprano Jessica Dragonette. Hers is the face that appears repeatedly, obsessively in Piero Fornasetti's designs.

Giovanni Boldini

In 1955, Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida portrayed Cavalieri in the film The World's Most Beautiful Woman. In 2004, a book was published authored by Paul Fryer and Olga Usova titled Lina Cavalieri -The Life of Opera’s Greatest Beauty, 1874–1944.

To visit the Fornasetti website go here

Text Source Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Stages of K9

" Do you mind! It's 7 in the morning, a Gentleman Terrier, prefers to do his toilette without an audience"

"Oh, it's my female human, where's my breakfast" ?

" I like to do a few Canadian Air Force exercises before the first meal of the day"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning And Palazzo Pants

I am now in the throws of spring cleaning and frantic gardening, which is no mean feet with a large five bedroomed, 140 year old farmhouse that creates dust, the likes of which I have never witnessed before.

 The cavalry is arriving tomorrow in the shape of Belle Mère I know she is armed with a steam cleaner to help aid the cleaning process and probably a very well packed car full of all manner of cleaning aids and handy household things, she is an angel and manages to get a shine on the parquet that I could never achieve.  When it is all done, I may even be able to do a chic interior post, welcoming you to my world, I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, something frivolous, Summer is nearly upon us, the weather here at present is very warm and the nights are drawing out, I am on the hunt for a new pair of palazzo pants, they could also be called wide legged trousers, beach pyjamas or lounge pants. I prefer palazzo pants as it sounds so lovely, regal and languid. 

I have a fabulous pair of linen, chocolate brown Sarah Pacini palazzo pants, but they are so old I don't know if they have another season in them.

The shops and websites all seem to be full of harem pants, something I left behind long ago in the eighties. I don't know if I will be able to find a pair of my beloved palazzo pants, but I will do my best. For the moment, I leave you with some vintage palazzo pant images.

Renée Perle, Jaques Henri Lartigue

Renée Perle, Jaques Henri Lartigue

Coco Chanel on the beach at Deauville

Joan Blondelle, in beach pyjamas


Due to all this domestic activity posting and commenting could be sketchy for the next few days. I hope you all have a fantastic week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Emma A Peel

I have long been a fan of The British Television series 'The Avengers'.  I started watching the series as a child in the seventies, by the eighties I was raiding my Mothers wardrobe for her vintage sixties ski pants and anything else that looked vaguely Emma Peelesque, so that I could try to emulate her style.

I loved all the Avengers women, but Diana Rigg, Emma Peel was my style icon of choice, what a great role model, especially to a feisty 13 year old tomboy who was making the transition to fashionable young lady.  Emma Peel was beautiful, intelligent, gutsy and the perfect foil to Patrick Macnee's debonair Steed.

I loved the surreality and often whacky plots of The Avengers, Steed and his sidekick racing round the leafy lanes of Southern England, hot on the trail of some eccentric villain intent on threatening the security of Britain. 

For the fourth season, the last to be filmed in black and white, a new female partner appeared in October 1965: Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). The name of the character derived from a comment by writers, during development, that they wanted a character with "man appeal". In an early attempt to incorporate this concept into the character's name, she was called "Samantha Peel", shortened to the awkward "Mantha Peel," Eventually the writers began referring to the idea by the verbal shorthand, "M. Appeal.", which gave rise to the character's ultimate name of "Emma Peel." The character, whose husband went missing while on a South American exploration, retained the self-assuredness of Gale, combined with superior fighting skills, intelligence, and a contemporary fashion sense.

After more than 60 actresses had been auditioned, the first choice to play this role was actress Elizabeth Shepherd. However, after filming one and a half episodes, Shepherd was released, as her on-screen personality did not seem as interesting as that of Blackman's Gale. Another 20 actresses were auditioned before the show's casting director suggested that producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell check out a televised drama featuring the relatively unknown Rigg. Her screen test with Macnee showed that the two immediately worked well together, and a new era in Avengers history began.

 Her style of dress typified the period, and the character is still a fashion icon. John Bates was brought in as the costume designer for Emma Peel in the second half of Season 4. He created a wardrobe of black and white op-art mod clothing and mini skirts. Before this, people had believed that lines, circles and other bold patterns would not work on the television cameras of the day. It was also filmed before the mini skirt had become mainstream. Bates even had to stop leaving hems on the mini skirts because the production team kept lowering them again. He also licensed his designs to several manufacturers under the Avengerswear label and these pieces were sold in various shops throughout the country.

(Bates apprenticed under Gerard Pipart at Herbert Sidon. From 1959 he began designing under the name Jean Varon.

Bates' work as Jean Varon in the 1960s was particularly modernistic. He designed dresses with bare midriffs, sheer panels, and very short hemlines, and as early as 1962 was designing high-fashion plastic garments.  In 1965, one of his dresses with a mesh midriff was chosen as the Dress of the Year and donated to the Fashion Museum in Bath, which in 2006 held a major retrospective show of his work.

One of Bates' most influential champions was Marit Allen, the editor of British Vogue's Young Ideas spread, who considered Bates the true inventor of the miniskirt, rather than Mary Quant or André Courrèges.  Ernestine Carter also observed Bates' originality, noting that the Paris fashion collections for 1967 contained many looks which Bates had done first.

In 1965 Bates designed memorable outfits for Diana Rigg to wear for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers, including Op-Art mini-coats and accessories in graphic black and white, and a silver vinyl ensemble comprising a bra bodice, low-slung trousers, and a jacket. In the same vein he designed a modernistic space-age wedding outfit for Marit Allen in 1966 consisting of a white gabardine mini-coat and matching dress.

Jean Shrimpton Modelling a John Bates Dress

She is often best-remembered for the leather catsuit she wore early on in her first season. Rigg, in fact, disliked wearing leather and John Bates designed softer stretch jersey and PVC catsuits for her instead. For the colour season, the designer was Alun Hughes who used bold colours and lurid, psychedelic patterns. Hughes also created the Emmapeeler catsuit which was made of stretch jersey in bright block colours. The Emmapeelers and several other pieces from this season's wardrobe were also licensed and sold in the shops.

She drove a convertible Lotus Elan at high speeds, and convincingly portrayed any series of undercover roles, from nurse to nanny. Her favourite guise was that of a women's magazine reporter, trying to interview big business tycoons and rich playboys.

At the end of the 5th season in 1967, Rigg left to pursue major stardom in other projects, including a Bond film like Blackman. No farewell episode had been planned. She was recalled, under her contract, to appear in the episode that was to become the first of the 6th season ("The Forget-Me-Knot") which explained her departure. At its end, Peel's husband, Peter Peel, was found alive and rescued, and she left the British secret service to be with him, "passing the torch" to her successor on the stairway to Steed's apartment with the remark "He likes his tea stirred anti-clockwise." (From Steed's viewpoint looking out the window to the driveway below, Peter remarkably resembles Steed, only with a moustache.)

Rigg and Macnee have remained lifelong friends.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh The Shame!

The other day MG suddenly announced that I had to take him down to the local garage, so he could pick up his car, which had been in for repair, I dropped him off and decided to go to the supermarket as I needed a few bits. Somewhere amongst the tinned tomatoes and pasta sauces, I happened to look down and to my absolute horror, I realised I was wearing my slippers.

Not that anyone round here would notice or even care, it is in fact quite normal to see people in their slippers in this rural corner of France.  So this obviously means I am turning native, I am only a few steps away from 'The Nylon Floral Tabard' teamed with white farm wellies or galoshes, a look which is oh so fashionable in our village.


When I got home from the supermarket I scrutinised myself in the mirror, what a fright, my roots needed doing, my hands are starting to look like I have worked the land for most of my life, and my feet, well, the less said the better and I could do with a good old waxing session.

Immediate action was called for, I booked myself an appointment at my hairdressers, ( in my former life, I had my hair cut and coloured once a month and I went for a wash and blow dry every week, now I just seem to go to the salon when my hair is too awful to bear).  I also intend to make an appointment with the local beauty salon for a manicure, pedicure, and full leg wax.

I love make up but I don't wear it very often round here, perhaps a quick flick of mascara and some lip gloss if we are going out locally, I do put on the whole box of tricks when we are away, I am very good at moisturising and sunscreen, which is a must in this climate.

I don't have to worry about clothes, I have a wardrobe full of beautiful, classical clothes, which I hardly ever get the opportunity to wear, unless I go somewhere, I suppose the advantage of this is that they remain as good as new. It's a good job I have never been a slave to fashion as all my clothes would be seriously outdated now.  No these days my attire is restricted to jeans, woolly sweaters, fleeces and wellies in the Winter and cut off denim shorts, T shirts and espadrilles in the Summer.

Current Life Everyday Footwear

In my former life I used to have a serious shoe hobby, I still do but it is dormant at the moment but soon awakens within fifty paces of a good shoe shop, good job there is no decent shoe shops round here, in fact France is not very good on shoes except at the very top end of the market.  Step over the border to Spain or Italy and temptation lurks everywhere.

 Former Life Footwear

Well after all my pampering I would like to do something sophisticated like go to the opera in Toulouse or spend a few days in Paris but with an influx of Summer guests soon to descend on us, I will have to Spring clean the house, oh joy, the polishing floors and cleaning windows type of cleaning something I have skilfully managed to avoid or put off until tomorrow but tomorrow is now upon us.  My sophisticated sojourn will just have to wait.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Duffy' The Man Who Shot The Sixties

Fashion Shoot For Vogue Florence

Last night I almost hyperventilated when I realised I was about to watch a fascinating documentary chronicling the life of photographer Brian Duffy, which was on BBC4, probably the best channel in the world.

Brian Duffy was a photographer in the sixties he was one of the terrible trio which included David Bailey and Donovan, these three photographers were instrumental in helping to create and document 'Swinging London'.

Studio shot for Vogue

Duffy as he was affectionately known was born to Irish parents in London in 1933. During World War II he was evacuated with his two brothers and sister to Kings Langley where he was taken in by the actors Roger Livesey and Ursula Jeans. After only three weeks his mother, unhappy about her four children being split up from the family insisted they all return to London. They were evacuated once more to Wales but returned to London having experienced living on a primitive farm after a month.

Once back in London Duffy, "had the most wonderful war", breaking into abandoned houses and terrorizing the city streets. Only when it was over did he start school, attending a social engineering institution in South Kensington that was run by the LCC. After getting into a series of bouts of trouble he was moved to another school in Kentish Town where emphasis was placed on treating troubled youths through cultural inclusion which involved trips to the Opera, ballets and galleries. It was here that Duffy unveiled his own creative tendencies and upon finishing school he applied to St. Martins School of Art. In 1950 he began art school at first wishing to be a painter but soon changed to dress design. He finished in 1953 and immediately began working as an assistant designer at Susan Small Dresses after which he worked for Victor Steibel, preferred designer to Princess Margaret. Following this, on a visit to Paris, he was offered a job at Balenciaga but was unable to take it up.

 Duffy and an assistant work on a shot, whilst the model waits in the background

In 1955 he began freelancing as a fashion artist for Harper's Bazaar. It was here that he first came into contact with photography. Inspired by the photographic contact sheets he saw passing through the art director's desk he decided to find a job as a photographers assistant. Unsuccessfully, he applied for a job with John French, after which he managed to get a job at Carlton studios and then at Cosmopolitan Artists. He left there to take a job as assistant the photographer Adrian Flowers. Whilst working for Flowers he received his first photographic commission from Ernestine Carter, the then fashion editor of The Sunday Times

 Fashion Shoot For Vogue Florence

In 1957 he was hired by British Vogue where he remained working until 1963. During this period he worked closely with top models of the period, including Joy Weston, Jennifer Hocking, Pauline Stone and Jean Shrimpton.

 He help launch Joanna Lumleys career, This is a Beautiful Shot Of Joanna with her son Jamie

Along with fellow photographers David Bailey and Terence Donovan, he captured, and in many ways helped to create, the "Swinging London" of the 1960s: a culture of high fashion and celebrity chic. Together the "Terrible Three", as they came to be known by the British press, redefined not only the aesthetic of fashion photography but also the place of the photographer within the industry. Socialising with actors, musicians and royalty, together they represented a new breed of photographer and found themselves elevated to celebrity status.

 John Lennon

Apart from Vogue, Duffy also worked for publications including Glamour, Esquire, Town Magazine, Queen Magazine as well as The Observer, The Times and The Daily Telegraph, to name but a few. He also worked on contract for French Elle for two periods the first between 1963 and 1968, and the second between 1971 and 1979.

 Michael Caine

As well as fashion photography, Duffy was the creative force behind record album sleeve art for three David Bowie album covers, most notably the iconic Aladdin Sane.

 David Bowies Album Aladdin Sane, which Rocketed Bowie To Superstardom

He was also successful within the advertising world shooting award winning campaigns for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff in the 1970s.

In 1965 Duffy was asked to create a Pirelli calendar which he shot on location in Monaco. He was commissioned to shoot a second calendar in 1973 which he created in collaboration with British pop artist Allen Jones and air brushing specialist Phillip Castle.

 Pirelli Calendar 1965

In 1967 he set up a film production company with Len Deighton called Deighton Duffy and went on to produce the film adaptations of Deighton's book Only When I Larf (1968), and of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War, which was released in 1969.

 Jean Shrimpton and Barbara Miller in Biba for The Telegraph

In 1979 Duffy decided to call it a day and gave up photography, burning many of his negatives,though some were saved from the fire when the council objected to the smoke. Although a large amount of his images have been lost, the ones that remain stand collectively as a comprehensive visual history of twenty-five years of British culture and fashion.

In 2009, at the behest of his son, Chris, Duffy started working again and took a series of photographs of people he had photographed in the 60's and '70's.

To see more of Duffy's fabulous photographs go here.