MM fall 2017 exhibition

Fall.2017.poster.1pp

Welcome to the fall exhibition, finally!  I know you're probably more excited about holiday releases at this point, but I still wanted to do a proper fall exhibition, late though it is.  I had originally planned a very different exhibition - a retrospective devoted to an extremely talented and successful makeup artist who has become my obsession over the past few years - but ultimately decided that, much like my failed '90s makeup exhibition, I just couldn't do it the way I envisioned.  I was also concerned that in the unlikely event of "Mother" herself catching wind of it, she might be a bit peeved that I staged an exhibition dedicated to her work in my bedroom, as I think it would be rather insulting to someone of her renown.  I'm not letting go of the concept, of course, but it will have to wait until I can use a proper gallery or museum space for it*.  So in lieu of that, I thought this fall I'd do another exhibition I've been wanting to do for a couple years now.  Every autumn I seem to be more entranced by the magic and mystery of the forest. Perhaps it's my 11 year long status as a city dweller, or my love of woodland critters, but lately I've been loving the idea of relaxing in front of a roaring fire in a beautiful rustic cabin somewhere in the forest...or since I'm not really the outdoors/camping type, maybe a short evening hike in the woods surrounded by moonlight and the sounds of the animals would be more my speed.  In any case, the vibe I was going for was about 20% enchanted, 1% scary (hey, the forest at night can be a little unnerving), but 79% peaceful and calm.

I thought this wonderful illustration by Alexandra Dvornikova perfectly represented the particular forest mood I was trying to capture.  It's even better in its original animated version.

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I'll be doing a follow-up post on why I chose the objects I did, the ones that didn't make it in and some other things that inspired me.  In the meantime, welcome to fall 2017 at the Museum!

(Click to enlarge.)

MM fall 2017 exhibition

MM fall 2017 exhibition

MM fall 2017 exhibition

Top row, left to right.

Revlon Petite compact ad

You would not believe (or be-leaf? haha!) how many vintage compacts I found with leaf patterns.

Revlon Petite compact

Revlon Petite compact

Revlon Petite compact ad

Fall exhibition label

Okay, okay, I KNOW the Moschino seems out of place as it's technically a teddy bear and not one you'd find in the forest.  But a certain little Museum intern begged me to include it, since there are so few bear-shaped makeup items.  The Lamis King lipstick case is the only other one I can think of and that one is definitely more of a wild forest mama bear, what with being perched on a tree stump cuddling her cub.

Sephora x Moschino

Lamis King bear lipstick

Fall 2017 exhibition label

Oils from Shu x OB and Mika Ninagawa collections:

Shu Uemura cleansing oils

Fall 2017 exhibition label

I was positively elated to find not only these two compacts but also the original ad, as it contains the name and date of the design.  I have no idea why that little dude is standing next to it though.  I mean obviously it's part of an article, but it's just...weird.  I'm guessing he was a jockey?

Elgin compacts and ad

Elgin Woodland Fawn compact, ca. 1955

Elgin Woodland Fawn carry-all, ca. 1955

1955 Elgin compact ad

1955 Elgin compact ad

Second row, left to right.

Remember these?

Paul & Joe lipstick cases

Paul & Joe lipstick cases

This little sparrow is actually from the fall 2015 collection and not 2014, which means the label is wrong.  Whoops.

Paul & Joe lipstick cases

Fall 2017 exhibition label

So pleased to come across this compact and in such good condition.  I was determined to find an ad for it and I did!  Not a magazine ad but there was a newspaper one, so I "clipped" it online and printed it out.

Volupte compact, ca. 1942

Volupté compact ad, June 1942

Volupté compact ad, June 1942

Isa x Bambi:

Isa x Bambi

Isa x Bambi

I realize the ad is for a completely different product than the compact, but they're both full of appley goodness.  :)

1952 Lentheric ad

Wadsworth compact, ca. late 1940s/early 50s

Third row, left to right.

I feel like indie companies are really leading the way in terms of creating some new and innovative brush designs.  These flower-filled ones seemed a little spring to me at first, but then I read they're filled with seasonal dried flowers so I figured they were appropriate for fall.  And the deep green of the pouch is very autumnal as well. 

Storybook cosmetics brush set

Storybook cosmetics brush set

Fall 2017 exhibition label

These items were also quite a find!  I literally typed "fox lip balm" into Google and landed on this site, which sells a line called Folklore.  And fortunately they ship to the U.S.  I was also so happy to see this vintage squirrel compact - felt like I just had to buy it since it's the husband's spirit animal.  It's not in quite as good shape as this one, but all the marcasite was still intact so I went for it.

Folklore lip balms and vintage Stratton compact

Folklore lip balm and nail files

Stratton squirrel compact, ca. 1940s

Fall 2017 exhibition label

So sad that the label for this is basically blank, but I still never uncovered any more information about these mysterious Shiseido Chinese zodiac figurines.

Shiseido Year of the Rabbit figurine

Last but not least in this row, the owl shelf.  This one's for my mom since she loves owls.  :)

Owl makeup

The eyeshadow on the left is another piece from Paul & Joe's fall 2015 collection and the highlighting powder is from the holiday 2014 collection. The eyeshadow with the two owls is from fall 2005, and I remember being dismayed that I couldn't find their fall 2005 runway collection anywhere online so I could see if it had the owls.  Then a few years ago I was flipping through an issue of Lucky magazine (I still miss it) and lo and behold, spotted the owls in action - not on clothing but on a pillow in some rich hipster chick's living room.  How serendipitous!  Of course I tore it out and saved it in case I ever exhibited the eyeshadow (and also because I'm a hoarder.)

Owl makeup

Lucky magazine page

Lucky magazine page

Fall 2017 exhibition label

Bottom row, left to right.

Laneige x Lucky Chouette:

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Fall 2017 exhibition label

Chantecaille Save the Forest and Protect the Wolves palettes:

Chantecaille Save the Forest and Protect the Wolves palettes

Chantecaille Save the Forest and Protect the Wolves palettes

Fall 2017 exhibition label

This one is another mystery.  I've seen this shape of Helena Rubinstein compact before and the date was listed as 1962, but have been unable to find it in any ads.  I'm wondering if these were only distributed in countries outside the U.S.  since they're relatively hard to find and don't appear in any American newspapers.  Obviously the Heaven Sent compacts with the angel date sometime after 1941 since that's when the fragrance was released, but this one with the deer on it is strange - I have no idea why it would be connected to the Heaven Sent fragrance.  My hunch is that it's actually related to their Moonlight Mist scent.  Still, the compact's shape and style look way earlier than 1962 or even 1956 when Moonlight Mist was released. 

vintage Helena Rubinstein

vintage Helena Rubinstein deer compact

Speaking of Helena Rubinstein, an exhibition devoted to her just opened at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, so if you're able I highly suggest visiting.  :)

vintage Helena Rubinstein deer compact

Fall 2017 exhibition label

And finally, Stila fall 2006 blush and eyeshadow trios:

Stila fall 2006

And that concludes the fall 2017 exhibition!  Did you feel as though you were deep in an enchanted forest, hearing squirrels romping and leaves crunching under your feet?  I hope so!  And let me know what your favorite item in the exhibition was. :) 

 

*I missed the deadline for MICA's call for proposals for their annual Curator's Incubator show, but I plan on submitting one next year.

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Curator's Corner, 11/12/2017

CC logoYou might be wondering at this point why I bother attempting to keep Curator's Corner going, given that I always end up back dating it.  Even though I can never post this recurring feature on time, I still feel the need to continue because it's a good way for me to stay on top of beauty trends and news - it's just easier, in my strange little mind, to keep track of such things this way.  So here are, as usual, some very late links. 

- Here's a belated 11th (!) blog-iversary shout-out to A Touch of Blusher!  May she keep blogging for many more years.

- Bust had a fascinating piece on what Victorian ladies used to keep their hair in place.

- Far be it for me to blame the victim, but I thought it was common knowledge to never, ever, EVER test cosmetics on any part of your face.  Hands and arms only, people. 

- The latest crazy trends making the rounds were brow heart cut-outs, Lacroix beverage-inspired hair color and some rather unappealing and surprisingly realistic-looking pimple nail art.  One trendy item I did like was this mock Stranger Things-inspired palette. I have so many ideas along these lines, I wish I had Photoshop skills to make mock-ups!

- Meanwhile, companies are coming up with even more extreme products such as whiskey-scented deodorant and a KFC-scented bath bomb. I'm eternally grateful the latter is only available in Japan, as it sounds even more gross than the nail polish.

- Like makeup destruction videos, these clips of people cutting up LUSH bubble bars make me upset rather than soothed.

- I can't believe no one thought of this before.

The random:

- As with makeup, we're seeing an awful lot of food novelties - glitter cappuccinos seem to be the new foam art, while Pepsi has introduced a salted caramel flavor as well as a cake flavor, which, like the KFC bath bomb, is Japan-exclusive. 

- This photography/art project seems like a more involved version of one of my favorite Instagram accounts

- In '90s nostalgia, congrats are in order for the "Bee Girl" star of Blind Melon's video for their 1993 hit "No Rain".  But what's even more exciting is that Bikini Kill reunited for the first time in 20 years, something I would have given my eye teeth to see (along with their original performances, of course).

- Pineapple fiend that I am, I'm totally on board with this new holiday decorating trend and plan on adding it to our decor this year. :)

How have you been?  Are you gearing up for the holidays?

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Fierce or farce? Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay

Welcome to the first of many, many, many artist collaborations this holiday season!  I'm kicking them off with an unexpected collaboration between Urban Decay and artist Patrick Nagel.  If you were an '80s child and/or had an older sibling who was into Duran Duran, Nagel's work might look familiar.  

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay

Here they are individually with their original artwork and open, in case you're not a crazy collector like me and want to actually use the palettes.  :)

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Rio palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Rio palette

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Sunglasses palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Sunglasses palette

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Untitled palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Untitled palette

Patrick Nagel (1945-1984) was born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Orange County, California. I'll just let his official website provide the rest of his bio:  "After returning from his tour in Viet Nam, he studied fine art at Chouinard Art Institute and California State University, Fullerton where he received his BA in 1969 in painting and graphic design. He then taught at Art Center College of Design while simultaneously establishing himself as a freelance designer and illustrator with memorable ads for Ballantine Scotch, IBM and covers for Harper’s magazine.  In the mid-70’s he began illustrating stories for Playboy magazine, bringing instant exposure and a large appreciative audience to his work. His years working with Playboy established him as the heir apparent to 50’s pin-up artist Alberto Vargas and gave Nagel the subject matter that he would continue to use to illustrate the newly liberated woman." And this is where I start rambling about Nagel's depictions of women so you're in a for a long, possibly boring ride. I simply don't think I can look at his work without debating some critics' premise that Nagel loved women.

To get better informed on the matter, I purchased The Artist Who Loved Women by Rob Frankel, in which he uses Nagel's personal life to come to the conclusion that the women he painted were strong, fierce, powerful ladies in their own right.  However, there are A LOT of details from Nagel's biography that lead to me to believe otherwise.1 The sticky notes in the photo below demonstrate all the instances where I found Nagel to be less than the champion of women he's perceived as in this book, along with where I take issue with Frankel's stance. 

Nagel-book

Why are Nagel's images of women so striking?  Well, according to the author, their beauty is only important as it relates to the male gaze; their power comes from whether they're perceived as attractive by men.  "There is one special moment in every man's life...it's that heart-stopping moment when he first beholds an incredibly special woman...her hair flows, her eyes sparkle, and she moves with liquid grace.  She is everything he imagined his perfect woman to be...it wasn't the woman in the piece [of Nagel's art that the author purchased.]  It was Patrick Nagel's ability to convey that special moment every man experiences - or hopes to experience - about the woman of his dreams.  The Nagel Woman has no distractions; she is fully and completely dedicated to fulfilling her role as Nagel's ideal woman." (p. 15-16; 101).  I mean, really?  So apparently Nagel's depictions of women aren't actually about them at all, only (heterosexual) men's reaction to them.  With this stance, it seems Nagel believed that women weren't worth painting unless they were able to capture his and other men's imagination - a female viewer doesn't fit into the equation at all, making it seem as though his images are merely eye candy for straight men rather than a representation of women who are beautiful and interesting in their own right.

Secondly, I question whether anyone who contributes to Playboy in any capacity - Hugh Hefner (who, incidentally, held the largest private collection of Nagel's art and who also claimed to "love women") can rot in hell as far as I'm concerned - truly believes women are human beings and not objects whose value is determined by their ability to attract men.2  Insists Nagel's friend and assistant Barry Haun, "Often he would get out and buy the models outfits, usually bringing in makeup and hair stylists, too. The sessions were always very professional. You could tell that he loved women, being drawn more to their sensual qualities rather than to their overt sexuality."  Uh-huh.  I'll just leave these Playboy images here. 

Patrick Nagel

Patrick-nagel-playboy

Patrick Nagel

I don't see any "overt sexuality".  Nope, not at all.  *eyeroll*

Patrick Nagel
(images from pinterest)

Based on another quote shared by Nagel's rather unscrupulous manager, Karl Bornstein3, I'm inclined to think the artist may even have been a bit judgmental of the women he drew. "The mystery of women was very important to him, and he held women in the highest esteem. But he said once, 'I don't think I want to know these women too well. They never come out in the sunlight. They just stay up late and smoke and drink a lot.'"  This is rich coming from a man for whom cigarettes, candy, coffee, Pepsi, aversion to exercise and staying up all night summed up his lifestyle.4 

Having said all this, while Nagel's images for Playboy aren't screaming feminism to me, others from the '80s do seem to be more positive in the depiction of women.  Perhaps the above quote could be construed as Nagel almost being intimidated by these fierce and fashionable ladies.  And if we can separate the Playboy pieces along with Nagel's personal relationships and perception of women from the rest of his oeuvre, perhaps these women can be viewed in a very different light.   Elena G. Millie, former curator of the poster collection at the Library of Congress, has this to say about Nagel's women: "She is elegant and sophisticated, exuding an air of mysterious enticement. She is capable, alluring and graceful, but also aloof and distant. You will never know this woman, though she stares out of the Nagel frame straight at you, compelling you to become involved, challenging you to an intense confrontation...His women of the seventies are shown as softer, more pliable, and more innocent than his stronger, harsher, more self-assured women of the eighties."  Adds the author of the blog '80s Autopsy, "They didn’t need your approval — you needed theirs. Regardless of how long you stared at them, they remained unknowable – and unattainable." I'm inclined to side more with these interpretations than Frankel's.5

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel

No matter what side you take regarding Nagel's women, it's undeniable that his work both captured and defined '80s style. While Nagel's work is totally different visually from that of his contemporary Antonio Lopez, both artists contributed enormously to the overall look we associate with the decade.  As for Nagel's own artistic style, two distinct elements came into play: Japanese woodblock prints and posters from the late 1800s/early 1900s.  (Remember that Nagel studied both art history and graphic design, and also did commercial posters for clients more PG than Playboy.)  Millie explains, "Like some of the old print masters (Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard, for example), Nagel was influenced by the Japanese woodblock print, with figures silhouetted against a neutral background, with strong areas of black and white, and with bold line and unusual angels of view. He handled colors with rare originality and freedom; he forced perspective from flat, two-dimensional images; and he kept simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements. His simple and precise imagery is also reminiscent of the art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s- its sharp linear treatment, geometric simplicity, and stylization of form yield images that are formal yet decorative."  I've chosen a couple images where I think the ukiyo-e, poster and Art Deco influences are strongest.

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel(images from patricknagel.com)

In terms of process, Nagel first made drawings from photos he selected, then created paintings from those.  "His preliminary drawings for these designs are the exact antithesis of the final paintings. They are light, airy, ragged, and free. They are composed by line, but not confined by line. He would submit images for the client to choose from, subtly suggesting the product in the artwork. After the choice had been made, Nagel would then work up the finished painting, choosing the colors and lettering himself. He sometimes used as many as twenty-two colors per image...He felt that his drawings took him as far as he had to go with a design, yet his finished paintings are amazingly powerful images, rich with color and artfully imaginative. Finally, he would give the finished painting, along with a black line drawing, to the silk-screen printer for execution."

Now that I've done my due diligence in examining the content, style and process behind Nagel's work, let's get back to the Urban Decay collab.  I really have no idea why the company decided to put this artist on their lipstick palettes.  Obviously the licensing wasn't difficult to come by, as using Nagel's work for commercial purposes was, I'm guessing, another side effect of the mismanagement of his estate.6  This leads to the age-old question of whether a deceased artist would approve of their work being used to sell everything from makeup to t-shirts.  Even though it's a question that can never be answered, I always like to explore this issue.  It's hard to say in Nagel's case.  On the one hand I think he would have been flattered to collaborate with Urban Decay, a brand which always prided itself on catering to badass women everywhere.  If we interpret Nagel's art as being depictions of strong, powerful, DGAF women, the Urban Decay brand is a perfect fit.  But based on what I read in his biography, I'm wondering whether Nagel might have been opposed to his art appearing on items marketed mostly to women - I get the sense that he would have approved his images for more traditionally masculine pursuits, like beer packaging or car advertising, since, as his biographer claims, the beauty of the women Nagel painted were solely for men's enjoyment.  Along those lines, I bet Nagel wouldn't have been happy to see unlicensed prints and knock-offs being used at many a cheesy '80s beauty salon.

Anyway, while we can't answer that question or why Urban Decay chose to partner with Nagel, it's still an interesting collaboration.  My enthusiasm was a little deflated upon reading Nagel's biography, but I'm choosing to go with my gut reaction upon first laying eyes on these palettes (i.e. before I knew anything about Nagel) which was that they represent some of the most quintessentially '80s art and were simply a celebration of fashionable women.  Ignorance is bliss. 

What do you think? 

 

1 Other salient points to consider: 

  • Early in his career, Nagel abandoned his wife of 10 years and their infant daughter to pursue a more "glamorous" lifestyle in L.A., where he then married a fashion model several years younger.  As she grew up, Nagel allowed his daughter a 2 week-long visit to his home in L.A. every summer, but never permitted her to call him "dad".  Sounds like a real peach.  There's nothing wrong with not wanting a traditional lifestyle with kids, but maybe you should figure that out before you marry someone you're not happy with and, you know, have kids with that person.
  • There's one particular anecdote about Nagel, that, if true, made my skin crawl - apparently he was chatting up a young lady at a party and proceeded to balance 2 full martini glasses on her cleavage.  The author, of course, thinks this is both funny and charming - heck, the Nagel quote that Frankel chose for the book's introduction was "Martinis are like breasts.  More than two is too many." Like, you couldn't have found a quote about Nagel's thoughts on art?  Ugh.
  • Frankel notes that Nagel would never accept anything less than what he perceived to be the "ideal" woman (and actually defends the artist):  "To his few confidantes, Nagel related that he had no desire, no personal capability to be with anyone other than a 'perfect woman'.  He openly - some would say cruelly - admitted that he could never stay with a woman who suffered any kind of debilitating disease, such as breast cancer.  Like all men, Nagel had an idealized notion of what women meant to him which some might casually dismiss as objectification.  In Nagel's case, however, it would be more accurately described as deification.  To Patrick, women were divine and divinity tolerated no imperfection" (p.100).  LOL, nope.
  • Frankel also notes that there are "no women, living or dead" who mentioned Nagel sexually harassed them (p. 96).  Throughout the book Frankel relentlessly points out that Nagel was, by all accounts, very courteous and professional.  So great.  Just because no one has come forward doesn't mean Nagel didn't harass them, and even if he really wasn't a creep, why does the author insist on giving him a cookie for it? 

2 Just to be clear, I have no issue with female nudity or expressions of women's sexuality...but I do take issue when rampant exploitation of women is involved, which is the case with Playboy.

3 Bornstein was painted in a particularly negative light in Nagel's biography.  I'm not sure how much of it is true, but apparently he was quite the "womanizer" (read: sexual predator) and exceptionally money-hungry, the latter of which caused him to colossally mis-manage Nagel's work after his untimely death. 

4 At the age of 38, Nagel died suddenly of a massive heart attack after participating in an "aerobics-thon" at a charity event for one of his models. The autopsy showed that Nagel had a congenital heart defect which was the official cause, but I'm guessing his attempt at exercise after shunning it for his entire life may have been a trigger.

5 Frankel peppered Nagel's biography with remarks that were not exactly women-friendly, so I'm really trying not to agree with his point of view on Nagel's women.  Frankly, both he and Nagel come off as tremendous douches.  Among Frankel's greatest hits: "Party girls are not known for their financial acumen" (p. 108) - um, ever hear of Paris Hilton or the Kardashians? These "party girls" know exactly what they're doing when it comes to business; people who don't approve of Playboy are "prudes and shut-ins" (p. 244); and the last straw was Frankel's "where are they now" conclusion in which he gives a one-sentence follow up on those who figured prominently in Nagel's life.  Surprise surprise, he saved what I'm assuming he thinks is the best for last:  "Hugh Hefner is, was, and will forever be Hugh Hefner" (p. 279). Barf.

6  About the only useful thing in the biography were the last few chapters, which describe in detail the unraveling of Nagel's legacy due to both the greed of his manager and the fact that he did not have a will.  There was a lot of legal and business jargon, but the gist is that Bornstein was chiefly responsible for the eventual devaluing and unlicensed reproductions of Nagel's work.  This was aggravated by the lack of a will for Nagel, which most likely would have stipulated trademark and copyright guidelines - without those, it was essentially a free-for-all for anyone wanting to make money off his work.  Things didn't go through the proper channels, and most of Nagel's art ended up being illegally reproduced.

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LM Ladurée's fall palette achieves perfect harmony

As with their spring 2017 collection, I suspect LM Ladurée was looking to the past when creating their fall collection this year.  (Same with summer 2017 which for some reason I completely forgot to write about!)  A lyre is kind of a strange motif and I thought it was the first time it had appeared on makeup, but as usual it has appeared on vintage pieces.  Before we get to those I want to take a moment to drool over the details of this truly resplendent highlighter.

Whoops, just realized the compact in this photo is upside down.  Sigh.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

The box is outfitted in a creamy powder blue color, reminiscent of Wedgwood ceramics, and features some lovely silver embossing.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

The compact packaging is a dazzling sparkly silver with the lyre motif in blue and more yummy silver embossing.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

Another scrumptious detail awaits on the interior of the palette - an elegant blue wallpaper-like print with musical instruments in white.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

And here's the highlighting powder itself.  I'm positively enamored with the swans, as they look even more elegant in the powder than in the outer packaging.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

I thought a lyre was kind of a weird choice for a highlighter, especially with the addition of the swan.  The swan design may have been borrowed from clip art (which I've suspected before with LM Ladurée), but as we'll see, perhaps the company really did get inspiration from the lyres prominent in French Empire-era art and decor, which, in turn, drew on the depiction of the lyre in Greek antiquity.  

Swan lyre clip art

It's entirely possible that LM Ladurée was referring to the revival of ancient Greek style in post-revolution France.  We know Les Merveilleuses imitated the flowing togas seen in ancient Greek sculpture, and both the lyre and the swan are historically associated with the Greek god Apollo as he was the god of music.  (In fact, many depictions of lyres in ancient Greek coins and and vases show the lyre arms as swans or other birds).  The lyre was particularly popular towards the end of Louis XVI's reign and remained so throughout the Restoration, so roughly from the 1790s-1830s.  I found one example that's similar to the swan/lyre motif from the LM Ladurée highlighter as well as some other interesting lyre depictions which may point to the inspiration for the design. 

This photo is blur-tacular but you can just about make out the swans on the lyre.

French Empire style chair(image from newel.com) 

Some Merveilleuses and their ilk were represented playing lyres and sporting the classical Greek revival or Empire style attires popular in their circle.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Madame de Stael as Corinne, 1808(image from the-athenaeum.org) 

Robert LeFevre, Woman with a Lyre, 1808(image from mystudios.com)

Woman Playing a Lyre, Workshop of Robert LeFevre, 1810
(image from syuminiki.tumblr.com)

If you look closely at the lyre in this 1800 fashion plate, you'll notice a swan - not forming the sides of the lyre but hidden in a cutout at the bottom.

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien, 1800
(image from pinterest)

In addition to the examples above, LM Ladurée shared a very interesting photo on their Instagram yesterday.  Granted, it was in relation to their holiday collection, but it seems my hunch about them actually looking at French furniture and art might have been correct.  This was the photo they posted, a view of the Grand Salon in the apartments of Napoleon III in the Louvre. 

Grand Salon, Napoleon III apartments

Do I spy...lyre-back chairs?! Indeed!  I don't think they have swans for arms, but this may have been what LM Ladurée's designers and marketing people were looking at when coming up with this highlighter.  Here's another view.

Grand Salon, Napoleon III apartments(image from flickr)

Napoleon III's reign was considerably later than the time of Les Merveilleuses, so I'm guessing the lyre's popularity stuck around until the end of the 19th century.  So while these particular chairs may not be Empire-era, I still find it fascinating that LM Ladurée posted this - it seems more plausible that they were looking at opulent French decor rather than clip art when designing their fall highlighter.

Anyway, the brand's spring 2017 powder box looked so strikingly similar to some vintage Terre de Retz boxes that I just had to poke around to see whether they may have been drawing on any vintage references for the fall collection in addition to post-Revolution French decor and art.  Given what we've seen above, I actually don't think LM Ladurée was influenced by vintage items, but it was pretty neat to see that the motif had appeared previously.  The earliest makeup packaging to include a lyre symbol came from Harmony of Boston and Leichner.  The excellent Collecting Vintage Compacts blog has a very thorough post on the former so I'll direct you there for the full history, but here are some examples of powder boxes from that company. 

Harmony of Boston face powder, ca. 1906

Harmony of Boston face powder, ca. 1914(images from collectingvintagecompacts.blogspot.com)

Harmony of Boston powder

I was unable to pull together a full history of Leichner, but the short version is that it was founded in Berlin by Ludwig Leichner in 1873 and focused on stage makeup.  But by 1902 Leichner's face powder was being imported to the U.S. for sale to the average woman, i.e., non-actresses who didn't require grease paint, just a subtle dusting of powder.  I'm assuming the lyre was a nod to Leichner's profession as an opera singer.

Leichner face powder box, early 1900s
(image from ebay)

Leichner makeup ad, ca. 1923(image from pinterest)

Vintage Leichner ad(image from sheaff-ephemera.com) 

I believe this is a slightly later version of the face powder (ca. 1930-40s), but the packaging kept the lyre motif.

Leichner face powder, ca. 1930s(image from ebay)

Now for some compacts, which obviously date a little later than the powder boxes.  This Stratton features a beautiful muse playing the lyre with a lush trail of peacock feathers floating behind her.

Stratton compact, ca. mid 1960s-early 70s
(image from pinterest)

These other compacts all have ties to music, so it's not surprising they made use of a classic music motif.  The story behind  Volupté's "Pianette" compact by is a little murky and I doubt there's even any truth to it, but it makes for an intriguing marketing campaign.

Volupté Pianette compact, ca. 1948

Volupté Pianette compact, ca. 1948(image from rubylane)

Apparently it was introduced in late 1948 as "a replica of a tiny piano that served as a marriage proposal". 

Volupté compact ad, November 1948

Volupté Pianette compact box
(image from worthpoint.com)

Volupté Pianette compact ad, December 1949

The full story is that the Pianette was inspired by a "hand-carved compact that an admirer presented to a famous European concert pianist at the end of an especially triumphant tour.  On the back a marriage proposal was inscribed - which was accepted!"  I have no idea if that's true, but it's a pretty good story nonetheless.

Volupté Pianette compact ad, May 1949

Most fittingly, the lyre was used on musical compacts.  I love the idea of having a little song play while I touch up my powder. :)

vintage Clover musical compact
(image from antiquesatlas.com)

Vintage Melissa musical compact

Vintage Melissa musical compact
(images from thefashionstudio.com and thevintagecompactshop.com)

I couldn't find much on the ones above, but I'm guessing they're from about the same time as this Elgin musical compact.  Elgin introduced a collection of musical compacts in late 1952, and 2 years later the "Ring Bearer" compact joined the lineup.  There were a number of different designs, including a couple with musical instruments, but the Ring Bearer was the only one that had a lyre as far as I know.

Elgin "Ring Bearer" compact, ca. 1954
(images from rubylane)

Elgin "Ring Bearer" compact ad, December 1954

Boy, they really put on the marriage pressure, right?  I mean, you could use that extra compartment for any number of items besides an engagement ring...but I guess then they couldn't call it the "Ring Bearer".  The ad copy is notable for being a reminder of what it was like back then for women - apparently your happiest moment was supposed to be when your man proposed, rather than, say, getting your Ph.D.  Don't get me wrong, being engaged is a very happy time, but it's pretty insulting to say that it's THE happiest.  Women have life goals other than marriage that may make them just as happy.  Sheesh.

Getting back to the LM Ladurée highlighter, I think it was well-crafted with lots of meticulous details.  I can't be sure whether the brand was really inspired by French Empire style or if they simply grabbed some clip art, but I do think them posting a photo of chairs with a nearly identical lyre motif as the one used for the highlighter wasn't accidental - it is quite possible LM Ladurée is in fact drawing on historical resources.  In any case, it's simply a beautiful piece both inside and out.

What do you think?

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