Research Inspiration: Spotlight on Auction Catalogs Part 3

This week I bring you my last instalment in a series delving into web-based fashion research inspired by images from two Christie’s auction annuals from thirty years ago.

Before striding ahead with the final image research, I must thank co-contributor Mellissa for doing some rather more rigourous research than myself and finding Paul Poiret’s ‘sorbet dress,’ on FIT’s online collections database. I had mistakenly stated that the dress was not on their system after receiving web errors during my search. Thanks again Mellissa for checking the site and adding a link to its description page in the comments section! Below is an image of FIT’s ‘sorbet dress,’ – the one that was sold to the museum by Christie’s for the record price of $5,500 back in 1981.

”]”]The next image to inspire a million Google images is Giovanni Boldini’s ‘Portrait of Gladys Deacon.’

Boldini was an Italian portrait painter known for his dynamic brushwork, and paintings of  fashionable society personalities at the turn of the twentieth century. In Boldini’s works clothes and how they were worn by whom are marvelously represented and never fail to conjure the textures and essences of the belle epoque.

Boldini, Countess de Rasty Seated in an Armchair

There are so many Boldini pictures to admire, but famously he painted one of fashion’s most infamous characters, the Marchesa Luisa Casati. According to the website above, and hardly desputably, she was ‘Europe’s most infamous celebrity and its most eccentric. She wore live snakes as jewellery and she was infamous for her evening strolls, naked beneath her furs, parading cheetahs on diamond studded leashes.’

Boldini, Marchesa Casati with a Greyhound, 1908

She remains a muse to fashion designers over 130 years after her birth. John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld and McQueen are just a few of the designers whom have cited the Marchesa as diect inspirations for collections since the turn of the millennium – not to mention that fashion label favourite of the red carpet, Marchesa was named in homage to her and her opulent style.

MARCHESA BY Georgina Chapman, AW09 as photographed in Harper's Bazaar

John Galliano for Dior Couture, SS08


The Marchasa Casati by Augustus John

Casati is claimed to be one of the most represented women in art of all time, (up there with the Virgin Mary) and Augustus John, whose work I looked at last week painted one of her most iconic portraits in 1912.


The next image I chose because it featured a representation of a Royal personage and the fashion of their epoch not on canvas – but on a majolica plate. The drawing style of this ceramic painted plate featuring Charles II of England struck me as being nearly a caricature – yet providing accurate details of dress in the late seventeenth century.

Seventeenth century shoe


Portrait of Charles II, by Hawker

I knew that Charles II was famed for his luxuriously locks and for igniting the fashion for long curly coiffures among upper class men in Britain, but this image reminded me to take a look at some other features of male fashion during his reign.

Engraving of men's fashion circa 1660


Lastly, I fostered a new fascination with the work of British artist Allen Jones. Jones was a pop artist of the 1960s, educated at the Royal College of Art, who along with his creative cohort, was known for bold graphic works that referenced pop culture and was heavily influenced by the aesthetics of advertising – and in Jones’ case – fashion imagery. In the works picured, the sexuality of fashion and the female body are evident, and perhaps this is why it has such a strong flavour of contemporary fashion advertising in particular. I don’t know for certain if Jones’ work has been the muse for any luxury fashion campaigns recently, but I suspect if he hasn’t the time is surely ripe for a tribute – so fashion editors and photographers look closely!

Cut-away by Allen Jones 1976,

Wet Seal by Allen Jones 1966,

This concludes my foray into a heap of new research topics. I don’t foresee any of them becoming a thesis, or edging out any of the topics I am currently working on long-term, but the insights gained will surely enrich both my existing knowledge of fashion history and continue to ignite my curiosity – and hopefully your as well!

Next week I am out of the auction catalogs an back to reviewing exhibitions in the UK. Who knows what links there are to be made between the topics above and what is on show at London museums and galleries…


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