Dreams Come True

“Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them”
John Updike

 
 

John Updike in Massachusetts in 1988, photo by John Goodman

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A Poem for June

 
 

The sun is rich
And gladly pays
In golden hours,
Silver days,

And long green weeks
That never end.
School’s out. The time
Is ours to spend.

There’s Little League,
Hopscotch, the creek,
And, after supper,
Hide-and-seek.

The live-long light
Is like a dream,
and freckles come
Like flies to cream.

John Updike

Poem from A Child’s Calendar

The Nature of Sleeping and Dreaming

“Two whole years passed since the marriage of the prince and princess, and during that time they had two children. The first, a daughter, was called “Dawn,” while the second, a boy, was named “Day,” because he seemed even more beautiful than his sister…”

Charles Perrault
Sleeping Beauty

 
 

A c. 1901 illustration to the 1830 version of the poem, by William Edward Frank Britten

 
 

The Day-Dream was an expanded version of Alfred Tennyson‘s poem The Sleeping Beauty. It was further altered in 1848 for a dramatic performance for a private gathering with Tennyson starring as the Prince who was to wake up the sleeping woman. The Day-Dream, published in 1842, discusses the nature of sleeping and of dreaming, especially in relation to individuals that would want to escape from reality. The poem also compares the act of poetry with dreaming and asserts that the two are the same. It is possible that the story of a sleeping woman is the same used by Richard Wagner in Siegfried. The theme is also similar to John Keats‘s Endymion. Literary critic Arthur Turnbull claimed, “This is one of the most artistically executed of Tennyson’s creations; he was always fond of the slumberous side of things where music is the voice of the poppy dreams of fancy.”

Out of all of Tennyson’s poems, The Day-Dream is one of the few that lacks a use of irony. The poem relies on a similar theme as Tennyson’s The Lotos-Eaters in that it talks about a living death state. However, The Day-Dream emphasizes the pleasure in being able to return to a sleep state and avoid reality. However, the poem is similar to other Tennyson poems in that it relies on a frame for the story in a manner similar to Lady Godive, Morte D’Arthur and The Princess. The character Flora is similar to many of Tennyson’s females that resist their fate by desiring death, including the Idyl ladies Rose of The Gardener’s Daughter, Ida of The Princess, and Mariana of Mariana.

Tennyson originally published The Sleeping Beauty in his 1830 collection of poems. In 1833, Tennyson’s close friend Arthur Hallam died. The death greatly affected both Tennyson and his sister Emily greatly and he kept away from society as he slowly dealt with the pain. By mid-summer 1834, they slowly began to participate together in social events once again. At one occasion, Tennyson, his sister, and their sister Mary were invited to visit friends at Dorking and then travel onwards to see the Hallam family. However, Tennyson set out on his own and spent time alone at Leith Hill, Dorking. It was during this time that he worked on The Sleeping Beauty and early versions of Sir Galahad and The Blackbird.

A summer crisp with shining woods.
And I too dream’d, until at last
Across my fancy, brooding warm,
The reflex of a legend past,
And loosely settled into form. (“Prologue” II, lines 1-5)

The poem reverses time and declares that the living, contemporary artists are ancient while those who have died before are the young:

And all that else the years will show,
the Poet-forms of stronger hours,
The vast Republics that may grow,
The Federations and the Powers;
Titanic forces taking birth
In divers seasons, divers climes;
For we are Ancients of the earth
And in the morning of the times (“L’envoi” I 13–20)

The Girl and The Sunflowers

Elle Fanning wears a Rodarte Spring 2012 Collection gown inspired by Van Gogh to the 2012 Critic’s Choice Awards

 
 

Phoebe in Wonderland (Daniel Barnz, 2008), theatrical release poster

 
 

This movie is Elle Fanning’s first lead role in a feature film. The first draft for the script was written one year before Elle Fanning (Phoebe) was even born.

Once Upon a Dream

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
The way you did once upon a dream…”

Lana Del Rey

 
 

 
 

Once Upon a Dream is a song based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s homonymous ballet The Sleeping Beauty, more specifically the piece Grande valse villageoise (a.k.a. The Garland Waltz), that was written in 1959 for the animated musical fantasy film Sleeping Beauty produced by Walt Disney and based on La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault and based also on Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm. It’s the theme of Princess Aurora and Prince Philip and was performed by a chorus as an overture and third-reprise finale.

 
 

 
 

The song was covered by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey for the dark fantasy film Maleficent (2014), which serves as a prequel to and re imagining of the original Sleeping Beauty (1959). Angelina Jolie handpicked Lana Del Rey herself to be the one to sing a version of Sleeping Beauty (1959)’s Once Upon a Dream as the main theme for the film.

From the Point of View of a Villain

“God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 
 

 
 

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent, has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

 
 

Theatrical release poster

 
 

On May 12, 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird was developing a live-action motion picture based on Walt Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959), retold from the point of view of Maleficent with Angelina Jolie starring as the eponymous character. In January 2010, it was rumored that Tim Burton was to direct the film. Reports surfaced online in May 2011 stating that Burton had left the project to focus on his other upcoming projects; Disney began to look for a replacement director, with David Yates being cited as a potential candidate due to his experience with the fantasy genre, having directed the final four Harry Potter films. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg would direct the film.

 
 

The character is Disney’s version of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale, loosely based on Carabosse from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet

 
 

Maleficent (2014) marks the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg after serving as a visual effects supervisor on numerous films, including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003), and more significantly, as a production designer of Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010), and Oz the Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013); the first two films earned him consecutive Academy Awards for Best Production Design.

Angelina Jolie also said that “having a director (Robert Stromberg) coming from the world of production design really helped pull me into the fairy tale world. The film is beautiful but also has a sexy, dark edge because the story is coming from the point of view of a villain.”

 
 

By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) was released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 
 

Angelina Jolie worked very closely with Anna B. Sheppard,the costume designer and make-up department to develop Maleficent’s menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie’s beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation. Maleficent’s prosthetics and make-up were inspired by singer Lady Gaga, particularly on her Born This Way album cover.

 
 

Single cover designed by Nick Knight

 
 

Angelina Jolie based her character’s speech and accent in homage of the original Sleeping Beauty voice actor Eleanor Audley. Her laughter in the film was also based on the best variation she tried in front of her children and chosen by them.

 
 

Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who portrays Princess Aurora as a young girl, is the daughter of Angelina Jolie (who plays Maleficent in the movie) and Brad Pitt

 
 

Angelina Jolie was definitely interested to be in the movie to begin with. She repeatedly stated it was because 1.) she grew up on Disney movies as a child, especially Sleeping Beauty (1959); she was quite fond of the character Maleficent: “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite,” Jolie said. “I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel,” 2.) she wanted to a movie in which her children can go see her in, as well as the fact that her children really also wanted her to be in the movie, 3.) the beauty, warmth, complexity, and strong intelligence of the script, and 4.) she was very impressed with Maleficent’s characterization for this film. In fact, Jolie also served as an executive producer on the film.

 
 

Maleficent marked the first time that Elle Fanning has appeared in a film opposite Angelina Jolie, after starring opposite Brad Pitt, Jolie’s fiancé, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008).

True Love Comes by Fairy-Lot

Dakota Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, wearing a Dior gown. Photograph by Karl Lagerfeld, Vanity Fair, January 2007

 
 

Many a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears.
Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.

 
 

Zac Efron as the Prince and Vanessa Hudgens as Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Annie Leibovitz, c. 2011

 
 

Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a-sighing still —
Young blood must when young blood will!

Charles Perrault

(Moral of Sleeping Beauty)

The Things They Had to Say

Sleeping Princess by Viktor Vasnetsov

 
 

Sleeping Beauty, by Henry Meynell Rheam

 
 

Illustration by Edward Frederick Brewtnall

 
 

“…This story fired the young prince. He jumped immediately to the conclusion that it was for him to see so gay an adventure through, and impelled alike by the wish for love and glory, he resolved to set about it on the spot.

Hardly had he taken a step towards the wood when the tall trees, the brambles and the thorns, separated of themselves and made a path for him. He turned in the direction of the castle, and espied it at the end of a long avenue. This avenue he entered, and was surprised to notice that the trees closed up again as soon as he had passed, so that none of his retinue were able to follow him. A young and gallant prince is always brave, however; so he continued on his way, and presently reached a large forecourt.

The sight that now met his gaze was enough to fill him with an icy fear. The silence of the place was dreadful, and death seemed all about him. The recumbent figures of men and animals had all the appearance of being lifeless, until he perceived by the pimply noses and ruddy faces of the porters, that they merely slept. It was plain, too, from their glasses, in which were still some dregs of wine, that they had fallen asleep while drinking.

The prince made his way into a great courtyard, paved with marble, and mounting the staircase entered the guardroom. Here the guards were lined up on either side in two ranks, their muskets on their shoulders, snoring their hardest. Through several apartments crowded with ladies and gentlemen in waiting, some seated, some standing, but all asleep, he pushed on, and so came at last to a chamber which was decked all over with gold. There he encountered the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Reclining upon a bed, the curtains of which on every side were drawn back, was a princess of seemingly some fifteen or sixteen summers, whose radiant beauty had an almost unearthly luster.

 
 

Woodcut by Walter Crane

 
 

Trembling in his admiration he drew near and went on his knees beside her. At the same moment, the hour of disenchantment having come, the princess awoke, and bestowed upon him a look more tender than a first glance might seem to warrant.

“Is it you, dear prince?” she said. “You have been long in coming!”

Charmed by these words, and especially by the manner in which they were said, the prince scarcely knew how to express his delight and gratification. He declared that he loved her better than he loved himself. His words were faltering, but they pleased the more for that. The less there is of eloquence, the more there is of love.

Her embarrassment was less than his, and that is not to be wondered at, since she had had time to think of what she would say to him. It seems (although the story says nothing about it) that the good fairy had beguiled her long slumber with pleasant dreams. To be brief, after four hours of talking they had not succeeded in uttering one half of the things they had to say to each other…”

Charles Perrault

A Nature Allegory

Engraving by Gustave Doré

 
 

The Sleeping Beauty (French: La Belle au bois dormant The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) by Charles Perrault or Little Briar Rose (German: Dornröschen) by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairy-tale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment of sleep, and a handsome prince. Written as an original literary tale, it was first published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697.The basic elements of Perrault’s narrative are in two parts. Some folklorists believe that they were originally separate tales, as they became afterward in the Grimms’ version, and were joined together by Giambattista Basile (Sole, Luna e Talia), and Perrault following him.

Some folklorists have analyzed Sleeping Beauty as indicating the replacement of the lunar year (with its thirteen months, symbolically depicted by the full thirteen fairies) by the solar year (which has twelve, symbolically the invited fairies). This, however, founders on the issue that only in the Grimms’ tale is the wicked fairy the thirteenth fairy; in Perrault’s, she is the eighth. The basic elements of the story can also be interpreted as a nature allegory: the princess represents nature, the wicked fairy is winter, who puts the Court to sleep with pricks of frost until the prince (spring) cuts away the brambles with his sword (a sunbeam) to allow the Sun to awaken sleeping nature.

The Terror of Lust

“Don’t let yourself die without knowing the wonder of fucking with love.”
Gabriel García Márquez
Memories of My Melancholy Whores

 
 

Wasserschlangen I or Freundinnen I (Water Serpents I), 1904 Gustav Klimt’s painting on the book cover of the English version of 眠れる美女

 
 

House of the Sleeping Beauties is a 1961 novella by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. A story about a lonely man, Old Eguchi, who continuously visits the House of the Sleeping Beauties in hope of something more. As the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima expresses it perfectly in his introduction, this book is a pregnant reflection on ‘the terror of lust by the approach of death.’

Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s last written work, has some similarities to Kawabata’s short novel, which Marquez even quotes in the epigraph:

 

“He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the house warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort.”

 

Kawabata’s book is about an old man who watches sleeping young women and feels himself overwhelmed by desire for them. Marquez’s book is about an even older man who first desires a sleeping young woman, and then feels himself overwhelmed by platonic love. Thus, Marquez inverts Kawabata’s painful yearning into a sentimental fantasy.

And of course he replaces Kawabata’s old man with the typical Marquez protagonist. Marquez protagonists are men who invariably possess amazing virility, miraculous longevity, and larger-than-life charisma. They are never good-looking, but they can always get any woman they want. In this book, the protagonist explains that he had been with 514 different women by the age of fifty. It is also typical for Marquez to give the exact number. It’s not enough for his character to have had great success with the ladies, he has to have had exactly 514 of them. Marquez did this exact thing in Love In The Time Of Cholera, where Florentino Ariza filled some similarly huge number of notebooks with descriptions of his romantic conquests.

In 1982 Gabriel García Márquez wrote a story, Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane, in which Kawabata is specifically alluded to. Seated in the first-class cabin of an airplane crossing the Atlantic beside a young woman of extraordinary beauty who sleeps throughout the flight, García Márquez’s narrator is reminded of Kawabata’s novel. As a work of fiction the “Sleeping Beauty” story is undeveloped, no more than a sketch. Perhaps for this reason, García Márquez feels free to reuse its basic situation —the no longer young admirer side by side with the sleeping girl— in Memories of My Melancholy Whores.

House of the Sleeping Beauties is a study of the activities of eros in the mind of a sensualist of an intensive and self-aware kind, acutely—perhaps morbidly—sensitive to odors and fragrances and nuances of touch, absorbed by the physical uniqueness of the women he is intimate with, prone to brood on images from his sexual past, not afraid to confront the possibility that his attraction toward young women may screen desire for his own daughters, or that his obsession with women’s breasts may originate in infantile memories.

 
 

FILM ADAPTATIONS

 
 

Das Haus der schlafenden Schönen (Vadim Glowna, 2006)

 
 

Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh, 2011). The film is based in part on the novel House of the Sleeping Beauties. In writing the script, Leigh drew from several literary inspirations— Yasunari Kawabata’s novella; Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; a story in The Bible in which King David as an old man spends the evening alongside sleeping virgins; and the eponymous fairytales by Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm. She also noted the phenomenon of images of sleeping girls on the internet, presumably in somnophilia pornography. Mia Wasikowska was originally cast as Lucy but she dropped out when offered the title role in the adaption of Jane Eyre.

The Sleeping Mistress

Le Rêve (The Dream), Pablo Picasso. Portrait of his then 22-years old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is said to have been painted in one afternoon, on 24 January 1932. The erotic content of the painting has been noted repeatedly, with critics pointing out that Picasso painted an erect penis, presumably symbolizing his own, in the upturned face of his model.

 
 

To Lucien Fabre

What heart’s hot secrets is my young girlfriend keeping
in soul that through the mask of flowers must breathe?
What vain food will natural warmth conceive
to make the radiance of woman sleeping?

The breath of dreams and silences is deepening
to peace more forcible than tears may leave
when heavy fullnesses of sleep receive
conspiracies that breast of foe is reaping.

A feared repose of shadows and surrenders
responds with golden gifts of sleep as hers.

A doe extended in its languorous clusters
where soul is lost and busy in infernos:
her form throws out a fluid arm, and musters
a wakefulness to tell me that it knows.

 Paul Valéry

 
 

La Dormeuse or The Sleeper appeared in Paul Valéry’s 1922 Charmes ou poèmes, the collection also containing Le Cimetière marin. La Dormeuse contrasts various aspects of a sleeping mistress: abstract beauty against carnal desire, the woman’s desire for love against the poet’s wish to remain detached and independent, the secrets being consumed by the dreamer just as the body takes nourishment.

The Dream of A Romanian Princess

“De nouveau la guerre. Il y a ici un tel cafard, une angoisse générale qui vient de tout ce qui se dit et répète sur la prochaine occupation de Nice que j’en suis très affecté par contagion et que mon travail est particulièrement difficile. Heureusement je viens de finir presque un tableau commencé il y a un an et que j’ai mené à l’aventure -en somme chacun de mes tableaux est une aventure. D’abord très réaliste, une belle brune dormant sur ma table de marbre au milieu de fruits, est devenue un ange qui dort sur une surface violette -le plus beau violet que j’aie vu, -ses chairs sont de rose de fleur pulpeuse et chaude -et le corsage de sa robe a été remplacé par une blouse roumaine ancienne, d’un bleu pervenche pâle très très doux, une blouse de broderie au petit point vieux rouge qui a dû appartenir à une princesse, avec une jupe d’abord vert émeraude et maintenant d’un noir de jais. Que tu es belle, ma messagère au bois dormant! tes yeux sont des colombes derrière leurs paupières. Et elle rêve d’un prince français prisonnier d’antan dont j’ai lu et relu les poèmes pour en faire un choix. Je me suis toujours méfié de la littérature, mais je ne l’ai pas seulement illustrée, je l’ai soigneusement, amoureusement recopiée, et l’on en trouve l’émerveillement dans mes thèmes.”

 

(“The war, again. We live such dark thoughts, such general anguish, which is fueled by anything which is being said and repeated about the imminent occupation of Nice. This rather affects me adversely and I find it difficult to work. Fortunately I just about finished a painting which I started a year ago and which was quite an adventure, in fact each of my paintings represent an adventure. Above all, very realistic, a beautiful woman with dark hair, who was asleep on my marble table, among the fruit. She had metamorphosed into an angel sleeping on this violet surface – the most beautiful violet colour which I had ever seen – her pink flesh of bulbous hot flowers ; her corsage had been replaced by a Romanian blouse, of ancient design, of a pale, very soft blue, a blouse embroidered with old ochre stitches, which must have belonged to a princess, with an emerald skirt which now was of a black jade. How wonderful you are my sleeping beauty of a messenger – your eyes so like doves behind their closed eyelids. And she dreams of a French prince of yore, whose poems I read and reread in order to set my choice. I was always reticent about literature, but now, not only have I illustrated it, here I have lovingly recopied it, so that you could marvel in my theme.”)

Henri Matisse

 
 

Le rêve (The Dream), Henri Matisse, 1940

 
 

So the great Master, Henri Matisse, now nearly 70, dreams of a Romanian Princess in the guise of a Sleeping Beauty, who was bringing solace during the uncertainties of war and old age. The scene he conjures is borrowed from the pre-war Paris and even much earlier on, from La Belle Epoque, before the First World War, to which Matisse was acquainted in his youth. This was the time when Romanian princesses were mesmerizing the French. They were the ‘Egerias’ of the Parisian intellectual society and there were several of them:

Helene Vacaresco, whose love poems were sung by Tino Rossi (Si tu voulais) and her love life inspired Pierre Loti’s best selling novel L’Exilee and gave the name to a prestigious literary prize ; Le Prix Vacaresco-Femina (now known as the Prix Femina).

Or the much lionized Comtesse de Noailles, nee Princess Brancovan, the first woman to become a Commander of the Legion d’Honneur. Anne de Noailles’s poems were awarded the first Prize of the Academie Francaise, at the turn of the century.

Or her cousin, the Parnassian poetess and hostess Marthe Bibesco, who inspired Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Paul Valéry and Gabrielle D’Anunzio and who attracted to her entourage all the contemporary names that mattered, with the zest of a consummate entomologist, who would pin coleopterans in his prized cabinet.

Or, perhaps the rombustious Elvire Popescu, Countess de Foy, of the Theatre du Colombier and later of the Comedie Francaise, who delighted the public with her appearance in Ma cousine de Varsovie and became known by the endearing sobriquet of “Notre Dame du Theatre”. Popesco played with Sasha Guitry in the Paradis Perdu … Doubtless the Lost paradise was the object of much anxiety for Matisse and his bringing back to life the memory of these etheral Romanian muses in the form of the La Blouse Roumaine was an act of faith.

The war was going to put an end to this fertile liaison between Romania and the Paris Literary and artistic circles as the natural link between Romania and the West was fractured by the Iron Courtain. Now the country was going to live ,for five decades, the dark ages of ideological censorship, imprisonment and extermination.

The gap caused by this withdrawal from the French scene was filled to an extent by a number of exiles, who refused to reintegrate their fallen country, but their zest of life was blunted by the anxieties of sheer survival. On rare occasions, after the Cold War, a Romanian soprano or a ballerina might reappear on the French stage, but, by that time, the fire and the imagination of the public had changed and the impact was no longer the same. Besides, Romania would no longer conjure an image of intellectual excellence, but rather one of inept dehumanising, of the Prison of History. There the Romanian women not only shared their husband’s, brother’s and son’s prisons, but they were further condemned, through their bodies to fulfill the expectation of the “Demiurge”, for population growth… like some interminable genetic experiment of Kafkaesque proportions.

 
 

“An entire people,
Not yet born,
But condemned to birth,
In columns before birth
Foetus beside foetus,
An entire people,
Which does not see, does not hear, does not understand,
But moves forward.
Through writhing bodies of women,
Through the blood of mothers
Unconsulted.”

Ana Blandiana

The Children’s Crusade, 1984

 
 

With it, for nearly half a century the spirit of La Blouse Roumaine suffered a long period of eclipse, but survived to tell the story: these are the voices of Romanian women, which we bring about in this Anthology – some famous, other infamous, and most of them with the unconscious freshness of the unknown heroines – simple peasant farmers who languished in Siberian camps, pastor’s wives who suffered for their religious beliefs, self-effacing wives who were sent to concentration camps to expiate the politics of their husbands, or for no other sin than for having edited their spouse’s work – women, who in the normal course of events would have passed through life unnoticed, but whose torment under a genocidal regime, brought them to the fore of their country’s consciousness, for their bravery, their lyrical expression of their suffering, women who had to be buried under an assumed name, many others whose bodies were thrown in an unmarked, common grave – The names of these heroines are countless but their roll call, deserves our attention.

After Ceausescu’s demise the image of La Blouse Roumaine gradually came back into its own, slowly, like the awakening from a surreal nightmare: is the transition real? Is it for true? Is the past going to repeat itself?

Are the Romanian women, one may ask, going to regain their glittering reputation, which they had enjoyed before the war? For now, the answer is not simple and the road is tortuous. The only reputation which so far seems to have gained currency in the West was sadly one of poverty and desperation, which pushed the statistics of the young women from the “Balkan Vortex” to high levels of prostitution. Long after Ceausescu was put down, Ceausescu’s children who were once “condemned to birth” are now destined to begging for their subsistence, by selling their bodies…
It will take a while before The Sleeping Beauty of Matisse’s canvass will wake up to enchant the world stage, once again.

This day will come, but in the meanwhile the princess from La Blouse Roumaine will keep vigil that this dream may come true, like the angel enjoined by the French Master, in his war-time diary..

A Glimmer of Optimism

Drawings, and Sketches by Henri Matisse

 
 

Portrait of Tamara or danseuse au repos, 1939

 
 

Danseuse assise, 1939

 
 

Still Life with sleeping woman, 1940

 
 

One may well ask, as Henri Matisse was best known for his models being clad in Moroccan or Parisian attire, rather then in Romanian ethnic dress or better still, not clad at all… So, why a Romanian Blouse, out of the blue?

Looking at some of Matisses’s earlier works one could discern the idea in the blouse of the 1939 dancer “Une danseuse au repos”, showing a seated woman wearing a Romanian blouse. Likewise, another of Matisse’s paintings, “Still Life with sleeping woman” , now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC . The sitter is a woman wearing an embroidered long-sleeve blouse, decorated on the upper part of the sleeve similarly to the Romanian blouses. An even earlier version, with prevailing greens appears in 1937. So, from these and other examples, one could suggest unequivocally, that the idea was not new in the artist’s mind. However, what was new on this occasion, in 1940, was that the Romanian Blouse  had become central to the subject, forcing it on ‘front stage’ and giving it a specific, named identity. The canvass must have been discussed, if not prompted by the visit of an old friend the Romanian painter Theodor Pallady (1871-1956), whose portrait was sketched by Matisse, in Nice, in 1940. The friendship between Matisse and the Romanian Pallady went back to their time together at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris (1891-1900). Throughout their long correspondence a close affinity developed between the French and the Romanian painter. Quite apart from the closeness in style and demeanor, the two friends shared a great complicity, amongst which the image of Romanian muses, much in view in 20th century France, was a recurring subject. In his correspondence, Matisse would accompany his letters by sketches and would use Pallady as a sounding board, sometimes talking about his artistic and personal anxieties.

In this context, the theme of the Romanian Blouse becomes more significant. It was painted in 1940, during one of the darkest periods of the war, which the country had experienced under Nazi occupation. Matisse was soon going to abandon Nice, which was being bombed by German planes, for the relative security of the ‘arriere-pays’, in Vence. Reading some of the artist’s diaries of that period one could detect that the cheerfulness of the Romanian Blouse was acting like an antidote, as it represented a glimmer of optimism and of hope.

 

 

La Blouse Roumaine, Henri Matisse, 1940. The inspiration for the painting seems to have been Elvira Popescu, Elena Văcărescu, Anna de Noailles and Marthe Bibesco.

 

The Romanian Blouse

Queen Marie of Romania

 
 

The main piece of the Romanian national dress is the blouse, the term being only attributed to the blouse worn by women. It is actually a Romanian traditional blouse worn on festive days, which is made of white cloth, cotton, flax or raw silk tissue, adorned with beads and embroideries on the sleeves and the neckline. The technique of adorning this blouse was handed down from mother to daughter, a fact that preserved the tradition and taste from one generation to another. The patterns are stylized, geometrical or inspired from nature.

In the course of time, the finesse of the materials that were used, the chromatic harmony, but also the cut of the pieces of the Romanian national dress, which were woven, cut and embroidered by hand, were appreciated by Romania’s Queens Elisabeta and Marie, but also by the women aristocrats of the time, who were proud to wear the Romanian national dress at various times.

 
 

The first Blouse Roumaine prototype is considered to be created starting the 6th century B.C in Cucuteni culture. The ancient piece was called “ie”. The name derived from Latin “tunicae linae” which means thin tunic.

 
 

The sewing process of a blouse roumaine. The tradition of manufacturing the blouse is still kept among very rare artisans who are living on forgotten lands of ancient romanian villages.

 
 

Revolutionary Romania (portrait of Maria Rosetti), Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, 1848

 
 

On the other hand, the Romanian blouse caught the artists’ eye and was immortalized by French painter Henri Matisse in several paintings, one of them, La Blouse roumaine (1940), being exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris. A Romanian painter, Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, immortalized Maria Rosetti (the sister of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as William Michael Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti) in Revolutionary Romania as wearing this kind of blouse and a head kerchief. The Romanian blouse also appears in the paintings made by Camil Ressu, Ion Theodorescu-Sion, Francisc Sirato, Nicolae Tonitza, Dumitru Ghiata, etc.

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent, 1981 Collection

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent, Spring/Summer 1997-1998

 
 

Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent

 
 

Jean-Paul Gaultier

 
 

Oscar De la Renta

 
 

Matthew Williamson

 
 

Adele wearing a Tom Ford blouse (spring summer 2011 collection)

 
 

Carolina Herrera Resort 2013 Collection

 
 

The Romanian blouse was equally the source of inspiration for the creation of some fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, who in 1981 had an entire collection titled ‘La Blouse roumaine,’ followed by Jean Paul Gaultier, Kenzo or Tom Ford, who interpreted again the traditional blouse he found in the region of Sibiu (central Romania), with black embroidery specific to that area, which appeared in the American issue of Vogue magazine in March 2012, worn by singer Adele. Then there were Oscar de la Renta, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Anna Sui or Philippe Guilet. Some of the Romanian fashion designers that took their inspiration from the Romanian national dress are Adrian Oianu, Dorin Negrau, Corina Vladescu and Ingrid Vlasov.

Matisse-Inspired Fashion


Long evening dresses inspired by Henri Matisse-inspired evening gowns by Yves Saint Laurent, Autumn/Winter 1980-1981 collection. Black velvet and moire faille, multicolored satin applique leaves

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent Couture Spring/Summer 1992 (Une Renaissance, based on Henri Matisse’s colors in Morocco)

 
 

Lady Gaga wearing a vintage Yves Saint Laurent blouse (Autumn/Winter 1980-1981 collection)

 
 

Vintage 1980’s Valentino Sheer Silk Georgette Jacket with Hood

 
 

Vivienne Westwood Nostalgia of Mud (Buffalo Girls) collection printed cotton jersey toga dress, Autumn/Winter, 1982-1983. World’s End labelled, the pink gown cut shorter at the front and with long train-like panel printed in dark brown with Matisse inspired motifs

 
 

Vera Wang Spring/Summer 2006 (inspired by the way Henri Matisse’s models dressed)

 
 

Etro Spring/Summer 2006

 
 

Carolina Herrera Spring-Summer 2010 Bridal collection. Wedding dress inspired by Matisse’s paper cut outs

 
 

Roland Mouret Spring/Summer 2012 (inspired in part by the women close to Henri Matisse)

 
 

Basso & Brooke Autumn/Winter 2012-2013

 
 

Kenzo by Antonio Marras

 
 

Printed leather trainers, also by Kenzo

 
 

Fendi Spy Bag

 
 

Jean-Claude Jitrois

 
 

Issey Miyake

 
 

Ostwald Helgason s/s 2013

 
 

 Liu Qingyang

 
 

Versace, Spring Summer 2012 Resort collection. Vacation dresses in a tropical print inspired by Matisse’s Bouquet

 
 

Tata Naka Autumn/Winter 2014-2015 Pre Collection