There Are Truths

“There are truths which one can only say after having won the right to say them.”
Jean Cocteau

 

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The Ghost of the Rose

“Soulève ta paupière close
Qu’effleure un songe virginal ;
Je suis le spectre d’une rose
Que tu portais hier au bal.
Tu me pris encore emperlée
Des pleurs d’argent de l’arrosoir,
Et parmi la fête étoilée
Tu me promenas tout le soir.

Ô toi qui de ma mort fus cause,
Sans que tu puisses le chasser
Toute la nuit mon spectre rose
A ton chevet viendra danser.
Mais ne crains rien, je ne réclame
Ni messe, ni De Profundis ;
Ce léger parfum est mon âme
Et j’arrive du paradis.

Mon destin fut digne d’envie :
Pour avoir un trépas si beau,
Plus d’un aurait donné sa vie,
Car j’ai ta gorge pour tombeau,
Et sur l’albâtre où je repose
Un poète avec un baiser
Ecrivit : Ci-gît une rose
Que tous les rois vont jalouser”

Théophile Gautier

 

_____________________________

 

“Open your closed eyelid
Which is gently brushed by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of the rose
That you wore last night at the ball.
You took me when I was still sprinkled with pearls
Of silvery tears from the watering-can,
And, among the sparkling festivities,
You carried me the entire night.

O you, who caused my death:
Without the power to chase it away,
You will be visited every night by my ghost,
Which will dance at your bedside.
But fear nothing; I demand
Neither Mass nor De Profundis;
This mild perfume is my soul,
And I’ve come from Paradise.

My destiny is worthy of envy;
And to have a fate so fine,
More than one would give his life
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster where I rest,
A poet with a kiss
Wrote: “Here lies a rose,
Of which all kings may be jealous.”

 

Illustrations by Jean Cocteau, 1912.Le Spectre de la rose is a short ballet about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the spirit of a souvenir rose from her first ball.

 

In 1911, Ballet Russes producer Sergei Diaghilev hoped to present Vaslav Nijinsky‘s ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune. It was not ready for the stage, so he needed another ballet to take its place. That ballet was the idea of writer Jean-Louis Vaudoyer. In 1910, he had sent an idea for a ballet to Ballets Russes set and costume designer Léon Bakst. His idea was based on Le Spectre de la rose, a verse by Théophile Gautier, and Afforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance), a work for piano by Carl Maria von Weber. Diaghilev liked Vaudoyer’s idea. He thought it could easily take the place of Faune. He put Vaudoyer’s idea into development at once. Diaghilev liked the idea of a ballet based on Gautier’s Spectre because it could be tied to the centennial of Gautier’s birth. Michel Fokine choreographed the ballet to the music of Carl Maria von Weber’s piano piece as orchestrated by Hector Berlioz in 1841. The little ballet became one of the most loved productions of the Ballets Russes.

 

 

Nijinsky’s silk elastic costume was covered with silk rose petals. Nijinsky was stitched into the costume for every show. After every show, the wardrobe mistress would touch up the petals with her curling iron.

Nijinsky’s make-up was an important part of the costume design. Romula de Pulszky, later to be his wife, wrote that he looked like “a celestial insect, his eyebrows suggesting some beautiful beetle”. Peter Ostwald writes that Nijinsky’s costume was like a ballerina’s.

Sometimes, petals would become loose and fall to the stage floor. Nijinsky’s servant Vasili would collect the petals and sell them as souvenirs. It was said that he built a large house called Le Château du Spectre de la Rose with the profits from the sale of the petals.

 

 

The ballet was first presented in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Tamara Karsavina danced The Young Girl. It was a great success. Spectre became internationally famous for the spectacular leap Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet’s end.

Many dancers have attempted to match Nijinsky as The Rose, but have failed. After all, the ballet had been designed for Nijinsky’s very special talents.

 

 

It was one of the first ballets Rudolph Nureyev danced in the West after leaving Russia. This was for German television in 1961. He first danced The Rose on stage (24 times) in New York City for the Joffrey Ballet’s Diaghilev program in 1979. Spectre de la Rose was the last ballet Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn danced together. That was in June 1979, when the ballerina was 60. He danced The Rose in Paris in 1981 and 1982, and last danced the part in August 1987 at the London Coliseum with the Nancy Ballet.

Nijinsky in Six Verses and Six Drawings

“Apollon tient le fil au bout duquel il pend.

Nègre de la Sultane, il vole en s’échappant,

Et le décor a l’air de la traîne d’un paon.

Il lance, Hermès rempli de mystérieux zèles,

Des fleurs qu’on ne voit pas pour courir après elles

Et charge tous les cœurs sur d’invisibles ailes !”

Jean Cocteau

 

_______________________________

 

“Apollo holds the thread on which he is hanging
Black of the Sultan, he flies while escaping
And the decorated peacock tail appears in the air
He, like Hermes, filled of mysterious fervor
Throws flowers that no one can see to running after them
And he carries all the hearts on his invisible wings”

 


Vaslav Nijinsky, a portfolio of six ink drawings by Paul Iribe with a few lines of appended verse by Jean Cocteau, 1910

Evoking The Afternoon of A Faun

“Nijinsky has never been so remarkable as in his latest role. No more jumps – nothing but half-conscious animal gestures and poses. He lies down, leans on his elbow, walks with bent knees, draws himself up, advancing and retreating, some-times slowly, sometimes with jerky angular movements. His eyes flicker, he stretches his arms, he opens his hands out flat, the fingers together, and as he turns away his head he continues to express his desire with a deliberate awkwardness that seems natural. Form and meaning are indissolubly wedded in his body, which is totally expressive of the mind within… His beauty is that of antique frescoes and sculptures: he is the ideal model, whom one longs to draw and sculpt.”

Auguste Rodin

 

Programme illustration by Léon Bakst for the ballet

 

The ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun)was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes and first performed in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 29 May 1912. On the opening night the ballet was met with a mixture of applause and booing, and again it was repeated. Now the audience applauded, and Auguste Rodin in the audience stood up to cheer.

Nijinsky danced the main part himself. As its score it used the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Claude Debussy. Both the music and the ballet were inspired by the poem L’Après-midi d’un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. The painter Odilon Redon, friend of Mallarmé, suggested how much the poet would have approved, “more than anyone, he would have appreciated this wonderful evocation of his thoughts.”

 

 

The costumes and sets were designed by the painter Léon BakstL’Après-midi d’un Faune is considered one of the first modern ballets and proved to be as controversial as Nijinsky’s Jeux (1913) and Le Sacre du printemps (1913).

The style of the ballet, in which a young faun meets several nymphs, flirts with them and chases them, was deliberately archaic. In the original scenography designed by Léon Bakst, the dancers were presented as part of a large tableau, a staging reminiscent of an ancient Greek vase painting. They often moved across the stage in profile as if on a bas relief. The ballet was presented in bare feet and rejected classical formalism. The work had an overtly erotic subtext beneath its façade of Greek antiquity, ending with a scene of graphic sexual desire.

The ballet was developed as a possible new production for the Ballets Russes founded by Sergei Diaghilev. Most of the dances performed by the company were choreographed by Michel Fokine, who had worked as a choreographer with the Imperial Russian Ballet, from which all the different specialists for the new ballet company had come. Initially the Ballet Russes took advantage of the 3 months summer break, when the Imperial ballet closed and its staff were free to do other things, to stage ballet and opera in Paris. Diaghilev was looking around for an alternative to the style which Fokine customarily delivered and decided to allow his senior male dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky, to try his hand at choreography.

 

Menelaus intending to strike Helen is struck by her beauty instead. Louvre museum, Campana collection acquired 1861

 

The original idea was developed by Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Bakst and was inspired by the artwork on ancient Greek vases and Egyptian and Assyrian frescoes which they viewed in the Louvre museum. Bakst had already worked with Vsevolod Meyerhold, an innovative theatre producer and director who had introduced concepts like two-dimensionality, stylized postures, a narrow stage, pauses and pacing to emphasise significant moments, into his productions. Ninjinsky’s aim was to reproduce the stylised look of the ancient artworks on the stage. In his portrayal of the faun, Nijinsky managed to reproduce exactly the figure of a satyr shown on Greek vases in the Louvre. Such concepts appear transferred to ballet.

Jean Cocteau helped to explain the Mallarmé poem (Nijinsky spoke little French) and with developing a scenario for the ballet. The music by Debussy already existed in a fully orchestrated form. After the summer season in Paris, Nijinsky returned to St Petersburg for the new Russian season and there started to work on the choreography with the help of his sister, Bronislava Nijinska, who was herself a senior dancer and who later choreographed her own ballets for Ballets Russes. Nijinsky was much excited about the project.

 

Cartoon by Daniel de Losques published in Le Figaro, 30 May 1912

 

Nijinsky as the Faun, illustrations by George Barbier, 1913

 

Baron de Meyer  published a book of photographs of the ballet

 

The nymph dance in the dream sequence of the film Sunnyside (Charlie Chaplin, 1919) has been recognized as being a tribute to the ballet

 

A pastiche of the ballet (choreographed by the then leader of the Royal Ballet, Wayne Eagling, a friend of Mercury who had helped him before with the choreography of the Bohemian Rhapsody) forms part of the music video for Queen’s single I Want to Break Free (David Mallet, 1984). Freddie Mercury dances the role of the faun, with dancers from the Royal Ballet also performing, including Jeremy Sheffield. Mercury shaved his trademark moustache to portray Vaslav Nijinsky as a faun in the ballet L’après-midi d’un faune.

 

Queen’s video can be seen on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Testament of Orpheus

Photos by Lucien Clergue

 

Le testament d’Orphée is a 1960 film directed by and starring Jean Cocteau. It is considered the final part of the Orphic Trilogy, following The Blood of a Poet (1930) and Orphée (1950). In the cast are Charles Aznavour, Lucia Bosé, María Casares, Nicole Courcel, Luis Miguel Dominguín, Daniel Gélin, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Serge Lifar, Jean Marais, François Périer and Françoise Sagan.

It also includes cameo appearances by Pablo Picasso and Yul Brynner. The film is in black-and-white, with just a few seconds of color film spliced in.

The Blood of A Poet

Stills from The Blood of A Poet (Jean Cocteau, 1930), starring by Chilean actor Enrique Riveros as the poet

 

Le Sang d’un Poète is the first avant-garde film directed by Jean Cocteau. Photographer Lee Miller made her only film appearance in this movie, which features an appearance by the famed aerialist Barbette. It is the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, which is continued in Orphée (1950) and concludes with Testament of Orpheus (1960).

The Blood of a Poet is divided into four sections. In section one, an artist sketches a face and is startled when its mouth starts moving. He rubs out the mouth, only to discover that it has transferred to the palm of his hand. After experimenting with the hand for a while and falling asleep, the artist awakens and places the mouth over the mouth of a female statue.

In section two, the statue speaks to the artist, cajoling him into passing through a mirror. The mirror links to a hotel and the artist peers through several keyholes, witnessing such people as an opium smoker and a hermaphrodite. The artist is handed a gun and a disembodied voice instructs him how to shoot himself in the head. He shoots himself but does not die. The artist cries out that he has seen enough and returns through the mirror. He smashes the statue with a mallet.

In the third section, some students are having a snowball fight. An older boy throws a snowball at a younger boy, but the snowball turns out to be a chunk of marble. The young boy dies from the impact.

In the final section, a card shark plays a game with a woman on a table set up over the body of the dead boy. A theatre party looks on. The card shark extracts an Ace of Hearts from the dead boy’s breast pocket. The boy’s guardian angel appears and absorbs the dead boy. He also removes the Ace of Hearts from the card shark’s hand and retreats up a flight of stairs and through a door. Realizing he has lost, the card shark commits suicide as the theatre party applauds. The woman player transforms into the formerly smashed statue and walks off through the snow, leaving no footprints. In the film’s final moments the statue is shown with a lyre.

Intercut through the film, oneiric images appear, including spinning wire models of a human head and rotating double-sided masks.

The Blood of a Poet was funded by Charles de Noailles, who gave Cocteau 1,000,000 francs to make it. Cocteau invited the Vicomte and his wife Marie-Laure de Noailles, along with several of their friends, to appear in a scene as a theatre party. In the scene, they talked amongst themselves and, on cue, began applauding. Upon seeing the completed film, they were horrified to learn that they were applauding a game of cards that ended with a suicide, which had been filmed separately. They refused to let Cocteau release the film with their scene included, so Cocteau re-shot it with the famed female impersonator Barbette and some extras.

Shortly after its completion, rumors began to circulate that the film contained an anti-Christian message. This, combined with the riotous reception of another controversial Noailles-produced film, L’Âge d’Or (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, 1930), led to Charles de Noailles’ expulsion from the famous Jockey-Club de Paris, and he was even threatened with excommunication by the Catholic Church. The furor caused the release of The Blood of a Poet to be delayed for over a year.

 

To watch this movie, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Awakening

Sailors, by George Platt-Lynes

“Grave mouths of lions
Sinuous smiling of young crocodiles
Along the river’s water conveying millions
Isles of spice
How lovely he is, the son
Of the widowed queen
And the sailor
The handsome sailor abandons a siren,
Her widow’s lament at the south of the islet
It’s Diana of the barracks yard
Too short a dream
Dawn and lanterns barely extinguished
We are awakening
A tattered fanfare”

Jean Cocteau

Hôtel Biron

Auguste Rodin photographed on the steps of the Hôtel Biron, Paris

First opened to the public on 4 August 1919, the Musée Rodin was housed in a mansion, formerly called the Hôtel Peyrenc de Moras. Now known as the Hôtel Biron, it was built in the Rue de Varenne, Paris, between 1727 and 1732.

 
 

Elevation of the façade of Mrs. De Moras’s mansion on the garden side

 
 

 L’Hôtel Biron, côté jardin, Charles Berthelomier, circa 1910
 

 

The estate was put up for sale and while awaiting a buyer, tenants were allowed to occupy the Hôtel Biron from 1905. Among them were several artists, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963),  Henri Matisse, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the sculptress Clara Westhoff (1878-1954), future wife of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1921), who first told Auguste Rodin about the estate. In 1908, the sculptor thus rented four south-facing, ground-floor rooms opening onto the terrace, to use as his studios. The garden that had run wild probably made a strong impression on Rodin, encouraging him to place some of his works and part of his collection of antiques amidst its greenery. From 1911 onwards, he occupied the entire building.

Listed as a historical monument in 1926, the Hôtel Biron and its grounds have since undergone major renovation and restoration schemes, to better assert their role as a museum.

 

At Apollinaire’s Grave

At Apollinaire’s Grave (Nic Saunders, 2011) Short film Poster

Haunted by his past, The Poet travels to Paris determined to follow in the footsteps of his literary heroes. What he finds there will change his life and work forever. Allen Ginsberg wrote the source poetry at The Beat Hotel, 9 rue Git-le-Coeur, Paris and the exterior of the hotel is actually used in the film.  This is the second film directed by Nic Saunders based on the work of a member of the Beat Generation.

 
 

“…voici le temps

Oú l’on connaîtra l’avenir

Sans mourir de connaissance

 
 

I

I visited Père Lachaise to look for the remains of Apollinaire

the day the U.S. President appeared in France for the grand

conference of heads of state

so let it be the airport at blue Orly a springtime clarity in the

air over Paris

Eisenhower winging in from his American graveyard

and over the froggy graves at Père Lachaise an illusory mist as

thick as marijuana smoke

Peter Orlovsky and I walked softly thru Père Lachaise we both

knew we would die

and so held temporary hands tenderly in a citylike miniature

eternity

Roads and streetsigns rocks and hills and names on everybody’s

house

Looking for the lost address of a notable Frenchman of the Void

to pay our tender crime of homage to his helpless menhir

and lay my temporary American Howl on top of his silent Caligramme

for him to read between the lines with Xray eyes of Poet

as he by miracle had read his own death lyric in the Seine

I hope some wild kidmonk lays his pamphlet on my grave for

God to read me on cold winter nights in heaven

already our hands have vanished from that place my hand

writes now in a room in Paris Git-le-Coeur

Ah William what grit in the brain you had what’s death

I walked all over the cementery and still couldn’t find your grave

what did you mean by that fantastic cranial bandage in your

poems

O solemn deathsead what’ve you got to say nothing

and that’s barely an answer

You can’t drive autos into a sixfoot grave tho the universe is

mausoleum big enough for anything

the universe is a graveyard and I walk around alone in here

knowing that Apollinaire was on the same street 50 years ago

madness is only around the corner and Genet is with us

stealing books

the West is at war again and whose lucid suicide will set it all right

Guillaume Guillaume how I envy your fame your accomplishment

for American letters

your Zone with its long crazy line of bullshit about death

come out of the grave and talk thru the door of my mind

issue new series of images oceanic haikus blue taxicabs in Moscow

negroes statues of Buddha

pray for me on the phonograph record of your former existence

with a long sad voice and strophes of deep sweet music sad and

scratchy as World War I

I’ve eaten the blue carrots you sent out of the grave and Van

Gogh’s ear and maniac peyote of Artaud

and will walk down the streets of New York in the black cloak

of French poetry

improvising our conversation in Paris at Père Lachaise

and the future poem that takes its inspiration from the light

bleeding into your grave

 
 

II

Here in Paris I am your guest O friendly shade

the absent hand of Max Jacob

Picasso in youth bearing me a tube of Mediterranean

myself attending Rousseau’s old red banquet I ate his violin

great party at the Bateau Lavoir not mentioned in the

textbooks of Algeria

Tzara in the Bois de Boulogne explaining the alchemy of the

machineguns of the cuckoos

he weeps translating me into Swedish

well dressed in a violet tie and black pants

 a sweet purple beard which emerged from his face like the moss

hanging from the walls of Anarchism

he spoke endlessly of his quarrels with André Breton

whom he had helped one day trim his golden mustache

old Blaise Cendrars  received me into his study and spoke

wearily of the enormous length of Siberia

Jacques Vaché invited me to inspect his terrible collection of

pistols

poor Cocteau saddened by the once marvelous Radiguet at his

last thought I fainted

Rigaut with a letter of introduction to Death

and Gide praised the telephone and other remarkable inventions

we agreed in principle though he gossiped of lavender underwear

but for all that he drank deeply of the grass of Whitman and

was intrigued by all lovers named Colorado

princes of America arriving with their armfuls of shrapnel and

baseball

Oh Guillaume the world so easy to fight seemed so easy

did you know the great political classicists would invade Montparnasse

with not one sprig of prophetic laurel to green their foreheads

not one pulse of green in their pillows no leaf left from their

wars‒‒ Mayakovsky arrived and revolted.

 
 

III

Came back sat on a tomb and stared at your rough menhir

a piece of thin granite like an unfinished phallus

a cross fading into the rock 2 poems on the stone one Coeur

Renversée

Other Habituez-vous comme moi A ces prodigies que j’annonce

Guillaume Apollinaire de Krostrowitsky

Someone placed a jam bottle filled with daisies and a 5&10₵

surrealist typist ceramic rose happy little tomb with flowers and overturned heart

under a fine mossy tree beneath which I sat snaky trunk

summer boughs and leaves umbrella over the menhir and nobody there

et quelle voix sinistre ulule Guillaume qu’es-tu devenu

his nextdoor neighbor is a tree

there underneath the crossed bones heaped and yellow cranium

perhaps

and the printed poems Alcools in my pocked his voice in the

museum

now middleage footsteps walk the gravel

a man stares at the name and moves toward the crematory

building

Same sky rolls over thru clouds as Mediterranean days on the

Riviera during war

drinking Apollo in love eating occasional opium he’d taken the

light

one must have felt the shock in St. Germain when he went out

Jacob & Picasso coughing in the dark

a bandage unrolled and the skull left still on a bed outstretched

pudgy fingers the mistery and ego gone

a bell tolls in the steeple down the street birds warble in the

chestnut trees

Family Bremont sleeps nearby Christ hangs big chested and

sexy in their tomb

my cigarette smokes in my lap and fills the page with smoke

and flames

an ant runs over my corduroy sleeve the tree I lean on grows

slowly

bushes and branches upstarting through the tombs one silky

spiderweb gleaming on granite

I am buried here and sit by my grave beneath a tree

Allen Ginsberg

Paris, Winter-Spring 1958

 
 

To watch the trailer of At Apollinaire’s Grave, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Between The Fauvists and The Cubists

Portrait of Jean Cocteau, Marie Laurencin, 1921

 
 

MARIE LAURENCIN

Entre les fauves et les cubistes
Prise au piège, petite biche
Une pelouse, des amémies
Pâlissent le nez des amies
France, jeune fille nombreuse
Clara d’Ellébeuse
Sophie Fichini
Bientôt la guerre sera finie
Pour que se cabre un doux bétail
Aux volets de votre éventail
Vive la France!

Jean Cocteau

 
 

__________________________

 
 

“Between the Fauvists and the Cubists
caught in the trap, little doe
a lawn, anaemic afflictions
pale the noses of the friends
France, numerous young lady
Clara d’Ellébeuse
Sophie Fichini
Soon the war will be over
for a gentle cattle to rear up
in the winglets of your fan
Long live France!”