Two Fashion Icons Colliding

Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss, photographed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris

 
 

In Vanity Fair February 2014 issue, Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss appeared in their first portrait together, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and text by James Fox. It’s hard to believe it hadn’t happened before. Two fashion icons colliding: one French, one British. One actress, one model. One a symbol of 60s and 70s glamour, one of 80s and 90s punk grunge. Yet something inherently stylish and historic draws them together. David Bailey introduced them.

According to the text by Fox, Even for Paris, This Was Impressive:

“They look as if they were emerging at dawn from a party, waiting to go home, these two apparently ageless, beautiful women. Consummate artists in front of a camera, they look at it as if they knew you—with a hint of humor at the imposition of the photograph. It is their first portrait together: Catherine Deneuve at 70 and Kate Moss at 40. Their separate images have illuminated the cultural landscape for decades—Deneuve with her great classic roles in the cinema, from the early Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) and Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) to the more than 100 other films she has made, and also as a living symbol of French style; Moss with her unparalleled domination of fashion, who turned modeling into a high art and became the chief inspiration for 25 years to many of the world’s top designers and photographers. The picture was shot on a Paris balcony; the two women had hooked up in Japan some weeks earlier at a “timeless muses” exhibition, dedicated in part to them. A joint photograph had long been in Moss’s mind. “We’d kind of talked about it before,” she says, “but really I just wanted to meet her. I’d finished a shoot with David Bailey [the photographer, Deneuve’s former husband], and he was speaking about her, and we laughed about that. And we hit it off. She’s amazing, beautiful and chic and everything I want to be, also as a woman growing old gracefully and with such class. So I was over the moon that she liked me and wanted to do the pictures.”

 
 

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The Ice Maiden

Catherine Deneuve first portrayed the cold but erotic persona, for which she would be nicknamed the “ice maiden”, in Roman Polanski‘s suspense classic Repulsion (1965), reinforcing it in Luis Buñuel‘s Belle de Jour (1967), and reaching a peak in Tristana (1970).

Venus in Furs

“Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells, please don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”

Lou Reed

Venus in Furs

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

 
 

Fanny Pistor (in furs, with whip) and Sacher-Masoch

 
 

On 9 December 1869, Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch and his mistress Baroness Fanny Pistor signed a contract making him her slave for a period of six months, with the stipulation that the Baroness wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood. Sacher-Masoch took the alias of “Gregor”, a stereotypical male servant’s name, and assumed a disguise as the servant of the Baroness. The two traveled by train to Italy. As in Venus in Furs, he traveled in the third-class compartment, while she had a seat in first-class, arriving in Venice (Florence, in the novel), where they were not known, and would not arouse suspicion.

 
 

The Titian painting Venus with a Mirror (1555), from which Severin gets the idea of “Venus in furs”

 
 

Sacher-Masoch is the great-great-uncle to the British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull on the side of her mother, the Viennese Baroness Eva Erisso

 
 

The novel Venus in Furs was to be part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of CainVenus in Furs was also part of Love, the first volume of the series. It was published in 1870

 
 

The framing story concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break him of his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man.

This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he asks to be her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin a bit she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so.

Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality. Severin and Wanda travel to Florence. Along the way, Severin takes the generic Russian servant’s name of “Gregor” and the role of Wanda’s servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of African women to dominate him.

The relationship arrives at a crisis when Wanda herself meets a man to whom she would like to submit, a Byronic hero known as Alexis Papadopolis. At the end of the book, Severin, humiliated by Wanda’s new lover, loses the desire to submit. He says of Wanda:

That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.

 
 

 
 

The book inspired Venus in Fur, a 2010 play set in the modern day by David Ives, which had its Off-Broadway premiere at the Classic Stage Company in New York City starring Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley. In February 2012, a new Broadway production of this play premiered at the Lyceum Theatre starring Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy. In late 2012, Roman Polanski directed a film adaptation of the play starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric.

 
 

Still from Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)

 
 

The name of Catherine Deneuve’s character, Séverine, is a femininization of the name of the male protagonist of Baron von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Severin. As the literary origin of the term masochism, Sacher-Masoch, along with his 1870 novel, no doubt presented an irresistible reference point for Joseph Kessel, the author of the 1928 novel Belle de Jour, on which the film is based.

 

Love and Sleep with the Friend of Many Things

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (from Greek hýpnos, ‘sleep’, éros, ‘love’, and máchē, ‘fight’), called in English Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream or The Dream of Poliphilus. The book has long been sought after as one of the most beautiful incunabula ever printed. It is actually anonymous, but an acrostic formed by the first, elaborately decorated letter in each chapter in the original Italian reads POLIAM FRATER FRANCISCVS COLVMNA PERAMAVIT, “Brother Francesco Colonna has dearly loved Polia.”, that’s why this romance is said to be by Francesco Colonna.

First published in Venice in 1499 by Aldo Manutius, in an elegant page layout, with refined woodcut illustrations in an Early Renaissance style, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili presents a mysterious arcane allegory in which Poliphilo pursues his love Polia through a dreamlike landscape, and is, seemingly, at last reconciled with her by the Fountain of Venus.

 
 

 
 

The book is illustrated with 168 exquisite woodcuts showing the scenery, architectural settings, and some of the characters Poliphilo encounters in his dreams. They depict scenes from Poliphilo’s adventures, or the architectural features over which the text rhapsodizes, in a simultaneously stark and ornate line art style which perfectly integrates with the type. These images are also interesting because they shed light on what people in the Renaissance fancied about the alleged æsthetic qualities of Greek and Roman antiquities.

The typography is famous for its quality and clarity, in a roman typeface cut by Francesco Griffo, a revised version of a type which Aldus had first used in 1496 for the De Aetna of Pietro Bembo. The type was revived by the Monotype Corporation in 1923 as Poliphilus. Another revival, of the earlier version of Griffo’s type, was completed under the direction of Stanley Morison in 1929 as Bembo. The type is thought to be one of the first examples of the italic typeface, and unique to the Aldine Press in incunabula.

The psychologist Carl Jung admired the book, believing the dream images presaged his theory of archetypes. The style of the woodcut illustrations had a great influence on late-nineteenth-century English illustrators, such as Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Crane, and Robert Anning Bell.

 
 

 
 

The story begins with Poliphilo, who has spent a restless night because his beloved, Polia (literally “Many Things”), shunned him. Poliphilo is transported into a wild forest, where he gets lost, encounters dragons, wolves and maidens and a large variety of architecture, escapes, and falls asleep once more.

He then awakens in a second dream, dreamed within the first. In the dream, he is taken by some nymphs to meet their queen, and there he is asked to declare his love for Polia, which he does. He is then directed by two nymphs to three gates. He chooses the third, and there he discovers his beloved. They are taken by some more nymphs to a temple to be engaged. Along the way they come across five triumphal processions celebrating the union of the lovers. Then they are taken to the island of Cythera by barge, with Cupid as the boatswain; there they see another triumphal procession celebrating their union. The narrative is interrupted, and a second voice takes over, as Polia describes his erotomachia from her own point of view.

 
 

 
 

Poliphilo resumes his narrative after one-fifth of the book. Polia rejects Poliphilo, but Cupid appears to her in a vision and compels her to return and kiss Poliphilo, who has fallen into a deathlike swoon at her feet, back to life. Venus blesses their love, and the lovers are united at last. As Poliphilo is about to take Polia into his arms, Polia vanishes into thin air and Poliphilo wakes up.

The book is briefly mentioned in The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532–34) by François Rabelais: “Far otherwise did heretofore the sages of Egypt, when they wrote by letters, which they called hieroglyphics, which none understood who were not skilled in the virtue, property, and nature of the things represented by them. Of which Orus Apollon hath in Greek composed two books, and Polyphilus, in his Dream of Love, set down more…” (Book 1, Ch. 9.)

The 1993 novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte mentions the 1545 edition of the Hypnerotomachia (Ch. 3). The book is again mentioned in Roman Polanski‘s 1999 film, The Ninth Gate, based loosely on Pérez-Reverte’s novel (this time, by its Italian title, “La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo“).

Alice in the Land of Letters

Typographic Poster Design from the book Alice aux pays des lettres (Alice in the Land of Letters), Roland Topor

 
 

It’s raining and Alice (Lewis Carroll’s famous heroine) lies on a couch attempting to read. She closes her eyes and falls asleep. When she wakes up, they are Roland Topor’s eyes that open instead of her own. Then begins a plot twist which transforms into a universe made up of dreamed images, like a theater of paper inhabited by disturbing, bizarre, ridiculous or cruel characters. This is just his surrealist version of Carroll’s fable, but Topor was telling a story as a metaphor of the student riot from May, 1968. It’s a little protest song against every kind of tyranny.

 

Grammar and syntax are defeating and their slogan is: Power to the imagination! Actual imagination, free and impudent, is the land where creative work of Topor belongs, not only as a satiric designer and pacesetter illustrator but also as a novelist, scriptwriter (he is the author of The Tenant, a book that Roman Polanski adapted to the big screen), painter, filmmaker, set designer, and above all, actor. Topor lived in Wonderland. Is Alice who get through his looking-glass.