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The personal collection of Elsa Schiaparelli to be offered at Christie's in Paris
With estimates for individual lots starting at €500/£450/$670, the collection is expected to realise in the region of €800,000/£710,000/$1,100,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

PARIS.- Christie’s announced that The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli will be offered at auction in Paris on 23 January, 2014. A landmark sale for the international world of fashion, style and design, the collection comes to the market having passed by descent to Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughter, the actress Marisa Schiaparelli Berenson. With passion and extraordinary vision, the legendary Madame Elsa Schiaparelli – a deadly rival of Coco Chanel – was at the heart of avant-garde ideas in 1930s Paris. A powerful conduit between the worlds of cutting-edge fashion and surrealist art, she was a collaborator, friend, and patron to many leading artists of the day, from Salvador Dalí and Man Ray to Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, and Marcel Vertès. Comprising approximately 180 lots, this remarkable private collection features fashion – a dynamic combination of Elsa Schiaparelli’s own designs alongside other much-loved ethnic costumes and personal pieces – furniture, fine art and decorative arts which, together, evoke the unique inspirational sensibility adored by so many. The star lots of the sale are a bronze Alberto Giacometti 1936 floor lamp modelled with the head of a young woman (estimate: €60,000-80,000/£54,000-71,000/$81,000-110,000) and a violet silk blouse, 1939, from Schiaparelli’s Astrologie Collection (estimate: €25,000-30,000/£23,000-27,000 /$34,000-41,000). With estimates for individual lots starting at €500/£450/$670, the collection is expected to realise in the region of €800,000/£710,000/$1,100,000.

Marisa Schiaparelli Berenson, the granddaughter of Elsa Schiaparelli explains: “My grandmother was an inspiration and always has been, and now I think it’s very important for younger generations to know who she was, to have a taste of that wonderful world that she lived in, that she created, that she left behind her. I’m very much one of those people who lives in the present – obviously the past is precious because of everything it means emotionally and because of the legacy one has oneself in one’s genes and the culture and the richness that it’s brought to one’s life, but I think that’s all inside of me and there are certain things that I don’t need to carry around all my life. There comes a time when you want to let go of things, because life changes. I think my grandmother’s personal belongings will inspire future generations; this is an extraordinary and fascinating legacy.”

Pat Frost, Director of Christie’s Fashion Department commented: “To have the opportunity of cataloguing the personal wardrobe of Elsa Schiaparelli is, quite simply, a privilege. Not only is the experience like meeting old friends known intimately from books and photographs – such as the Astrologie blouse – but it is also a peek into the home life of a design icon, where Chinese robes, Ottoman gowns and Persian jackets hung in large numbers in her wardrobe next to couture. Elsa Schiaparelli wore them informally but with a connoisseur’s appreciation of their worth. Many elements indeed are interwoven into her own Couture collections. It has been an added pleasure to have been working with Marisa Schiaparelli Berenson, Schiaparelli’s granddaughter, whose memories of life with her grandmother have been both invaluable and illuminating. We look forward to sharing this fascinating view into the world of Elsa Schiaparelli in January 2014.”

Worn by icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood such as Marlene Dietrich, the ‘Astrologie’ collection really had nothing less than a cosmic impact on 1930s fashion. The violet silk blouse from 1939 (estimate: €25,000-30,000/£23,000-27,000 /$34,000-41,000) is an example of the marriage of Schiaparelli’s interest in the Zodiac with the very finest embroidery Lesage could produce. A further highlight is an intricately beaded waistcoat with ‘Bucking Bronco’ beadwork, inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli’s influential 1940’s trip to Texas and recalling her earlier Circus Collection (estimate: €10,000-12,000/ £9,000-11,000/ $14,000-16,000).

An unusual yellow linen blouse, with beadwork and black and white floral trim, from 1940, points to Elsa Schiaparelli’s interest in porcelain, which translated to her designs through the use of subtle colours, textures and embroidery (estimate: €10,000-15,000/ £9,000-13,000 /$14,000-20,000). Injecting feminine evening elegance with the drama of the Spanish matador, a pink wool bolero, with jet bead trim, also from 1940, shows yet more influences which Schiaparelli drew upon (estimate: €12,000-15,000/ £11,000-14,000 /$16,000-21,000). The sale also features a similar version of the bolero jacket in ice blue crêpe, a key Schiaparelli silhouette that was featured in a Harper’s Bazaar fashion illustration at the time (estimate: €15,000-20,000/ £14,000-18,000/$21,000-27,000). The two colour ways of these jackets matched her perfumes Shocking Pink and Sleeping Blue. Glamorous to the hilt, signature pieces from Elsa Schiaparelli’s personal wardrobe include a 1930s white mink stole, with her monogram ‘E.S’ embroidered into the lining, alongside many other such luxuries from the time.

In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli built a house in Hammamet, Tunisia. She spent a lot of time there entertaining, collecting and absorbing local colour. The sale includes two elegant 20th century Hammamet robes which directly influenced her designs (estimate: €1,000-2,000/ £900 - 1,800/ $1,400-2,800). A true ‘Renaissance Woman’, Schiaparelli literally drew inspiration from around the globe. She wore and was inspired by Islamic and Asian costume and the sale features a large collection of oriental robes, together with an assortment of North African, Chinese, Ottoman and Persian costume.

The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli presents a veritable feast of artworks and objects that reflect their owner’s significant role as a taste-maker. A key trendsetter in the 1930s, Schiaparelli not only contributed her own lively creativity and sponsorship to the contemporary scene in Paris but also enjoyed plundering the past to create baroque counterpoints to the modern. This is evidenced in her love of such eclectic delights as baroque furniture, the French Second Empire style – witness the chic lilac-upholstered ‘love-seat’ (estimate: €600-800/ £540-710/$810-1,100) – and blackamoor figures, which all reflect her wonderful sensibility for all that was extravagant and evocative. Schiaparelli used the pieces, collectively, to create an engaging world of fantasy – environments that reflected the influence of Surrealists who prized the imaginative and irrational. She became an inspiration to many, at a pivotal point in the interwoven stories of art and design. Modernist ideas were confronted with alternative sensibilities – neoromantic, exotic, fanciful, and indulgent. The 30s witnessed a succession of magnificent costume balls that brought together Parisian high society and high bohemia, and Schiaparelli lived the part – adding the spice of her own eclectic eye and inspiration. This very personal collection captures the essence of Schiaparelli – imbuing all of the lots offered with a unique aura.

The 1936 bronze Alberto Giacometti floor lamp which leads the sale as a whole is emblematic of Schiaparelli’s world, reminding us of her close working rapport with designer-decorator Jean-Michel Frank, who helped create her boutique and her apartment and who encouraged Giacometti, Dalí and other artists, with whom Schiaparelli was also close, to create artifacts that were at once functional and expressive (estimate: €60,000-80,000/£54,000-71,000/$81,000-110,000).

The collection ranges from an atmospheric portrait of Schiaparelli’s daughter – Countess Maria Luisa Yvonne Radha de Wendt de Kerlor, better known as ‘Gogo’ Schiaparelli – by Leonor Fini (1908-1996), who collaborated with Schiaparelli, notably designing the bottle for her famous perfume Shocking in 1937 (estimate:
€30,000-50,000/ £27,000-45,000/$41,000-67,000); to a group of three Louis XVI chinoiserie wool Aubusson tapestries, after François Boucher (estimate: €20,000-30,000/ £18,000-27,000/$28,000-41,000, including A Chinese Dance, illustrated below centre and above the fireplace in the photograph of Elsa Schiaparelli at home). A series of ten photographic portraits by Man Ray (1890-1976) includes the solarised study Elsa Schiaparelli, circa 1928-30, a favoured image chosen by Schiaparelli to illustrate her memoir, Shocking Life (estimate: €10,000-15,000/ £9,000-13,000/$14,000-20,000). Man Ray is a telling artist to associate with Schiaparelli: a Dadaist and a Surrealist, he was also, like her, completely at ease straddling the worlds of commerce and pure creativity. Further highlights include a delightful Marcel Vertès screen, most likely created for the presentation of Schiaparelli’s 1939 Spring-Summer ‘Commedia dell’arte’ collection (estimate: €10,000-15,000/£9,000-13,000/$14,000-20,000). This screen reminds us of the fluidity with which artists in Schiaparelli’s circle were happy to work across media and invest their skill and imagination in all they created – be it an illustration, an object, a piece of furniture, or an environment.

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