Photo of the Week

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The Louvre lights up. © Paris Update

 

Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Hélène Angel's Primaire. Cinéma Le Brady, Paris, Feb. 24

Virtual reality on show
> Virtuality will host speakers and networking sessions on this hot topice. Centquatre, Paris, Feb. 24-26.

Contemporary textile art
>Miniartextil is an exhibition of new textiles from around the world. Le Beffroi, Montrouge, Feb. 22-March 19.

A barnyard in Paris

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> The Salon International de l'Agriculture brings the best of the country's livestock and crops and the products made from them to Paris. Porte de Versailles, Paris, Feb. 25-March 5.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, March 1-April 13.

Paris semi-marathon
> Starts and ends on the Esplanade du Château de Vincennes, March 5.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Matthew Lancit's Flâneurs (Street Rambles). Cinéma MacMahon, Paris, March 3.

Literary conversations
> The festival New Writings, New Styles brings well-known Irish and French writers together to discuss contemporary literature in the two countries. Irish Cultural Centre, Paris, March 3-4.

Indian film scene
> The festival India Express takes a tour of new and classic films focusing on the subcontinent’s major cities. Forum des Images, Paris, through Feb. 26.

Young European photographers
> The Festival Circulation(s) features emerging photographers. Centquatre, Paris, through March 5.

Frank Capra Retrospective
> The great American director in the spotlight. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 27.

 

Art - Temporary Exhibitions

 

La Mode Retrouvée: Les Robes Trésors de la Comtesse Greffulhe

Living the Good Life,
Posing for Proust

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Dresses belonging to the Comtesse Greffulhe, with an 1891 portrait of her by Paul-César Helleu in the background.

“God, what a bore it is to have to dress up and go out when one would ever so much rather stay at home,” the Duchess de Guermantes says ingenuously in Marcel Proust’s novel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu in response to a friend’s admiration of her sequined red-satin ball gown. But dress up and go out she certainly did. And so did the real-life model for

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Shoes by Hellstern & Sons (c. 1900-10). © Galliera / Roger-Viollet

the character in Proust’s novel: the Comtesse Greffulhe. Her lavish wardrobe, so lovingly described by Proust, has survived and is the subject of the exhibition “La Mode Retrouvée: Les Robes Trèsor de la Comtesse Greffulhe” at the Palais Galliera.

Comtesse Greffulhe, the queen of Parisian aristocratic society for half a century, lived through the end of the Second Empire, two republics, two world wars, the Belle Epoque and the Roaring Twenties.

A trophy wife, married at 18 to the very rich and apparently quite nasty Viscount Henry Greffulhe, she was a celebrity mover and shaker of her times, supporting music, dance, science and Captain Dreyfus. But it was her legendary beauty and elegance that inspired Proust and the greatest couturiers of her time.

In the exhibitions, dresses designed by Charles Frederick Worth, Mariano Fortuny, Vitaldi

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Babani, Jeanne Lanvin and others are simply displayed on stands, leaving you wondering at the slenderness of the countess’s waist and marvelling at the workmanship and design.

Her taste was sure, and her elegance traversed changing fashions. Exceptional items are well displayed and explained, among them the “Russian Cape,” a traditional garment from Uzbekistan, a gift of Czar Nicolas the Second that was transformed by Worth into a

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On the left, the “Russian Cape,” reworked by Worth.

magnificent evening cloak, and the bejewelled and befurred “Byzantine Dress,” in which she surely stole much of the glory at her daughter’s wedding.

As befits any Parisienne, black was an essential part of her wardrobe (the Duchess of Guermantes “never looked so well as in black velvet with diamonds,” wrote Proust), including a gorgeous Lanvin day coat that would still look wonderful if worn today, and a glorious black lace corsage overlaid on beige. Displayed nearby is her will, written when she was in her 30s, in which she provided exact details on how she should be buried – in black, of course!

The fascination of this exhibition lies in the interaction of the clothes with the personal details provided: photos, sketches, two snippets of early film taken in her garden, and the quotations from Proust and Elisabeth’s devoted cousin, the flamboyant poet

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Countess Greffulhe wearing Charles Frederick Worth’s “Robe aux Lys,” photographed by Paul Nadar, 1896 © Nadar/Galliera/Roger-Viollet

Robert de Montesquiou, a model for another Proustian character, the Baron de Charlus. Unsurprisingly, she was not insensible to the adulation, and she poses for the camera as consciously as any supermodel, with a graceful dipped head and upward look.

Lovely frocks and a fascinating story are two good reasons for a visit to the delightful Palais Galliera, just across the road from the Palais de Tokyo. The exhibition signage is almost entirely in French, but the helpful staff offered audio guides upon hearing an English accent.

Helen Stokes

Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris: 10, av. Pierre Ier de Serbie, 75116 Paris. Métro: Iéna or Alma-Marceau. Tel.: 01 56 52 86 00. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm (Thursday until 9pm). Closed Monday and public holidays. Admission: €8. Through March 20, 2016. www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr

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© 2016 Paris Update