December 5, 2015

Discovering Proust’s Muse

It took an old friend to get me out of my rut and into a different mindset after a rather upsetting fortnight due to the recent events in Paris. My childhood buddy decided to hop across the moat and we enjoyed 48 hours of catching up, treating ourselves to trendy lunches at Monsieur Bleu and Café Carette, walking across half of Paris, taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, strolling though the food markets, admiring the department stores' Christmas window displays, approving of Avenue Montaignes' holiday decorations and hitting the Louis Vuitton Foundation as well as the Fashion Museum.

We had never heard of Madame Greffulhe and not being able to remember the name we rebaptized her Madame Gruffalo!

Turns out Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe, was the woman who served as Marcel Proust’s inspiration for the Duchess of Guermantes in his novel “In Search of Lost Time”. She lived through the Belle Époque and the Roaring Twenties and was the leader of Paris’ social swirl for half a century.

The exhibition - called “La Mode Retrouvée” - was dedicated to her wardrobe, bearing such labels as Worth, Fortuny, Babani, Lanvin and Nina Ricci. The fun part was that some dresses were supplemented with films, we could therefore actually watch the countess and her daughter posing in robes during the 1920's that we were admiring in 2015. The mind boggles!

It was intriguing to read the excerpts that were displayed alongside the dresses by authors as Proust, Edmond de Goncourt and Robert de Montesquiou, her uncle, who wrote about Greffulhe’s outfits, almost turning themselves into fashion critics while minutely reporting on each detail.

The most romantic piece, however, must be Marcel Proust's love letter for the countess which he addressed to her uncle as not to appear too direct.

“La Mode Retrouvée” or “Rediscovered Fashion”

The impressive entrance to the Musée Galleria typifies what is known as the 'Beaux-Arts' style, highly popular in the 19th century and often used for public buildings

The paved courtyard bordered by a semicircular Ionic peristyle.
The Palais Galliera was commissioned in 1878 from architect Paul-René-Léon Ginain by Marie Brignole-Sale, the Duchesse de Galleria. 

The stunning “Byzantine Dress,” a lamé taffeta, silk and gold yarn and silk tulle gown
that Greffulhe wore at her daughter Elaine’s wedding

A little peek from the gardens

A well-deserved finale to top off our morning!

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