Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OCAD Mystery Art Sale

Link Cages of Desire by Ingrid Mida, (Mixed Media, 5.5 x 7.5 x 3) 2008

The Ontario College of Art and Design Mystery Art Sale is now in preview both onsite and online. This fundraiser for OCAD sells artwork by both famous and soon-to-be famous Canadian artists, but the buyer does not find out the name of the artist until after they purchase it for the paltry sum of $75.

I love the fact that people buy works of art that they love - not because of the name, but because they see a something that speaks to them. This sale is so popular that people line up for hours before the sale begins. Of course, buyers have previewed the work and have their list of lot numbers in hand.

In case anyone is interested, my two pieces which are shown above are lot #592 and lot #609. These works are from my series "Cages of Desire".

OCAD Mystery Art Sale
416-977-6000 ext. 823

Previews November 19 - 22 (noon to 6 pm)
Online Preview November 19 - 22
Public Art Sale November 22, 10 am to 4 pm
Free Admission

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Photographs of Versailles at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Versailles, Salles d'Afrique, Portrait of Lousie XVI
Photo by Robert Polidori

Breathtaking images of Versailles by Robert Polidori are on display (and for sale) at Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto until November 22nd.

Polidori is known for his highly detailed photographs of places such as Chernobyl, Havana and New Orleans that capture the "juxtapositions of the contemporary and the historical, beauty and decay". For Polidori, rooms represent "receptables of meaning" and show the layers of history and the effects of time. He has had exhibitions of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the MOMA in New York, and the Bibliotheque National in Paris.

This Canadian photographer has photographed Versailles for twenty-five years and has published several books of his photography.

I went to the gallery today and was utterly mesmerized. The exquisite photographs were larger than life and seemed to be even more beautiful than the actual place. I was in Versailles two summers ago and his photos seemed to be more vivid and more colourful than I remember. Perhaps it is the absence of hordes of tourists that make the photos seem more vivid than real life.

Polidori takes his photographs using a large format camera and spends hours with Photoshop to create this heightened sense of reality. And while his artist statement seemed to be about capturing moments of time embedded in the rooms of Versailles, all I could see was exquisite beauty. If only I had US $26,000 to buy one of the photos. Unfortunately I'm going to have to settle on buying his book about Versailles which will come out in January 2008 (

Robert Polidori, Versailles: Transitional States
October 23 - November 22, 2008
Nicholas Metivier Gallery
451 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marie Antoinette's Dress before Alteration

This dress from the Victoria and Albert Museum bears an uncanny resemblance to the dress currently on display at the Royal Ontario Museum which may have once belonged to Marie Antoinette.

The dress from the Victoria and Albert Museum has been dated to the 1770s and is assumed to be French (Four Hundred Years of Fashion, Victoria & Albert Museum, edited by Natalie Rothstein, William Collins Sons & Co Ltd, London 1984). I think that this dress closely approximates what Marie Antoinette's dress at the Royal Ontario Museum might have looked like before it was altered.

The two dresses are share similar fabric, colour, bodice style and sleeve design. They are also dated from the same period. Other than the trims, they are remarkably alike (if one imagines the ROM dress to have paniers).

The Royal Ontario Museum has extended the display of Marie Antoinette's dress until November 16th. In prior postings I've discussed the alterations that are evident in the dress on the bodice (higher neckline) and in the skirt (to narrow the skirt removing the paniers).

It's a shame that the ROM did not hire an illustrator (me!) to draw what the Marie Antoinette's dress might have looked like before alterations in 1880.

Royal Ontario Museum,
Patricia Harris Gallery of Costume and Textiles, 4th Floor
Avenue Road and Bloor Street

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Empress Eugenie and Marie Antoinette

Portrait of the Empress Eugenie dressed as Marie Antoinette by Franz Xaver Winterhaller, 1854, oil on canvas (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)

The Empress Eugenie collected objects and memorabilia associated with Marie Antoinette and housed them in the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Her fascination with the Queen extended to dressing like her as evidenced by this 1854 portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The Empress stands in a garden of lilacs, wearing a deep yellow taffeta gown trimmed with black bows and blue ribbons, rope of pearls, fringes and tassels in the Rococo Revival style. Her hair had been powdered white and adorned with ribbons and a feather ornament. This painting has been compared to the 1787 painting of Queen Marie Antoinette in the Park at Versailles by Adolph-Ulrich Wertmuller.

On another occasion in 1866, Eugenie attended a ball wearing a gown copied from a portrait of Marie Antoinette painted by Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun in 1787. After the ball, it was written "...An empress of others, not the French, perhaps of some fairy place such as Baden. If you wish, Marie Antoinette at the Mabille."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marie Antoinette and Empress Josephine

Ivory Miniature of the Empress Josephine by Ferdinand Quaglia, 1814

Empress Josephine was a style maven of her time. According to Dr. Alice Mackrell in her book "Art and Fashion" (Batsford Books, 2005) , Empress Josephine was "inspired by the example of Queen Marie Antoinette whom she saw as a kindred spirit." Apparently Josephine also surrounded herself at Malmaison with furnishings that had belonged to the Queen.

There is another curious connection between Queen Marie Antoinette and Empress Josephine. Jean-Baptiste Isabey, a painter, initially began his career in 1785 by painting snuffboxes. He received the royal patronage of Marie Antoinette, painting portrait miniatures for her as well as designing clothes for the queen. After the revolution, he rose to even greater fame after painting several portrait miniatures of the Emperor Napolean and Empress Josephine. These became "so celebrated that reproductions of them decorated the snuffboxes of the fashionable."

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Duchess of Devonshire

I went to see the movie "The Duchess" with Kiera Knightly about the life of Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire. It was a fascinating portrayal of eighteenth century aristocratic life in England, where one's value as a wife was ultimately measured by whether or not a son was born.

Georgiana was an English fashion icon and the costumes in the movie are faithful to the trends of the period. It was like eye candy for me and I cannot wait for the dvd to come out so that I can see the movie again.

One curious tidbit of information about The Duchess of Devonshire (that is not portrayed in the movie) is that Georgiana and Marie Antoinette were acquaintances. Apparently in 1784, Georgiana "went to a concert in one of the muslin chemises with fine lace that the Queen of France gave me". This demonstrates the extensive sphere of influence that Marie Antoinette had across Europe.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective Opens at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

The Yves Saint Laurent retrospective opened in at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco on Saturday.

Having attended the retrospective during its Canadian stop at the Montreal Fine Arts Museum this past summer, I can attest to the magnificence of the show. His designs were not only timeless, elegant but works of art unto themselves. His admiration for artists was evident in a room devoted to dresses that used artwork as their inspiration. He "borrowed" inspiration from paintings by Mondrian, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Van Gogh and other artists. He also took inspiration from other cultures (Russia, Spain, Japan, India, Africa), authors (Shakespeare, Apollinaire, Cocteau, Aragon, Wilde), nature, history, and design (redefining the silouette). His genius is apparent in the 130 works of wearable art on display.

And yet, Saint Laurent thought himself to be "a failed painter". ('Sayings of the Week', The Observer, 1 November 1992, p.22) How sad it is to think that this creative genius considered himself a failed artist!

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
November 1, 2008 - April 5, 2009
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118 415-750-3600