Why art is quite useless

February 23, 2013

Oscar Wilde closed the 1891 preface to  the “Picture of Dorian Grey” with a most enigmatic epigram: “All art is quite useless.” All the Greek symbols of aesthetic majesty, all the Renaissance masterpieces that come to our days, the scraps of melodic perfection in Mozart, the lines of utter harmony in Shakespeare, his own fascinating aphorisms inclusively: they hold no function.

Upon learning this, it’s merely normal to exert your curiosity and, as Bernulf Clegg did back then, demand some competent explanations.

Dear Wilde never fudged responding to such enquiries with the sort of handwritten letters like the below shown.

wilde

Transcript:

16, TITE STREET,
CHELSEA. S.W.

My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realize the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde

Has it clarified the concept? Do you adhere to his belief?

I myself find the word “useless” still too powerful to limit genuine art…

Liebster Lauds again my way!

February 23, 2013

liebster

“Liebster Lauds” was the first token of appreciation I’ve received for blogging about my serendipitous meetings with historical characters and now, a mere half a year later but ages apart psychologically, the same award came to Madame de Pique‘s address, this time from the sapient Aubrey over at her dear, dear web log, the Cafe Royal. So, as it’s only civil of me to reply to the honor she bestowed yours truly: many thanks, chérie!

I’m eternally eager to compile manifestations of renown.

Well, jumping in another train of thoughts, having already experienced a Liebster protocol, I find it funny to compare how the rules vary for convergent sources. It practically illustrates internet’s prolific power to produce circumstances favorable to versatility. Last time, a nominee had to propose 5 further nominees, as opposed to the 11 presently required: just an example.

Yet let us not stray from the topic and reproduce the current formula:

  • Mind your manners and give thanks.
  • Tell 11 things about yourself – subheadings,  charts, etc. are not necessary.  If  you like bunnies, for Christ’s sake just say so.
  • Answer to the best of your ability the 11  questions that are asked of you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers for this award – let them know too, surely, since keeping it to yourself would be mean.
  • Ask the above nominees 11 questions of your  own if you like, but remember you can also dispose of the questions you were asked.

Due to an acute infusion of laziness exhausting months of intellectual labor made inevitable, I’ll resort to images for the second task, the supposedly 11 personal details I think I even exceeded in preparing the following:

me

But Aubrey’s inquiry is not to be resolved as hastily:

Aubrey: Why did you start blogging?

 Madame: Mainly to exercise my writing skills, although it eventually turned to be an activity of multiple aims and uncountable gains.

A:  Do you find that you usually prefer the book or movie version?

M: For Madame, there’s ever one formula: movie version for mediocre books; they make it less a waste of time.

A: Are you wearing jewelry now?  Bonus points if a parure is involved.

M: Why, of course there’s a parure to enhance the natural pulchritude I lack! Jade rings, pendant and earrings, all embedded in silver, to be explicit.

A: Name five places you would never want to visit again.

M: Turkish public toilets, Bulgarian highways (despite not being a place per se), Romanian beaches, uhm… and that’s about every horrid thing I can momentarily recall. Excusez-moi.

A: Ocean or lake?

M: Ocean for a holiday view and mountain-top lake to live near. It has to do with my obsession of owning a small body of water.

A: What is the first book you couldn’t live without?

M: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando… but then came Wilde’s Dorian Grey

A: Are you one of those bloggers that believe that people resemble their icons?  Do you, for instance, think that I am wearing a periwig and holding a star?

M: Why, categorically! And allow me to compliment how gorgeous you look wearing that raven peruke!

A: If you were alive in 1902 would you be tempted to ride in one of those new car-things or would you prefer to continue driving your four-in-hand?

M: Given I’m pretty enamored with the original Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and would rather ride than travel by uncomfortable carriages… the reply can be easily inferred.

A: Which actor has provided you with your favorite rendition of Sherlock Holmes?

M: With the risk of sounding exceedingly typical, I must forward “Robert Downey Jr.” as my final answer.

A: You’re getting dressed for work.  You open your closet and find your clothes are not from this decade.  Are you happy about this?  What decade do you hope is represented?

M: Well, I’d love to be evocative of the belle epoque, but in a modern manner nonetheless, especially since I’m unable to go back and live it as it was.

A: Have you ever mixed a cocktail – for either yourself or others?  And if you have, can you mix a tall Bloody Mary – now?  All this writing and thinking has made Aubrey thirsty.

M: Madame doesn’t concern with alcohol unless it’s whiskey foam implied, sorry to disappoint. I could try ordering some absinth to quench that thirst, though.

screen

AND now, to conclude spreading the favor I was awarded in the spirit of fair-play blogging, behold my eleven nominees, randomly ordered:

1. Tiaras and Trianon

2. the Pragmatic Costumer

3.Empress Chronicles

4. Life Takes Lemons

5. Saints, Sisters and Sluts

6. Team Gloria

7. Splatter

8. Sifting the Past

9. Good Gentlewomen

10. Versailles Gossip

11.Patricia Beykrat (I know, condemn me for the olympian narcissism that goes with nominating my alter ego, yet you must understand I’m able to resist everything but temptation!)

FIN

 

 

 

Le Bal du Palais d’Hiver

It just so happened that I stumbled across an incredibly posh and surprisingly well composed series of five episodes on the most exquisite XXth century parties I’m going to use as a main support for my own sequence, just to baffle a bit the monotony this blog has, alas, succumbed to.

So without further (and obviously unnecessary) introductory lines, behold the first sample.

As if anticipating the ensuing horrors of the Russian Revolution, Tzar Nicholas II, knowingly the last Romanov ever to sit on his rightful throne, and Empress Alexandra, whose demeanor, like her mother in law,  I’ve always disapproved of, threw the most dazzling party at the Palais d’Hiver.

The Surrealist Ball

How splendiferously eccentric can a mid-late 20th century ball get?

baron

Apparently, the Rothschilds forward their answer through a flamboyant surrealist party of oddities galore, as anticipated in the picture above, which gives gives an accurate account of just what unusual looks they could conceive. The Rothschilds being the banker family that honorably took over Croesus’ reputation in modern days. Surrealism- the inter-bellum artistic current prizing the chaotic, fantastical  absurd. Think Dali (who not coincidentally was a guest).

Now, another participant at the mentioned gathering, Baron Alexis de Redé, extensively describes all one would love to know about the whole ‘a tad ludicrous’  event:

On 12 December 1972, Marie-Hélène gave her Surrealist Ball at Ferriéres. This time the guests were asked to come in black tie and long dresses with Surrealist heads.[ The year before, 1971, the Rothschilds were hosts to a glorious Proust Ball assembling more than half the international elite] The invitation was printed with reversed writing on a blue and cloudy sky, inspired by a painting by Magritte. To decipher the card, it had to be held to a mirror.

invitation

‘For the evening the chateau was floodlit with moving orange lights to give the impression that it was on fire. The staircase inside was lined by footmen dressed as cats that appeared to have fallen asleep in a variety of staged poses.’

baron

Guests had to pass throught a kind of labyrinth of Hell, made of black ribbons to look like cobwebs. The occasional cat appeared to rescue the guests and lead them to the tapestry salon. Here they were greeted by Guy with a hat to resemble a still-life on a platter, and by Marie-Hélène wearing the head of a giant weeping tears made of diamonds.

baron

Marie Hélène proved that she had the flare and imagination to create something unique and worthwhile. None of this was created by charm alone. It needed a degree of ruthless determination. She attended to every minute detail of style in her life and also in her entertaining. She was a great hostess with all the qualities. She loved parties and people. She was forever in quest of new talent and new figures to entertain from the world of the arts, literature, dance and haute couture. She mixed them with the more established set of Paris society. Everyone was intrigued. Marie-Hélène’s parties took on such importance that one social figure threatened to commit suicide unless she was invited…

baron

It is not possible to repeat such things now for many reasons. But it is fascinanting to look back and to remember these occasions, which dominated our thoughts and plans to such an extent for so many months. I am happy that I took part in so many, and happy that I gave some myself.

baron

And with this verdict, reminiscent of Proust although much less highfalutin,  ends our attendee’s account of the soiree which, lush and exuberant in spirit, inaugurates a “Parties of the Past Century” series.

baronlu

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