Parties of the Past Century (I)

February 9, 2013

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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7 Responses to “Parties of the Past Century (I)”


  1. I’d love to comment, but still unsure where to begin. Let me get back.

    ~kp

  2. aubrey Says:

    Memories of Luisa Casati! Such Beautiful Madness. Count me in.

    I have a book, from the 1880’s, whose topic is what to wear to a masquerade. Fabric, decoration, coiffure, etc. Also, it tells one what one shoul dress as, depending on sex, coloring, et.al. Being a brunette lady, I should attend my next masquerade event dressed as Autumn, or a Gypsy. Again – count me in.

  3. Susan Ozmore Says:

    What a lovely idea for a series! I’ve neglected my reading lately. Congrats on the anniversary and I’m glad to connect with you on Twitter too. I followed as myself and will as Saints, Sisters, and Sluts next time I’m on. As always I love the photos and the uniqueness of your blog.


  4. […] with one which took place at Château de Ferrières, the Rothschild residence that hosted the first party of the cycle too, thus enforcing a certain impression of circularity much needed to complete the […]


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