The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli - Paris, January 2014

Elsa Schiaparelli at Home

From the grand Palazzo Corsini in which she was brought up in Rome, to miserable cold-water apartments in Greenwich Village in which she lived during her first trip to New York, to increasingly grand apartments, and eventually a magnificent four-story l8th Century Hotel Particulier on the Right Bank in Paris, Elsa Schiaparelli had a flair for finding or commissioning beautiful objects and furniture and arranging them to their advantage in very unusual combinations. Some favourites stayed with her for many years and many moves.

Before she found fashion as her métier, Elsa scraped a living in Paris in the early 1920’s going to the flea markets where her sharp eye made discoveries she sold on to antique dealers. At this point she was living in attic apartments with little furniture but there was always an interesting picture or a charming sofa in her garrets but as she became more successful she graduated to better and at first furnished her interiors in the cool contemporary Modernist style espoused by the architect Jean Michel Frank. The magnificent floor lamp in this sale by Alberto Giacometti dates from this time and was originally in her couture salon in the Place Vendome.

Latterly she moved away from pure Modernism to interiors which were very much more eclectic. She loved pattern; her carpets bloomed with flowers as can be seen in this portrait of her by Etienne Drian lying on one of her favourite 19th Century sofas. The elaborate gilt confident sofa, upholstered in lilac in this sale was always a feature of her drawing rooms – for after her ‘modernist moment’ Elsa had turned to the increasingly fashionable 19th Century revival, espoused by such decorators as Madeleine Castaing.

The magnificent set of l8th Century Aubusson tapestries in the sale covered an entire wall of her large drawing room in her Hotel Particulier. Inspired by the artist Francois Boucher these three tapestries come from the Chinoiseries series – the main one is called ‘Chinese Dance’. They are lively evocations of dreamlike exotic figures dancing and idling in imaginary landscapes of palm trees, temples and tents. Other exotica in the same vein included statues of dancing blackamoors and three elaborate tables, probably Venetian whose legs represent painted and polychromed blackamoors.

Furthering the Chinese motif which Elsa Schiaparelli loved in clothes and which she found so inspirational in her decor, is a fabulously elaborate Chinese export cabinet dating to the first half of the 19th Century which enriched an already rich interior.

Throughout her life, Elsa loved birdcages and felt sometimes that she, herself was a bird trapped in a cage. Jean Michel Frank designed a huge birdcage for her through which one went into her boutique on the Place Vendome and Picasso painted a portrait of her as a bird escaping from a cage. In her drawing room she had a very large painted and tole birdcage – but of course there were no birds in it.

Screens were another must for her own surroundings. The screen painted for her by Marcel Vertes with whom she was very friendly and who drew many advertisements for her perfumes, represents figures from the Commedia dell’Arte and was painted for her at the time of her brilliant couture collection of the same name.

Wherever she lived, Elsa brought to her surroundings the same magnificent eye and influences from the past and the present that made her couture so extraordinary and so startling.

Schiaparelli Interiors