Je reste avec vous. (I stay with you)
These are the words on Jean Cocteau’s grave stone. He makes a confident statement in death.
A contradiction? a truth? a creative legacy? a philosophical statement? a denial? an assertion? definitely a riddle . Cocteau defies categorisation, the more I read about him the MORE difficult he is to identify. There are as many Cocteaus as there are biographies of him, writes one (of many) biographers.
A cultural polymath: poet, portraitist, painter, novelist, playwright, impresario, muralist, designer and pioneering film maker, he was a comet illuminating the 20th century beau monde of Paris, an enfant terrible – toujours. His legacy is protected by 2 museums and a committee chaired by Pierre Bergé.
Cocteau asserts his place in the world: I am very French— Very, very French, his avant garde vision: He who sees further renders less of what he sees, however much he renders and his idiosyncracity, If my house were on fire what one thing would I rescue? the fire .
He’s been floating in my my peripheral ’20th century’ vision, then last month’s WOI arrived, it’s cover stirred a visual memory.
I love tromp l’oiel, Olympia le Tan’s illustrator father Pierre, has helped decorate her bijou showroom-apartment. Olympia’s clutch-books are highly sought after limited editions, inspired by her passion for collecting rare books, and imaginative use of the embroidery techniques her granny taught her.
This season her ‘pin-up‘ inspired fashion collection bagged the centre window of Parisian store Colette. Next AW13’s collection is inspired by Austrian Alpine Chic: ‘Schnitzel with Noodles’, here leiderhosen meets Sound of Music via Betty Blue (mais oui!) presented at Paris’s Musée de la Chasse, which I have been fantasising about ever since I got Curio fever:
Anyway I digress, such are the myriad paths of the internet. When really I should be sat down going through the back issues of WOI, which I have been… as it was here that I found the remembered image: Olympia’s big brother’s flat, well decoratively anyway, Jean Cocteau encore…
WOI featured Cocteau’s ‘entresol’ apartment in the Palais Royal, its current owner a loving custodian who commissioned Pierre le Tan to create an homage to Cocteau. A perfect choice: Pierre’s style gracefully combining clean lines, a wry charm and subtle sophistication is strongly reminiscent of Cocteau’s era of design.
close up: a section of the scheme.
an overcoat and key outside Cocteau’s office.
Jean Desbordes, loved and lover of Cocteau.
Below the stairs is a TV area where a Dupré-Lafon bookcase and globe rest beneath Pierre le Tan’s night sky:
Here planets, stars and milky way are all named after Cocteau’s numerous works and artistic partners.
Jean Coctaeu’s former bedroom is now guarded by a Provencal caryatid:
While the new owner sleeps above the entresol, but beneath Cocteau in a padded silk bedroom on an André Arbus bed.
Facing him are a pair of bronzes by Vadim Androusov on a Marc du Plantier chest of drawers.
Appropriately the black-board door which guarded the entrance to Cocteau’s creative refuge is still waiting for his ghost to write down his appointments.
The Cocteau entresol and upper apartment are ‘star’ quality: the greatest ebénistes of the Ancien Regime rest easy beside the sophisticated elegance of the best mid century designers: from André Boulle to André Arbus. The owner sounds their equal: visiting France as child prodigy aged 15 he devoured Balzac and gastronomy, attended Yale, made a fortune on the stock exchange then returned to his first love: the Arts, reading History of Architecture at Columbia and staying on as a teaching assistant, but with apartments in New York and of course …Paris.
The dining room contains Serge Roche’s monumental ‘lion foot’ table which always astonishes me:
A white hen by George Jouves rests on it, lyre backed Louis XVI chairs surround it.
here it is in profile: it’s baroque form reminiscent of Cocteau’s famous sets for le Belle and le Bête.
The owner’s research turned him into a collector of Cocteau’s possessions: a Victor Hugo drawing, collages, portraits and most intimately a ‘lucky’ cardboard dice given to him by Picasso in 1917 which remained by Cocteau’s bedside all his life:
the die now rests against a mirror created by Gilbert Poillerat in conjunction with André Arbus:
Which is apporpriate as Arbus created several mirrors for Cocteau’s films, where they served as the portals from which the living and dead could move between worlds.
Cocteau famously transposed the Greek tragedies, transforming them from classroom fodder back into timeless moral tales with avant garde pânache and mesmerising cinematic effects.
Orphee was filmed at Santo Sospir which Cocteau and Picasso decorated and Cocteau later filmed.
But it is la Belle et la Bete which I love to watch:
those hands that famously lead you on (and inspired Beaton among so many others).
Encore? Well Olympia le Tan’s pitch-perfect pink confection feels appropriate. It’s kitsch heart stylishly spliced by Pierre Le Tan skill this time in honour of Olympia and her creative vision.
Here the mirrors aren’t meant to offer a true reflection.
Olympia herself forms the wall sconce holder and the wall behind is patterned in her trademark.
SS13 fabrics complete with Cocteau dice?
Bookshelves filled with Olympia’s ‘book’ collection.
Who knows if Olympia is inspired by Cocteau, but all 21st century creatives owe him a debt, he looked beyond the present, transformed the past and held aloft an arc light to illuminate the path we tread. I think he would be both amused and impressed by Olympia’s latest project, a short film (which took 5 painstaking months to complete) … Mourir auprès de toi – To Die with you by my side. Or maybe, why not? Je reste avec vous.
Apartment images: The World of Interiors.
Olympia le Tan AW13 images ‘La Parisienne’
Olympia clutch book montage, It’s a Style Fix, blog.
Cocteau – various.
Film: Pierre le Tan plays the book shop owner shutting up shop, FYI.