Two fashion drawings for Edward Molyneux
By Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)

Pencil on paper
Hand-signed by the artist

Throwing off age-old conventions and donning short skirts and trousers, the youth of the 1920s and 30s made fashion Modern. From the monochrome chic of Stravinsky’s famous lover, Coco Chanel to Schiaparelli’s erotically surreal suits, it was Paris where fashion took off.

The man at the epicentre of the Paris art scene, was Jean Cocteau. As a composer, the famous polymath had worked with Satie, as a film maker, with Jean Marais, as a writer with Diaghilev and Picasso. For fashion, Cocteau would turn to the Englishman Edward Molyneux for collaboration.

The drawings show Cocteau’s characteristic draftsmanship: an economy of line that crystallises perceptions in minor details to bring to life the glamorous world of interwar Paris.

The excess of the interwar period, and the enticements of the thriving Paris social scene are suggested in every detail, from one theatrical expression of disdain, to another longing gaze. The elegant, simple drawings are a suitable complement to the minimalist, effortless aesthetic of Edward Molyneux Salon, marking an exciting moment of avant-garde collaboration.

Imagery characteristic of Cocteau is everywhere present, from the literary reference in the epistle in the first drawing (see Dove image above), to the stars in the second, which Cocteau regularly drew alongside his signature.

From Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, to Princess Marina and Duchess of Kent, the most famous women of the day were dressed by Molyneux’s Salon. Cocteau’s sketches were likely to have been inspired by Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley, a famous beauty of the Russian Romanov family.

Having narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Bolsheviks, as their father (the Tsar’s uncle) had not, Natalia and her sister were living in Paris as exiles from communist Russia. Cocteau adored the princess, and, wishing to start a family with her, finally proposed. Whether or not Natalia was aware that Cocteau was homosexual, her existing marriage may have seemed sufficient impediment to becoming wife to Cocteau. Cocteau, however, was devastated when she declined.

Price: £17,500 each

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