Friday, March 23, 2012

Passing like happy shadows.

"A true masquerade of space- that is what the British embassy's ball on May 17, 1839, must have been. "In addition to the glorious flowers from gardens and greenhouses, 1,000- 1,200 rosebushes were ordered as part of the decoration for the festivities. It was said that only 800 of them could fit in the rooms of the embassy, but that will give you an idea of the utterly mythological magnificence. The garden, covered by a  pavilion, was turned into a salon de conversation. But what a salon! The gay flower beds, full of blooms, were huge jardinieres which everyone came over to admire; the gravel on the walks was covered with fresh linen, out of consideration for all the white satin shoes; large sofas of lampas and of damask replaced the wrought-iron benches; and on a round table there were books and albums. It was a pleasure to take the air in this immense boudoir, where one could hear, like a magic chant, the sounds of the orchestra, and where one could see passing, like happy shadows, in the three surrounding flower-lined galleries, both the fun-loving girls who came to dance and the more serious girls who came to sup." H. d'Almeras, La Vie parisienne sous Louis-Philippe , pp. 446-447. The account derives from Madame de Girardin. Today, the watchword is not entanglement but transparency. (Le Corbusier!)"

I find the excerpt above so evocative it verges on the tangible. If I were a womenswear designer, this would propel a new collection. Think of the colours of the grass and flowers on the fringes of the party, catching only the last evanescence of the lamps. The muted, cool warmth of the night air, the distant noise of the revelry intensifying as your carriage draws closer and closer to the ball. Of the colliding sweeps of trains of dresses as women pass, of the 'serious' girls fixating on their jellied chicken legs while the dance floor thrums with social graces and the brief touches of gloved hands. 

I dimly recall an excerpt in a convolute of a man falling in love with a woman when he caught a glimpse of her slippered foot- did I make that up? Yet I don't think I did.

And marvellous, this: "Hashish. One imitates certain things one knows from paintings: prison, the Bridge of Sighs, stairs like the train of a dress."

From M The Flâneur, The Arcades Project by my main man, Benjamin.

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