By Theadora Brack
In celebration of the recent July 14th Bastille Day in France, let’s doff our “bachi” to my favorite Franco-American collaboration, the gigantesque statue of Lady Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in the New York Harbor.
This year, I’ve got new images, along with one taken by our own special photographer friend, Maurice Sapiro. While playing the trumpet with the 279th Army Band in Europe in 1956, Maurice documented the streets of France. So without further adieu, let’s play forward with some homage, shall we?
After all these years
Our own 151-foot tall beauty is still looking fierce in her spiky nimbus (that’s right, mythically speaking, it’s not a crown!) and matching floor length chiton in all its copper green tonalities. An exquisite nod to the style of classical Greece, I must say. All the rage in Empire France, too.
As the late, great designer, Christian Dior once put it, “Darling, your toile with the cinched waist is perfect!”
Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was the artist, while Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel were the structural engineers of the Union Franco-Americaine Statue of Liberty project. (Viollet-le-Duc also helped restore Notre Dame. Contributing his own interpretive gothic revival twist, he upgraded it with a fantastical spire and a bevy of new gargoyles to keep the evil spirits at bay, and then gave it a good cleaning.) Yes, it is a small world.
Step right up
Monumental statuary has long been financed by public subscriptions (much like today’s Kickstarter funding schemes). The Statue of Liberty was no exception. Fully embracing crowdsourcing, Bartholdi pumped up the publicity volume with some P.T. Barnum-worthy teasers: In 1876 Lady Liberty’s arm and torch shined at the Centennial in Philadelphia, while her head and halo made a photogenic cameo at Paris’s Exposition Universelle of 1878.
With the help of the Paris opera’s theatrical director, Jean-Baptiste Lavastre, Bartholdi also fashioned a portable canvas banner and cranked out miniature replica souvenirs—all boasting Lady Liberty’s image, well before the statue was built. You can never go wrong with swag, I’ve always said. Apparently Bartholdi felt the same way, because in 1876 he applied for and won a design patent for the Statue of Liberty, which further helped him promote, fund, and move the project forward.
A star is born
From the get-go, Bartholdi was involved in every aspect and phase of the project. Cutting a dashing figure with his short beard and pencil-thin mustache, Bartholdi not only ignited but also maintained a global buzz. And how! There was even a “Bartholdi Fan Club.” But he also had timing on his side. During 1800s, colossal monuments were in vogue as a popular way of sharing collective ideas and values (similar to social media walls).
The French paid for the construction of the statue, while the U.S. footed the bill for her pedestal (with a big push from Joseph Pulitzer—all donors got their name listed in his World newspaper, no matter how small their gifts).
Pulitzer also pumped up the volume when he wrote: “We must raise the money! The World is the people’s paper, and now it appeals to the people to come forward and raise the money. Let us not wait for the millionaires to give us this money. It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America!”
Keeping it simple
Here’s how Bartholdi described his vision: “I have a horror of all frippery in detail in sculpture. The forms and effects of that art should be broad, massive and simple!”
I think Christian Dior would have added his stamp of approval to the Statue of Liberty’s classical attire. After all, he once said, “Elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity.”
Imagine if Dior had designed a stunning little “New Look” number for our Top Model Liberty friend. Perhaps a dress with a plastron curving down below the waist, side drapery, and a faux waterproof stole? The mind squeals.
Weighing in at an impressive 450,000 pounds, her height (from heel to head) is 111 feet, one inch, her waist is 35 feet, the length of her right arm is 42 feet, the length of her hand is 16 and a half feet, her fingernails are 13 inches (no nail biter here!), her head from chin to cranium is just over 17 feet, while her nose is more than four feet long and her mouth is three feet wide. It’s a good thing big girls don’t cry.
Exciting and New
Indeed, Lady Liberty is no lightweight. During the summer of 1885, after taking a special 70-car train from Paris to Rouen, the 300 copper pieces that form her surface were packed in 214 wooden crates. It then took more than a month aboard the French frigate Isère to carry her from France to the New York Harbor.
“You look marvelous,” Mayor William Russell Grace shouted, live from New York! During her 1886 inaugural parade along Broadway from the Battery to City Hall, the financiers in Wall Street were so moved that they started throwing tape out the window, igniting the Big Apple’s eternal love affair with tickertape parades. There wasn’t a dry eye along the “Canyon of Heroes.” I’m sure of it.
Trekking to Paris?
Don’t leave Paris without checking out the prototypes of Bartholdi’s La Statue de la Liberté scattered around the city. Grab a pencil! You can find them in a range of sizes near the Pont de Grenelle on the Île des Cygnes (Métro: Bir-Hakeim), in the Jardin du Luxembourg (Métro: Odéon), and at the Musée des Arts et Métiers (Métro: Arts et Métiers).
You can also find a full-size version of her famous torch at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Nowadays, the “Flamme de la Liberté” memorial serves double duty as the unofficial Princess Di shrine, since she was killed in the traffic tunnel just below. Pilgrims still leave poems, flowers, and love letters there.
To love is to act
Prior to the Statue of Liberty’s voyage in 1885, Victor Hugo paid a visit to Bartholdi’s Gaget, Gauthier and Co. workshop. He was moved to remark, “C’est Superbe! Yes, this beautiful work tends to what I have always loved, called: peace. Between America and France—France, which is Europe—this guarantee of peace will remain permanent. It was good that it was done!”
Or in the words of Dior: “A country, a style or an epoch are interesting only for the idea behind them.”
(Dear Maurice Sapiro, Thank you for sharing your photograph!)
By Theadora Brack
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! Calling all bargain hunters: It’s that most wonderful time of the year in Paris. “Les Soldes d’Eté” launch today (Wednesday, June 24, 2015). I look forward to the “Sales of Summer” all year long.
In celebration, here are a few new tips for scoring big at the centuries-old grand magasins during this sizzling five-week affair to remember.
You know the thrill, so crank up the printer. (more…)
By Theadora Brack
Dear friends, Romans, and incurable romantics, lend me your pointy cat ears, kid gloves, and sunglasses. Blame it on the balmy breezes blowing to and fro, but I’ve got a strong hankering for a generous spritz of some misty time travel. That’s how we flow.
As promised, this week we’re making a pilgrimage back to Rome with photographer Maurice Sapiro.
So, get to packing! Don’t forget your coins for the Trevi Fountain. However, leave the party ball gowns and “Playtime Pants” at home, because we’ll also swing by the Sorelle Fontana studio, and nip some stylish garb to call our own.
Helping ignite a worldwide love affair with Italian Haute Couture during the 1950s, Micol, Giovanna, and Zoe Fontana outfitted the curves of the likes of Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, and Audrey Hepburn.
In addition to her signature draping and beading, Micol Fontana also strutted her stuff as the fashion house’s ambassador at large, fearlessly trekking all over the globe. Victory laps, most likely, because her promotional campaigns possessed “real legs.” Her legs, in fact.
According to one zippy New York Times headline, the enchanting designer traveled with a personal “international wardrobe,” made up of no fewer than 24 custom-made outfits and 70 prêt-à-porter pieces.
“If I had time to make them, I’d wear a new dress every day. I love to change my clothes—I feel that clothes really change one’s mood,” said Micol. I completely agree. And apparently, so did actor Cary Grant, who gave her a lift home after her very first fashion show in Hollywood. (more…)
By Theadora Brack
This week, as a teary adieu to Mad Men, let’s catch some bliss and sunrays. On gossamer wings, follow me to the terrace at the Musée d’Art Moderne, located on the eastern arm of the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 Exposition Internationale, here is one of my favorite havens in Paris. The wine is affordable, while the view of the Eiffel Tower breaks hearts faster than Don Draper.
On the terrace, you’ll also find voluptuous nymphs chill-axing by the poolside. Wearing nothing but sheer confidence and stylish do’s, don’t hate them because they’re still beautiful. According to master coiffeur Acacio Pezzutti da Silva, our mod squad is sporting the softer 1930s rolled-up version of the bobbed hairdo, originally fashioned by Antoine de Paris in 1909.
Never underestimate the power of a flattering hairdo. Perhaps this explains the strength they exude?
As my grandmother Helen used to say, “If you look like a million bucks, you’ll feel like a million bucks.” I couldn’t agree more.
Trekking to Paris?
Don’t leave the city without indulging in a beverage (or two) on a café terrace. Sure, your drinks may cost a little more than in a grocery store, but the upside is that you’ll have courtside seats for people-watching, and you can stay as long as you like. So don’t forget to pack your sketchbook or selfie stick! (more…)
By Theadora Brack
Start spreading the news! Grab your glad rags and shopping bags. This week, we’re trekking to New York, New York for some springtime faire du lèche-vitrine.
Whilst day tripping, time is precious. However, it’s possible to visit most of my favorite centuries-old department stores in one day. I’ll also throw in a few cinematic tidbits. I’ve been walking Fifth Avenue since the age of eight. I’m still cuckoo for it.
Here’s how Anaïs Nin described New York City to Henry Miller: “I love the proportions, the amplitude, the brilliance, the polish, the solidity. I look up at Radio City insolently and love it. The newness. The vitality. Just bring your own contents, and you create a sparkle at the highest power!”
All aboard? Let’s glow.
Miracle on 34th Street
We’ll kick-off our jaunt outside Macy’s at Herald Square. Commandeer a few chairs, while I trap the still almighty hot-to-the-touch salted pretzels.
After we’ve admired the vitrines and massive pots of tulips, we’ll gaze up at the nearby Empire State Building, the closest thing to heaven in this city. It’s still true. However, before crossing, do look both ways or else you, too, will have a star-crossed Affair to Remember! Besides, Cary Grant left the building years ago. (more…)
By Theadora Brack
Calling all Guys and Dolls: Get ready to step out, and I don’t mean maybe. Start packing! Springtime has arrived, making it easy, breezy to tour, explore, and adore. This season we’ll not only brave New York’s concrete canyons to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s vitrines, but we’ll also waltz back in time to the Eternal City of Rome with one of my favorite photographers.
And that’s not all. In the weeks ahead we’ve also lined up a rendezvous at a centuries-old Parisian fashion house. So there’s no need to pack your ball gown yet. I’ve got you covered, Cendrillon! O, sigh do sew! Pinch yourself. That’s how we roll.
Today, though, let’s rise to the occasion at Le Grenier à Pain in Montmartre. Hook, line, and teeth sinker! Here is where I buy most of my baguettes and jambon-fromage sandwiches. Consistency, attentive service, and a wild house selection of cakes, breads, and tarts are just a few of the Grenier boulangerie’s captivating qualities.
Add award-winning to the mix, too. Back in 2010, Boulanger Djibril Bodian won the 2010 “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris” which not only earned him a medal and cash but also earned him the honor of baking bread for the Palais de l’Elysées for one year! America’s own White House pales in comparison! (more…)
By Theadora Brack
Fully embracing World Book Day and the bittersweet “gallop of remembrance,” this week I’m sharing my growing stash of patriotic sheet music. I’ll also include an excerpt from one of my favorite love letters, by poet and founding surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine Pagès, written in 1915 while he was enlisted with the 38th Regiment of Field Artillery.
Setting the Scene: Living with Gusto
Madeleine Pagès was his muse. A cartridge casing served as his inkwell.
While serving in uniform in Champagne in the Premier Guerre Mondial, Apollinaire showered both his sweethearts and fellow artists with daily dispatches from the front: “Polishing galore, theory more than galore, maneuvers on foot, sabre, musket, revolver, horse management, riding, gymnastics, and a reasoned, practical and thorough study of the 75, which is a beautiful weapon, as beautiful, strong and sweet, I think, as one of my poems.”
Oh, say can you see?
Often by moonlight the prolific poet penned his calligrammes and signature “fireworks in steel.” Way ahead of the Dada hairpin curve, Apollinaire’s sensuous, erotically charged poèmes simultanés are still almighty hot to the touch, just bursting with joyous desire. I am in awe of his composure to compose his burning lines of verse while under actual fire, again and again. (more…)
By Theadora Brack
In celebration of Saint-Valentine’s Day, next week I plan to share my all-time favorite love letter by poet and founding surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine Pagès, written in 1915 while he was enlisted in the French army’s 38th Regiment of Field Artillery during the Great War.
Apollinaire’s prose is pretty darn steamy. You are in for a treat, in fifty shades of glorious sepia.
In the meantime, let’s salute to love with our annual toast. And yes, let’s share another sweet-and-sour Sidecar!
Repeating myself: Invented at the Ritz during the aforementioned Great War by head barman Frank Meier (and author of the “Artistry of Mixing Drinks”—Harry’s New York Bar devotees, look away!), you go and grab the cognac and Cointreau while I squeeze the lemon and crack the ice. You know the thrill!
But especially on this special day of the year, let’s not forget Frank Meier’s neat credo about what makes a great bar truly great. It’s not the drink recipes, and it’s not the décor. It’s the people. So spread the warmth. Straight up! I say, like there’s no tomorrow.
Until next week!
My love I am sending you a butterfly’s wing that I found today.
Butterflies have beautiful names but I don’t know them, beautiful mythological names.
May the autumnal hues of this wing suggest to you the even more delicate shades of love.
—Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine, October 1915 (more…)
By Theadora Brack
Trekking to Paris in February 2015? This post is for you. I’ve got three tips up my zigzag sweater sleeve. So grab a pencil and the Dubonnet, while I crank up the ice machine and Érik Satie. Now, Voyager! It’s high time to sail thou forth, to squeak and shine.
1. Big Winter Sales
Got passion for fashion? Cuckoo for a steal? I hear you, loud and sincere, my moon glow. The “Soldes d’hiver 2015” (big winter sales) launched on Wednesday, January 7, and will continue through Tuesday, February 10.
Repeating myself: Prices start to drop and keep on dropping, so it’s a judgment call whether to pounce early and get the best selection, or wait it out a little and get the best deals. Again, to be perfectly honest, I do both.
Also, avoid the masses at the grand magasins by shopping during the weekday mornings. However, if browsing cheek by jowl with the Longchamp-toting crowd is your scene, well then, go with the flow. Giddy-up, I say!
Tip: Planning to shop at Galeries Lafayette? If so, do ask for one of their “Exceptional 10% Discount” cards. Present your passport at the information desk, located on the ground floor store near the rue Mogador entrance, and then get to bargain tag popping. (Printemps has a new V.I.P program. I’ll keep you posted.) (more…)