A History Of Fashion's Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

For Christian Louboutin's latest lookbook, photographer Peter Lippmann used models to essentially recreate iconic works from art history: Whistler's Mother, Francisco de Zurbarán's St. Dorothy, and here, Jean-Marc Nattier's 1738 Portrait of the Marquise D'Antin. And added, you know, really expensive shoes. It's an old trick — and an interesting gloss on the just-as-old "is fashion art?" question. (It's not, and it needn't have to be in order to be compelling or legitimate. "Art" isn't "better" than "fashion.")

Warning: Slideshow images are NSFW, due to artistic boobs and nudes.

But seeing these Louboutin images made me think of fashion's long history of appropriating images from art. Sometimes the results look beautiful, sometimes they look cheesy, and sometimes fashion actually gives as well as takes.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

On the left: an image from the Louboutin campaign. On the right: Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait d'une Négresse (1800).

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

Left: an image from the Louboutin campaign. Right: Francisco de Zurbarán, St. Dorothy.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

Left: an image from the Louboutin campaign. Right: Georges de la Tour, Madeleine à la Vieilleuse (1638-40).

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

The same de la Tour painting was also inspirational to Yves Saint Laurent. In this spring-summer 1999 ad campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti, Kate Moss and other models restaged famous works of art. Saint Laurent, with his business and life partner Pierre Bergé, amassed an enormous collection of masterpieces by everyone from Mondrian to Goya. (When Saint Laurent died in 2008, Bergé put everything up for auction. It fetched over $500 million. The most compelling parts of the documentary L'Amour Fou cover the auctioneers' rapid, white-gloved dispersal of the household and its rather splendid effects; those scenes offer a real-life counterpoint to Olivier Assayas' film Summer Hours, in which a collection of art and antiques that took one bourgeois French family many generations to amass is, upon grandma's death, packed up and off to the Musée D'Orsay in just a few days.)

Advertisement

Say what you will, Yves Saint Laurent had taste. His ads are notable for the subtle changes they make to their source material: for example, here Madeleine is facing the viewer, and is herself being watched by a nude man who doesn't appear in the original painting. In the YSL recreation of Manet's Le Déjeuner sur L'Herbe, it is Moss who is clothed, and the male model who is naked.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

And in the luxury-ad version of Velázquez's Rokeby Venus — a painting which I have long loathed for its feeble-minded and repulsive sexism, a painting which when I saw it for the first time I totally got why that suffragette took an axe to it — a mirror-gazing man is added to the tableau of idle vanity.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

It's an improvement.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

Here's another image from the Yves Saint Laurent campaign.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

And here's Gabrielle D'Estrées et une de ses Sœurs, artist unknown, c. 1594. D'Estrées was a mistress of Henri IV. That's her holding his coronation ring in the bath.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

The Yves Saint Laurent campaign.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

Gustave Courbet, Le Sommeil (1866).

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

But it's not just old masters and impressionists that inspire contemporary fashion photographers. In 2008, Peter Lindbergh shot Julianne Moore for Harper's Bazaar as Richard Prince's 2003 Man Crazy Nurse #3.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

And as John Singer-Sargent's 1884 portrait of Madame X.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

And as John Currin's 1997 The Cripple. And there's more where that came from.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

Currin's work also proved inspirational to the folks at the fashion magazine Paradis, who hired Australian model Tiah Eckhardt for a Currin-inspired spread in 2007.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

On the left is Currin's 1998 painting Honeymoon Nude.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

Back in 2007, before John Galliano became a fashion pariah facing criminal charges, everyone loved him so much that Harper's Bazaar had photographer Simon Procter shoot this fantastical scene — in which Galliano magically appears twice — to commemorate the designer's ten years at the helm of Christian Dior.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

If you horizontally flip Jacques-Louis David's famous portrait of Napoleon leading the charge at the Saint-Bernard pass, then you pretty much have Galliano. Billowing red cape, rearing white horse, funny black hat.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

As you might imagine, recreating Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper is practically a cottage industry. This Last Supper-themed ad for French label Marithé+François Girbaud was actually banned in Milan, where the real painting is on display by appointment only. Said the government advertising watchdog agency at the time, The Last Supper "inevitably recalls the very foundations of the Christian faith. This kind of image, with a high concentration of theological symbols, cannot be recreated and parodied for commercial ends without offending the religious sensitivities of at least part of the population. One of the women apostles is kissing the naked torso of a man, which just makes the imitation more offensive. As does the use of Christian symbols like the dove, the chalice and the position of the fingers of the female Christ."

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

David LaChapelle did a version of The Last Supper in 2003. It was part of his "Jesus Is My Homeboy" series, which depicts Jesus returned to earth to consort with drug dealers, prostitutes, and other people on society's margins. You know, kind of like He did originally.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

LaChapelle's The Rape of Africa, starring Naomi Campbell, ended up being used for a cover of Flaunt magazine.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]

It was based on Sandro Botticelli's Venus and Mars (c. 1483).

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

In May of 2009, Vogue billed this portrait of model Coco Rocha as a re-interpretation of Johannes Vermeer's 1665 Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

It's a popular theme. French Elle published this Freidmann Haus picture of Laetitia Casta back in 1998.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

I've played spot-the-Bosch with Alexander McQueen before — the designer more than occasionally used masterpieces as the basis for his fabric prints — but the influence of Hieronymus Bosch's 1480-1505 triptych masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights deserves particular mention. Especially where one now iconic McQueen accessory is concerned. In the panel on the right, Moloch is depicted drunkenly eating a condemned man. (You can see him on the bottom right. A high-res version of the painting is here.) The horrid King is wearing wine jars on his feet.

Illustration for article titled A History Of Fashions Appropriation Of Art [NSFW]
Advertisement

And those wine jars happen to bear a rather striking resemblance to the famous McQueen "armadillo" shoes.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

yourestillinadream
yourestillinadream

Do you really find the Rokeby Venus an example of "feeble-minded and repulsive sexism"? Velázquez has specifically manipulated her reflection in the mirror so that her gaze meets the viewer's, but not in a 'come-hither' way. She's not spread out frontally, legs splayed or breasts exposed, like Titian's Venus, or Giorgione's. (Her rear, I grant you, is right there.) She's a brunette, instead of the more traditional and supposedly "desirable" blonde. She's unadorned and unusual, even more unusual in the context of seventeenth-century Spain, where nudes (classical or otherwise) were frowned upon, since ladies' bodies are so dangerous and all.

Velázquez painted very few nudes, but he did paint women- many of them with character and great sensitivity to detail and personality. Look at Las Hilanderas ("The Spinners"), which favorably compares the work of women tapestry weavers with the craftsmanship of Arachne and Athena. I'd agree that Velázquez was surely as sexist as any man of his time, but hardly feeble-minded.

Not to mention, in 1914, after Richardson attacks it, she says: "I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history." It's decades later that she says she didn't like "the way men visitors gaped at it all day long." I find it interesting- and kinda awesome- that she rightly blames the men for staring hungrily at painted female flesh, not the painting itself. (This is somewhat mitigated by her stabbing the painting repeatedly.)

Everyone's entitled to their opinion about art (thanks for keeping this art historian in business, everyone's opinions, yay) but I personally find the Rokeby Venus to be a beautiful oddity more than a seventeenth-century Hustler centerfold.