Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Dandy: Count Robert de Montesquiou

Count Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921) was a French aesthete, poet, and art collector. 

He was spiffy dresser. At a concert of music by von Weber, he showed up with a mauve suit and a cluster of pale violets held at his neck in place of a necktie, saying, "One should always listen to von Weber in mauve.”

Giovanni Boldini, Portrait of Robert de Montesquiou
He was at the center of a group of artists and actors that included  Sarah Bernhardt, Gustave Moreau, Gabriel Fauré and James McNeill Whistler. 

Montesquiou as caricatured by Sem aka Georges Goursat
If you wanted to be successful in the art world of Paris in the 1890s, you had to know him. If he didn't like you or your art, he could destroy your reputation.

Carolus-Duran, Portrait of de Montesquiou as a traveler
According to Cornelia Otis Skinner on, he "had a constantly shifting set of mannerisms. At the beginning of any conversation, he’d remove one glove and start a series of gesticulations, now raising his hands towards the sky, now lowering them to touch the tip of one perfectly shod toe, now waving them as though conducting an orchestra. His conversation was hardly conversation at all but long monologues filled with exotic anecdotes, mysterious allusions and obscure classical quotations, all told with a rich vocabulary 'at the end of which,' according to Léon Daudet, 'the count would burst into the shrill laughter of an hysterical woman, then suddenly, as though seized with remorse, he’d clap his hand over his mouth and bark until his inexplicable glee was controlled… as though he were coming out of laughing gas.'"


Rich said...

...just a way to escape boredom and make life more interesting:-)

Gayle said...

Thank you for all your interesting blogs.
Finding out about so many and diverse subjects stimulates both intellectual and creative quests - and a healthy distraction from all the depressing news. Especially appreciated today where up here in Atlantic Canada another storm rages. My curiosity being ignited, I must go and find out more about this dude!

Thomas Denmark said...

Carolus-Duran doesn't get enough recognition, thanks for posting that! It is interesting to see how much range he had, that portrait of Count Robert de Mentesquiou is very different from a lot of Carolus-Duran's other work. I've compiled more of his work here:

James Gurney said...

Thomas, thanks for the link to that great collection.