We Interpreted the Old Masters Using Spring 2017 Runway
Fashion imitating art imitating life
I was an art minor in college. Not a very good one, because I’ve retained little of the historical information. I focused my attention on the actual drawing classes — gloriously extended blocks of time where women would pose before us so we could learn to capture movement, feeling and light. Before you qualified for studio classes, you had to take a lecture that focused on the work of classical European artists who lived between the 13th and 18th century: the Old Masters.
“Back in the day,” these Old Masters created different schools of styles and had students train under them. It wasn’t unusual for students to surpass their teachers, for different artists to influence one another and for new cultures to be woven in. Sort of like in fashion.
Erdem dress, Valentino pants, Brock jacket, Valentino sandals, Seletti vase
In what was a unique opportunity for Man Repeller, we partnered with Sotheby’s to interpret three works from the Master Paintings sale on January 25th using clothes from the Spring 2017 runway. Jonquil O’Reilly, an Old Master Paintings Specialist who centers much of her focus on the fashion and textiles within paintings, spoke to me about each one. From there, I turned to the designers and let my imagination run wild.
The Amsterdam-based painter trained under Rembrandt and was known for loose, rapid brushstrokes. With a linen undergarment spilling off her body and ethereal light radiating from her exposed skin, the woman in his painting is the human embodiment of flowers. The Erdem dress, Valentino pants and Brock jacket — all floral-patterned and earthy in tone — were meant to create a garden within a single frame, one that tipped its hat to the rich textures and colors so often seen in the Old Masters’ work.
Creatures of the Wind silver dress over a Brock bustier and Gucci pants, Gucci jacket, Gucci earrings
Here we have our 21st-century dragon slayer — a bold woman who, when confronted with her fears, chooses to battle them rather than hide. She is resting because slaying metaphorical dragons is exhausting business. This is our reimagining of Antonio Badile’s Saint George And The Dragon, with a Creatures of the Wind dress, Brock bustier (from the resort 2017 collection) and Gucci pants as her shining armor.
“But why isn’t there a cherub in this version, as there is in painting,” you may be wondering.
Have you seen her earrings??? Heavenly!
Rosie Assoulin dress, Erdem jacket, Cult Gaia headpieces, Jonathan Adler candlestick
This larger-than-life Rosie Assoulin dress — so long that we considered having our model stand on a box, but instead put her in very tall shoes and let the hem of the gown pool — was the first thing that came to mind when Jonquil explained the significance of excessive fabric in Adam de Coster’s painting, A Young Woman Holding A Distaff Before A Lit Candle.
Similar to accessories and clothing littered with logos (think late 1990s), denizens of the 17th century displayed their wealth through abundant yards of textiles — like the length of linen wrapped around her waist, which the Erdem jacket replaced, and the superfluous (but lovely) turban on her head, swapped for two flower headbands worn as one. The deep V in this subject’s fur-lined garment was “actually quite racy,” Jonquil told me.
Who said the classics weren’t wild?
Special credit to Jonquil O’Reilly, Old Master Paintings Specialist. Follow her on Instagram @jonquiloreilly. Masters Week Exhibitions open to the public on Friday, January 20, Master Paintings Evening Sale is on Wednesday, January 25 and Master Paintings Day Sale is on Thursday, January 26.
Modeled by Melissa Brazilia, follow her on Instagram @melbrazilia. Styled by Amelia Diamond, photos by Krista Anna Lewis.