In Partnership With
We Interpreted the Old Masters Using Spring 2017 Runway

Fashion imitating art imitating life


In partnership with Sotheby’s.

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 photo above is an interpretation of Willem Drost’s Flora.


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.

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  • Ana Tellez


  • My dudes, this is unreal – bravo !

  • Very very beautiful and very interesting.

  • crln lr


  • libs

    This is so cool. One of my favourite things about studying art history is the persepective it gives you on beauty ideals. This shows it in a really cool way – especially with the dragon slaying outfit; seeing how the shorthand for power and badassery has changed over the centuries is so cool. Such great styling Amelia!

    Similarly, I remember astonishment at seeing my small boobs and relatively chubby belly reflected back at me in paintings such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino, or being surprised by the trend for actually plucking your hair to give the appearance of a receeding hairline, where the curve of the forehead was an attractive sign of feminity/fertility. I felt more comfortable in my own skin with the perspective that everyone had the ideal body for some society at some point in society, and that it always changes depending on what traits are most appreciated in people. This is such a cool timely extension of those things I’ve been thinking about.

    • Hannak

      THIS!! Yes. It’s just mindblowing, realising how the different beauty ideals for women from different centuries completely contradict each other!! Pale skin, large belly, small boobs – most envied proportions in the xx century (can’t remember right now which one exactly, sorry). And today we seek the exact opposite proportions and are made to believe they are “naturally” attractive because they are “biological signs of fertility”. Umm, so yeah actually… nope. It’s called: social conditioning. That’s all it is, and it makes me so mad when the media portrays OUR CURRENTLY prevailing Western beauty ideal as “natural”. Wish this info was spread more. I’m sure it’d take some pressure of off many women that (physically or mentally) torture themselves to fit this specific mold our society created, when all our different forms and shapes and colours are what make us beautiful.

  • Hot damn these are good. Especially loving the second look. So powerful!

  • Ashley Harris

    If you love this and want more — join us this Sunday, January 22nd at Sotheby’s for a discussion on precious textiles and fashion as they pertain to Old Master paintings. The lecture is open to the public but make sure to RSVP to the email address below.

  • Ashley Harris

    If you love this and want more — join Jonquil this Sunday, January 22nd at Sotheby’s for a discussion on precious textiles and fashion as they pertain to Old Master paintings. The lecture is open to the public but make sure to RSVP to the email address below.

    • Amelia Diamond

      yaaa i’m going!!

  • sorry, my heart stopped at slide 15 and I don’t foresee a recovery

  • That Rosie Assoulin dress has a major wow factor. I loved this, ya’ll!!!! Melissa is the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world. Did you see the Alexander McQueen fall collection? Major Masters Moments there.

  • Mary

    This is just wow! Such a mixed bag and I can’t even put my finger on why it looks so good but it does. The Brock bustier is amazing

  • 20 oz filet

    This is awesome. I’m surprised there inst an Instagram account that does this type of mimicking. It would be a fun way to learn about art history in lighthearted way. If anyone knows of one, please share!

    • check out @artlexachung! (Its Alexa Chung + art and I love it!)

  • Andrea Raymer

    YES YES YES! These photos are gorgeous! i love the black background

  • Harling Ross

    the styling and photos take my breath away (so far away it needs a suitcase!!!)

  • Alanis

    Loved art history class! Enjoyed reading a little about the details of each painting in this story! And the interpretations are really pretty!

  • Thea

    This is an amazing collaboration – so great to see Man Repeller engaging with such diverse worlds and letting us all see fashion in art in something of a new light!

  • Maya

    I literally loved this shoot. It combined my two favorite things art history and fashion!

  • You guuuys! Please shoot on black/dark backdrops more often? So beautiful. 🙂

  • Julia Park

    This is absolutely incredible!!! The photo modeled after Adam de Coster’s work took my breath away. That black background adds such a stunning contrast. ~~Tenebrism~~

  • what a great idea ! And gorgeous model !

  • Tamieka Goulbourne

    Hitting it out of the ballpark, MR! My love of fashion is partly how I ended up as an Art History major!

  • one of my favorite fashion posts MR has ever done!! so lovely, so well done, I’m in love!