Jeanne Lanvin at Christie's


Christie’s is presenting this November the first in a series of curated auctions:VINTAGE COUTURE.  The online two week auction comprise of 59 lots and will open for bids at 2pm GMT on Friday, 16 November.

The auction features an exceptional Jeanne Lanvin wardrobe from the collection of Cátalina Bárcena, a Spanish star of theatre and film in the early 20th century.

Catalina Barcena was a supremely beautiful actress, born in Cuba, who came to fame on the stage in Madrid acting in plays by Pirandello, Marcel Pagnol and George Bernard Shaw in addition to classics of the Spanish theatre.

In the mid 1920's, partly to escape the scandal of her well known love triangle with her husband (whom she had married by arrangement) and her lover, Gregorio Martinez Sierra, by whom she had a daughter, Catalina Barcena went on a very long theatrical tour of South America which led her to Hollywood and a contract with 20th Century Fox. In Hollywood in the early l930s, she made seven extremely popular films for the Spanish speaking market.

From the very early 1920's, Catalina Barcena dressed at the major French couturiers, chiefly, Lanvin. At the time, Lanvin was making dresses owing much to the l8th Century revivalist mood prevalent in the applied arts of the time. Catalina Barcena's cameo-like beauty suited these supremely romantic clothes which she wore both off stage, and also in the theatre and on film.

Her relationship with Jeanne Lanvin produced some of the prettiest and most feminine clothes of the early part of the 1920's, documented by original correspondence and invoices.

Jeanne Lanvin was, together with Chanel and Vionnet, the most influential couturière of the l920's and l930's a great designer and a great patron of the applied arts of the Art Deco period.   If Chanel's look was minimalist and boyish, and Vionnet's marque was distinguished by her use of the soft architecture of the bias cut, Lanvin's designs spelt delicacy, historicism and romance, according to Christie's.

Her robes de style of the early l920's were exquisite confections;  as light as air, as fresh as spring and Catalina Barcena, the reigning queen of the Spanish speaking stage and of Hollywood films made for the Spanish-speaking market,  was the perfect advertisement for them as her delicate yet dramatic look set off the cloudy confections created for her by Mme. Lanvin to perfection.

According to Christie's, Lanvin's landmark stand at the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in l925 marked a new, more modern departure in her designs; dresses became far shorter, tubular, cubist in inspiration as can be seen by the beaded shifts she designed for her mondaine garconne clients.

In the l930's as a softer, more sinuous look came back into fashion, Jeanne Lanvin returned (one suspects with a sigh of relief) to the delicate details and gossamer that had made her reputation and her fortune in earlier seasons.

SOnia Kolesnikov-Jessop