Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tragic Savoir Faire

Talitha Getty is perhaps best remembered by the iconic photograph of herself and husband Jean Paul on the rooftop of their residence in Marrakech by Patrick Litchfield. The photograph is glamorous and poignant at the same time. We sometimes find it very hard to imagine that one of the most iconic figures of the 1960’s Talitha Getty died of a heroin overdose, supposedly rushed to a Rome hospital wrapped in a mink coat, and so were the last hours of one of the most iconic women of the 1960’s.

A step grand daughter of Augustus John, she married Jean Paul Getty in 1966. They quickly became an integral part of the “swinging sixties” in London and the jet set. They were the beautiful people and Yves Saint Laurent likened them to the title of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel as “beautiful and damned”

Although not recognized as a fashion icon by her peers it is only recently that historians are recognizing her influence especially where boho and hippy chic is concerned.

There is no denying that she was charismatic and had savoir faire. Jean Paul clearly dotes on his young wife, and almost appears as an after thought in photographs, either in the background or at her side. They are never about him as she steals the limelight in each one. A young vivacious woman full of life and beauty. The lifestyle that they created for themselves was an exotic and luxurious drug fueled bohemian kingdom that has become their legacy. Even through the drugs and a couple hell bent on hedonism, they somehow managed to keep it together to be a couple that was the epitome of savoir faire.

Diana Vreeland wrote of the fantasy world the Getty’s had created for themselves in Morocco, which now seems naïve when the full story is known

“A welcoming, fantastical, joyous life, at once sensible and sybaritic…Mrs. Getty prowls the marketplace, bringing back delights for the house and table. Best she brings back entertainers—dancers, acrobats, storytellers, geomancers and magicians. A day that began with a picnic on a great flat rock near a waterfall in the Atlas Mountains may end with a dinner for a houseful of young Moroccan and European friends by the light of candles, among roses wound with mint. While Salome is playing in the background, snake charmers charm and tea boys dance, balancing on their feet trays freighted with mint tea and burning candles.’

Now the inspiration of countless designers, and a muse to countless others around the world. Her short life and car crash trajectory only serve to heighten the mystique, ensuring that she will forever be associated with those key components of fashion—youth, beauty and glamour.

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