Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Baroness Had a Ball

It seems that nowadays there are none of the great private costume parties or balls held by the rich and famous as there used to be. Any party attended these days by the well to do and famous is usually sponsored by a multi- national corporation launching some product or movie. Nobody throws a great party for the sheer heck of it.

Gone are the great hostess’ of the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, and none knew how to throw a party more than Marie-Helene de Rothschild!

With savoir faire, and sheer determination she had the imagination to plan, create and hold grand soirees that would be constantly described as the best parties of the respective decade. With sheer ruthlessness she would attend to every detail ensuring complete success.

Forever in quest of new talent and new figures to entertain from the world of the arts, literature, dance and haute couture, she mixed them with the more established set of Paris society. Everyone was intrigued. Marie-Hélène's parties took on such importance that one social figure threatened to commit suicide unless she was invited...

One such grand fete was her Surrealist Ball held at her chateau Ferriéres, in December 1972.

Guests were asked to come in black tie and long dresses with Surrealist heads.

The invitation was printed with reversed writing on a blue and cloudy sky, inspired by a painting by Magritte. To decipher the card, it had to be held to a mirror.

For the evening the chateau was floodlit with moving orange lights to give the impression that it was on fire. The staircase inside was lined by footmen dressed as cats that appeared to have fallen asleep in a variety of staged poses.

To enter into the party Guests had to pass through a kind of labyrinth of Hell, made of black ribbons to look like cobwebs. The occasional cat appeared to rescue the guests and lead them to the tapestry salon. Here they were greeted by their hostess Marie-Hélène wearing the head of a giant donkey weeping tears made of diamonds.

Tables were decorated in a variety of surrealistic themes inspired by de Chirico, Magritte and Dali which shocked and astounded the guests for their originality.

"It's a very healthy thing to give parties, don't you think?" she once said. "But people don't know how to dress any more - it breaks my heart. People have even lost the taste for perfumes. Nothing is done now for good taste or for the beauty of things, but to appeal to people's lowest instincts."
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