Grefflhe Galliera image
Exhibitions,  History

Inspiring Comtesse Greffulhe at Galliera

poser of the exhibition for La Mode Retrouvée Comtesse Greffulhe a muse of Marcel ProustThe Comtesse Greffulhe did not follow fashion, she dictated fashion for all in Paris society to follow. She inspired Marcel Proust and fashion designers. Until March 20, 2016, Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode, is displaying Comtesse Greffulhe’s wardrobe collection “La Mode retrouvée” (Finding lost fashion).  The collection moves to New York’s Museum at FIT in September 2016 under the title “Proust’s Muse”.

As with most women who are “clothes horses”, ninety-nine percent of the collection is hers and one small window is set aside for her husband and fellow collaborator on artistic and scientific activities, Henry, Count Greffulhe. The family-donated pieces include her wardrobe for day and evening, ceremonies and other special occasions, including travel, accessories, drawings, sketches and photographs.

Paul Nadar, Portrait of the Countess wearing “La Robe aux Lis”, circa 1896 © Nadar/Galliera/Roger-Viollet
The photo that Marcel Proust finally received of the Comtesse. Paul Nadar, Portrait of the Countess wearing “La Robe aux Lis”, circa 1896 © Nadar/Galliera/Roger-Viollet

Most notable among French authors during this period is Marcel Proust. Proust adored her, devoured her being, followed her style and pleaded often to obtain a photograph of her. He used her as his muse for the novel, “In Search of Lost Time” and the lead character, Duchess of Guermantes. He did finally receive the Paul Nadar photo, which she also used for her identity card.

My recommendation
To accompany the exhibit visit, I highly recommend downloading the mini catalog for La Mode retrouvée in English . Only the French version is available for sale at the exhibition. The exhibit labels are ground level and a bit difficult to read.

From the exhibit, a Worth housecoat/tea-gown in the foreground, in the center, a modified cape from Tsar Nicolas II and hanging a portrait of Countess Greffulhe© Pierre Antoine
From the exhibit, a Worth housecoat/tea-gown in the foreground, in the center, a modified cape from Tsar Nicolas II and hanging a portrait of Countess Greffulhe © Pierre Antoine

What I Saw
Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay (1860-1952) fashioned her way through decades of change and used her feminine wiles of influence to be associated with those changes. The Divine Comtesse was born at the end of the Second Empire, witnessed two French Republics and two world wars. She lived through the Belle Époque and the Roaring Twenties, and was the acknowledged leader of Paris Society (le Tout-Paris) for half a century.

Her wardrobe follows a timeline of history and appearances at fundraising events for charity. The events turned into public relations as she raised funds for operas and shows, supporting Wagner, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and Isadora Duncan. The Countess, joined by her husband, helped Marie Curie to finance the Institute of Radium, and Edouard Branly pursue his research into wireless telegraphy. The Countess, considered a political animal, was active in political opinion and support.

Green and black, her favorite colors, are featured in the exhibit. The Countess liked to wear vivid green clothes to set off her auburn hair.

Her wardrobe and bills of sale on display span fashion’s historical timeline from the 1878 of high neck and puff sleeves to the plunging décolleté of her 1937 twill and silk chiffon evening dress with ostrich feathers. The patterns on her 1912 Babani reflect Minoan pottery. The geometry and graphics of hieroglyphics of her 1925 metallic lace dress follow the Tutankhamun trend of 1922.

Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, Rue de Galliera, 75016 Paris
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm – Late openings on Thursdays until 9 pm
Closed on Mondays and public holidays
Last access to the museum 45 minutes before closing time
Transportation: Métro 9 (Iéna ou Alma-Marceau), Métro 6 (Boissière)
RER C (Pont de l’Alma)
Bus 32, 42, 63, 72, 80, 82, 92

The Palais Galliera only presents temporary exhibitions and does not offer permanent display of its collections. Between every exhibition, the museum is closed to the public.

This Web site and and its blog articles are for travelers to Paris who are looking for advice from someone who lives in Paris. These tips are "for Parisians at heart". Many people would like to visit, some can and some cannot - so I will help you enjoy a glimpse of the city and its surroundings. This project has been ongoing since 2002. Prior to living in Paris (since 1992) my European history began in the early 70s with three years in Wiesbaden, Germany. My next foray onto the Continent was in the mid-80s after graduation from the University of Florida (where I met Erik): traveling around Europe and UK with my friend, Margie, hitchhiking around and working in Ireland. After living and working as a journalist in Sweden for four years, traveling on boats, the Trans-Siberian Railway, local trains and planes took Erik and I around the world. I began working as a flight attendant in 1990 for American Airlines, based in Chicago. We moved to Paris, France in 1992 where I commuted between Paris and Chicago for my flight attendant/stewardess job. Finally my inner voice said "Stop!" and I left American Airlines six weeks shy of 20 years January 1, 2010. Now that is over and I am back working as a journalist and photographer full time on Colleensparis.com - My videos are posted on YouTube on the colleensparis youtube channel. and I am active in Toastmasters 75. Enjoy!