11 Feb 2024

Galliano's Auntie

John Galliano and Auntie (2021) [1]

By his own confession, the British fashion designer John Galliano loves to surround himself with much-loved objects collected over the years and it's good to know that he recognises the vital nature of his relationship with them. 
For not only do objects inspire as alluring things-in-themselves, they also trigger, he says, the memories and emotions that allow him to create.
As might be imagined, Galliano has a lot of paintings, drawings, and photographs that he treasures, but the objet d'affection that most interests me is an artist's mannequin (or lay figure) called Auntie, whom, Galliano informs us, is over a hundred years old and yet still assists him with his all fittings whilst acting also as his sternest critic
Apparently, Auntie was residing in Montmartre when Galliano first encountered her and he likes to imagine that, in her youth, she inspired some of the great modern artists who would have lived and worked in the area during the final years of La Belle Époque. 
As something of an agalmatophile myself, I can fully appreciate Galliano's fascination with this life-sized wooden doll. 
For those readers who are unfamiliar with mannequins such as Auntie, I should perhaps explain that they were used by artists keen to improve and refine their knowledge of the postures and movements of the human body (although they were not, however, intended as substitutes for live models). 
For unlike mannequins made for medical or fashion purposes, an artist's doll is fully articulated:
"The flexibility of its shoulders and arms, hips and legs, wrists and ankles allows it to be configured into any position possible [...] even each finger is easily manipulated to individually open and close. This remarkable agility was made possible by an intricate system of rotating wood ball-and-socket joints, numerous dowels, and an elaborate internal mechanism [...] or 'skeleton', that holds its parts in place." [2]
As might be imagined, dolls of this quality took several months to make and were extremely costly. Nevertheless, they were increasingly in demand from the late 18th to the mid-19th century and even after this date some artist's still liked to have a lay figure in their studio.    
Personally, I think it sad that there are now so few surviving examples of these skilfully-crafted dolls in tip-top condition and so one is grateful to Galliano for taking such good care of Auntie and providing her with such a beautiful retirement home. 
[1]  Screenshots of Galliano and Auntie from an episode of Objects of Affection, dir. Nikki Petersen, and uploaded to the Vogue YouTube channel on 16 Nov 2021. Whilst graciously showing us around his treasure-filled French hideaway, Galliano introduces us to some of the objects that mean the most to him: click here.    
[2] Marjorie Shelley, 'Mannequins: A Tool of the Artist's Workshop' (April 2016) on the Met Museum website: click here
For a related post on Surrealist mannequin fetish (published on 6 april 2017), please click here.  

No comments:

Post a Comment