Sunday, 17 June 2018

Floating Palaces





From The Londoness blog:
For more than 100 years, ocean liners were the primary mode of intercontinental transportation. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the jet age kicked in. Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Walt Disney and David Niven were just some of the celebrities who used these giant golden carcasses to cross the Atlantic.

The grande dames of ocean liners included the France, Normandie, Lusitania, Mauretania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, passengers opted for German, French and British liners over American ones, as whilst the Prohibition laws were in effect, the giggle water restrictions still applied on American ships...

...As shipping companies started marketing to wealthier clients, so the interiors started taking centre stage. And the more opulent, the better, with styles ranging from Beaux-Arts to Art Nouveau. During the interwar period, Art Deco became the interior style du jour... [and the grandest] liners included a grande descente, a staircase where the ladies could make a proper entrance dressed in all their finery.
And so it was, on Friday Hils, Crog and I were somehow strangely drawn to go and see the V&A's latest flagship exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style before it closed (today).

It certainly didn't disappoint. With several rooms stuffed to the brim with every kind of artefact - from original promotional posters, tickets and booklets; to designs, plans and scale models of the ships themselves; to menus (First, Second and Third Class); to furniture, ornaments, carpets, lamps, friezes, wall panels and the assorted ornate ephemera that served to decorate these floating palaces; to the clothing, jewellery and suitcases used by the rich and the famous who became their regular passengers. Poignantly, there were some pieces that survived the Titanic disaster - a fragment of the panelling of the First Class lounge, and even a deckchair.

There were some absolute gems on display, such as Lanvin's 'Salambo' flapper dress (which was exhibited at the original Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris that launched the term "Art Deco"):



...the gigantic Art Deco lacquered wall frieze of athletes, from the smoking room of the Normandie:



...the opulent Louis Quatorze-style panels and door from the France:



...the centrepiece displays of elegant clothing as worn by the mega-rich passengers (such as heiress Emilie Busbey Grigsby and Marlene Dietrich), displayed around an imagined grande descente complete with silent movie footage of glamorous people descending; and, adjacent, the full-scale mock-up of an on-board swimming pool:





...and, of course, the Cartier tiara that survived the sinking of the Lusitania, thanks to the swift actions of Lady Marguerite Allen's maid to rescue it:



In common with so many of the V&A's big exhibitions, I imagine this one will be embarking on its own "grand tour" of the world - so catch it if you can!

More about the exhibition

12 comments:

  1. WOW! I could see my grandmother wearing that dress.

    the tiara looks like the one meghan markle wore for the wedding to hot prince ginger harry; am I correct?

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    1. Oh no - hers was something else altogether! - beyond the ambitions of a mere Lady... Jx

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  2. We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. And these grande dames supplied both.

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    1. Oh, to be a wealthy heiress in the Roaring Twenties! Wild horses couldn't drag me onto a cruise ship nowadays - more like a "floating Vegas" than a "floating palace", I would imagine... Jx

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  3. I love cruise ships, especially the floating Vegas/night club ones! No kids, just adults having fun! Love the buffets of delicious food and bodacious bods on display! People are more adventurous on a boat.

    But seriously love these old ships, particularly the ones with two of three of my fave design styles: Art Nouveau and Art Deco. The doors and that wall panel are stunning and resplendent! The vintage clothes are exquisite. Luv the old bathing suits!

    But that tiara is spectacular. I hope she let the maid wear it from time to time, even if it was when she was dusting the furniture. I know I'd wear one that fabulous even if I'm just sitting on the couch watching tv and eating potato chips.


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    1. There's a thought - I wonder if the Royals wear theirs whilst eating crisps and watching the horse racing on telly..? Jx

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  4. Thanks Jon, couldn't make the exhibit, but that post was like a restorative sailing across the pond. Cheers! xoNeely

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    1. Cheers, my dear! But we'd best keep an "even keel" otherwise we'll be "under the weather". "Ship Shape and Bristol fashion" at all times! Jx

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  5. Oh, how I'd love to sweep majestically down the grand staircase of one of those cruise ships dressed in something breath-taking (not a corset, btw)! What an age.

    P.S. Those panels and doors from the France are going to inform the décor here at Chateau DeVice!

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    1. I can just imagine you sweeping majestically down the stairs in your finest witchery garb... As for decorating the abode like the France - it might be somewhat ambitious. Jx

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  6. Fab review.
    I hope our maid would be quick enough to save the 'Delargo' jewels if we we had to abandon ship.

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