Category Archives: Belle Époque

Pages: Bohemian Paris

Bohemian Paris is one of those books so stuffed with ideas and names and references and cross-references and things you’re just dying to look up that it almost induces a state of neurasthenic overload in the reader (well, it did in this reader).

Pages: Bohemian Paris

Bohemian Paris is one of those books so stuffed with ideas and names and references and cross-references and things you’re just dying to look up that it almost induces a state of neurasthenic overload in the reader (well, it did in this reader).

Places: Vittoriale degli italiani

Mussolini cribbed much of his style and many of his tactics from the older man but was disinclined to have the dangerously charismatic war hero around to challenge his authority. Il Vittoriale was generously-funded busy work for d’Annunzio, an al fresco manifestation of the creation myths of totalitarianism.

Places: Vittoriale degli italiani

Mussolini cribbed much of his style and many of his tactics from the older man but was disinclined to have the dangerously charismatic war hero around to challenge his authority. Il Vittoriale was generously-funded busy work for d’Annunzio, an al fresco manifestation of the creation myths of totalitarianism.

Sodom’s ambassador to Paris

Jean Lorrain was a master of fin-de-siècle snark, using both novels and articles to take down many of the public figures of his day. He had – to quote Ann Widdecombe (four words I never thought I’d type) – “something of the night” about him.

Sodom’s ambassador to Paris

Jean Lorrain was a master of fin-de-siècle snark, using both novels and articles to take down many of the public figures of his day. He had – to quote Ann Widdecombe (four words I never thought I’d type) – “something of the night” about him.

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.

A sâr is born

Joséphin Péladan was a keen self-publicist, describing himself as “the sandwich man of the Beyond”, and the opening night of the Salon des Rose+Croix in 1892 was mobbed by punters just as keen to lay eyes on the extraordinary “Sâr” as the work of such artists as Jean Delville.

A sâr is born

Joséphin Péladan was a keen self-publicist, describing himself as “the sandwich man of the Beyond”, and the opening night of the Salon des Rose+Croix in 1892 was mobbed by punters just as keen to lay eyes on the extraordinary “Sâr” as the work of such artists as Jean Delville.

Boni and the Palais Rose

After bagging his heiress in 1895, Boni de Castellane embarked on a spending spree which stood out even by the profligate standards of the Belle Époque, snapping up a schooner and a couple of chateaux and once hiring the entire Bois de Boulogne for a party.

Boni and the Palais Rose

After bagging his heiress in 1895, Boni de Castellane embarked on a spending spree which stood out even by the profligate standards of the Belle Époque, snapping up a schooner and a couple of chateaux and once hiring the entire Bois de Boulogne for a party.

Venus as a boy

Though her business card proclaimed her a “man of letters”, Rachilde was the only female author of note among the Decadents but arguably the one who pushed their preoccupation with gender meddling the furthest.

Venus as a boy

Though her business card proclaimed her a “man of letters”, Rachilde was the only female author of note among the Decadents but arguably the one who pushed their preoccupation with gender meddling the furthest.

Can-can king

Mayréna started shopping the kingdom round the colonial powers, but handing out decorations like bon-bons and strutting around Hong Kong in his Gilbert and Sullivan uniform mysteriously failed to win support.

Can-can king

Mayréna started shopping the kingdom round the colonial powers, but handing out decorations like bon-bons and strutting around Hong Kong in his Gilbert and Sullivan uniform mysteriously failed to win support.

Yes we can-can

Louise Weber had already come so far down in the world; as she lay dying in 1929 she feared that death would not end her descent. “I do not want to go to hell,” she told her priest. “Father will God forgive me? I am La Goulue.”

Yes we can-can

Louise Weber had already come so far down in the world; as she lay dying in 1929 she feared that death would not end her descent. “I do not want to go to hell,” she told her priest. “Father will God forgive me? I am La Goulue.”

Paul and Paulette

Proust was fascinated by the then-novel all white interior of the Helleus’ home, and it was there that the young Paulette met the author; other visitors included the artist Boldini, Robert de Montesquiou and aristocratic bon vivant Boni de Castellane.

Paul and Paulette

Proust was fascinated by the then-novel all white interior of the Helleus’ home, and it was there that the young Paulette met the author; other visitors included the artist Boldini, Robert de Montesquiou and aristocratic bon vivant Boni de Castellane.

On the road with Raymond Roussel

Whether it was his lifelong correspondence with the Tahitian royal family, his habit of fasting for days on end or his phobia of tunnels, Roussel boasted a generous portfolio of quirks. For now, I’m going to concentrate on just one: his extraordinary RV.

On the road with Raymond Roussel

Whether it was his lifelong correspondence with the Tahitian royal family, his habit of fasting for days on end or his phobia of tunnels, Roussel boasted a generous portfolio of quirks. For now, I’m going to concentrate on just one: his extraordinary RV.

Disenchanted

One of the stranger episodes in Pierre Loti’s eventful life took place in Constantinople in 1904 when the author received what was essentially a fan letter from a Turkish woman, in which she daringly suggested a meeting…

Disenchanted

One of the stranger episodes in Pierre Loti’s eventful life took place in Constantinople in 1904 when the author received what was essentially a fan letter from a Turkish woman, in which she daringly suggested a meeting…

Verlaine’s funeral

The public funeral drew around 5000 mourners on a cold, bright day and marked the exact point at which the hitherto disreputable Paul Verlaine was rehabilitated by the bourgeoisie.

Verlaine’s funeral

The public funeral drew around 5000 mourners on a cold, bright day and marked the exact point at which the hitherto disreputable Paul Verlaine was rehabilitated by the bourgeoisie.

Dress-down Friday: Robert de Montesquiou

Whistler and Boldini were each inspired by their sitter’s magnetic self-possession to produce timeless portraits, and he famously served as the model for two literary barons: Charlus in Proust’s slim page-turner À la recherche du temps perdu and des Esseintes in J.K. Huysmans’ À rebours.

Dress-down Friday: Robert de Montesquiou

Whistler and Boldini were each inspired by their sitter’s magnetic self-possession to produce timeless portraits, and he famously served as the model for two literary barons: Charlus in Proust’s slim page-turner À la recherche du temps perdu and des Esseintes in J.K. Huysmans’ À rebours.

Ubu unleashed

The violent cultural disruptions dotted like bonfires across the landscape of the 20th century — Dadaism, Surrealism, Theatre of Cruelty, Absurdism and Situationism — were lit at the moment when Firmin Gémier uttered the first word of the play: merdre.

Ubu unleashed

The violent cultural disruptions dotted like bonfires across the landscape of the 20th century — Dadaism, Surrealism, Theatre of Cruelty, Absurdism and Situationism — were lit at the moment when Firmin Gémier uttered the first word of the play: merdre.

Dress-down Friday: Bibi-la-Purée

Footnotes to cultural history don’t get much more footnote-y than Bibi-la-Purée. He is mentioned in the French edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, was painted by Pablo Picasso, haunts the margins of Paul Verlaine’s life and has walk-on parts in numerous accounts of bohemian Paris.

Dress-down Friday: Bibi-la-Purée

Footnotes to cultural history don’t get much more footnote-y than Bibi-la-Purée. He is mentioned in the French edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, was painted by Pablo Picasso, haunts the margins of Paul Verlaine’s life and has walk-on parts in numerous accounts of bohemian Paris.

Last round

Born Jacques d’Adelswärd to minor nobility and a major fortune, he later added the second barrel to his name in honour of his ancestor, the Swedish adventurer Count Fersen who was a favourite — and possibly lover — of Marie Antoinette.

Last round

Born Jacques d’Adelswärd to minor nobility and a major fortune, he later added the second barrel to his name in honour of his ancestor, the Swedish adventurer Count Fersen who was a favourite — and possibly lover — of Marie Antoinette.

Feasts, princes, champagne

The life of dancer and courtesan La Belle Otero offers a fascinating insight into sex, power, money, class and fame in the Belle Époque.

Feasts, princes, champagne

The life of dancer and courtesan La Belle Otero offers a fascinating insight into sex, power, money, class and fame in the Belle Époque.