January 3, 2012

Joaquín Sorolla and The Glory of Spanish Dress

Joaquín Sorolla Characters from Lagartera or Lagartera Bride, 1912 Courtesy of Museo Sorolla, Madrid

I spent a luxurious Friday afternoon at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute taking in the recently opened "Joaquín Sorolla and The Glory of Spanish Dress" exhibit. I had been awaiting the opening of "Joaquín Sorolla and The Glory of Spanish Dress" all fall, and questioning how the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute could possibly outdo "Balenciaga and Spain." The exhibit was developed by Oscar de la Renta, who is the Institute's chairman of the board. 

De la Renta's inspiration for this exhibit was Vision of Spain, the Sorolla mural commissioned in 1911 for The Hispanic Society of America in New York. The size and scale of the series was unheard of. The mural represents eleven regions of Spain and focuses on agrarian culture, traditions and dress. Sorolla spent eight years researching, sketching, preparing studies and paintings in preparation for the mural. 

Joaquín Sorolla Couple from Salamanca, 1912 Courtesy of Museo Sorolla, Madrid

I love the way Sorolla paints Spain's landscapes. Oil studies and gouaches capture each region's specific and particular quality of light. Sorolla would purchase authentic garments and jewelry in an effort to preserve the distinct culture of each region. The jewelry in this exhibit is stunning. Various Traje de Vistas (bridal and festive ensembles worn by women in the early twentieth century) feature necklaces, pendants, medals, medallions, reliquaries, crosses and beautifully craved coral pieces. I always find jewelry to be so enduring.

Joaquín Sorolla Harvest, Jerez, 1914 Courtesy of Museo Sorolla, Madrid

The exhibit features a fisherman's shirt covered with patches of clothing remnants that Sorolla purchased during a trip through the Basque Country. There are beautiful examples of embroidery from Lagartera, a town famous for its' embroidery, needlework and lace making (sigh). The traditional clothing in "Joaquín Sorolla and The Glory of Spanish Dress" is primarily from the early 20th century. My favorite being elaborate brocades (reminiscent of French Court dress) from Valencia's thriving silk producing and weaving industry. 

Mantón de Manila (shawl), 19th century Collection of Naty Abascal © Craig McDean / Courtesy of Art + Commerce

Traje corto (riding ensemble), c. 1961 Collection of the Duchess of Alba © Craig McDean / Courtesy of Art + Commerce

The exhibit opens with its' only contemporary day look; a tan leather coat from Nicolas Ghesquière's Fall 2006 collection (look 7). Fall 2006 is one of my favorite Nicolas Ghesquière collections. The exhibit seamlessly juxtaposes Sorolla's paintings and traditional clothing with modern evening looks from Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Carolina Herrera, YSL, Oscar de la Renta and Christian Lacroix that were inspired by various aspects of Spanish dress. Christian Lacroix's Eau du Nil wedding dress made me feel quite nostalgic. How can you talk about finding inspiration in Spain without mentioning Lacroix, who considers Spain a muse.

I love the talent that went into producing this exhibit. A few looks were generously contributed from Hamish Bowles' personal couture collection. Andrè Leon Talley curated the exhibit; the sets were designed by Stefan Beckman and Harold Koda wrote the forward for the accompanying book. If you're in New York, I highly recommend stopping in and getting lost.

Happy 2012! Hope the new year is off to a good start for you all.


  1. OMG everything is so beautiful. love the mix of fashion and art, quite possibly my favourite things in the entire world. will definitely be stopping by if i get to NYC! hope this exhibit doesn't end too soon.

  2. How gorgeous. You have such an eye for beauty. How is the catalogue?
    I hope you had a good new year, I got sick right before new year's eve and am finally feeling better. Managed to pull myself together for a family portrait - unbelievably, last weekend was the first time three generations of my family were in the same place. Naturally my grandmother wanted us to pose for a few formal photographs :)
    Am now heading to Goa - a long holiday is such a luxury. I am so glad I took this time out for myself.
    P.S. The draped pink shawl above reminds me so much of a sari. I remember Balenciaga designed a beautiful brocade sari for Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s, I wonder if he was perhaps inspired by Spanish textiles when he worked on the sari.

  3. "Outdo Balenciaga and Spain"?? Whoa. Wish I could check THAT out...Especially as the art looks just so brilliant, so full of verve...

    Btw, the shawl in the second last photo is gorgeous! I do love just how vibrant it is with that wonderful, changeless elegance :D

  4. Thank you for sharing! I will have to check this out! All the best for 2012 and looking forward to more from Un Petit Bijou!

  5. Happy new year!

    How beautiful. This is as close to the exhibit as I will get, so thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Joy- Agreed. Art and fashion are definitely two of my favorite things. I love when they are successfully combined. There are so many great exhibits all over the world this year. I can't wait!

    The exhibit runs until March 10th in NYC, but I hope it travels somewhere else like the Balenciaga.

  7. Ammu- Happy New Year! I’m sorry to hear that you were sick. Being sick over the holidays is the worst. I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better and just in time for Goa:)

    Oh it’s so nice to be able to gather everyone together. It’s so rare to be able to gather everyone in the same place. It’s great that you were able to do it.

    Oh yes, a long holiday is the ultimate luxury. There’s nothing like getting away from the routine and being in a beautiful place.

    Isn’t the draped shawl beautiful? It does remind me of a sari. Now you have me curious about Elizabeth Taylor’s Balenciaga shawl. I believe I saw a picture on it at the Van Cleff exhibit last year. I would love to know the inspiration.

    Enjoy every minute of your vacation!!!!

  8. What a beautiful exhibits, the paintings are amazing.

    Hope you had a great New Year. Please check out my blog for a review of V Nunes jewelry ;)

  9. drifterqueen- I have such a love for Balenciaga that I don't know if they'll ever be able to upstage it for me. It is such a good follow up exhibit though. I love how much research they put into the exhibit.

    The art is really vibrant, which I love.

    The shawl is so elegant.

    Ammu- I forgot to add that I haven't had a chance to really dive into the catalog. I will let you know once I do;)

  10. Alice Olive- You must check it out! It's perfect weather for a museum.

    Happy 2012 to you as well. I hope the year is off to a great start for you.

    Yes, there's lots planned for this blog.

  11. Lin- Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your break.

    I love how all of our blogs allow us to share so many great things.

  12. just tututiny- So beautiful and peaceful.

    Happy new year to you as well. I will definitely stop by your blog:)

  13. These paintings are so vibrant and full of life--they lend a familiar and folksy air to the clothing when you transition from looking at the paintings to the clothes. Great post, it reminded me that I need to visit the art museum at home before I head off to school.

  14. I collect intricately made tribal costumes. It's amazing to see how much traditional costumes inspire contemporary designers around the world.

  15. Nay'Chelle- So full of life! It reminds me to incorporate a little more of this into my daily routine:)

    So glad to hear that you enjoyed reading. That's always good to hear.

    I always feel really lucky to live so close to museums. That's awesome that you get to visit one while home from school.

  16. Chocolate, Cookies & Candies- Your collection sounds amazing! May I ask what tribes they are from?

    I always love seeing what inspires contemporary designers. The designer notes are always one of my favorite things about the collections.

  17. Thanks for working for the people like us.
    hispanic clothing

    1. Anonymous- It's so nice to see different cultures represented in art and fashion. Too often, the conversations are one dimensional.