inspired by beauty
a journey through time
c o m i n g s o o n
A Romp through Art and Style
from 18th-c. France to the Contemporary Era
featuring historical dressmaker
in the part of muse and sometimes nymph
journey with us
photography – phillip van nostrand
historically inspired dresses – lauren rossi
hairstyles – lauren decosimo
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“The book is so romantic and inspiring – like being invited into a secret
world that we all – as Francophiles who love beauty – dream about.”
– Jill Esterman, former Interior Design Specialist, New York Flagship Home & Accessories, Tiffany & Co.
Inspired By Beauty: A Journey Through Time is the culmination of my life work in dance, French period art and antiques, design, and an all-encompassing love of beauty. Enveloping the reader in tastes, scents, and stunning images staged as living theater, it is woven throughout with anecdotes, sense impressions, and observations of the artists and their culture from 18th-century France to the contemporary era.
My passion for the frothy colors which sweep across a Fragonard painting, and the delicate, nuanced lines that bring an 18th-century French chalk drawing to life, are the heartbeat of this work. Its soul, the ever-present principle of beauty.
ABOUT THIS WORK
Upon completing the restoration of my ca. 1860, Historic Landmark home, I felt inspired by my own sense of beauty and sought to create what is fresh and new. The result was all that I envisioned — an elegant interior world blending the refined Louis XVI style with fashionable modernity. As the interiors came to life, I imagined a nymph, or an elegant visitor from another time, wandering throughout the space. Hence, I invited the inspiring historical dressmaker Lauren Rossi, who sauntered throughout my rooms wearing her gorgeous, handmade 18th-century French-inspired dresses. Surrounded by sumptuous fabrics, from Fortuny to Edmond Petit, and exquisite French period through modern art, she is a vision telling stories from years past. To demonstrate the timeless aspect of design that is rooted in Classicism, Ms. Rossi also wore a 1920s silk dress, an early 1960s little black dress – that belonged to my English mum – and a contemporary pink knit. The resulting scenes, all poetically captured by visionary photographer Phillip Van Nostrand, are woven together with anecdotes, personal impressions, and discussions on the cultural history of art, interiors, and style, from 18th-century France to the present.
FROM PHOTO BOOK TO PURE TEXT – ART & INSPIRATION
Inspired By Beauty unfolds as a journey and begins as a photo book, a poetic house tour led by our muse and sometimes nymph, where evocative images take center stage and the captions – tinged with moments of whimsy – serve as the text. As the book progresses, there is an increasing amount of historical discourse; think house tour meets history lesson. This culminates in a final, text-only section titled “Art & Inspiration”. Here, the featured art serves as guideposts, leading us along a timeline that references and further explores the genres, styles, and eras introduced in the book. I am thrilled to begin this timeline with Jean-Antoine Watteau’s exquisite, aux trois crayons masterpiece, Seated Young Woman. This sensuous, c. 1716, Rococo drawing, with its delicate swirls of chalk paying homage to the female spirit, leads us to a discourse about the changes in art and culture that will ripple through the century. Enlightenment ideas are explored, as they were the zeitgeist that set this cultural shift in motion. The timeline carries us along to the contemporary era, where the book’s themes unite under the ever-present principle of beauty. After all, it was beauty itself that inspired this work.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BEAUTY
On the subject of aesthetics, we will meet 18th- and 19th-century poets and philosophers. John Keats and the Romantic poets will take our breath away! Their pure and lyrical expressions are the quintessence of beauty. Our journey closes on a note of hope and encouragement, as we reference William Wordsworth’s awe-inspiring treatise, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”. This stunning thesis, which ushered in the Romantic movement, passionately validates the artist’s expression of beauty and its power to elevate society. The poet’s words, like beacons of light, will lead us out of these pages and escort us back to our lives, where I hope they might make a home in your mind and heart.
[Note: “Art & Inspiration” will include several essays by historians and esteemed professionals. Details to be announced.]
To provide a taste of Inspired by Beauty, sample pages are pasted below.
Further along, we enter other scenes and other eras…
with additional pages in between
[Note: About the dress – Lauren Rossi’s exquisite, handmade, 18th-century-inspired robe à la française, with its billowing Watteau pleats, is discussed in the book]
end of sample pages with corresponding text
there will be art…
Paper ballet slippers with mysterious writings and singed toes evoke dreams of 18th-century France and modern-day fairy tales. These delicate creations, adorned with tinges of gold leaf and tiny Swarovski crystals, are the work of contemporary Danish sculptress Marie-Louise Otte.
Art & books – the soul of a room
The riveting, fine-art photograph presented above in a gilded frame is the work of Brooklyn-based artists Scott Irvine and Kim Meinelt of WAXenVINE. Their art has an edgy, almost mystical quality and appears to capture a glimpse of eternity – taking the viewer through a hauntingly beautiful timescape.
Contemporary art by WAXenVINE and Marie-Louise Otte are featured throughout the book, where they are often found in the happy company of 18th- and 19th-century French sculptures, paintings, drawings, and prints.
In our Louis XVI-inspired tea salon, pastel-colored pastries beautifully echo the colors of Rococo. Nearby, a suite of velvety soft books wear a crown of paper flowers tinged with gold leaf. The flowers are also the work of sculptress Marie-Louise Otte.
One is drawn in by the scintillating, circa 1900, pastel of a ballerina by the acclaimed French academic painter and draughtsman Pierre Carrier-Belleuse. A perfect harmony of color and texture, its beauty captivates!
art & inspiration
At the close of the photo book, we come to our final, text-only section, titled “Art & Inspiration”. This is where our romp takes shape in the form of a timeline. To enter this timeline, we unfold the book’s pages from a picture of French doors that open outwards from both sides, like an accordion. And so begins the next, and final, stage of our journey.
The opening lines of “Art & Inspiration” read as follows:
WATTEAU – AND THE POETICS OF GESTURE
The curve of an arm, an arched neck, a downward glance – all telling stories of reaching…yearning and releasing…being. And in between these states, we discover a perfect harmony – a poetics of gesture.
Hence, we enter the eighteenth century, riding a wave of art reflecting the subtleties of beauty; art created by one of France’s greatest talents – Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). A draughtsman and painter from humble beginnings, Watteau, as artist-poet, will change the course of cultural history. Always the consummate artist, he moves against the tide of hierarchical art (steeped in the tradition of history paintings and moral teachings) to create gorgeous dreamscapes.
Swift, fluid chalk strokes delicately and gracefully sweep across paper, like dancers preparing to take flight. Drawings magically capture the immediacy of the moment with an air of abandon, while also displaying the elegance of restraint. And paintings, evoking images so rich in tone and form, that we cannot separate what is real from what is imagined. This magical world, spun out of chalk and paint, dreams and reality, will escort us into the enchanting Rococo era.
– End of sample text.
“Art & Inspiration” unfolds from the following image:
It is my hope that the tactile sensation of unfolding the book’s final chapter will feel like opening a present and enhance the experience of beauty.
behind the scenes
the making of Inspired By Beauty: A Journey Through Time
Meet our visionary lifestyle photographer, Phillip Van Nostrand, in action! In this scene, Lauren Rossi is wearing her marvelous, handsewn, 18th-century French-inspired corset, called stays. True to the era, Lauren wears the stays over her handmade, linen shift. The shift served the purpose of protecting the exquisite fabrics of a fashionable lady’s dress from a body that was not regularly bathed.
Exquisite hairstyles, inspired by 18th-century French through contemporary designs, were meticulously created by our hairstylist Lauren DeCosimo.
Take Pleasure in the Outdoors
We shot this scene on a warm autumn day, while heady scents of English roses and lavender phlox lingered in the air.
The seductive quality of scent – and its powerful effect upon our emotions and passions – is touched upon in the book’s final chapter, “Art & Inspiration”. Edmund Burke’s, 18th-century treatise, A Philosophical Enquiry Into The Origin Of Our Ideas Of The Sublime And Beautiful is referenced. Burke’s aesthetic theories provide a fascinating exploration of how we perceive and process beauty.
LAUREN ROSSI – Historical dressmaker and model, was featured on the Palace of Versailles’ promotional poster for their annual Fêtes Galante 2018, wearing her handmade, 18th-century French-inspired robe à la française. Additionally, she starred in the short film Adrift by Gray Cat Films, wearing her original robe à l’anglaise. Adrift was an Official Selection at the Austin Micro Short Film Festival 2019.
Ms. Rossi has been featured in national publications and has a global following online. Her work can be viewed on Instagram at: VirtuousCourtesan
PHILLIP VAN NOSTRAND – Lifestyle and commercial photographer, has worked in over thirty countries, lectures on photography, and has been featured in national publications, including The New York Times.
LAUREN DECOSIMO – Award-winning hairstylist, has been featured in national publications. She has styled hair for television productions, magazine shoots, New York Fashion Week, and can be found teaching in salons across America.
ANDREA FISHER – AUTHOR – Former dancer and choreographer, my work was performed by my New York City-based dance company throughout theaters in Manhattan, as well as dance festivals, universities, and at the Nassau County Museum of Fine Art (late 1970s-1990). I received numerous grants for my choreography from the New York State Council on the Arts, where I later served a term as a grant panelist. Features in print include The New York Times and Dance Magazine. Photos of my choreography – taken by legendary photographer Lois Greenfield – are part of the permanent archives of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. These photos can also be viewed on this website’s “Gardens and Dance” page (tab above).
– As a DESIGNER, I hold the title of Official Garden Designer of the Mission of Argentina to the United Nations. My garden designs, which have been featured in print, were most recently featured online at Victoria magazine.
– As an ANTIQUE DEALER, I enjoyed selling fine French period furniture, specializing in pieces by Maison Jansen, Maison Baguès, and François Linke. I also sold Jansen and Linke pieces at Sotheby’s.
– As a FINE ART DEALER, I sold French period art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, lectured on 18th- and 19th-century French academic art and the 18th-century interior, and continue to sell art to private collectors (though on a very small scale). Living with and researching these exquisite art pieces, until they found a home, was one of my greatest pleasures! Haunted by their beauty, I was inspired to merge my passions, from a career in dance, to French period art and design, to the creation of this book.
Lastly, as a WRITER, my creative nonfiction piece “My Russian Roots” was published, March 2022. Inspired by the principle of tolerance, “My Russian Roots” tells stories of ancestral memories woven together with a theme of compassion. I am enthusiastic about a more elaborate piece that is in progress, The Wonder of all Wonders: Childhood Longings Recalled Through a Dress. I will gladly share more about this and other narratives at a later date.
On a personal note: I was a homeschooling mother whose passions include growing antique and English roses, baking (having graduated from Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School in Baking and Pastry Arts), and animal rescue.
[Images are copyrighted]
art, fabric, and furnishings
The following is a preliminary list of items featured in the book.
18th- and 19th-century French Art:
18th-century chalk-manner print by Gilles Demarteau the Elder (Court Engraver to Louis XV); 18th-century watercolor painting attributed to Jean-Baptiste Huet; Pair of 18th-century sanguine, chalk drawings (said to be portraits of the French royal family); 19th-century pastel by academic painter and draughtsman Pierre Carrier-Belleuse; 19th-century bronze sculpture of Diana, goddess of the hunt, signed Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière (a museum exhibited piece); 19th-century bronze sculpture of Artemis signed Eugène Marioton and a 19th-century engraving after Auguste Toulmouche.
Fine-art photography (presented in gilded frames) by Brooklyn-based artists Scott Irvine and Kim Meinelt of WAXenVINE; Paper sculptures of Flowers, Ballet Slippers and Ballet Dress by Danish artist Marie-Louise Otte.*
*[Marie-Louise Otte’s paper sculptures have exhibited at The Copenhagen Opera House]
Baker; Fortuny – contemporary and antique; JAB Anstoetz Group; Kravet; Osborne & Little; Pierre Frey; Scalamandré – including Edmond Petit, Lelièvre and Old World Weavers.
FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS:
Antique Furniture and Furnishings:
ABC Carpet & Home; Crown Regent Bone China; Maison Baguès; Maison Jansen – including Louis XVI style, Jansen chairs from the descendants of Stéphane Boudin; Minton from Period Elegance, Ca; Tiffany & Co. and 18th- and 19th-century French furniture.
Contemporary Furniture and Furnishings:
AGM Marble and Tile Importers; Baguès Paris; Baker; Bernardaud; Blanche Field; Fermob; Frette: Gracie Studio; Interior Crafts Inc.; Jan Showers Collection; Maison Taillardat; Modern History and Niermann Weeks.
Pilgrim New York – Vintage Chanel Paris gold-plated chain necklace and logo earrings.
Houlès Paris; Samuel & Sons and East Coast Trimming.
Ladurée, SoHo, New York City.
Lifelike Flowers, London.
For potential collaborators: This page is only a taste of Inspired By Beauty. The book itself may be viewed in my private Dropbox. (Password available upon request.) A pdf version is in the works.
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— Rainer Maria Rilke quote used with kind permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York —