Some times you really have to pinch yourself. Yesterday was one of those days. I was invited to go on a special tour of the new exhibition at the Getty Center in Brentwood: "Paris: Life & Luxury." The enticing banners for this exhibition are all over town and I had been curious about it. My friend had invited me to join her and a group of women to tour the exhibition and then have lunch afterwards at the delightful restaurant at the Getty. And so I drove up to the Getty on an overcast, misty morning in anticipation of a day of fine art and delicious food.
"La Toilette" by Francois Boucher
As always I was struck by the beauty of the Getty and the breathtaking views of its gardens and the city that you get from the upper levels of the museum.
As we entered the foyer to the exhibition I saw this quote painted on the blue wall leading into the first room. We encountered many other quotes like this one along our route.
As we entered the first room it was obvious that this was no ordinary decorative arts exhibition. Not only were we seeing a wide variety of exquisite objects from 18th-century Paris that would have been in the homes of the elite society, but these objects were exhibited in beautiful settings. Each room was painted a complementary and gorgeous color, such as red or blue; the lights were dimmed, and in some cases there was music playing. The panels or signs that described what we were seeing were designed in a decorative manner, written in calligraphy and outlined in a scalloped design. (We were not allowed to take photos! My words will have to do all the work here.)
This exhibition evokes the rich ambiance of Paris during the mid-18th century. It is structured in a chronological way in terms of how an 18th-century Parisienne would go through their day. And so the first room is all about the "Toilette." We saw paintings of women performing the ritual of their toilette by French artists such as Boucher and Chardin. These are known as toilette portraits. And in this room devoted to the toilette were many objects that would have been used in this ritual, including toilette tables and toilette services which included silver mirrors, ewers and basins, silver brushes, and enamel boxes.
Walking through the different rooms -- for dining, playing musical instruments, socializing after dinner -- we encountered one exquisite object after another -- dresses, furniture, silver serving pieces, clocks, musical instruments, and paintings. My favorite was the red harpsichord. Each object was an example of fine craftsmanship and artistry. There were objects and paintings that represented the different stages of a person's day, including reading and self-improvement, dining, and evening activities such as cards and sociability. Here are a few images from this gorgeous exhibition.
Woman's Dress and Petticoat, 1760-1765
Hanging for a Bed, 1690-1715
One of a Pair of Three-Panel Screens, 1714-40
Wall Clock, ca. 1740
Folding Fan, about 1760's
After viewing all of this beauty, I think I may have to rent and watch again the film "Dangerous Liaisons." When you visit this show at the Getty, be sure to purchase the wonderful book that accompanies this exhibition. It is a scholarly treatment of the subject and is filled with many luscious photographs.
The book's beautiful endpapers
After our tour of the exhibition, we had lunch at the Getty's restaurant. This restaurant is one of the best kept secrets in Los Angeles. The food is delicious and quite beautiful.
Scallops on a bed of risotto
The women that I joined on this wonderful cultural afternoon are a group that get together regularly to experience the rich arts and culture that Los Angeles has to offer. I was delighted to be included and we had a wonderful lunch and conversation, one topic leading to another, and when I left I felt incredibly optimistic and excited about exploring our city and taking advantage of all the artistic treasures that we have.
When I got home, feeling very French, I was inspired to put together an outfit that felt a bit Parisian. I wore it out to dinner and felt I was prolonging the mood of the day.
The purse and the trench gave it a bit of a French flair, non?
Please go see this show at the Getty, you will be transported to another era -- Paris in the 18th- century. It is just exquisite!