BLACK SILK VELVET EVENING COAT
DESIGNED BY CLAUDE SAINT-CYR,
TAPESTRY SLEEVES DESIGNED BY JEAN PICART LE DOUX
French, ca. 1950
This striking coat merges the world of French couture with the longstanding tradition of French tapestry weaving. Claude Saint-Cyr (1910–2002), whose real name was Simone Naudet, was a leading French milliner of the mid-twentieth century. She opened her own establishment in 1937 on the rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré and ran a successful business for decades onward. Saint-Cyr’s hats were worn by stylish women worldwide and featured in leading fashion magazines.
The unique inspiration for using tapestries in her designs came when artist Georges Martin (d. 1961), Saint-Cyr’s husband, used tapestry to recover chairs in her salon. Saint-Cyr found the result so beautiful that it led to her “Tapisseries” line of hats in 1950. This idea was soon expanded with a collection of short jackets and coats; weavings which Saint-Cyr incorporated into her work were collaborations with France’s leading tapestry designers, including Slavik, Jean Picart le Doux (1902–82) and her husband. The dramatic sleeves of this sweeping evening coat, in shades of golden yellow, ochre, brown, and black, were designed by Jean Picart le Doux and woven at the Aubusson firm of Ateliers Pinton.
In 1939, at the request of the French Ministry of Education, Jean Lurçat (1892–1966) was charged with revitalizing the Aubusson tapestry industry. Under Lurçat’s direction, ateliers began producing tapestries of modern designs. In 1945, Lurçat, Picart le Doux and Marc Saint-Saëns (1903-1979) founded L’Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie to promote the tapestry revival and present tapestries as original works of art. Picart le Doux’s style—bold yet also retaining elements of simplicity—exemplifies the modernist approach to tapestry designs of the mid-century. His tapestries display these characteristics to great effect with motifs such as the flame-like design found on both “Poème Végétal,” a hanging in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution (T.14237), and the tapestry sleeves of the Saint-Cyr coat.
Twentieth-century design offers many innovative examples of partnerships between artists and designers from different disciplines. Claude Saint-Cyr’s coat presents a highly successful testament to those creative endeavors which united many talents.
Provenance: From the personal wardrobe of Claude Saint-Cyr.