COCO CHANEL, Misia Sert & Germaine Schroeder

 

 

The price of each book is given upon request; the purchase of all the books will result in a further reduction.

 An English version of this catalog is available on www.deproyart.com

It is unusual for an unknown bibliophilic provenance to be disclosed, especially when it is concerns amateurs who have marked the history and taste of their period.  Like Claude de L'Aubespine who was recently rediscovered and entered the pantheon of the great 16th century collectors alongside Jean Grolier and Thomas Mahieu, Coco Chanel takes her place today among these bibliophiles who gave the status of art objects to their books. However, as these four books patiently put together show, Coco Chanel would not have known how to come up with her copies without the help of her friend Misia, nor without the talent of her bookbinder Germaine Schroeder.

 

Germaine Schroeder was already binding books before the First World War. "Jacques Doucet had asked her to create the first decors designed by Pierre Legrain.  By 1925 she had earned a reputation that brought her the clientele of such great bibliophiles as Louis Barthou." (1) She bound for Coco Chanel and her entourage in the 1920s. Jean Cocteau asked her for a bradel type binding of black paper to preserve his own books (2). Neither Pierre Legrain nor Germaine Schroeder had the habit of complementing their wrappers with slipcases, which results in the natural wear on the spines of their bindings.  

 

The sober decor of these four bindings, although undated, resolutely belongs in the 1920s.  The striking similarity of two of them, the Nijinsky and France l'Etron, shows an obvious preference of the commissioning client. Two of the four books bear an inscription to Misia Sert, one by Cocteau, the other by Reverdy. A third book bears an inscription from Apollinaire to Reverdy. Three of the four books are bound in the beige and black shades which (with white) became the couturier's favorite colors in 1919 – even the shutters and coating of her house in Garches were painted in beige and black and the famous "two-toned shoes", or many of her other creations also bore these same colors. Their use here is obviously intentional. The fourth book, Calligrammes, inscribed to Reverdy, is bound in the garnet shades that Coco Chanel saved for her copies of Apollinaire.

 

Finally, these four books represent persons that all gravitate in the artistic world of Coco Chanel: Misia Sert, Jean Cocteau and Pierre Reverdy.  All four books bear her distinguishing sign, a small "C" in pencil in the upper right hand corner of the first blank endpaper of the binding. This sign was apposed once the binding was completed and not on the endpaper of the wrappered book. This physical evidence of private appropriation was sometimes erased through ignorance of its real significance.  

 

We were able to discover this little known mark of ownership thanks to information from François Chapon, former Chief Curator of the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet. He recommended we examine a collection of manuscript poems by Apollinaire given by the latter to Pierre Reverdy (a remarkable relay in the history of poetry) then by the poet to Coco Chanel. She brought this book to the young curator of the Bibliothèque towards the end of her life.  She had had it bound by Germaine Schroeder in shades of garnet burgundy, like this Calligrammes inscribed to Reverdy. This book from the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet also bears the famous little "C" for Coco.

 

(1). Vrain, Reliures de femmes de 1900 à nos jours, p. 94

(2). Sotheby’s, 26 November 2009, n° 141

 

 

 

 

[1]  COCTEAU, Jean

Vaslav Nijinsky. Six vers de Jean Cocteau. Six dessins de Paul Iribe

Paris, Société générale d’Impression [pour la revue "Le Témoin"], 1910.

 

ONE OF THE FINEST BOOKS ON THE BALLETS RUSSES BOUND BY GERMAINE SCHROEDER FOR COCO CHANEL, WITH ITS MAQUETTE OF ORIGINAL DRAWINGS BY PAUL IRIBE.

 

COPY OF COCO CHANEL WITH HER DISTINGUISHING SIGN, GIVEN BY HER TO SERGE LIFAR

 

FIRST EDITION AND MANUSCRIPT OF THE BOOK

 

Folio (305 x 209mm)

 

The book:

Title on the cover, printed in red and black

ILLUSTRATION: 6 drawings by Paul Iribe, depicting Nijinsky dancing

LIMITATION: one of the copies on Japan paper, unnumbered. Most of the limitation was destroyed

 

The maquette:

 

ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION ADDED FORMING THE ORIGINAL MAQUETTE OF THE BOOK and mounted on guards:

- another state of the cover printed in red and black but without the colophon

- the ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT MAQUETTE OF THE FIRST SIDE OF THE COVER, in China ink

- the SIX ORIGINAL DRAWINGS by Paul Iribe depicting Nijinsky, in quill pen and China ink,

EACH OF THEM WITH ONE OF THE SIX AUTOGRAPH VERSES BY JEAN COCTEAU in legend of each drawing

 

BEIGE AND BLACK BINDING SIGNED BY GERMAINE SCHROEDER. Original slipcase

PROVENANCE: Coco Chanel, bound for her by Germaine Schroeder, with the sign “C” in pencil characteristic of her books, on the first endpaper, -- Serge Lifar (stamp on the first side of the cover) -- Serge Lifar collection, Geneva Auction House, 20 March 2012, lot n° 477

 

Some rubbing on spine

 

The Ballets Russes appeared on the Parisian scene in 1909, creating a huge artistic revolution. They offered an unprecedented synthesis of all the arts: from painting and poetry to music and dance.  This fusion of the arts had been expected in France since the appearance of Wagnerism.  Marcel Proust compared this sudden electricity to that around the Dreyfus affair. In Sodom and Gomorrah II, he speaks of  "the extraordinary efflorescence of the Ballets Russes, revealing Bakst, Nijinski, Benois, the genius of Stravinski" (Paris, Gallimard, 1998, p. 140) one after the other.  The darling of Parisian artistic circles, Cocteau was immediately attracted to Nijinsky's dancing.

 

This luxury little book is illustrated with six compositions in black and white by Paul Iribe and was printed on japan paper for the readers of Le Témoin in 1910. The extreme elegance of this large format booklet claims to be the bibliophilic representation of this new synthesis of the arts; its style heralds the finest books of the Art Deco period as early as 1910.  Nijinsky is depicted here as the "leaping God" in the ballets Giselle and Scheherazade, both performed in June 1910 at the Opéra de Paris. By this homage to the dancer, Cocteau's motives were obvious as he revealed his passionate attraction to the young man of nineteen and his deep desire for acceptance into Diaghilev's brilliant circle of the Ballets Russes.  Mistrustful, Diaghilev would make him wait longer. A large part of the edition having been destroyed, F. Steegmuller acknowledged the rarity of this third book by Jean Cocteau: "the handsome, very thin volume (Vaslav Nijinsky. Six verses by Jean Cocteau) is one of Cocteau’s earliest and rarest work” (Jean Cocteau. A biography, 1970, p. 73).

 

Gabrielle Chanel created the costumes for the Ballets Russes's Train bleu by Bronislava Nijinska (Nijinsky's sister) in 1924, set to music by Darius Milhaud, with stage decor by Henri Laurens.  Serge de Diaghilev died in Venice on August 19, 1929 and Coco Chanel paid for the funeral.  A long suite of gondolas crossed the lagoon towards the San Michele cemetery. Serge Lifar exchanged his cufflinks for those of the deceased, the only item he took to his grave. Lifar had wanted to revive the Ballets Russes.  This explains why Coco Chanel must have given him this precious booklet of 1910 and its maquette of original drawings bound by Germaine Schroeder. It was a relay, demonstrating with this precious copy, the unity of style connecting the formal universe of the 1910 Ballets Russes to that of Art Deco in which she lived.

 

“He always made me laugh, which lots of men have forgotten to do.  When he saw I was sad, he would come by with lots of stories about his childhood in Russia, his parents. He is a real Russian, see how he drinks his tea after putting the piece of sugar in his mouth”. (Coco Chanel, about Serge Lifar, cf. www.sergelifar.org).

 

REFERENCES: Nijinsky, Paris, Musée d’Orsay, 2000-2001, pp. 119-125 and cover of the catalogue – The Ballets Russes, Paris, 2009, pp. 139-149

 

 

 

 

 [2] COCTEAU, Jean

France l’Étron-Poèmes

1914

 

AMAZING UNPUBLISHED HUMOROUS MANUSCRIPT BY COCTEAU DATING FROM BEFORE THE FIRST WORLD WAR; IT HAS A DOUBLE INSCRIPTION, TO JOSÉ MARIA SERT AND HIS FUTURE WIFE MISIA.  

 

BOUND IN BEIGE AND BLACK FOR COCO CHANEL BEARING HER DISTINGUISHING MARK.

 

ILLUSTRATED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT

 

Folio (353 x 212 mm)

COLLATION: 45 leaves

ILLUSTRATION: 46 original humorous drawings in ink and pencil, often enhanced in color. Some are full page and two are on double pages

INSCRIBED by Jean Cocteau:

 

Mon coeur en deux se scia pour Sert et pour Misia

 

(My heart is sawn in two for Sert and for Misia)

 

BEIGE AND BLACK BINDING SIGNED GERMAINE SCHROEDER. Original slipcase

PROVENANCE: Misia Sert, dedicatee of the manuscript -- Coco Chanel to whom the manuscript was undoubtedly given by Misia: the first endpaper bears the “C” in pencil characteristic of her books -- the Paul Destribats collection

 

Some very light tearing on the binding due to its fragility

 

The manuscript is inscribed to Misia Sert, then to Ms. Godebska-Edwards. Having obtained authorization from Gallieni to rescue the wounded on the front, she borrowed vehicles from the great Parisian designers, which she transformed into ambulances.  At the head of the convoy was her Mercedes driven by the illustrator Paul Iribe, with Jean Cocteau sitting next to him wearing an elegant nurse's uniform designed by Poiret.  In the back were Misia and José Maria Sert.  Cocteau was the clown of the group.  Later, in 1923 Misia inspired in him the character of Princess de Bormes in Thomas l’Imposteur, which describes the horror of a baptême de feu (baptism of fire) in Reims. Outside of his novel, the current manuscript and a few poems, Cocteau never wrote anything on the Great War. Here he imitates the writing of Anna de Noailles that he would often parody.  Short poems, distiches, maxims, proverbs or humorous fables mingled war scenes with allusions to contemporary figures such as the hated Madame de Rumilly, the writer and painter Juliette Roche (future wife of Albert Gleizes), François le Grix (copy editor of La Revue Hebdomadaire which published Potomak in 1919) or Count Etienne de Beaumont. There are also other close friends of Cocteau: Edmond Rostand and Maurice Ravel (a very amusing drawing depicts them cross-dressed in a scene from Cyrano), Jacques-Emile Blanche, Madame Muhlfeld (who held a famous literary salon), Francis de Croisset, Count Harry Kessler (German patron and Francophile diplomat), Joseph Reinach (journalist at the Figaro and ex pro-Dreyfus MP, whistleblower of the "false Henri"), or even Boni de Castellane.

 

Jean Cocteau's little-known animosity towards Anatole France was revealed through one of the quatrains of the manuscript entitled: Lettre ouverte à Monsieur Anatole France (Open Letter to Monsieur Anatole France).  Cocteau was responding to an article in La Guerre sociale of September 22, 1914.  While lamenting the fire at the Cathedral of Reims, France proclaimed that on the day of victory "the French people would admit into friendship the conquered people".  So Anatole France became a traitor.  The desecration of Reims in the September 22 article was undoubtedly behind the patriotic and trivial spirit that Cocteau shows here.  The style of these drawings is reminiscent of Van Dongen.

 

 

 

 

 [3] APOLLINAIRE, Guillaume

Calligrammes

Paris, Mercure de France, 1918

 

FROM ONE MODERNISM, THE OTHER: PERSONAL INSCRIPTION BY GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE "TO MY VERY DEAR PIERRE REVERDY"

 

REVERDY GAVE HIS OWN COPY TO COCO CHANEL WHO HAD IT BOUND BY GERMAINE SCHROEDER, AND PUT HER OWN DISTINGUISHING MARK ON IT

 

FIRST EDITION

 

8vo (220 x 137mm)

LIMITATION: copy on regular paper, numbered 931

ILLUSTRATION: portrait of the author by Pablo Picasso woodcut by R. Jaudon

 

INSCRIBED:

 

A mon très cher Pierre Reverdy

son

Guillaume Apollinaire

 

(To my dear Pierre Reverdy

his Guillaume Appolinaire)

 

BINDING SIGNED BY GERMAINE SCHROEDER. Garnet colored box, blind fillet decor, fillets on the outside border repeated on the spine, brown upper edge, untrimmed, preserved cover and spine

PROVENANCE: Pierre Reverdy (inscribed) -- Coco Chanel (bound for her by Germaine Schroeder, with on the first endpaper, in pencil, the “C” characteristic of her books, here slightly erased) -- Bernard Loliée collection (Sotheby's Paris, October 7, 2014, n° 28)

 

The limitation of Calligrammes on large paper is as follows: 4 japan, 3 china and 33 Holland paper.  These large paper copies were a pretext for audacious bindings (metallic binding by Paul Bonet, starred binding by Huser) but were never tied in with the history of literature. Apollinaire addressed the few known inscriptions of Calligrammes on the only copies of the tirage courant (other than an inscription to a certain Diane de Gonet, on Holland). The inventoried recipients are the following: Fernand Gregh, Serge Ferrat, Maurice Raynal, Henri-Pierre Roché (Pierre Bergé collection), Van Dongen and Gaston Gallimard (Bibliothèque nationale de France). These few known copies are addressed to recipients who were never great writers.

 

Major collections (including that of André Breton) feature some unsigned and unpresented copies, when they are not subsequent editions.  Amazingly, the great American libraries possess only reprints or copies without inscription.  There are no first editions of Calligrammes at the Pierpont Morgan, the Library of Congress or Princeton University, while the copies at Harvard and Beinecke's are not inscribed.

 

The rediscovery of this Reverdy-Coco Chanel copy is thus an exceptional occurrence.

 

 

Pierre Reverdy and Apollinaire.

 

Pierre Reverdy came to Paris in 1910 and moved into the Hotel du Poirier, facing the Bateau Lavoir. When not working as a printer's corrector at the Annales on rue Falguière, he stood at the heart of debates on cubism and the innovations in poetry: "Apollinaire and Max Jacob are the only poets that Reverdy admits having frequented with success" (Suzanne Bernard). Very soon, painters were also paying attention to the words and judgments of the young Reverdy: "he spoke painting like we did, he helped us discover our own secrets" Braque would say of him (L’Epopée du cubisme, p. 342). Yet Reverdy never yielded to the temptation to integrate a group or a trend.

 

He collaborated on Apollinaire's periodical Les Soirées de Paris from 1912-1914.  In 1913, when Alcools was published, Reverdy was twenty-four years old, almost ten years younger than Apollinaire. Maurice Saillet relates that Reverdy played a role in one of Apollinaire's great formal inventions: "He had in his possession the still-punctuated first proofs of Alcools and asked Reverdy, who had as yet published nothing, but whose opinions he sought, what he thought of the suppression of the punctuation". 

 

Reverdy knew what poetry owed to Apollinaire, especially its liberation from symbolism and the rigidities of the 19th century.  He would never stop paying tribute to this undisputed master of the changing times.  He evoked as much in the very first page of the very first issue of Nord-Sud (March 15, 1917) that he had just created:

 

"In the past, young poets would seek out Verlaine to pull him out of obscurity.  What wonder then that we have judged that the time has come to gather around Guillaume Apollinaire. More than anyone today, he has paved new ways, opened up new horizons. He is entitled to our fervor, to all our admiration".  

 

Reverdy knew however to quickly break away from Apollinaire's influence.  He admired his musical tone but found him too full of exuberance, metaphors and style effects.  When Apollinaire dons the clothes of Orpheus and seeks the eruption of "surprise", Reverdy remains attached to rigor and "purity". From his beginnings, Reverdy was a poet of spirituality and depth.  A month after Apollinaire's death in December 1918, Reverdy became a model for young surrealists. He recalled, "Calligrammes forces us to go back to the time when Apollinaire deliberately launched into modernity.  The unknown always tempted him as much as the sure past, and it is of these two directions that his work is made up of, diverse, contradictory" (Oeuvres complètes, p. 139). Reverdy understood the pivot of Apollinaire's poetry very early on; that which the latter called in the last poem of Calligrammes the "long feud between tradition and invention, order and adventure" (La Jolie Rousse). Resolutely turned towards adventure, Calligrammes in 1918 remained on the threshold of the future. Apollinaire and Reverdy's dialogue at the time of Calligrammes was inseparable from the Review Nord-Sud (1916-1918) that Reverdy had created and in which he would publish certain Calligrammes.  One cannot overstate the pivotal role that Nord-Sud played between Apollinaire's "new spirit" generation and that of the future surrealists. Just as the metro line that the magazine borrowed its name from (the Montmartre-Montparnasse line created in 1910), Nord-Sud also played the part of “liaison” (an Apollinaire term) between geographic spaces and generations of poets.  In 1916, Reverdy was able to more vividly than ever feel the urgency of regrouping innovative trends within a review:

 

"he felt that through the works of the two elders that he most admired, Apollinaire and Max Jacob, as well as in  the hundreds of poems that he was writing at the time, there was a poetry free more than any other, of the guardianship of the past, opening up paths never trodden before, towards the future,.  To the astonishment of his contemporaries, this young poet had more clearly than the others, understood that he was currently living a unique moment of poetry and art." (Étienne-Alain Hubert, op. cit. infra., p. 52).

 

Reverdy made his own notion of poetry and painting heard through this review.  Issue no. 13 of Nord-Sud presents the famous theory of the "Image" that the surrealists would make their own: poetic emotion is not born from the merging of two similar realities but from that of two distant realities. Etienne-Alain Hubert adds: "In the Manifeste du Surréalisme (1924), Breton takes up the definition of the Image by Reverdy" with fervor (p. 21). Poetry is no longer figurative, but creative. In his account of Alcools (Mercure de France, June 16, 1913), Reverdy affirmed that "the more an image addresses itself to objects naturally distant in time and space, the more it is surprising and suggestive". Apollinaire's concise metaphor (the "soleil cou coupé" of Zone for example) was already preferred to comparison, suggestion being stronger (or "brutal", in Reverdy's language). Reverdy preferred the term "image" to that of comparison and metaphor.  He again radicalized Apollinaire's metaphor by refusing a distance between comparative and comparing. In the opening lines of Sources du vent for example (published in Nord-Sud in May 1918): “L’étoile échappée/L’astre est dans la lampe”, he established a play between two spaces, cosmic space and human space in an enclosed room.  The reconciliation of the star and the lamp does not implicate the privileged position of the compared.  

 

This visual exposed in Nord-Sud and developed in conversations and sometimes in correspondence fascinated more than one among those who approached Reverdy:

 

"in 1917 and 1918, it was probably around Apollinaire, but also around Reverdy that this little group made up of André Breton, Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault was cemented. Young people born into the literary world would group together in this "combat organ" (Reverdy) and soon added their names to the lists" (ibid.).

 

This copy of Calligrammes is inscribed by Apollinaire to Reverdy and establishes an essential moment in the history of poetry and thought in the 20th century. In Etienne-Alain Hubert's words, it establishes "a unique moment in poetry and art".  It is not necessary to recall what the surrealists owe to Calligrammes, to its poem-conversations where the audacious setting of the page, romantic lyricism and unexpected images are combined.

 

 

Pierre Reverdy and Coco Chanel.

 

Pierre Reverdy presented his own copy of Calligrammes to Coco Chanel.  Their affaire lasted just a few years, from 1921 to 1925, but their friendship and complicity lasted a lifetime. Gabrielle Palasse Labrunie recalls that Coco "loved the person, adored the poet … He made her read his manuscripts. She treasured everything that she got from him, manuscript letters and complete works in first editions, often dedicated".  This love story of Coco Chanel and Reverdy was thereby doubled by a common taste for poetry. Pierre Reverdy had composed a large part of Coco's poetic library. He oriented her in her reading and gave her the choice copies, such as his own copy of Calligrammes inscribed by Apollinaire, or a collection of manuscript poems by Apollinaire that she bequeathed to the Bibliothèque littéraire de Jacques Doucet in the 1960s.  The binding of these two volumes is identical. Germaine Schroeder had chosen to bind all Coco Chanel's Apollinaire's with the same decor and the same garnet calf.

 

Coco Chanel would have Germaine Schroeder bind the books of her "most intimate library and her preferred authors" (I. Fiemeyer). She also inscribed her famous "C" in pencil in the corner of the first endpaper of each of these volumes.  This copy has these characteristics: on top of being a key moment in the history of poetry, it possesses one of the most elegant marks of provenance – discovered here – of the 20th century.

 

REFERENCES: Etienne-Alain Hubert, Circonstances de la poésie. Reverdy, Apollinaire, surrealism. Paris, Klincksieck, 2000 – Pierre Reverdy, OEuvres complètes. Nord-Sud, Self defense and other writings. Paris, Flammarion, 1975 -- Maurice Saillet, Appendice au Voleur de Talan. Paris, Flammarion, 1967 – Pierre Cabanne, L’Epopée du cubisme. Paris, La Table ronde, 1963 – Isabelle Fiemeyer, Chanel intime, Paris, Flammarion, 2011

 

 

 

 

[4] REVERDY, Pierre

Les Jockeys camouflés Trois poèmes par Monsieur Pierre Reverdy Agrémentés de cinq dessins inédits de Monsieur Henri Matisse

[Paris], La Belle Édition [mais François Bernouard], [1918]

 

REMARKABLE COPY INSCRIBED BY PIERRE REVERDY TO MISIA SERT,

 

BOUND BY GERMAINE SCHROEDER IN BEIGE AND BLACK FOR COCO CHANEL, BEARING HER DISTINGUISHING MARK

 

FIRST EDITION

 

Large 4to (243 x 212mm)

Title printed in blue and black, book printed in green and orange

LIMITATION in 343 copies including 26 hors commerce. One of 300 copies on vergé d’Arches, this one n° 308

ILLUSTRATION: 5 drawings by Henri Matisse

 

INSCRIBED on the half title:

 

A Madame Sert, hommage de Pierre Reverdy

 

(To Madame Sert, with respect, Pierre Reverdy)

 

BEIGE AND BLACK BINDING SIGNED GERMAINE SCHROEDER. Calf beige spine with geometric inlaid decor of black calf, sides in black wax paper, black endpapers, head painted black

PROVENANCE: Misia Sert -- Coco Chanel, with trace of her “C” in the upper right corner of the first endpaper -- Michel Wittock collection (Christies Paris, May 11, 2011, n° 22) – private collection

EXHIBITION: Misia Sert, queen of Paris, Musée d’Orsay, p. 180

 

Pïerre Reverdy (1889-1960) is one of the great French poets of the 20th century.  Little known to the large public, his work was admired by the greatest artists of his time, both poets and painters. Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Modigliani have bequeathed fine portraits of him to us.  Reverdy was at the pivot of the vanguards, he whom Aragon called “our instantly loved, the exemplary poet” at his death, which allowed Apollinaire's work with his sense of poetic image, to give birth to surrealism.

 

He became Coco Chanel's lover in the early 1920s and dedicated many poems to her.  Some of his manuscript poems are even written on the letterhead of the Chanel workshop in Asnieres, of which Coco had made him the delegate-managing director.  The architect of the book Iliazd was a draftsman there. So many sinecures lavished by Coco upon those that the workers called “Mademoiselle's artists”.  Pierre Reverdy had probably been Misia Sert's lover at the beginning of the post-war period, which was at the time of the publication of Jockeys camouflés.  Before that, on May 30, 1917, she had met the young Gabrielle Chanel at Cécile Sorel's, during the famous evening at the end of which Coco gave her coat to Misia.

 

“Misia became infatuated with Chanel like no other and presented her mysterious friend, whose fame was still in its infancy, to all the artists that she brought together. She opened up to her the circles of literary and artistic avant-garde.  Through her, Chanel met, among others, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinski, Serge de Diaghilev, Pierre Reverdy.  These were not chance meetings.  Through them, Chanel asserted her taste, her vision of style, next to them, she asserted herself.  In her own words, for ten years, she “lived with those people”.  Recognizing one of their own, they called upon her for their ballets, which claimed to be an attempt at total art. For Le Train bleu in 1924, she made them costumes as radical as her fashion.” (E. Coquery, Misia, queen of Paris, Musée d’Orsay, cat., p. 128).

 

Reverdy and Coco were therefore taken with each other: an improbable but solid couple.  The poet was thus able to help the couturier in her collection of rare books.  He was responsible for the disgrace of Maurice Sachs, guilty of having sold Coco second editions as firsts. Misia would write to Colette about the budding love: “for the first time, Coco truly loves”.  One would think that Misia and Coco exchanged men and books, ideas and tastes.