Veruschka posing for artist Genaro de Carvalho (wearing halter one piece by Ginori & belt/arm bands by Sant’Angelo) by Franco Rubartelli, January 1968.
I don't normally post new editorials here. Between running a shop that sells vintage and acting as Editor for this blog, the focus for myself and my team is normally on images of the past. However, when this months Harper's Bazaar landed on my iPad, I had to make an exception. Anyone even mildly vintage obsessed will immediately recognize the editorial within the pages of the magazine as a tribute to that famous Verushka image by Franco Rubartelli (above) and when I saw it I had to know more.
The editorial showcases five modern supermodels spanning a range of ages; 23 year old Anna Ewers; Liya Kebede, 38; Christy Turlington who is 47; Linda Evangelista who just turned 50 and Iman, 60, who is only present in the form of her portrait as the death of her beloved husband, David Bowie, made her unable to attend the photo session portion of the editorial. Each of the five was interviewed for the piece and it is quite lovely (you can read the entire article here). Much like the original photo that inspired the editorial, each model is seated in front of their portrait and the style and feel of the original is charmingly captured but in a way unique to this editorial and not just a copying of the past. In the paper edition of the magazine the original photo of Verushka is included as well with a caption noting its credits. So there is no question of the source of the inspiration, but there is also no note of how it came about either.
The brainchild behind this modern re-interpretation of that famous photo was Laura Brown, Executive Director of Harper's Bazaar magazine. We follow each other on Instagram and I asked her what was it that made her take the leap between simply loving an image and taking that image and using it as the starting point of her modern day interpretation? "I just loved how graphic the original image was, and the doubling up, echoing of the look. Just instantly emblematic", was her reply.
That original image is of the model Veruschka, posing for Brazilian artist Genaro de Carvalho, in a sitting that took place back in 1968 (interesting side note - even the date seems ambiguous - various sources also cite the date of the photo as being 1967 but '68 seems to be the most verifiable). In it, Verushka sits serenely in front of her portrait, dressed in a cut out one piece playsuit by Ginori and adorned with a sculptural metal belt and arm & leg bands by Giorgio Sant'Angelo. In one version of the original series, the artist is present in the photo. They are photoed outdoors against an idyllic backdrop of Brazilian greenery. For the modern versions of each, Brown moved the models indoors to sit in the studio of artist Francesco Clemente, with each posed serenely in front of their own portrait. It is a clever "doubling up, echoing of the look" in itself and adds yet another intricate layer to the homage.
I was interested to find out more about the artist in the original Verushka version and quickly found that there is surprisingly little out there. I did find the video that I have included here but other then the occasional piece of his work noted on Artnet or other sites there is virtually nothing else on-line. His Wikepedia entry provides little more then a glossing over of his career and there is no mention at all of this sitting. It did provide one shocking fact - Genaro passed away in 1971 at the age of 44 - that was just a few short years after this photo was taken, but again no further information is provided. Had he lived he would be 88 now and perhaps could have been a part of this homage to his own past work. The other interesting fact is that even though he began his career as a painter, he was actually more famous for his intricate wall tapestries and is considered a pioneer of modern tapestry in Brazil. Knowing this makes the photo all that much more interesting. At this point of his life it seems he was not really painting anymore and yet somehow he lands in a photo with Verushka and being shot by Rubartelli. Why were Verushka and Rubartelli in Brazil? Did they go there purposely to shoot this or was it a happy accident? Did either Verushka or Rubartelli know him on a personal level or did they all just meet that day? You can't help but wonder how it all came about to put these three together. Why Genaro and not some other, more famous artist of the time? And how did they convince him to paint her when by this time painting seems not to have been his primary focus? None of this information is out there anywhere and I wish I could find it for you. It is all a vintage mystery lost to time. You have my promise that if I ever do find out more I will post it.
The reasons behind some of those same questions about the Harper's homage is not a mystery. I am happy to have the answer to the question, "why Clemente?" directly from Laura; "...because he also has that graphic style, but it's incredibly romantic". Indeed, the resulting portraits are just that, incredibly romantic, heightened versions of their subjects. As Linda Evangelista notes in her interview, she sees an "exaggerated version of myself. I was shocked! But I thought it was beautiful. And I never think anything is beautiful."
My last question to Laura was one of pure curiosity, what happened to the paintings? Did the models get to keep their portraits? The answer is no, they all belong to Mr Clemente, who will perhaps exhibit them one day.
And the original painting? The one by Genaro of Verushka? What of it? Of that I could find nothing. Perhaps Verushka got to keep it, which is what I would like to think. In a sadder version of that story it was treated like a prop and tossed out after the shoot; in a more cynical one, it sits unseen in a private collection somewhere, but again the truth is allusive. Like the dress and jewels of the shoot the answer and whereabouts of the objects themselves are lost to time. There was no Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter documentation of every moment back then like there is now. Perhaps Verushka herself knows but I have not found anything so far where she shares her memories of those moments.
Nothing is left of that long ago shoot except the final photographs, left to float through the murky waters of the internet, until someone like Laura was able to use their inspiration as a way to tell the next chapter of their story.
(L) Veruschka posing for artist Genaro de Carvalho (wearing halter one piece by Ginori & belt/arm bands by Sant’Angelo) by Franco Rubartelli, January 1968. (R) Veruschka in the studio of Genaro de Carvalho, seated on sofa under numerous paintings, wearing a brown sheath dress with snap on harness straps by Sant'Angelo, January 1968.
Linda Evangelista (wearing Dolce & Gabbana) beside her portrait by Francesco Clemente for Harper's Bazaar April 2016. Photo:
Liya Kebede (wearing Tom Ford) beside her portrait by Francesco Clemente for Harper's Bazaar April 2016. Photo:
Christy Turlington (wearing Valentino) beside her portrait by Francesco Clemente for Harper's Bazaar April 2016. Photo:
Anna Ewers (wearing Versace) beside her portrait by Francesco Clemente for Harper's Bazaar April 2016. Photo:
Iman's portrait by Francesco Clemente (Salvatore Ferragamo dress) for Harper's Bazaar April 2016. Photo:
"The first model to sit for Clemente's series was Iman. Sadly, due to the death of her husband, David Bowie, she was unable to complete the photo session. While we included her portrait here, it says everything about her that each woman in this portfolio, when asked who they admire, said "Iman." "