Chanel’s Unreleased Accessories Contemplate the Bigger Questions

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Published February 10, 2010

A pouting Coco contemplating a skull surrounded by bones in the house’s signature diamond quilt pattern drawn by Karl Lagerfeld himself—it’s not the typical Chanel silk scarf motif. But one arrived mysteriously at my door the other day with an invitation to view “C’est la Vie,” the current exhibition at Paris’s Musée Maillol that explores vanities from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst.  Vanities designates the representation of human remains (skulls in particular) as a subject of contemplation on the vain nature of life. This is the first show curated by Patrizia Nitti, the museum’s new director, and it indicates she plans to spice up the program at this venerated institution in the heart of Paris. In any case, Karl’s wonderful Coco-meetsher-maker accessory was perhaps a bit too much of the vanities for Chanel, which didn’t end up commercializing the scarf.  So I have one and you don’t! The show of 160 works ranges from paintings and sculptures to video and jewelry, is a must see particularly during the fashion season when vanity and all of life’s glittering futilities are so much on everyone’s mind.

C’EST LA VIE IS ON VIEW THROUGH JUNE 28. MUSEE MAILLOL IS LOCATED AT 62, RUE DE GRENELLE, PARIS 75007.