Folies Bergere plumage hits auction block in Paris

Fri Jun 8, 2012 12:04pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Feathers galore go on the auction block in Paris this weekend, as the extravagant headdresses, boas, and sparkling scanty costumes of the Folies Bergere music hall find a new home with the highest bidder.

The symbol of "joie de vivre" at the turn of the century, the Folies Bergere was a palace of frivolity and popular entertainment, replete with nearly-nude showgirls adorned with over-the-top frills and flounces.

Now, some 6,000 costumes, posters, programs and paraphernalia from the collection of former director Helene Martini - dubbed "The Empress of the Night" - will be sold on June 9 and 10 by auctioneers Bailly-Pommery & Voutier.

Plumage, sequins, glitter, and all manner of frou-frou feature in the auction, from a five-tiered floral crinoline worthy of the most enthusiastic can-can to avant-garde headdresses that would not look out of place in Las Vegas.

Estelle Daniere, the Folies' last chorus line leader, said she was moved to see all the old costumes on display at Paris' old stock exchange.

"If they could talk, what would they say? They'd have plenty of anecdotes," Daniere, wearing a sparkling silver number with a high slit, told reporters at a viewing on Friday.

"I hope they find someone who will give them a second life," she said. "They deserve it - to find the limelight again and do another show."

During its glory days, the Folies Bergere inspired painters such as Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec, who depicted the barmaids and dancers as well as their ogling admirers.   Continued...