Art · Travel

Astonishing Paper Art Fashions Historical Dress Sculptures By Isabelle de Borchgrave

Last weekend, while visiting family, I had the opportunity to see an extraordinary exhibit at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh of astonishing life-sized trompe l’oeil paper art fashions by the acclaimed Belgian designer and artist, Isabelle de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave was inspired to begin making her paper sculptures in 1994 after viewing an exhibit of historical costumes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This incredible show at the Frick, entitled “Fashioning Art From Paper,” features paper art fashions from all of the major series of De Borchgrave’s dress sculptures. As you look at these amazing dresses, don’t forget that every single element including shoes, jewelry, trims, everything, is all made entirely of simple paper.

Paper Art Fashions

Fashions Á La Mode

The show begins with works from her first series entitled Fashions á la Mode. It was a collaboration with Canadian costume designer, Rita Brown. This ambitious collection seeks to interpret over 300 years of historical style from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel. Since I am a huge fan of art, fashion, and history, this exhibit appealed to me on every level.

Elizabeth I Court Gown inspired by a portrait from the studio of Nicholas Hilliard, 1599.

Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
This dress was specially commissioned by the Frick Museum. It is based on one of the museum’s most prized paintings, Peter Paul Rubens’ “Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency Princess of Conde,” 1610.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a Mantua style court gown of ivory silk brocaded in a pattern of stylised flowers and leaves with gold embroidery, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1750.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a Madame de Pompadour dress based on a portrait by Francois Boucher, 1759.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Robe a la Francaise, inspired by an engraving circa 1776.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a Robe, a la Polonaise made on Chinese hand-painted silk, circa 1780-85.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a 19th-century dress and hat.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture fashion accessories --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Period accessories including a shoe, gloves, jacket, and fan entirely made of paper.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by an Alphonse Mucha art nouveau poster of Sarah Bernhardt, 1896.
Isabelle de Borchgrave paper sculpture dress --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a 1924 House of Lanvin dress in the spirit of Chinese prints and lacquers with diamanté and bead embroidery.

Details like lace, embroidery, and beading are all stunningly rendered in paper.

Splendors Of The Medici

Some of the most elaborate and ornate costumes come from De Borchgrave’s series Splendors Of  The Medici, inspired by Renaissance paintings of the infamous family. These costumes dazzle with realistic renderings of pearls, lace, gold brocade, jewelry, and even shoes.

 

Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
The Medici Family with the patriarch, Cosimo I de Medici Grand Duke Of Tuscany. Cosimo’s costume is based on a portrait by Ludovico Cardi, (date unknown.)
Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Bia de Medici inspired by a painting by Agnolo Bronzino, 1542.
Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Eleanor Of Toledo inspired by a ca. 1545 portrait of Eleanor and her son Giovanni de’ Medici by Agnolo Bronzino.
Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Maria De Medici inspired by a ca. 1555 portrait by Alessandro Allori.
Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a portrait of Maria de Medici by Pietro Facchetti, 1595.
Medici Series of historical fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Dress inspired by the portrait of Maria Maddalena of Austria (Wife of Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici) with her son, the future Ferdinand II by Justus Sustermans, 1623.

Special details of the paper art fashions in the Medici series include crowns, earrings, necklaces, and wigs.

Les Ballet Russes

The exhibit also has pieces from her latest collection which was inspired by modernist costumes designed for the famed ballet company, Les Ballet Russes, by artists like Picasso, Bakst, and Matisse.

Les Ballet Russes Series of paper fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a costume by Natalia Goncharova for “Sadko,” An Opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1916.
Les Ballet Russes Series of paper fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by a costume Design by Leon Bakst from “The Blue God,” 1912.
Les Ballet Russes Series of paper fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Costume of Flora based on “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli, 1481.
Les Ballet Russes Series of paper fashions by Isabelle de Borchgrave --Astonishing Paper Art Fashions
Inspired by Le Noir du Roi (The Black King) Costume designed by Léon Bakst for “La Belle Au Bois Dormant” (The Sleeping Beauty,) 1921.

House Of Fortuny and Silk Road Textiles

Other paper art fashions displayed in the exhibit include designs by the famous Spanish Design House Of Fortuny as well as a series of colorful kaftans inspired but the Silk Road textiles of Central Asia.

While each costume is a beautiful work of art in its own right, what is truly amazing is that every piece of “clothing” starts out with the same plain white paper measuring 3.3 feet by 4.9 feet. By painting, pleating, gluing, and a myriad of other techniques, De Borchgrave seems to have magically transformed ordinary paper into satin, silk, brocade, lace, and gauze fabric. The exhibit is a feast for the eyes and a lot of fun.

“Fashioning Art From Paper” will be on display at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh until January 6, 2019. If you find yourself in the Pittsburgh area before then, I highly recommend the exhibit.

Books On The Art Of Isabelle Borchgrave

These books about Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work would make great Christmas gifts for the art or fashion lover on your list:

Pulp Fashion The Art Of Isabelle de Borchgrave by Jill D’Allesandro
Paper Illusions: The Art Of Isabelle de Borchgrave by Barbara Stoeltie
Fashion a la Mode: The Pop-Up History of Costumes and Dresses by Isabelle de Borchgrave
A visual tour of the astonishing life-sized paper art fashions of Isabelle Borchgrave exhibited at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. #paperart, #historicalfashions, #isabelledeborchgrave

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17 thoughts on “Astonishing Paper Art Fashions Historical Dress Sculptures By Isabelle de Borchgrave

  1. Fascinating blog post. Thank you. Unfortunately, no pictures came up when I looked at your web page, but the pictures did come through in your email. Truly stunning.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Alexandra, and for letting me know about the glitch on my website. Every now and then WordPress goes berserk and screws up the pics on my posts. I think the issue has been fixed. Thanks again for the heads up. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Lisa,
    That was amazing! Looking through the pictures and remembering they are paper was astonishing. Do you know if this exhibit is traveling.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Deborah

    1. Thanks, Deborah. The exhibit has been traveling but I believe that after it goes to Naples Florida in February, it will no longer be touring in the states.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post. I did a lot of research for it, so it’s gratifying when people appreciate it. It was particularly fascinating to me to discover that all those dressed started out as plain white sheets of paper. Who knew? Thanks for commenting. I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. So glad to see this post shared on NOTP – I have the booklet from the Frick sitting on my coffee table right now and am planning to go.

  4. Just spectacular. And, as a huge Catherine de Medici fan, I was happy to see her family mentioned. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. OH MY GOSH I saw those paper dresses once and couldn’t believe they were paper
    I purchased the blue book The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave and still love looking through it. I’ll go get it out again now.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I am glad you had the opportunity to see De Borchgrave’s exhibit for yourself. It is such a fun show and, as you know, her dresses really do look like real fabric even when viewed up close and in person.

  6. Wow! Wow! and Wow! Beautifully photographed and curated post. Hopped over from Wow Us Wednesdays. Now on to explore your blog. Thanks you so much for taking the time to share this exhibit, which will probably never make it to New Mexico.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Heather. I am so glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you find other posts of interest to you on my blog.

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