The Allure of Marisa Berenson
By Bernie Rothschild
Legendary fashion icon Marisa Berenson recently released her book A Life in Pictures as published by Rizzoli which showcases her successful career in modeling and film as well as her personal photos. Marisa, the eternally chic, ultra fabulous, and super fantastic It Girl of her generation, was once declared by Harper's Bazaar as a seismograph, "registering the latest tremors — the newest trends, places to go, ways to look." Born and raised with great wealth and privilege, Marisa was educated at the most exclusive boarding school in the world and became fluent in the languages of Italian, French, German, and English. Her mother was the aristocrat Gogo Schiaparelli, or the titled Marchesa Cacciapuoti di Giugliano, and let us forget neither her grandmother, the legendary designer — the shocking, the surreal, the great Elsa Schiaparelli — nor her other illustrious relatives such as the artist, Bernard Berenson; one of the great athletes of our time, Sendra Berenson; and a great-uncle who discovered the canals of Mars, Giovanni Schiaparelli — what a remarkable ancestry!
La Berenson began her modeling career at a very early age because her baptism was covered by Vogue, how fabulous was that? They don't do this anymore unless you are somebody from the society. Trained by Gene Kelly to dance and rejected by Eileen Ford as a model, Marisa Berenson was then discovered by family friend Diana Vreeland and became one of the most successful and highly paid models of her time. She appeared every month in the magazine and her swanlike neck and perfect figure were photographed by Avedon, Penn, Bailey, and Bourdin, showcasing the best trends of the seasons in the exotic locations of Greece, Sardinia, Turkey, Spain, Mauritius, and so forth. Who would forget her iconic shot by Henry Clarke bringing the blue chiffon Halston dress to life atop an Iranian mosque. She is the last person who ever did that, and she has said that if you did this nowadays, you would be shot dead. She was also the go-to nude model of Vogue during the Sixties.
Marisa Berenson lives in the world of fashion, art, and society, and she was once dubbed the girl who has everything. A jet setter, she dominated the parties of the last century. She was one of the lucky 540 guests at the Black and White Ball hosted by Truman Capote, the society gathering of 1966, and dressed as the Marchesa Luisa Casati for Marie-Hélène de Rothschild's Bal Proust for which she was photographed by Cecil Beaton. After the end of the youthquake Swinging Sixties, her star continued to spark during the whole Seventies as the queen of the scene. A regular fixture at Studio 54, she was one of the important icons of that era. Her friend, Andy Warhol, photographed her every move and angle. She became known as one of the best dressed woman in the world and always wanted to be dressed by Halston, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent; Salvador Dali wanted to paint her nude. Hollywood also hired her services, showcasing her acting skills in the movie Cabaret and in her legendary performance in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Still a great beauty at 64, Marisa continues to fascinate the fashion scene: Tom Ford asked her to walk in his first womenswear presentation wearing the blue-body hugging dress reminiscent of her former modeling days and proving that age is nothing but a number with optimism and strong faith. There could only be one Marisa Berenson.
Marisa Berenson and Carine Roitfeld photographs courtesy of Condé Nast and Rizzoli. All Rights Reserved.