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The Allure Of Marisa Berenson

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 art historian, Bernard Berenson; one of the great athletes of our time, Senda Berenson; and a great-uncle who discovered the canals of Mars, Giovanni Schiaparelli — what a remarkable ancestry!

Diana Vreeland and Marisa Berenson

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.

Carine Roitfeld and Marisa Berenson

Marisa Berenson and Carine Roitfeld photographs courtesy of Condé Nast and Rizzoli. All Rights Reserved.

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Reader Comments (22)

Beautifully written ... classically elegant and steeped in fashion heritage.

A wondrous family.
13 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commentermadeleine gallay
Ah, Madeleine, I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed it! Bernie did a splendid job with it. Thank you!
13 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
What an amazing woman - a lovely tribute - i devoured every word x

14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterclaire
I am ashamed to admit, I had no idea of the history behind MB. Excellent feature. And amazing life. Girl still rocks it too. Much respect.
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenternoelani
What a great piece. Bravo, Bernie!
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike
This is wonderful, Bernie! I devoured every word and these images are beautiful.
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
Thanks, Claire, so glad you liked this one! x
14 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
No shame, Noelani, we all have lots to learn. Thank you for your comment!
14 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
It sure is, Michael! I appreciate your comment and I imagine Bernie does, too.
14 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
I am delighted to hear from you, Renee, thank you! I dare say Vogue US could stand to review a few of these images for inspiration...

14 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone! Ive read before how much the cost of this fantastic photo-shoots was and if Diana Vreeland wasnt happy with the outcome...she will order a complete reshoot of everything ugh what a extravagance...and too bad US Vogue or any Vogue can't published a fantastic photo like this
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
Great piece on la Berenson, Bernie. Just one quibble (from the first sentence of your article). CDs are "released." Books are "published." (And if la Vreeland was still around, she might have caught that and corrected it... as any editor-in-chief should... cough, cough. :)
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTapas
Tapas, small animals from traps, also released. As editor-in-chief, I believe that particular usage is a matter of preference and I prefer to let it stand. I assure you that if Diana Vreeland were alive today she would have more important matters with which to concern herself. Thank you for taking the time to point this out, I will rest easy now knowing that every other word on the site is correct.
14 décembre 2011 | Registered Commenterkellina
Bernie, this is fabulous! What a delightful article!! Bravo!
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Loved it, Bernie! Gorgeous photos, and you educated me on several points, esp. re: all Ms. Berenson's famous relatives!
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee
Fabulous article, Bernie! Beautifully written and I love the photos. She is a true icon of style...thank u for sharing your knowledge and insight on marisa Berenson! Much appreciated!
14 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdara
Great article!
15 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs.Paradise
Thanks everyone! A million kisses
15 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
Bernie, you know the coolest women.......
16 décembre 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrancesca
Lol thanks Francesca! Everyone needs to unleash the Marisa Berenson in them once in a while
16 décembre 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
"...the artist, Bernard Berenson; one of the great athletes of our time..."

Bernard Berenson was an art historian, not an artist; he was an esthete, not an athlete.

What a sloppy puff piece!
30 avril 2014 | Unregistered CommenterReader
Dear Reader, I will grant you that Bernard Berenson should be attributed as an art historian, rather than an artist, that was an oversight which I have now corrected. However, note the semicolon in the sentence:

"nor her other illustrious relatives such as the artist, Bernard Berenson; one of the great athletes of our time, Senda Berenson; and a great-uncle who discovered the canals of Mars, Giovanni Schiaparelli — what a remarkable ancestry!"

Senda Berenson was indubitably an athlete.

7 mai 2014 | Registered Commenterkellina

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