Karl Lagerfeld's La Table Ronde: Reflections on the Influence of a Painting by Adolph Menzel on the Designer's Lifestyle and Aesthetics

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

Michael Alexander Langkjær - Speaker

  • Studienævnet for Saxo-Instituttet
The infatuation of Hamburg-born fashion designer and stylist Karl Lagerfeld (b. 1933) for the Eighteenth Century is a matter of common knowledge. In the well-researched volume The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (2006), fashion journalist Alicia Drake has quoted Lagerfeld: ‘“From the age of five, at my request, my parents gave me a French teacher who initiated me into the French language and culture. At the age of seven I had a total coup de foudre before a reproduction of a painting by Menzel representing Frederick the Great surrounded by friends, one of whom was Voltaire, and receiving them at Sans Souci [sic]. I immediately decided that this elegant and refined scene represented the life that was worth living, a sort of ideal that I have since endeavored to achieve.”’ The picture referred to is La Table Ronde à Sans-souci [König Friedrich II. Tafelrunde in Sanssouci] painted in 1850 by German artist Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905); Menzel’s painting of the round table of Frederick II at Sanssouci (originally in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin; destroyed in 1945) is an idealized image which epitomizes the witty, spirited and cultivated, but also sophisticated and elite 18th century Enlightenment. With all its historical detail and atmosphere, it was as an allegory that the painting had achieved its effect on Lagerfeld. Although Drake observes that ‘The epiphany of the young child seeing before him the possibility of another life is a key construct in Lagerfeld’s life story, as recounted by him frequently over the last fifty years,’ I wish to go further: my proposed paper shall be an independent in-depth critical examination of the 18th century as allegorized by Menzel and idealized by Lagerfeld, and which Lagerfeld then carried over into his personal styling and fashion design, as well as his work since 1987 as a recognized professional photographer.
17 Sep 2014

Event (Conference)

Title6th Global Conference
LocationMansfield College
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Degree of recognitionInternational event

ID: 159086369