Picasso’s Tailor: Michele Sapone The Artist Of Fashion

Michele Sapone Picasso

 

In her review of TJ Clark’s new book Picasso And Truth: From Cubism To Guernica, art critic Jackie Wullschlager writes about how meaninglessness replaced absolute truth in the 20th century epoch of terror and totalitarianism, and that “in our age of performance and body art, Clark brilliantly posits a Picasso who replaced a truth project with a performance project, playing, dazzling, persuading.”

 

Picasso sketches a priapic portrait of Michele Sapone at his villa La Californie, Cannes, 1957. Photo: DD Duncan

Picasso sketches a priapic portrait of Michele Sapone at his villa La Californie, Cannes, 1957. Photo: DD Duncan

 

Pastels given to Sapone by Picasso, including the portrait made on April 1, 1957

Pastels given to Sapone by Picasso, including the portrait made on April 1, 1957

 

In his personal life as in his art, these characteristics were foregrounded by Luca Masia’s book about Michele Sapone, Il Sarto di Picasso (Picasso’s Tailor).

“Picasso is a little model,” Sapone told Time magazine in 1971. “I have made him velvet robes, kilts, jackets embroidered in the Yugoslav manner. I assure you, he wears them with majesty.”

 

Sapone in the fitting room at his atelier, 14 rue Châteauneuf, Nice, 1960

Sapone in the fitting room at his atelier, 14 rue Châteauneuf, Nice, 1960

 

Fitting for bespoke kilt, velvet jacket and checked stockings, 1957

Fitting for bespoke kilt, velvet jacket and checked stockings, 1957

 

Left: Decorated photograph with wife Jacqueline at the 1960 Cannes film festival. Photo: Edward Quinn. Right: Wearing a jacket "embroidered in the Yugoslavian style", 1958. Photo: DD Duncan

Left: Decorated photograph with wife Jacqueline at the 1960 Cannes film festival. Photo: Edward Quinn. Right: Wearing a jacket “embroidered in the Yugoslavian style”, 1958. Photo: DD Duncan

 

Tailor and client, La Californie, 1956. Photos: André Villers

Tailor and client, La Californie, 1956. Photos: André Villers

 

Birthday party, October 25, 1956. Photo: Edward Quinn

Birthday party, October 25, 1956. Photo: Edward Quinn

 

Il Sarto di Picasso’s photographs reveal much about the interplay between master tailor and illustrious client, all the while placing the Italian Sapone, his wife Slavka and their daughter Aïka dead centre of Continental Europe’s mid-century artistic milieu. Sapone was the recipient of works by leading artists, though when recalling the first time he was offered one in exchange for a suit (by the Florentine artist Manfredo Borsi) he confessed: “I had never looked at a painting in my whole life; I looked at women.”

Aïka, meanwhile, modelled for Giacometti and her Libro d’Oro (one of the so called “golden books” published privately by Italian nobility) features work dedicated by Picasso, other clients and those in the family’s social circle, including artists Jean Arp, Alberto Burri, Sonia Delaunay, Hans Hartung, Paul Mansouroff and Gino Severini and the poet Jacques Prévert.

 

Sapone with a Jean Arp sculpture.Photo: Edward Quinn

Sapone with a Jean Arp sculpture.Photo: Edward Quinn

 

Photograph of Alberto Giacometti by Yoshi Takata with note on reverse to Aïka Sapone, 1959

Photograph of Alberto Giacometti by Yoshi Takata with note on reverse to Aïka Sapone, 1959

 

Sapone (right) with the painters Anna-Eva Bergman and Hans Hartung in the Grand Hotel, Juan-le-Pins, mid-60

Sapone (right) with the painters Anna-Eva Bergman and Hans Hartung in the Grand Hotel, Juan-le-Pins, mid-60

 

With artist Alberto Magnelli at La Ferrage in Grasse, 1959. Photo: André Villers

With artist Alberto Magnelli at La Ferrage in Grasse, 1959. Photo: André Villers

 

With Joan Miró (left), Slavka and others at the hotel La Colombe d'Or in Saint-Paul de Vence, early 60s. Note Miro's wall decorations in background

With Joan Miró (left), Slavka and others at the hotel La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul de Vence, early 60s. Note Miro’s wall decorations in background

 

 

TJ Clark’s Picasso And Cubism is available here; read Jackie Wullschlager’s review here.

Il Sarto di Picasso is published by Silvana Editoriale and is available here.

Read Edward Quinn on photographing Picasso here.

 

Here Aïka Sapone talks about modelling for Giacometti: