The odalisque rises to her feet, revealing her curves. One hand rests on her hip, the other holds a cigarette-holder which, if we take a closer look, might just be a paint brush. Exuding an aura of the East, her headdress reminiscent of a Delacroix, this standing model provokes us. Upper half in profile, lower half at a three-quarter angle, she strikes us with her modernity, her power, her beauty. This Peggy Guggenheim, photographed by Man Ray in 1924 in a Paul Poiret gown, is not just a photograph; it is a gem. A picture made in the chasm of history, where painting and photography blend seamlessly, with media and fashion thrown into the mix, along with the desires of a society freed from its shackles, its corsets and all its conventions. This image has the dignity of great portraits and the charm of fleeting moments. Through Peggy Guggenheim’s features, it has the power to conjure a Marie de’ Medici great patron of the arts, a martyred Joan of Arc and the imprint of all modern women, all at once. The mysterious “je ne sais quoi” that emanates from it is all that is invisible and intangible; it is dreams, it is verve, it is soul.
Mr Guillaume Houzé, President Image and Communications Director of the Galeries Lafayette and BHV Marais