"I went to Dior, Givenchy, Chanel, Saint Laurent when he first opened his house, Madame Gres, and Balenciaga, who for me will always be the greatest designer. Going to his shows was an absolutely mouth-opening, awe-inspiring experience. Here was a man who wanted no publicity, craved none, except for his clothes. Once you’ve had a taste of celebrity — well, I won’t say it destroys your talent, but, my God, the really great don’t need it. The first time I ever saw corduroy used in couture was at Balenciaga. He made a typical Balenciaga suit — stand-away collar, three buttons — in plain old knock around corduroy. That’s when I started taking it up. And he had the most imaginative hats, without being Schiapparelli silly. And the coats: always made from the shoulder. Something else he did that was wonderful was to have a few models to whom the clients could relate. He liked rather plump Spanish models, with small protruding tummies and short limbs, but for a good ten years he actually had one who limped. Not that Balenciaga has so many disabled customers. But I think he felt there was something dignified about her, and she looked like a very rich lady, with a limp.”
- Bill Blass
"Amputee Venus", 20x20 inches, oil on linen - Arabella Proffer 2014
She was described by one artist as a symbolic fortress of inaccessible temperance, despite the fact she was the mistress of an Earl who had plucked from the city streets. During a country house New Year’s celebration she was injured during a fireworks display when attempting to bring champagne to the pyrotech master; her foot had blown off completely. For her blood to be calm the surgeons waited until the following spring to saw away the infection that had engulfed her leg. In this portrait historié she is portrayed as Venus; her triumphant progress framed by the sumptuary surroundings assured to her by the duke. Despite tinctures of ginger, opium, and doses of brandy, the shock and infection wore on and she met her demise within months. The duke, ever sentimental, commissioned an 18k solid gold replica of her foot. He used it as a paper weight.
Georgina (framed) 5x7” - Arabella Proffer