Am I gorgeous or am I gorgeous?

We are in an age in which form matters far more than substance, packaging more than content, spin more than sobriety in the recounting of facts or the interpretation of reality, celebrity more than sainthood, an eye-catching ‘look’ more than a life-enhancing idea.

And why not?  Saints have no fun and our reality is so much about having fun, fun, fun…………..

Of course, this has been the case always.  But now it is so much more the case because Guy Debord (The Society of the Spectacle, 1967) – we French are so clever – has so decreed it.

And so I transformed myself.  I am very pleased with myself.  l have become my fullest self:  beautiful to behold.

I insist you look at me:  aren’t I simply the most gorgeous man you have ever seen?

Look……………

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 LOOK! 1928, Joe Tilson, born 1928, British; oil and acrylic on plywood.  Exhibited at the International Pop exhibition in 2016, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

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Portrait of Eugene Coppens de Fontenay, 1867, oil on canvas;  James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

How did I achieve this gorgeousness, you ask?

My adored mother, the Countess of Tournon,

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 Portrait of the Countess of Tournon, 1812, oil on canvas; Jean Auguste Dominic Ingres, 1780-1867, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

raised me to think of myself as without living comparison, the best of the Coppens de Fontenay:  the most gorgeous, beautiful boy who has ever lived: an Adonis for the ages………..I think  you will agree how right she is…..

 

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 Male Nude Leaning on a Pedestal, 1765; black and white chalks prepared with laid paper prepared with blue ground; Pompeo Giralamo Batoni, 1708-1787, Italian, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 

My dreams were of the admiration and desire of those young women so lucky as to see me asleep and dreaming:

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 Armida Gazes on the Sleeping Rinaldo, 1786; colored chalks on laid paper; Guiseppe Cades, 1750-1799, Italian.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Wait now……I can feel the skepticism – or is it jealousy? – of you,  Anglo-Americans.

Remember that I am French and that we, the French, have long had dominion in matters aesthetic in the world which we share. Our standards of taste are superlative.

Maman, of course, chose  my bride: an American of a prominent New York business family, striking if a little too spirited for the French taste.

 

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 A Rose (Rebecca H. Whelan) 1907; and detail. Oil on canvas; Thomas Anschutz, American, 1851-1912.  Metropolitan Museum of Art

Through the birth of our daughter, Ernesta, my wife seemed content and my adored Maman was happy, too.

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The Meal, 1899, oil on cardboard; Edouard Vuillard, 1868-1940, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

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Baby of Mother’s Arm, 1891, oil on canvas; Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, American.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

 

After all, the home I provide for my family is an ‘hotel particulier’ in the glorious eighth arrondissement of Paris;  and it is magnificent. 

Here are photographs of the Chinese salon whose wallpaper is 18th century, French (of course!), block printed with not a single panel repeated:  I ask you!

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 The Chinese salon at Winterthur, Delaware, the home and bequest of Henry Francis Dupont,  1880-1969, American 

 

We kept brilliant society with le tout-Paris.

And  the most exotic dancing boys and girls for our evening entertainment……

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 Reception, 1958, egg tempera an oil on campus; Honore Scharrer, 1920-2009.  On loan to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts by Adam and the late Perez

 

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Stage Beauties, 1944, oil on canvas; Morris Hirshfield, 18720 1946; American, born Poland. Metropolitan Museum of Art 

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 Untitled (Dancer), c.1922, matte opaque paint with gold and silver metallic paints over graphite on board; Emilio Amero, 1901-1976, Mexican.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

For my wife, more clothes than any woman can wear in a lifetime:  French couturiers exclusively, of course!

 

 Chanel owns and fosters the work of a number of specialist ateliers whose artisanship is hundreds of years in the making.

Chanel displays their work at annual Arts des Metiers exhibitions.  In 2012 to celebrate the work of Barry Knitwear, an 150-year old firm specializing in cashmere and now owned by Chanel, one such exhibition was held at the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Linlithgow Castle in Edinburgh.  Fabulous wool creations were paraded.

 

As Ernesta , a brunette as pretty, I have to say, as her mother, grew up, however,

Cecilia Beaux, Ernesta, Met, NY-4

Cecilia Beaux, 1855-1942, American, painted this portrait of her niece, Ernesta,  in oil on canvas in 1894.  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

she became as spirited as her mother:

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Detail from a biographical stained glass made by Judith Schaechter, born 1961, American.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

I noticed a certain ennui develop in my wife’s comportment: evasive techniques, quick escapes from my attempts at an embrace:

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No darling, thank heavens I can’t remember a wife, and side view, 2006; packaging tape on Plexiglas with light box.   Mark Khaisman, born 1958.  Delaware Art Musuem.

especially in the bedroom:

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 Bedroom Painting #36, 1976, oil on canvas; Tom Wessellman, 1931-2004, American.  On loan in 2015 from a private collection to the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington

and sulkiness at the breakfast table:

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 Breakfast, 1920, oil on canvas; Henri Matisse, 1869-1954; French. Philadelphia Art Museum

Until my health began to break down. 

I thought I heard her whispering on the ‘phone to her friends, screaming with laughter:  how ugly I was; how she could not bear to look at me:

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Blues Singer, 1938, color lithograph; Russell T. Limbach, 1904-1971, American.  Published by the Works Project Administration, Federal Art Project, New York.  Philadelphia Art Museum 

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 Untitled (Involvement Series), 1968 oil on canvas;  Wanda Pimentel, born 1943, Brazilian.  Exhibited in the International POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016.

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Untitled (Involvement Series), 1968 oil on canvas;  Wanda Pimentel, born 1943, Brazilian.  Exhibited in the International POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016.

I know she infected everyone against me.  Including my mistresses – I have two who used to adore me.  

Mireille greeted me one day at her door with a gesture which seemed to say that I should shoot myself:

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Woman in Blue, 1937, oil on canvas; Henri Matisse, 1865-1954, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum 

 Even my petite negresse- you understand that I have to keep her image secret to protect the honour of my family because we French are full of colonial and multicultural ‘sensitvities’ and she is – how shall I say? – not one of us…..even she turned those gorgeous lips away from me. 

What?  You don’t like that I call her ‘my petite negresse’?  Too bad.  I like it and she is mine to call what I will.

 

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 Homage to Billie Holiday, 1964, oil and wood; Pino Pascalli, 1935-1968, Italian.  Exhibited at the Internationall POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2016

 

until my mental health began to break down. 

I felt that I was fading, becoming invisible, becoming faceless, fading into the wallpaper, no longer a man worthy to bear the name  ‘Coppens de Fontenay’.

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The Substance of Natural Things is One, 1990, oil on wood; Thomas Chimes, 1921-2009, American.  Philadelphia Art Museum

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Untitled (Uncle), casein tempera on canvas, 1961; Konrad Lueg, 1939-1996, German.  Shown in the International Pop Exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016

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Passe Blanc, 2002, screenprint  on Asian paper cast with fabricated leaves and printed element;      Betty Saar, born 1926, American. Philadelphia Museum of Art

 I felt people were sneering at me – a Coppens de Fontenay – in the street:

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 Unemployed, 1940, color screenprint; Chet La More, 1908-1980, American.  Published by the Works Progress Administration, Federal Arts Project, New York.  Philadelphia Art Museum

and that even our housekeeper was treating me with disdain, refusing to get up when I, her lord and master, came into the room:

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 Maid, nylon, cotton, satin, kapok, human hair, plastic, paint, wood, chair, floor lamp, 1966; Jann Haworth, born 1942, American.  Exhibited at the International POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016 

I began looking at myself in the mirror creeping about at night desperately trying to see what had changed about me:

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Self Portrait, c. 1546-’48, oil on canvas; Tintoretto, 1519-1594, Italian active in Venice.  Philadelphia Art Museum 

In frustration, finally one day, I punched out my wife and left her on the floor in a most satisfying quivering heap:

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 Sorry About That, 1966, acrylic paper on canvas; Rosalyn Drexler, born 1926, American.  Exhibited in the International POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016

 

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 Danae, 1909, oil on canvas; Egon Schiele, 1890-1918, Austrian. Philadelphia Art Museum

And yes, I regret my rage with her car.  Of course, she will be replacing it with whatever she desires and I have agreed to that:

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A damaged car, Philadelphia.  May 2016

The last straw was my wife’s ghastly interfering mother flying over from New York and getting in my face to blame me for hurting her daughter. 

She said she would sue me for ‘wife battery’!  These Americans make me laugh.  Don’t they know that men have the right to protect and honour their manhood by any means necessary?!

 

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 Head of a Woman, 1901, oil on cardboard; Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish.  Philadelphia Art Museum

Very soon after she arrived, I took the plane for New York and booked myself into a motel under a false name to evade the celebrity press………. 

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 New York! New York! color lithograph, 1950;  Sue Fuller, 1914-2006, American.  Philadelphia Museum of Art 

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Swan Motel, 1999, plaster wood, Lite-Brite pegs, light bulbs, sockets; George Segal, 1924-2000, American.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington 

 I booked evaluations of my face for cosmetic surgery. 

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 Before and After, 1961, casein and pencil on canvas; Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, American. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Satisfied with what was to be done, I went under the knife. After a short recuperation, I returned to Paris.

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Portrait of Dr. Hayes Agnew (The Agnew Clinic), 1889, oil on canvas; Thomas Eakins, 1844-1916,  American.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

And Ecce Homo.  Gorgeous.  No?  I can barely step away from my reflection in the mirror. 

Of course, I had this portrait commissioned at once.

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Detail of Portrait of Eugene Coppens de Fontenay, 1867, oil on canvas;  James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

My wife runs towards me, now.  Cannot wait to be with me every moment she can.

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 Woman Descending the Staircase, oil on canvas, 1965; Gerhard Richter, born 1932,    German; exhibited at the International POP exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2016

No more evasions!

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 In the Boudoir (Before the Mirror),   oil, graphite, metal, photograph and wood on panel.  Alexander Archipenko, 1887-1964, Ukrainian.  Philadelphia Art Museum

Hooray to Me!

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To the Universe,  oil on canvas mounted on board, 1918; Rockwell Kent, 1882-1971, American.  Philadelphia Art Museum

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