Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)
Printed crepe-back silk satin
L. at CB 20 in. (50.8 cm)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Edward G. Sparrow, 1969 (2009.300.1347a,b)
The butterfly was a ubiquitous motif in Schiaparelli's work and, for the Surrealists, a symbol of transformation and sometimes of death. Schiaparelli used it decoratively to represent beauty emerging from the mundane. It expressed her philosophy that although everyone could not be naturally beautiful, chic clothes and a sense of style could transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. At the same time, the ultra-realism of the print points up the incongruity that lifelike insects, not romanticized interpretations, are the slightly unsettling motifs of this elegant evening dress.