Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Ensemble

Designer:
Roberto Cavalli (Italian, born 1940)
Date:
spring/summer 2001
Culture:
Italian
Medium:
(a) silk; (b) leather, snakeskin
Credit Line:
Gift of Roberto Cavalli, 2001
Accession Number:
2001.776.2a, b
Not on view
Roberto Cavalli describes his clothes as "rock haute couture," an apt term for this ensemble comprising a ruffled silk shirt and python trousers. Infused with bravura, it is typical of the high-voltage glamour that has come to characterize his work. Brazenly sexy, the open-to-the-waist shirt and low-slung, hip-hugging trousers combine the louche masculinity of a Saint Tropez playboy with the flamboyant exhibitionism of an MTV rock star.

Since the "great male renunciation" of the early nineteenth century, men have tended to follow a restricted code of appearance, with monastically understated fashions. But as in many of Cavalli's designs, this ensemble references the extravagant sumptuousness of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the theatrical, decadent bohemianism of the 1960s and 1970s. Brash yet seductive, the boldly flirtatious ensemble is assertively masculine in its ostentatiousness.

Beneath Cavalli's sexy, almost wanton silhouette, however, lies a surprising craftsmanship. The grandson of a well-known Italian Impressionist painter, Giuseppe Rossi, Cavalli himself trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. His painterly origins are particularly evident in the ruffled tuxedo shirt with its wide, abstract brushstrokes, while his more artisanal leanings can be seen in the python trousers, dyed and printed with psychedelic colors to "artificialize" yet exaggerate the skin's natural patterning.
Marking: [label] (a, b) "Roberto Cavalli"
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