There have been few dinners parties quite like it.
It’s December 12 1972, the night at which Marie-Hélène de Rothschild held her famous Surrealist Ball at Ferrières. As you can probably guess by her surname, she was a member of the ultra-wealthy Rothschild banking family. Few made the guest-list but if you did, it was the ultimate seal of approval from Parisian high-society.
The requirements for the evening were “Black tie, long dresses & Surrealists heads” nothing more, nothing less. In keeping with the theme, the invitation which she sent was actually written backwards – to read the invite you had to hold it up to a mirror.
Now when money is no object, the only limit is ones imagination and it’s fair to say that Marie-Hélène certainly had plenty in supply. Firstly she insisted the iconic Château where the party was to be housed, be floodlight with sweeping amber lights, designed to create the illusion the building was on fire. Once instead, she made sure the entire staircase was filled with servants and footmen dressed as cats – all in various poses of sleep.
And once you’d overcome that initial shock, guests were then forced to enter a hellish labyrinthine maze – where should you get lost, one of the “cats” would rescue you and whisk you away where you’d be formally greeted by Marie-Hélène herself. On this particular night, she was wearing an enormous giant’s head that was crying tears of diamonds.
Even the great Salvador Dali was in attendance that evening, no doubt being bewitching and entertaining in equal amounts. This is just an account from just one of her parties – she had many. But whatever the date, whomever attended, she was meticulous in planning every finite detail, making sure each gathering was an intriguing (and clearly intoxicating) blend of art, literature, haute couture and dance.