Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D , Case 96, Shelf C, Box 11

Zorab - modele 43

Fashion Design
late 1902 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is one of a group of 49 sketches for dresses bound in a volume entitled Hiver 1902 Vol. II (Winter 1902) from the Paris fashion house of Paquin. Founded by Jeanne Paquin (1869-1936) in 1891, Paquin was one of the most successful couture establishments at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her clientele was very wide-ranging, including royalty and aristocracy from across Europe, wealthy Americans, and also actresses and singers and even courtesans such as the notorious La Belle Otero. The vast majority of sketches show Paquin's gowns being modelled by pink-cheeked models , which makes this design for a walking suit in black and white striped silk unusual in that the model's face seems to have been deliberately over-painted brown to portray a different race.

Paquin took the names for her gowns from a wide range of sources, such as communes in France, fictional characters, operas, and the names of renowned artists, intellectuals, and historical figures. This ensemble was christened "Zorab", which is an alternative spelling of Ziryab, the nickname of Abu l-Hasan (c.789-857), a famous Iraqi intellectual of many talents, including music, poetry, and many academic disciplines who was active in Islamic Iberia. The name Ziryab translates as "blackbird", a reference to l-Hasan's very dark skin colour and singing voice. Other than the name, there are no obvious ethnic allusions in the design, an extremely elegant ensemble showing a sophisticated and effective use of stripes arranged in different directions to create pattern and visual interest. It is very possible that Paquin designed "Zorab" for a specific client, whose colouring is represented here to give them an indicator of how the outfit would look on them.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleHiver 1902 (named collection)
Materials and Techniques
drawing
Brief Description
Jeanne Paquin. Hiver 1902. 'Zorab'. Walking costume in black and white striped silk with bolero bodice open over a chocolate brown under-bodice, shown with fur muff and feather-trimmed hat. The model's face appears to have been partially painted brown.
Physical Description
'Zorab'. Walking costume in black and white striped silk with bolero bodice open over a chocolate brown under-bodice, shown with fur muff and feather-trimmed hat. The model's face appears to have been partially painted brown. One of a group of 49 fashion designs bound in a volume of Paquin designs for Winter 1902. Most in pencil with some ink and watercolour, some with names, details, and fabric swatches attached.
Dimensions
  • Page height: 36cm
  • Page width: 29cm
Credit line
Given by the House of Worth
Object history
While this watercolour design originally seems to have shown a pink-cheeked Caucasian model, in common with almost all the other designs in the Paquin archive, the face appears to have been partially and deliberately over-painted brown in an apparent attempt to portray a different race. This costume was called "Zorab", which is one spelling of Ziryab, the nickname of Abu l-Hasan (c.789-857), a famous Iraqi intellectual of many talents, including music, poetry, and many academic disciplines who was active in Islamic Iberia. The nickname Ziryab/Zorab is suggested to mean "blackbird", a reference to l-Hasan's very dark skin colour and singing voice. The darkening of the model's face may indicate that Paquin designed this costume for a specific client, and that the artist drew the usual pink-cheeked white model, which then had to be modified to reflect the client's ethnicity. Whilst we will possibly never know the reasons for this modification, it makes for an intriguing image. The outfit is extremely fashionable, with a sophisticated and very effective use of black and white stripes cut in different directions to create visual interest, and other than its name, there are no obvious ethnic allusions in its design.



- Daniel Milford-Cottam, May 2012
Summary
This is one of a group of 49 sketches for dresses bound in a volume entitled Hiver 1902 Vol. II (Winter 1902) from the Paris fashion house of Paquin. Founded by Jeanne Paquin (1869-1936) in 1891, Paquin was one of the most successful couture establishments at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her clientele was very wide-ranging, including royalty and aristocracy from across Europe, wealthy Americans, and also actresses and singers and even courtesans such as the notorious La Belle Otero. The vast majority of sketches show Paquin's gowns being modelled by pink-cheeked models , which makes this design for a walking suit in black and white striped silk unusual in that the model's face seems to have been deliberately over-painted brown to portray a different race.



Paquin took the names for her gowns from a wide range of sources, such as communes in France, fictional characters, operas, and the names of renowned artists, intellectuals, and historical figures. This ensemble was christened "Zorab", which is an alternative spelling of Ziryab, the nickname of Abu l-Hasan (c.789-857), a famous Iraqi intellectual of many talents, including music, poetry, and many academic disciplines who was active in Islamic Iberia. The name Ziryab translates as "blackbird", a reference to l-Hasan's very dark skin colour and singing voice. Other than the name, there are no obvious ethnic allusions in the design, an extremely elegant ensemble showing a sophisticated and effective use of stripes arranged in different directions to create pattern and visual interest. It is very possible that Paquin designed "Zorab" for a specific client, whose colouring is represented here to give them an indicator of how the outfit would look on them.

Bibliographic Reference
Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings Accessions 1957-1958 London: HMSO, 1964
Collection
Accession Number
E.585-1957

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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