Christmas Pearls: perfection and renewal

 mcbean venus

Fashioning Winter shows a series of Christmas cards sent by the surrealist photographer, Angus McBean in a display curated by Alistair O’Neil, Reader of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins. In one of the early images from the 1950s, McBean includes himself amongst those present at the birth of  Venus in a pastiche of Botticelli’s famous image.

Roman mythology placed the origin of the pearl with the birth of Venus. As the goddess emerged from the water, the droplets falling from her body turned into pearls as they fell to the ground. The myth also highlights the association of pearls with renewal through their origins in water.

Pearls have continued to attract myth even up to present times. In Jean Giraudoux’s play, The Madwoman of Chaillot, one of the characters exclaims: “Everyone knows that when you wear pearls, little by little they become real.” It may not make every pearl-wearer a Venus incarnate but it’s a nice thought.


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