As a group, actresses are not necessarily renowned for being well read, however a dozen leading ladies have selected quotations relating to classic literary heroines as the inspiration for a collection of photographic portraits, commissioned by Montblanc and Signature International, to be auctioned to raise funds to combat illiteracy.
The connections between the quotations and the portraits are sometimes literal, as with Susan Sarandon in a black lace shawl and bright red lipstick as Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen and Jessica Lange in a black velvet dress with corset and angel sleeves as Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Queen of Scots.
But generally viewers familiar with the literary characters referred to may be surprised by the images. A sassy Marcia Cross appears not even slightly tubercular in her interpretation of La Dame Aux Camélias, Helen Hunt looks like a happy-go-lucky Anna Karenina and Emily Blunt sports an counter-intuitive soft and natural look as the supercilious Gwendolyne from “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Milla Jovovich wears a spectacular Lacroix evening gown with sparkle and poise -– but how does this relate to Esmerelda, the 16-year-old gypsy girl with a trained goat act, who is hanged as a witch in “Notre Dame de Paris”?
Some of the quotations seem a little self-serving, particularly Andy MacDowell’s from “Don Quixote,” which starts, “Nowhere on earth is there a damsel more beautiful….” However, one has to admit that the quote does fit with the dream-girl romantic roles in which she has been repeatedly cast, in films like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
While Cristina Ricci and Mira Sorvino play it safe with tragic heroines from the theater, the biggest risk-taker is also the most successful image – Eva Longoria looking more fetching than ever and actually convincing as a contemporary Scarlett O’Hara.
The photographs are by Roger Moenks, perhaps best known for his books “Class of Click,” which showcased the models of the Click agency in an ironic pastiche of a high school yearbook, and last year’s “Inheriting Beauty,” comprising at-home portraits of the daughters of high society.
The artworks, each signed by the actress who modeled for it, are currently on exhibition at Sotheby’s in New York, following a gala event last Friday attended by Montblanc’s international chief executive, Lutz Bethge, UNICEF US CEO Caryl Stern and a cross-section of New York society, from Jeff Koons to various cast members of “Real Housewives of New York.” Exhibitions in London and Los Angeles will follow, with the auction taking place on September 8.
Images and text by NYTimes.com