Marcel Vertes

by Posted On

Some people have requested that I republish a few of my blog posts!

I decided to start with this one!!

I hope you enjoy!

In 1961, my very talented mother was in Paris on a trip.  She had admired an artist throughout the 40’s and 50’s.  His name was Marcel Vertes;  and he was an Hungarian who lived in Paris until the war;  and then he lived in New York.  He was working in all kinds of mediums.  My mother was in advertising;  I think that was when she first started following him.  He did all the advertisements for Elsa Schiaparelli ;  her “Shocking” perfume;  even designing the bottle!

He also won an Academy award for set design for “Moulin Rouge.

She timed her trip to coincide with a show of his oil paintings at the Katia Granoff gallery.

In researching for this blog post;  look what I discovered!!! A blog post about Marcel Vertes with my bedroom in it!  I had never seen it!

Feeling Pink with Marcel Vertes

Hungarian painter, printmaker and illustrator Marcel Vertes (1895-1961) was full of whimsy, as evidenced in the gorgeous series of ads he concocted for Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1937 scent Shocking Pink.
Vertes and Schiaparelli not only worked on this campaign together, they also collaborated on the 1952 film Moulin Rouge, about artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Another ad for Schiaparelli’s Shocking Pink.
Here is an original bottle of the perfume. The curvy torso was inspired by Schiaparelli’s client, Mae West.
Vertes hits the bottle of pink paint again for this portrait of Coco Chanel.
For this buff pink room in designer Penelope Bianchi’s Santa Barbara home, she hung Vertes’ work from floor to ceiling. Photo from House Beautiful. Gorgeous.
What a total surprise that was! This was a blog  posted in April 2011!!
In any case,

My mother  timed her trip to coincide with a show of his oil paintings at the Katia Granoff gallery. He died shortly before the exhibit, in 1961.

I was 14  years old.  She told me that she loved his art, his whimsy, his colors, and his animals.  She also said she loved his women because they reminded her of me!!

She bought 5 paintings the first  day.  My stepfather told her to go back and buy another one;  because she had two children!  There should be an even number!!

This one was the sixth!

This was the beginning of a lifelong collection of the work of one artist by my mother, my brother, and by me!

“Columbine en Vacances”

This is a beautiful one that was above our living room mantle while I was growing up!


We had a fire in 1982, and one of my mother’s Vertes oils was lost.  I bought this one from  my dear Tony Duquette and Hutton Wilkinson;  and after I had purchased it, they told me it had belonged to Elsie de Wolfe.  My mother gave me her book, The House in Good Taste; which had inspired me to become a decorator!!

This is a watercolor I bought in New York.  An almost identical painting was in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis auction at Sotheby’s
This lovely 3 panel screen I bought in Los Angleles;  and I was told it belonged to “Gypsy Rose Lee”!
I was a bit skeptical;  but there it was in a picture in a book written about her by her son!
One day in an antique store;  my daughter saw this fire screen made of needlepoint;  and said…..”Mommy, isn’t that a Vertes???
I had not known he did a collection of needlepoint canvases!
I bought this water color in New York when I bought the other one with the girl in the bikini!
Look what I found on ebay!   I had it made into a chair slip and it sits right under the painting!
another ebay find…a signed and numbered lithograph.
the collection you saw in the blog in the beginning is a series of lithographs about the circus! Here are some close ups of a few of them.
His women always are drawn being loving to animals.
And loving to children.
A college friend of our daughter’s saw the top one of this pair in a gallery in Berkeley and called me about it!  What an eye that Stephen Watkins has!!  He was 19! (now he’s 46!)  I am still thanking him!
The bottom one another ebay bonus!
I had a pillow made from this scarf he designed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A lithograph of a pole dancer from the “le Cirque” series !
just a delightful whimsical lithograph.
During the war, Marcel Vertes did these gorgeous murals in the “Cafe Carlyle” in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.
It is probably my favorite room in the whole world!
Bobby Short sang there for many years;  and we went every single time we were in New York!
50 years of smoke and dirt had covered up the lovely colors;  and thank the Lord, the manager decided to keep the murals and clean and restore them!
They are glorious!!
Our last time in New York, we heard Elaine Stritch doing her amazing show.
He painted this room in return for room and board.
Ludwig Bemelmens lived there at the same time (the author of “Madeline”)
He painted “Bemelmens’ Bar!  A totally delightful and whimsical set of murals!
See the women with the animals???
I adore the dog holding the hat!
and the lovely girl with the horse!


Crazy about the cat!

Treat yourself to a visual feast!  Go look at this room when in New York!
My assistant insists I tell the story about the first oil painting;  the nude painted in 1941. “Columbine en Vacances”
When our house is on a “fund raising tour”  I love to walk with the “tourists” and pretend I am one and listen to what they have to say!  (I think our houses have been on about 12 various tours).  Once, I was was walking behind a couple at our house in Pasadena.  (The docents all knew what I was doing; so they wouldn’t give me away)  This man announced quite loudly to his wife,  “THAT is Mrs. Bianchi!!  Can you imagine having a NUDE painting of yourself   in your living room??!!”   “Outrageous!!!”
I couldn’t look at the docent;  I would have burst into hysterical laughter!  It was painted before I was born……but my mother did always say that his women reminded her of me!
I consider that an enormous compliment to me  from my beloved mother!!
I have been lucky enough to collect  35 of his pieces.  Oils, lithographs, silk screen prints, even two plates hand made in Vallauris when Picasso was working there!
I hope you enjoyed this tour of my collection!  I feel incredibly lucky to have them!

45 thoughts on “Marcel Vertes

  1. Marietta

    LOVE……I’m so happy we share some of these together! I still am wishing for the screen. sigh…..
    Great blog.

  2. PP@pimpmybricks

    I like the Gypsy Rose Lee screen best of all.

    And if he painted women being kind in general, but in particular to animals, then your mother’s words were not so much a compliment as an accuracy. Also there’s a lightness about them, and a sort of whimsy which seems fitting.


  3. Victoria Athens

    These are so lovely. You are very lucky indeed. I plan on checking out the Carlyle the next time I am in NYC.

  4. Natalie

    Incredible artist and absolutely incredible story! What a delicate palette. How wonderful to follow what mother started and she was so right to say they reminded her of you.

  5. Karen

    What a wonderful story and wonderful collection, started by your mother. Art means so much when you have the provenance behind the pieces. Beautiful!

  6. pgt "little augury"

    What a treat to MEET YOU Penelope! I love Vertes, of course you would guess that. What a wonderful collection. I bought a signed Vertes lithograph at auction-a beautiful young woman playing the guitar- and sold it at my shop to a Vertes collector when doing a show in the Hamptons. All of your pieces have great whimsy and joy-both characteristics I love and now would say that you have in triplicate!!! You would be perfectly cast as A woodland fairy queen as YOU appeared at Hutton’s last week, Simply Divine! Thank you for adding a little more Hollywood to LA! PGT

    1. penelopebi

      What a tremendous treat to meet you and HEAR you at that wonderful program! It was the best I have ever heard! (And I have heard many!!!)

  7. velvet and linen

    Oh! You need to write a book!
    You could fill it with all of your fantastic stories.
    This, of course, would be one of them.
    I couldn’t imagine your home without its walls covered in Marcel Vertes’ artwork.
    Thank you for sharing this story… and your life!

    xo xo

    1. penelopebi

      Oh Brooke! You are such a delightful friend! I love you!

  8. Sandra Jonas

    What wonderful stories!

    The Vertes are so happy,joyful & whimsical…they do belong with you.

    Your mother was right,you are all those things and more!

  9. home before dark

    PB you never fail to amaze, amuse and astonish. Your collection is a collection of art and dreams. I think that nude is Mrs. B! Love it!

    1. penelopebi

      Yowzers! Well; I can tell you that that man in front of me insisted! He said “I KNOW HER! And I know the whole story!!!” And he was outraged that I had a nude painting of myself in my living room!
      That was painted in 1941; I was born in 1947; however; if you say so……it must be me!!! I will take it as an enormous compliment……..and leave it in my living room! I think she is simply beautiful…..and having a wonderful time”en vacances”!!!!

  10. penelopebi

    via email!

    All best,

    Barbara {My Dog-Eared Pages}

    PS… I would love to have heard Gaye at West Week. She’s wonderful!

    BARBARA MANGINI | b o o m a r k e t i n g | 978.255.2887
    @mydogearedpages | My Dog-Eared Pages

    and she sent a picture of a marvelous Vertes painting with a dachshund! I will try to add on! It is gorgeous! And I grew up with dachshunds!!!

  11. penelopebi

    via email…. from Cathy Tyner ( she still doesn’t know how two leave posts by clicking on the title……but I barely do! I am always happy to hear from her!!)

    “Love this post the most!”

    Cathy Tyner

  12. penelopebi

    via email:

    LOVE this, great job Granny ….. I had forgotten about Stephen W’s find …. what an eye!
    And LOVE re-seeing all of these familiar works . I feel like I’m at your house … or Grand Ave ….. or San Rafael
    Love, Al

    (this is from my step-daughter (doesn’t feel step at all!!)

    she wrote my bio on my website after my oldest friend said…..”You sound like some dumb decorator….and you aren’t!!

    My stepdaughter (I can barely write the word) wrote the bio. I think I just added a few exclamation points!

    My dear old friend said…….whew! Now it sounds like YOU!!!!)

    is this bragging? I hope not!

  13. penelopebi

    via email: from the multi-talented Bob Schlulenberg!

    I enjoyed this so much! I’m archiving it to have it always at hand!
    And Vertes also painted the “Lautrecs” in “Moulin Rouge”!!
    I loved that movie – it was the first time that a major studio film used colored, more theatrical lighting.
    Up until then, it was always just white light which did give a glossy look (which Louis B. Mayer liked and demanded) but nowadays, colored lighting is standard practice!
    Eliot Elisophen (spelling?), a famous life magazine photographer, was the “color consultant” for “Moulin Rouge”!
    I wonder whatever happened to the large. Vertes murals that were on the ground floor of Alexander’s in New York!!

    Again, I loved this post! More, more, more!!!!
    & Adam

  14. Heather

    Oh, I think that this must be one of my favorites of your posts. I can only begin to imagine the happiness that his work has given you and your family throughout the years–it is just so joyful! And I am fascinated by the Gypsy Rose Lee connection–I used to gape at her fabulous mansion on the Upper East Side and my Sister was in a Broadway revival of “Gypsy”–what a life. This post did make me really regret that I never went to see Bobby Short. I just couldn’t afford it but I really should have saved my pennies!

    Thank you as always, for oodles of knowledge and inspiration,

  15. Judith

    Yes! A book, as Velvet and Linen suggests. You have so many lovely pieces of decorative art, surely you have stories and history tales about them. And yes, please lots of photographs of all your houses, past and present, included.

    For now, I am more than content with your blog. I so throughly enjoyed your personal family journey of you and artist Marcel Vertes.

  16. mary vaughan

    Loved, lover the post. It brought back memories of our trip to NY at the Carlyle. I also have 2 Vertes prints (lithos) one of which you gave me. Girl with flower and bird. THey are both in my bathroom here, and I enjoy them everyday.
    Also got into interest–cannot figure how to follow you, though. I guess I will try Facebook.
    Love, love and keep up the wonderful words!!!!

  17. Kathy Avakian

    Cosmic connection here that your mother sees you in the Vertes, its so facinating and every Vertes you see would be a reminder of your Mom!

    I wonder if the firescreen was the inspiration for the scarf print? Notice that the women and surrounds in the firescreen looks like silk print with the face and surrounds on the scarf pillow.

    Great post Penny!

  18. penelopebi

    via email:

    absolutely fabulous, Penny…. My favorite of all of your blogs….. wonderful !!

    Wendy Bianchi

  19. penelopebi

    Kathy! right you are! there are those leaves…..and the face!

    I have always been totally fascinated by the very few brushstrokes in his faces…….

    look how hew brushstrokes are in that fire screen’s face; and then the scarf’s face!

    Nice job!!!

    They are definitely connected! You are a genius!

    So there!!!


  20. Tara Dillard

    What are the chances anyone could write a post like this? The names, art, locations, prices, span of time.

    Oh that CAT. Love her. And it must be a ‘her’.

    Drive many days with a live recording of Elaine Stritch, what a dame. Helps me design better landscapes. And talk back to lots of husbands. Amazing what I will do to create a beautiful landscape. More amazing, those husbands love my backtalk.

    Amazing choice. Can’t wait to see how you keep refining your home/garden.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  21. Karena

    Penelope this is such a treat I so indeed feel like I am on a gallery tour with a private docent. Incredible collection of works of art.

    Vertes has that touch of whimsey in his works as a Chagall; definitely his very own style though!

    Thank you so very much for sharing with us.

    Art by Karena
    The 2012 Artist Series

    1. penelopebi

      I have been moved to tears by these comments! I am delighted that you enjoyed these! And I am even more delighted that they are “spreading around!” Only one friend of mine had ever “heard” of Vertes when I was 20!

      Thanks to Hutton…Tony Duquette and Marcel Vertes are spreading everywhere..just like oil!!!

      Bravo Hutton!!!

      thank you so much Karena!! And Bette; and all of you!

  22. Bette (@Ideezine)

    Very happy and light hearted. Reminds me of Chagall also. There’s something so innocent in the faces and sweet smiles. We really can absorb so much from a painting even without reading the title.

    Great history lesson behind all this lovely very springtime art. Who could ask for anything more that makes your heart just sing.

  23. Brillante Interiors

    Penelope, I can’t believe I just discovered today you also have a blog, now I will spend even more time reading (your) posts. Love these images and the stories behind them.

  24. Penelope Bianchi

    I am completely delighted to have my “group” of “subscribers”!

    I think they have completely evaporated!

    Don’t ask me how!

    will figure itOUT!!!

    It is sickening!!


    YOUR MAMA was so right!I can see you in a few of those……maybe NOT in the pole dancer,but I adore that one so maybe it could be me!!!
    What a collection!I will keep my eyes peeled too just in case I find another one in BERKELEY!Good thing I have you in my cell phone!
    Beautiful Post………… per the NORM!

  26. Kathryn

    hilarious story! and a gorgeous collection. double win!

  27. Penelope Bianchi

    via email!!

    Another lovely comment!

    subject: marcel vertes

    Good Morning, I just wanted to write and say thank you for your delightful blog post and ode to the work of Marcel Vertes. I picked up a very lovely piece that I believe is an original gouache of a partially nude girl with her dog. While researching it I came across your website and agree with your every description of his work. I love seeing how you have displayed it throughout your home. I will be certain to visit the Carlyle the next time I am in New York to marvel at the murals. Best Regards,

    Heija Nunn

    1. Penelope Bianchi

      Lucky you! (I would love a photo if you can!) don’t miss the Cafe Carlyle……I guess it was “touch and go” whether to restore or destroy!



  28. Betsy waggoner

    This was fun to see & good for you to have such a good eye! Rememner our lunch at Neimans dallas. When all the walls were full of Vertes pictures. So fun!


      I sure do!! I love those Vertes portraits!!!

  29. Alyssandra Smith

    What a lovely post! I have become quite fond of Marcel Vertes, and your collection is beautiful!


    YOU Bought ONE from HUTTON & TONY!!!!!!!!!!!
    Then they tell YOU it was from ELSIE DE WOLFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This willNOT surprise YOU.I was given THAT BOOK for one of MY BIRTHDAYS from a CLOSE FRIEND……………..Years ago.WHERE IS IT I ask myself?I need to GO FIND IT AND RE~READ AGAIN!IAM reading a rather large coffee table book RIGHT NOW on ELSIE………….HER PARTIES ARE like what I USE TO DREAM ABOUT GIVING!!I am SO living in the wrong ERA!But if I lived earlier there would have been NO BLOGS and I wouldn’t have found YOU!


      Bet you are reading the book by Charlie Sheips! Lookout for the new Architectural Digest! Great article about Elsie!!!



  32. Sandra Sallin

    What delightful stories! So interesting that he designed the Helena Rubinstein bottle. Beautiful art! Please put me on the list if you have another home tour. Your designs and divine! Love everything you do including your blog. Goodness so many elegant preferences. Wonderful trip through time. More, more, more please.

  33. Michele @ Living Among Saguaros

    Penny, You have revived interest in Monsieur Vertes’ work. We are all grateful!


      I am delighted if that is true!!!

  34. Rene

    These look great!

  35. Poppy

    A very intriguing post as always, Penelope! Thank you for introducing us to the beautiful works of Marcel Vertes, with your wonderfully whimsical commentary, which adds such a personal touch to it all.

    Wishing you a wonderful week,
    Your friend,

    1. Penelope Bianchi

      EEEK!! I wasn’t notified about this comment; and I just found it! Thank you so much and I am so glad you enjoyed it!
      Merry Christmas!! I need them to fix the notification!

  36. Peter Vertes

    Greetings Penelope, what a wonderful blog and what an awesome collection! I love your passion. By chance do you know much about Marcel’s family? I am trying to find out more about his parents and siblings as Marcel is my great uncle which I have only recently discovered. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Warmest regards Peter Vertes.

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