I’ve come across a number of events lately that prove sultry desert air has a way of turning exquisiteness into splendor. Most recently, it was the return of Currey & Company to Las Vegas during market, as the images of the showroom above and below illustrate the sultry style that blossomed there.
The Sultry Style of Cleopatra
Farther back in time, though no less illustrious, it was the 1963 epic drama Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor as the Queen of the Nile. Craving a little glitz and glamour, I watched the film recently, marveling at the beginning overture, the heavy red velvet drapes drawn closed while anthemic music throbbed making it clear there was quite a spectacle about to unfold! Theater-going was quite different then if the audiences had the patience for such a long lead-in, though I must admit the sumptuousness would be a nice respite from the glaring ads that hold us hostage before a movie begins these days.
The film, which also stars Richard Burton as Mark Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar, clocks in at over four hours, and I was surprised at how quickly the scenes flew by. Filmed in Italy, Spain and Egypt, the sets and costumes were as over-the-top as Cleopatra’s personality. I was too young to see the movie in theaters when it was released and I had seen only snippets of it over the years so I didn’t know what to expect of Taylor’s performance. In all honesty, I was quite moved by the magnificence of her beauty as she played the ruler so commandingly yet beguilingly. It’s no wonder Richard Burton fell in love with her during the filming of this movie! I thought as I witnessed their chemistry and realized how steamy it was for its time.
I came across this article in Another magazine that claims the blockbuster nearly bankrupted the film studio when it was made, the only thing pulling them from the abyss The Sound of Music two years later! The piece, by Daisy Woodward, also notes that 26,000 costumes were created for the film, not a surprise given the number of extras there were roaming the countryside in fluted leather skirts and gladiator sandals—all male back then in case I inspired a visual on par with lanky female models flouncing down the runway in Alexander McQueen!
Taylor had 65 costume changes in the movie, a record for a motion picture at the time; and the 24-carat gold cloth cape she wore during her grand entry in Rome, designed to look like the wings of a phoenix, was made of thin strips of gold leather embellished with thousands of bugle beads, seed beads and bead-anchored sequins. I suppose this explains the $194,800 wardrobe budget, which was a massive amount of money for the time.
The studio admitted that highlighting Taylor’s sexuality took precedence over historical accuracy, a move that most biographers and film producers have made since the queen’s demise. This is a point Stacy Schiff makes in her survey of the woman’s reign in Cleopatra: A Life, deeming her one of the most famous women to have lived. “A goddess as a child, a queen at eighteen, a celebrity soon thereafter, she was an object of speculation and veneration, gossip and legend, even in her own time,” Schiff writes. “At the height of her power she controlled virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coast, the last great kingdom of any Egyptian ruler.”
If you want a view of Cleopatra that’s more eye-candy than substance, watch the film. If you want a truer perspective of her, read the book, as it is fascinating. “She was incomparably richer than anyone else in the Mediterranean,” Schiff notes. “And she enjoyed greater prestige than any other woman of her age, as an excitable rival king was reminded when he called, during her stay at his court, for her assassination.” But, the author adds, the more time passed, the more Cleopatra’s reputation amounted to wanton temptress: “not the last time a genuinely powerful woman has been transmuted into a shamelessly seductive one.”
As she delves into Cleopatra’s reign during a summer that found her in a desert camp “under the glassy heat of the Syrian sun with a band of mercenaries,” Schiff explains that the Nile is nearly two miles farther east than it was in her time; that only the dust, the sultry sea air and Alexandria’s melting purple sunsets remain unchanged. This is one of the scenes she set that brought Currey & Company’s return to Vegas to mind.
Another drew parallels with the design featured in the new showroom. Schiff explains that Cleopatra was not necessarily beautiful; it was her wealth and her palace that left the Romans gasping. To celebrate the resplendent taste of this prestigious woman, I’ve chosen some of Currey & Company’s offerings that I think would have appealed to her, many of them debuting in Vegas last week in the sultry style she embodied.
Currey & Company Sultry Style
I’m weaving together thoughts by Creative Director Cecil Adams and Andrea Combet, the West Coast Regional Sales Representative for Currey & Company, about being back in the Vegas market and these products I’ve chosen with descriptions of them below. “Currey & Company is thrilled to have an outpost for our west coast customers to visit in Las Vegas,” Cecil remarks. “It is an opportunity for those who prefer to attend this market to see our product in person and there is no substitute for that. Meeting new folks and sharing a bit of our southern hospitality in a new location is always an adventure.”
Andrea adds, “The opening of Currey’s Las Vegas showroom this summer gives home furnishings professionals in the Western United States the chance to experience our product line in-person, and close to home. We were absolutely bowled-over by the enthusiastic response of interior designers and retailers, who told us that Currey & Company was the talk of the Market!”
The Forest Light Chandelier in Currey & Company’s Aviva Stanoff Collection. “Earthy inspiration from our collaboration with Aviva Stanoff gave birth to the Forest Light Chandelier,” Cecil notes. ‘I can just picture it hanging in a modern day Cleopatra’s boudoir or Marc Antony’s campaign tent.”
A moody shot of the Alvar accent table, the patterning remarkably similar to many of the reliefs in Cleopatra’s movie palace [Photo by Erica George Dines; styling by Thea Beasley.]. “The cast aluminum Alvar accent table, finished in Antique Gold, is our best-selling occasional furniture introduction,” Andrea tells us. “Our customers love its primitive sophistication.”
I see the Seraglio table lamp as a shoe-in for inclusion in a palace fit for Cleopatra; and what luminary could carry a better name to echo her reputation? “The tile motif applied to the base of the Seraglio table lamp is inspired by Moroccan tile,” Cecil explains. “These tiles are common across the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Gilding the piece and adding the dramatic black shade really felt like the right idea.”
This setting could have been extracted from a corner of one of the statuesque rooms in Cleopatra’s palace, don’t you think? [Photo by Erica George Dines; styling by Thea Beasley.]
“Who can resist a circle of crystal and gold beads?” Cecil asks, referring to the Aubade chandelier. “Much like a collar around Cleopatra may have worn around her neck don’t you agree?”
The Federico table lamp definitely has queenly DNA of the sort that would have sprung from Cleopatra. “This unique square base, embellished with botanical-form metal applique, is my personal favorite of Currey’s new table lamp designs for the season,” Andrea says. “Its subtle poise makes it appropriate for a variety of room settings.”
The Forest Light wall sconce in Currey & Company’s Aviva Stanoff Collection would have shone brightly in Cleopatra’s boudoir.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Cleopatra’s sultry style à la Currey & Company. Let me know which products I’ve chosen that you think are the most fitting for the luxurious palace of this erstwhile queen, would you?
Saxon Henry also blogs as The Modern Salonnière.