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de Young Museum

Isabelle de Borchgrave "Isabelle de Medici"

Isabelle de Borchgrave "Isabelle de Medici"

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From: de Young Museum
Limited Edition: 30
Exhibition: Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave
Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 72" (88.9cm x 182.88cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


Painting on simple rag paper that she skillfully crumples, braids, pleats, and feathers to mimic fine silk and other textiles, Isabelle de Borchgrave creates exquisite historic costumes and contemporary couture. The Legion of Honor exhibition, Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, was the first U.S. retrospective of her work, including dresses inspired by 16th century Renaissance paintings of Eleonora de Toledo and Isabelle de Medici.


Pulp Fashion was a review of Isabelle de Borchgrave’s magnificent trompe l’oeil dresses over a 16 year span. Something about a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994 awoke the idea of creating paper dresses, which today are held in private collections and museums worldwide. She starts with large sheets of paper and paints on an oversized linen-covered table in her Brussels studio. Designing on paper feels liberating to de Borchgrave because it is disposable unlike fabric which can ruined if cut incorrectly and doesn’t offer the same painting surface. Each ensemble takes up to six weeks to complete, and may include shoes, jewelry, and elaborate headgear.

Collaborating with costume historian, Rita Brown, de Borchgrave recreated iconic gowns worn by such legends as Elizabeth I, Madame de Pompadour, and Marie-Antoinette. She modeled select pieces by couturiers Charles Frederick Worth, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel, and immersed herself in the pleated and flowing work of Mariano Fortuny, the 20th century Italian fashion designer.

A unique component of this exhibition, which included 60 ensembles, was a section dedicated to five gowns inspired by paintings in the Legion of Honor’s permanent collection. The artist visited the museum months before the exhibition opened and selected four European paintings to use as inspiration. Her three-dimensional depictions seem to leap off the canvas, extrapolating the mood of the original while also allowing a view of the back of the dress not possible in a painting.

Another section of the exhibition was dedicated to the Renaissance finery of the Medici family. The artist meticulously studied the paintings of the era to capture the details of sumptuous brocades, velvets, silks, lace, and gold and silver embroidery—all in paper. She left no detail unaddressed, including sculptural pearls and intricate head dressings. The paper costume of Isabelle de Medici entitled ISABELLE DE MÉDICIS, 1540-1557, is reproduced on this banner promoting the exhibition. The dress was created in 2007 and was inspired by a portrait painted by Christofano Allori (Palazzo Pitti, Florence) of Isabelle de Medici, daughter of Cosimo I de Medici, the ruler of Tuscany, and Eleonora de Toledo who was born into Spanish nobility. Isabelle de Medici was their third born child of 11. In 2008, de Borchgrave exhibited her full collection of Medici gowns at the Medici Riccardi Palace in Florence, the site where the Medici family once ruled.

The front of the banner has a gradated blue background with the ornate blue, gold and ivory Isabelle de Medici dress in partial detail. The back of the banner is dark blue with “pulp FASHION” in light blue letters and “the Art of Isabelle de Brochgrave/FEB 5 – JUN 5/Legion of Honor/FINE ARTS MUSEUM/Lincoln Park” in white letters.

A companion banner sold separately features de Borchgrave’s paper dress of Eleonora de Toledo 1, Isabelle de Medici’s mother called ÉLÉONORE DE TOLÈDE, 1522-1562.


This banner was displayed around the San Francisco area to promote the exhibition, Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, between February 5 and June 12, 2011.

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