the proust ball

Actress, model and socialite Marisa Berenson dressed to resemble Marchesa Luisa Casati at The Proust Ball in 1971. Photograph by Cecil Beaton.

“I have always loathed the Burtons for their vulgarity, commonness and crass bad taste, she combining the worst of US and English taste, he as butch and coarse as only a Welshman can be. She wanted compliments. She got none. I felt I must be professional and continued, but not without loathing at this monster. Her breasts, hanging and huge, were like those of a peasant woman suckling her young in Peru. They were seen in their full shape, blotched and mauve, plum. Round her neck was a velvet ribbon with the biggest diamond in the world pinned on it. On her fat, coarse hands more of the biggest diamonds and emeralds, her head a ridiculous mass of diamond necklaces, sewn together, with a snood of blue and black pom-poms and black aisprey aigrettes. Sausage curls! Alexandre, the hairdresser, had done his worst. And this was the world’s biggest draw! In comparison everyone else looked ladylike.”

- Cecil Beaton

She’s everything I dislike. I have always loathed the Burtons for their vulgarity, commonness and crass bad taste, she combining the worst of U.S. and English taste.

‘I treated her with authority, told her not to powder her nose, to come in front of the cameras with it shining.

'She wanted compliments. She got none. “Don’t touch me like that,” she whined! Her breasts, hanging and huge, were like those of a peasant woman suckling her young in Peru. On her fat, coarse hands more of the biggest diamonds and emeralds… And this was the woman who is the greatest “draw”. In comparison everyone else looked ladylike.

—  Cecil Beaton on photographing Elizabeth Taylor for the Proust Ball.