Christmas with the Harcourts at the Château de Saint-Eusoge in 1943 © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
The reception room at Saint-Eusoge after the dinner, November 1938. Depicted in this drawing are Amélie de Briey, Brenda Balfour, Marie d’Harcourt, Étienne d’Harcourt, Bernard d’Harcourt, May Balfour, Daisy de Cabrol, Louis d’Harcourt, Marchioness d’Harcourt née Biron, Roy Balfour, and Amaury d’Harcourt © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
Bobsy Carvalho’s Venetian ball, given in 1948 at the Deligny swimming pool. To the left is Daisy de Cabrol, to the right, Fred de Cabrol and the Baroness de l’Espée, and in the center, Bobsy Carvalho © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
The Baroness de Cabrol, 1944 © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
Masked ball on June 28, 1946 for the benefit of children of the Maison de Pange © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
The Windsors and their friends at the Château de la Croë, c. 1938 © Fred de Cabrol, from Beautiful People of the Café Society (Flammarion, 2016)
A new book, Beautiful People of the Café Society, resurrects a festive, carefree and sublimely fabulous world.
There’s scrapbooking and then there’s Baron de Cabrol-style scrapbooking. It’s the difference between tucking into a familiar meal at home, in your PJs, and indulging in seven courses of exquisite eats prepared by a constellation of Michelin-starred chefs. While you’re dressed in your finest. And the champagne is flowing. And the Vienna Philharmonic is performing behind you.
As showcased in Thierry Coudert’s new book Beautiful People of the Café Society, de Cabrol’s scrapbooks dazzle for a number of factors. For starters, there’s de Cabrol himself, who, with his wife Daisy, was equally at ease in the high society and café society of the twentieth century. As French aristocrats, they were card-carrying members of the former — the “gratin,” as Coudert calls it — but also had the privilege of being warmly welcomed in the latter, where the only criteria for entrance were “good looks, chic, and wit,” which the couple had in spades. So the pages are filled with an insider glimpse into the heady life of the BP, dating from the Thirties to the Sixties: glittering galas, masked balls, chateaus, hunts, fashion, idle beach days…. And the BP appearances don’t disappoint. There, at the French Riviera, is the Baroness with the Duchess of Windsor. And there, Elsa Schiaparelli, Mona Bismarck, the Faths, the Rochas, the Coopers at a ball in Paris. Over there, Jacqueline de Ribes. The bold-faced names never end.
What sets De Cabrol’s scrapbooks apart is also the wondrous way he augmented the photographs, newspaper clippings, invitations and menu cards with his own watercolors and sketches. In a way, they’re a truer recording of that golden age of glamour. With his artistic stamp, you get a real feel for the decadence and free-spirited energy of that bygone era. His collages delight as much as they document, brightly capturing the zeitgeist, its action and electricity. Not unlike Instagram or Snapchat, with their myriad filters, his scrapbooks seize the “now” with just a little more punch, color and verve. The pages come alive; each and every scene pulses.
Coudert’s essays are a good read, too, taking a deep dive into the de Cabrols, those who swanned in their circle, the places they frequented and their pastimes. It’s a study of, well, the good life when it was really good. Today, Coudert writes, it’s “the era of what Diana Mosley called the ‘café au lait society’ and Loelia Westminster, the ‘Nescafé society.’”
Relive the spirit of de Cabrol’s festive, carefree and sublimely fabulous world in the slideshow above.
Explore more features from the Holiday Issue, past and present.