Style

"But doesn't it ever dawn on those people that I may be 'artificial' by nature?" [1]
   (Ravel in conversation, Calvocoressi, [1933])

"He was something of a dandy, anxious to follow fashion or even to set it. He dressed very carefully and he had a penchant for nice ties, the choice of which was often the subject of endless discussion. This trait, very marked early on, and the constant, meticulous elegance which followed, helped Ravel to create an appearance and to carry the mask he ever used to thwart all invasion of his privacy." [2]
   (Long, [1973], p.118)

Ravel's bathroom table at Le Belvédère
In the bathroom at Le Belvédère

"Even when he was wasted by illness, Ravel never appeared unkempt even among his closest friends. All his life he kept the perfect, discriminating taste which led him to match his braces to his blue or pink silk shirts, much to the astonishment of performers whom he would rehearse in his shirtsleeves. ...In Chicago a major concert was delayed for nearly an hour because Ravel refused to appear on the podium without his evening shoes, which were still by mistake in the left-luggage office." [3]
   (Fargue [1949], translated by Nichols, [1987], p.28]

[On Ravel c1898] He wore "favoris [sideburns], with voluminous hair that exaggerated the contrast between his significantly proportioned head and his tiny body. He liked showy ties and frilly shirts."
[Early 1920s] "The years had removed, along with the frilly shirts and the side-whiskers, his small man's haughtiness. His hair, now a mixture of white and black, crowned him with a sort of plumage and while he was talking he would fold his delicate rodent's hands and his gaze would flit over the surface of things like a squirrel's." [4]
   (Colette, [1939], trans. Larner, [1996], p.54, and Nichols, [1987], p.58)

Ravel's brushes and scissors, in his bathroom at  Le Belvédère

"He was a narcissist. He came to breakfast rouged and perfumed, and he loved the bright satin robes that he wore in the morning. He related all things to his bodily and facial charms. Though short, he was so well-proportioned, with such elegance and such elastic mobility of figure, that he seemed quite beautiful."   [Ravel stayed with Alma Mahler in Vienna for three weeks in October 1920.] [5]
   (Alma Mahler Werfel, [1959], p.147)

"Any number of legends have gathered round him, nonsense like the make-up Alma Mahler claims to have seen on his face... Perhaps one morning, as a tease to provoke her, he did put a touch of rouge on his cheeks, we don't know." [6]
   (Manuel Rosenthal interview France Culture, 1985, quoted in Marnat, [1986], trans. Nichols, [1987], p.33)

One of Ravel's mechanical toys

"This ambitious dreamer liked to give an initial impression of being occupied with the surface of things and took delight in setting himself up as a dandy. With the most serious air you can imagine he would encourage us to admire his ties and socks and would enter on solemn disputations about their colour.
...He used to keep his thoughts to himself. When occasionally he used to express them, seriousness was soon leavened with mockery. His voice sounded clear and bantering, his eyes sparkled and his curved mouth executed a mischievous smile. But never sarcastic." [7]
   (Tristan Klingsor, in Colette, [1939], trans. Nichols, [1987], pp.13-14)

"From childhood he had a particular liking for minute objects, miniatures, the tiny world of figurines, little things that worked by clockwork, mechanical birds 'whose heart-beats he felt' and miniscule Japanese gardens which evoked for him the giants of the forest." [8]
   (Long, [1973], p.121)

Ravel's nightingale automaton; it flutters on its perch and  sings a song


Notes:


[1] "Mais est-ce qu'il ne vient jamais à l'idée de ces gens-là que je peux être 'artificiel' par nature?" [1]


[2] "Il est extrêmement coquet, soucieux de suivre la mode ou même de l'annoncer. Sa toilette est toujours très étudiée et il a un penchant pour les belles cravates dont le choix fait l'objet de discussions sans fins. Les chaussures, les pochettes l'inquiètent beaucoup. Ce dandysme aigu du début et l'élégance toujours méticuleuse et préoccupée qui suivit procuraient à Ravel une part de cet artifice qui lui était nécessaire pour se créer une apparence, pour porter ce masque dont il usa constamment pour déjouer tout investissement de son intimité." [2] (Long [1971], pp.179-180.)


[3] "Ce penchant à une coquetterie sévère, étudiée, Ravel le suivit jusqu'à la dernière minute, et, quoique malade et amoindri, il ne se montra jamais en négligé, même à ses intimes. Il conserva tout le long de la vie ce goût parfait, exigeant, qui lui faisait assortir ses bretelles à ses chemises de soie bleue ou rose, au grand ébahissement des musiciens qu'il faisait quelquefois répéter sans veste ni gilet. ...A Chicago, un grand concert de l'Auditorium fut retardé de presque une heure parce que Ravel n'entendait point paraître au pupitre sans ses souliers vernis, oubliés à la consigne." [3]
(Fargue [1949], pp.29-30.)


[4] "Des favoris - oui, des favoris! - de volumineux cheveux outraient le contraste entre sa tête importante et son corps menu. Il aimait les cravates marquantes, le linge à jabot." ... "Les années lui avaient ôté, avec la chemise à jabot plissé et les favoris, sa morgue d'homme de petite taille. Cheveux blancs et cheveux noirs, mêlés, le coiffaient d'une sorte de plumage, et il croisait en parlant ses mains délicates de rongeur, effleurait toutes choses de son regard d'écureil..." [4]
(Colette [1939], p. 119, p.121.)


[5] "C'était un narcisse. Il rapportait tout à son physique et à sa grande beauté. Bien qu'il fût petit, son corps était si bien proportionné que sa silhouette élégante et légère était d'une remarquable harmonie. ... Ravel se plaisait à porter des vêtements de taffetas éclatants qu'il exhibait le matin lorsqu'il apparaissait chez moi, fardé et parfumé, pour le petit déjeuner." [5]
(Alma Mahler-Werfel, Ma vie (Paris, 1961), quoted in Marnat [1986], p.489.)


[6] "Il s'est colporté beaucoup de légendes. On a dit beaucoup de mensonges tel le fard que Alma Mahler prétend avoir vu sur le visage de Ravel... Peut-être en effet, un matin, pour lui faire une blague, pour provoquer Alma Mahler, a-t-il mis un matin une touche de rouge sur ses joues, on ne sait pas." [6]
(Quoted in Marnat [1986], p.462.)


[7] "Cet ambitieux porteur de rêves aimait à paraître d'abord occupé de l'extérieur. Il prenait plaisir à poser au dandy. De l'air le plus sérieux du monde, il faisait admirait ses cravates et ses chaussettes, et gravement discutait de leur couleur.
... Il gardait ses réflexions pour lui. Quand par hasard il les émettait, un peu de moquerie se mêlait vite au sérieux. La voix tintait claire et gouailleuse, les yeux humides brillaient, la bouche onduleuse dessinait un malicieux sourire. Et pourtant jamais rien de sarcastique." [7]
(Tristan Klingsor, in Colette [1939], p.125, p.129.)


[8] De l'enfant, il a le penchant pour les menus objets, les miniatures et tout ce microcosme de figurines, de petits automates, d'oiseaux mécaniques, dont il "sentait battre le coeur", de minuscules jardins japonais qui évoquaient pour lui les géants de la forêt. [8]
(Long [1971], p.184.)

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