Within the Surrealist art movement the links between high art and shaped Avon decanters become apparent. Surrealist artists well known for producing art objects, also produced apparently ordinary objects that were in some way a warped or fetishized versions of their original forms. Examples of this type of object includes Man Ray’s Cadeau, 1921, a household iron with nails sticking from the metal plate; and Meret Oppenheim’s Object (Fur Cup), 1936, a porcelain cup and saucer bought from a department store and covered in the hide of a Chinese gazelle. Both these objects reader the functionality of the original form to be useless, an iron that destroys and threatens cloth instead of pressing it, a teacup that can no longer be used as a vessel for liquid. By transforming objects the strange new forms intentionally reveals hidden desires within the existing forms, objects that do not confirm to existing rules of identification.
Man Ray’s Cadeau, 1921
Meret Oppenheim’s Object (Fur Cup), 1936
In 1936 the artist and fashion designer (and a Surrealist associate) Elsa Schiaparelli launched a new fragrance which had
a radical new take on traditional flacon design. Influenced by this Surrealist theory her perfume
‘Shocking’ was contained in a bottle the shape of which was based on the shape of Mae West’s torso, a tape measure around her neck and flowers for the head/stopper. This bottle, sculpted by artist Leonor Fini, was as shocking as the name implied and caused a huge stir within the fashion industry.
The 'Shocking' perfume bottle was hugely popular and Schiaparelli followed it with many other equally as daring bottles- ‘Sleeping’ (1938) in the shape of a candle, ‘Zut’ (1948) in the form of a woman’s rear and legs with skirt around her ankles, ‘Si’, (1959) a miniature Chianti wine bottle.
Elsa Schiaparelli, 'Shocking' flacon, 1936
The Schiaparelli’s fragrance for Men ‘Snuff’, 1939, designed in a pipe shaped bottle displayed in a cigar case, as it was inspired by Rene Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe”). Schiaparelli’s most sort after flacon by collectors is ‘Le Roi Soleil’,1946, which she designed in collaboration with Salvador Dali and was produced by the French glassmaker Baccarat. The bottle, with a gilded stopper shaped like a sun, was enamelled to simulate rocks and presented in a gilded metal scallop. This flacon today can reach in excess of $20,000 at auction.
Selection of Elsa Schiaparelli Perfume bottles Left to Right - Success Fou (1952), Sleeping (1938), Si (1959), Le Roi Soleil (1946), Snuff (1939), Zut (1948).
|Avon Bottle - Pipe Dream, 1967|
It was only a matter of time before affordable versions of these high-end products came on the market. The luxury and high price of designer brands, like Schiaparelli,
The use of one repetitive theme in Avon designs illustrates the popularity of the brand and highlights the collectability Avon intended with these products.
combined with the enduring appeal of the decorative novelty bottles, eventually made its way into the mass-produced cosmetics industry. The Avon company took up the challenge to produce even more outlandish designs than even the most daring of fashion designers had produced. For example Avon directly used Schiaparelli’s ‘Snuff’ pipe design but created a variety of figurative designs around the pipe theme- Pipe Dream (1967), Bulldog Pipe, (1972), Dutch Pipe (1973), Collector’s Pipe (1973), American Eagle Pipe (1974), Corncob Pipe (1974), Uncle Sam Pipe (1975), Bloodhound Pipe (1976).
Similar examples of Avon’s use of the Schiaparelli’s Surrealist shapes and themes can be seen echoed in the ‘Sleeping’ candle design for the flacon for Christmas Candle (1977). Schiaparelli’s alcohol theme found in the ‘Si’ Chanti wine bottle and cover appear in the Avon decanter Vintage Year (1978), which came in the shape of a champagne bottle complete with a traditional champagne box.
|Avon bottle - Vintage Year, 1978|
|Avon bottle - Christmas Candle, 1977|