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Schongeisterei-Harry Graf Kessler

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
This surely is a profile, not of courage but of style. The Germans presumably called this Schongeisterei, which as English would have it, no appropriate translation exists. Count Harry Graf Kessler was a German aristocrat whose mother was the mistress of Kaiser Wilhelm I. However, he would call the Kaiser and his family a tacky, impotently bellicose bunch who traded in tawdriness, and ugliness that aspired to the middle-class. He also visits the ruined Imperial Palace, and cooly comments on the "rubbishy" geegaws on the smashed parquet, citing bad aesthetics as tantamount to bad ethics. He was a Communist, called The Red Count, and apparently homosexual, although of the fastidious variety; that is, inoperative. As per his attendance at Jean Cocteau's premiere of Orphée: "The part [of the angel] is played by a revoltingly mawkish, effeminate young man who appears to have escaped from some dreadful hairdresser's. This sugary youth completely spoiled my taste for [the production]." I'd suggest the facsimile of his diaries to anyone interested in the intellectual inter-war years, and political discussions as the Count was also an important figurehead in the Weimar Republic. Interesting link on his style: http://www.henry-van-de-velde.com/13
post #2 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
As per his attendance at Jean Cocteau's premiere of Orphée
Harry Graf Kessler (1868 - 1937) could hardly have seen Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1950).

He did however write the libretto for the Richard Strauss / Michel Fokine ballet La Légende de Joseph (Josephslegende), commissioned by Diaghilev and intended as a vehicle for Nijinsky, (although subsequently created by Léonide Massine) premiered in 1914 on the eve of WW1.
post #3 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bengal-stripe
Harry Graf Kessler (1868 - 1937) could hardly have seen Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950). He did however write the libretto for the Richard Strauss / Michel Fokine ballet La Légende de Joseph (Josephslegende), commissioned by Diaghilev and intended as a vehicle for Nijinsky, (although subsequently created by Léonide Massine) premiered in 1914 on the eve of WW1.
Yes, indeed. Count Kessler saw the stage version, which attests to the critical nature of his comments. I think the stage version was sometime in the early '20s. It was around the time Cocteau began his relationship with Raymond Radiguet, which Hemingway so liked to recount in his own bitchy way.
post #4 of 52
Thread Starter 
I love that bowtie. It's so ascetic.
post #5 of 52
post #6 of 52
Thread Starter 
I like that casual elegance of the look.
post #7 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
I like that casual elegance of the look.

Yes, yet the sleeves are a bit incongruous, no?
post #8 of 52
A later, somewhat less casual portrait: And the painter, showing some cuff:
post #9 of 52
Thread Starter 
I like his elegant severity accented with the restrained florishes of those Art Nouveau interiors.
post #10 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
He was a Communist, called The Red Count, and apparently homosexual, although of the fastidious variety; that is, inoperative.


An asexual, then?
post #11 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Connemara
An asexual, then?
His example presents a peculiar social case; it's not really asexual but certainly there were homosexual impulses present. However, the demand was less for anything sexual/physical rather than what you'd call Platonic. There have been a few examples of these males: Comte Robert de Montesquiou, Count Saint-Genois d'Anneaucourt are a few that come to mind. It's almost a suppression, if you will--similar perhaps, to Freud's giving up sex in his forties. An ascetic aestheticism.
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
This surely is a profile, not of courage but of style. The Germans presumably called this Schongeisterei, which as English would have it, no appropriate translation exists.


I am glad you said "Schoengeisterei" rather than "Schoenschmeckerei".
post #13 of 52
Thread Starter 
I would add Paul Bowles as another of those ascetic homosexuals who prided themselves on their appearance, and were generally caustic enough to make the Conde Nast cafeteria look like a playground.
post #14 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
His example presents a peculiar social case; it's not really asexual but certainly there were homosexual impulses present. However, the demand was less for anything sexual/physical rather than what you'd call Platonic.

amor socraticus
post #15 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
His example presents a peculiar social case; it's not really asexual but certainly there were homosexual impulses present. However, the demand was less for anything sexual/physical rather than what you'd call Platonic.

There have been a few examples of these males: Comte Robert de Montesquiou, Count Saint-Genois d'Anneaucourt are a few that come to mind. It's almost a suppression, if you will--similar perhaps, to Freud's giving up sex in his forties. An ascetic aestheticism.

Tennessee Williams was also like this in his later years, in direct opposition to his wanton youth and middle age.
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