Dress-down Friday: Stephen Tennant

Strange Flowers

Cecil Beaton Stephen Tennant 1

Stephen Tennant, argent Narcissus of 1920s London, died on this day in the improbably recent year of 1987. His Nemesis – age – had brought him low, but his reflection in the sparkling pool of Cecil Beaton’s famed 1927 portrait granted him a kind of immortality. In his 1990 book Serious Pleasures, Philip Hoare describes this signature image of the Bright Young Thing who fell to Earth:

To celebrate Stephen’s birthday, a new photo-session was commissioned from Cecil. […] The results were some of the most stunning images yet produced of young Mr Tennant. Once more against the silver foil, Stephen wore his dark pinstripe suit, a long-collared striped shirt gathered by a silk tie, and a jewelled stick-pin. Then, in a moment of inspiration, he threw on his black leather mackintosh with a fur collar. The effect was electric. Stephen sits half on a stool, hand on…

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