Leonor Fini —Fashion Magick Sorceress
“While still a child, I discovered the importance of masks and costumes. At fourteen, I walked through the streets of Trieste with a girl of my age, with foxtails stolen from our mothers sewn to our skirts. To dress up is to have the feeling of changing dimensions, species, space. You can feel like a giant, plunge into the overgrowth, become an animal, until you feel invulnerable and timeless, taking part in forgotten rituals.” —Leonor Fini
On 24 June 1936, Leonor Fini attended Tristan Tzara’s Montmartre party to celebrate the Witches Sabbat wearing ‘knee-length white leatherette boots and a cape of white feathers’, while ‘blue feathers and tinsel dust were sprinkled in the curls of her hair’. Jean Cocteau called Fini a ‘divine heroine straight out of Edgar Allen Poe’. When she died in January 1996, an obituary stated, ‘in the 17th century Leonor Fini would have been burnt as a witch’.
Surrealist Sorceress…High Priestess of Surrealism…Leonor Fini’s inimitable art and unique fashion magick continues to bewitch and entice. She embodied high glamour, but her interest and respect for witchcraft went deeper. Fini revered the “beautiful, rebellious, clever” witches of Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière and in 1957 would produce a series of sketches for Jacques Audiberti’s Le Sabbat. Furthermore, her personal style, often described as flamboyant, allowed her to explore the ritual of dress alongside the potency and power of clothing.
Drawing on Fini’s esoteric interests as referenced through her personal style and artistic work, my paper will locate Fini as an artist who deserves further consideration in magickal studies. Despite her traditional alignment with the Surrealist movement, we will explore how her art and image ran deeper. Witchcraft, whether painted on canvas, sketched on paper, through fashion — or even hidden from sight in her ancestral lineage — all combined into her being to result in her unparalleled ‘Fini-esque’ persona: feminist, erotic, playful, witchy, and inherently magickal.
Sabina Stent is an independent scholar, writer, and guest lecturer who completed her PhD thesis ‘Women Surrealists: Sexuality, Fetish, Femininity and Female Surrealism’ at the University of Birmingham in 2012.
She has lectured at Treadwells Bookshop on Elsa Schiaparelli’s Zodiac and Pagan Collections (June 2018); ‘Valentine Penrose: Surreal Occultress’ (November 2017); and ‘Leonor Fini, Surrealist Sorceress’ (May 2017); presented the papers ‘Valentine Penrose: The Esoteric Surrealist’ at Plymouth School of Art’s Seeking the Marvellous Conference’ and ‘Leonor Fini: Surrealism, The Eternal, and The Transitory’ at Winchester University’s inaugural Dead Maiden’s conference (July 2017); and has authored the forthcoming chapter ‘Women Surrealists and Egyptian Mythology: Sphinxes, Animals, and Magic’ for the forthcoming publication Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination: Art, Literature and Culture (I.B Tauris, 2019).
She is currently working on various book projects about creative women and magick. Visit her website at http://sabinastent.com, or tweet @SabinaStent.