Auction: Pierre Marly, the “avant garde optician”

From Hepburn to Gainsbourg – eyeglasses under the hammer

Serge Gainsbourg, 1988
Serge Gainsbourg, 1988

An eclectic selection of eyewear belonging to and created by Pierre Marly, the French optician to the stars who revolutionised the industry by designing glasses as fashion statements rather than mere ocular prostheses, goes under the hammer on Friday May 13 at Drouot Auction House, Paris. The 250 or so lots include creations for the rich and famous – such as the iconic lunettes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Serge Gainsbourg (first picture) and Marlene Dietrich.

Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot
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Marly, who died last November aged 99, began his career in the 1940s as optical technician and salesman at La Samaritaine department store – today owned by LVMH (and currently closed for renovations) – then becoming technical director for Les Frères Lissac before opening his first Paris shop in 1951, when he was dubbed “the avant garde optician”, having designed Hepburn’s outsized convex-lensed sunglasses.

The auction, with estimated prices of €400 to €6,000, will open with a selection of 40 pairs of spectacles – worn by artists including Bernard Buffet, César and Jean Cocteau; film stars including Brigitte Bardot (second picture; her glasses third picture), Hepburn (such as the sunglasses she wore in the 1963 film Charade, estimated at €1,000-€1,500), Sophia Loren (fourth picture) andSophie Marceau; musicians such as Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday, EltonJohn and Michel Polnareff; and couturiers including André Courrèges, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.

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The second part of the auction (with estimated prices of €100 to €2,500) is dedicated to Monsieur Marly’s numismatic collection. This consists of French gold coins ranging from the 12th-century Gothic period to the 20th century. Also up for auction are furniture and art objects from La Marlyère, the designer’s country home in the Essonne region.

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