From Sofia Coppola’s film making debut with The Virgin Suicides (1999) to Lost in Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006), she has cemented her place in film making history with her distinct directorial style and cool.

What you may not know is that her love of photography and art collecting has been central to shaping her cinematic language. Turning to the history of photography for inspiration when imagining the interiors, costumes, and atmosphere of her films she has created some of the most iconic cinematic scenes that have become imprinted in our minds and popular culture.

“My filmmaking begins with images from photography, so I think of it as a starting point for making a film. I love photographs”. Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola was granted access to film her Academy Award winning Marie Antoinette in the Palace of Versailles,  she spent months there with her cast telling the story of France’s controversial last Queen, the teenage girl from Austria transplanted to Versailles in all its splendour. The period film unfolds through the lens of the young Marie, from her bewilderment and boredom with life at court and follows her progression into the giddy and reckless hedonism her reign has become known for. 

The opening image of Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is inspired by a Guy Bourdin photograph of a woman lying back with a maid at her feet. Coppola wanted to  introduce Marie-Antoinette to us via this decadent perception we have of her and as a keen collector of photography sought out Guy Bourdin’s iconic imagery as inspiration when imaging this scene. Coppola’s home is filled with framed artworks by Ed Ruscha, Risaku Suzuki, Elizabeth Peyton, Juergen Teller, Helmut Newton, Tina Barney, Lee Friedlander, Guy Bourdin and Andy Warhol.

Opening image of Marie Antoinette played by Kirsten Dunst is inspired by the work of French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin.

Coppola’s passion for collecting first began with fashion photography, encouraged by her mother, Eleanor Coppola (another filmmaker) the first piece she bought was Hat + 5 Roses by William Klein. The woman pictured is seen holding a cigarette with smoke surrounding her face, the dream like haze can be seen in her films. 

Her choice of Guy Bourdin’s evocative work as inspiration for the opening scene has cemented the now iconic image of Kirsten Dunst, playing the young ill-fated Queen reclining on a chez lounge in Versailles, surrounded by Ladurée cakes, champagne, chintz and a lady in waiting at her feet gently adorning a silk Manolo Blahnik mule into our collective memories. Sofia Coppola had Spanish footwear designer Manolo Blahnik create hundreds of specially made shoes for the film, the shoes have since warranted exhibitions the world over and have become collector’s items themselves.

Marie-AntoinetteAs you can see, the art of collecting is so steeped in passion and inspiration that it comes as no surprise that a silk and kidskin leather slipper owned by Marie-Antoinette before the 1789 French revolution recently sold for €43,750 ($51,780) at auction in 2021.The sale took place in the town of Versailles, which was once home to the French royal court. Marie-Antoinette lived there from her arrival at the age of 15. Her family held on to the slipper for generations before it went to auction 227 years after her execution. The slipper had been passed down through the family of Marie Emilie de La Chapelle, a close friend of Marie-Antoinette’s first chamber maid. 

NB: As if Academy Awards, Golden Lions and Cannes Palme d’Or accolades weren’t enough for the actress, director, producer and model, there was also that time she put her camera down to design a ‘non attention grabbing’ yet iconic collection for Louis Vuitton for her friend Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton’s creative Director and visionary at the time. We will explore more about Marc, his collection and the artistic collaborations that have become his legacy to the world of art and fashion in an upcoming edition of The Art of Collecting. Stay tuned for more.

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