A Nascent Passion for the Theater

At the age of 13 in Oran, where I was born, I saw a performance of [Molière’s] École des femmes (School for Wives) starring Louis Jouvet. The set was by Christian Bérard, an immense artist. It had a major impact me. At the time, the touring theater productions were outstanding. That was how I discovered Jean Cocteau’s Infernal Machine starring Jean Marais, Elvire Popesco, and Jean-Pierre Aumont, with a set by Bérard.

Yves Saint Laurent, 2005. “Chez Pierre Bergé et Yves Saint Laurent,” republication of a 2005 interview in La collection Yves Saint Laurent Pierre Bergé, special edition, Connaissance des arts, 2009

Following this life-changing discovery, Yves Saint Laurent created his “Illustre Petit Théâtre,” a miniature stage set for a series of cardboard characters wearing costumes he designed. He painted the set himself.

His passion for the theater went hand in hand with his interest in literature. He began writing his first poems and spent time transcribing and illustrating Alfred de Musset’s Les Caprices de Marianne (Moods of Marianne) and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. During his adolescence, Saint Laurent also discovered Marcel Proust, whose work would continue to fascinate him throughout his life.

The first costumes Saint Laurent sketched for Jean Cocteau’s Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah) and L’Aigle à Deux Têtes (The Eagle with Two Heads) in addition to Alexandre Dumas’s Reine Margot (Queen Margot) demonstrate at once his drawing talents and what the choreographer Roland Petit would later describe as his “immediate and astounding sense of what a costume should be.