Famous Menus: Guillaume Apollinaire
Here we pay homage to the menu that embodies the very spirit of our first dinner party.
Déjeuner Guillaume Apollinaire
31 Décembre 1916
Aka one of the most infamous lunches in art history
Towards the end of Apollinaire’s life, some of his Surrealist friends threw him a celebratory lunch in honor of his latest work, Le poète assassiné. Organized by Juan Gris and Paul Dermée in Montparnasse, the guest list included the whos who of the cultural world: Matisse, Braque, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Picasso & then girlfriend Elviri Palladini, known as Youyou, Diego Rivera, Max Jacob, André Gide, Rachilde and, importantly for our story, Jean Cocteau.
All of the menu items reference Apollinaire - or another guest’s - work.
The menu has been reprinted in some academic texts, but it appears here in rare form. During the summer of 2016, I visited the Musée Jean Cocteau Collection Severin Wunderman after completing my thesis, which was about Cocteau. The second man named in what seems to be one of the longest museum titles in existence was my grandfather, and he had, literally, the world’s largest collection of works by Jean Cocteau until he donated it all back to the country of France, which promptly built the museum to house it.
However, what I did not realize was the extent to which my grandfather collected Cocteau “things.” While I’d thought that he’d focussed mainly on the artworks of Cocteau’s, it turns out that he took great care to get his hands on any piece of paper that would’ve passed through the artist’s hands. This included letters, postcards, receipts and - yes - dinner party menus.
While visiting the museum, the extraordinarily kind and devoted staff (salut, Sandrine!) allowed me to play in the storage facility that kept the items not on display. One such room was full of hundreds of 12-inch binders that held these papers. Somehow, the one I took from the shelf opened to reveal the Apollinaire menu, of which I took a quick iPhone photo.
I forgot about it until almost a full year later, when we were planning our own Surrealist dinner party for the Klean’s debut issue: RED 18-1550.
It was kismet to find this incredible artifact from a bygone time and be able to use it as our driving inspiration for our own wacky dinner party.
May you be inspired by it, too!
A special report brought to you by Helen America.