“I wonder how seriously she takes us,” Amanda Seyfried whispers, referring to the big-name celebrity quietly smirking across the room. The woman strikes me as the silent-judging type, but Seyfried is more open-minded. “It’s judgment,” the actor considers, “or it’s just innocent curiosity.” After all, it’s not every day that Lisa Gherardini, better known as the selfie-magnet Mona Lisa, gets a near-private audience with an Oscar nominee—a startling beauty known to turn up on Lancôme billboards and magazine covers. “How big is that, dimension-wise?” Seyfried wonders about Da Vinci’s 16th-century painting, encased in bulletproof glass. A nearby voice ballparks it at 36 by 24 inches, which sounds like the start of a bust-waist-hips measurement. “‘36, 25, 34’—was that from a Nelly song?” Seyfried asks, before supplying her own melodic answer with a line from the rapper’s Y2K anthem: “If you want to go and take a ride with me…” One imagines Lisa the wallflower, having seen and heard it all, softly humming along. A nostalgic hit has its sweetness, but also its flaws. “That was supposed to depict the perfect female form,” says Seyfried, “which is obviously bullshit.”
The matter of idealized beauty—how to define it, and, more important, redefine it—is a recurring theme at the Louvre on a balmy Tuesday evening, where a crowd of hundreds has gathered under I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid to fete the museum’s partnership with Lancôme. Spindly display stands show off the limited-edition eye palette, its embossed shadows inspired by an 1836 bust of the ancient Greek poet Corinne. Nearby, bottles of Advanced Génifique serum (a conservator’s approach to preservation) occupy a set of black pedestals; lipsticks in faux marble cases sit on gold ones. Meanwhile, four of the beauty brand’s ambassadors—Seyfried, along with Zendaya, Chinese model He Cong, and Malian-French musician Aya Nakamura—have taken their own places on the walls, by way of mural-size campaign images that pair each woman with an emblematic artwork. Some of the statues are unmistakable, like The Winged Victory of Samothrace, which Zendaya mirrors with an outstretched arm. Seyfried, whose Catskills farm has been a refuge for the past decade, finds her muse in the Diana of Gabii, a Greek tribute to the goddess of the hunt. The larger-than-life figure—once a jewel in the Borghese collection and later Napoleon’s—has long been a popular lady. So is Seyfried, whose bright pink Prada dress acts like a homing beacon for just about every fan and friend.
On the surface, the co-branded collection might seem like an unusual rendezvous for the two heritage institutions. “It’s not! It’s so refined, it’s so specific, it’s so well-curated,” Seyfried counters, as she slips out of cocktail hour for the private tour. “The thing about museums is you go there to get lost and you go there to get found, to find yourself,” she says—something that beauty, with its tools for transformation, can tap into as well. The actor pauses in a spacious room where Ingres’s 1814 La Grande Odalisque slyly holds court. “I love humans, I love these mythical snapshots—but landscapes,” she sighs in front of Paul Flandrin’s 1838 Montagnes de la Sabine, a lush, unassuming painting with just the hint of manmade intervention, namely the cluster of figures near the bottom and a columned temple hidden in the trees. Beyond an aesthetic experience, these galleries hold the possibility for connection, as Seyfried sees it, a chance to build a cross-generational bridge. (Film does too, which has the actor alluding to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike—a consequence of artists “being taken for granted and almost disrespected, in some ways, because of financial things.”)
But it’s the classical statuary that we are beelining for. The majestic Winged Victory, occupying a solitary perch on a stair landing, is all flash-frozen power. “You feel the space, you feel the possibility,” Seyfried says of that potential waiting to be set loose. A short walk on, the Venus de Milo gets an intimately scaled gallery to herself. Suddenly a barnyard braying emanates from the actor’s evening bag. “That’s my donkey!” Seyfried chirps, scurrying to her phone. (Technically speaking, it’s not her actual donkey on the recording, but a ringtone stand-in for logistical ease.) She answers the FaceTime call by striking a nonchalant pose with Venus. “Tommy? Oh, no big deal. We’re literally walking around the Louvre right now,” she says to her husband, Thomas Sadoski. A tiny voice belonging to their 3-year-old son pipes in. “I don’t have your toy, Bubba,” Seyfried cajoles, with one last attempt at a grand gesture: “This is art! This is history!” Someone in the group suggests a child-size Venus de Milo as a souvenir. “I’ve already got him an alien and a car,” she says. “Way better than this.”
Seyfried knows what she wants, as evidenced by the life she has built around family (her daughter is 6) and nature. Two new horses have settled in at the farm this week, which brings the menagerie tally—she pauses to count in her head—to “16 big animals, not counting the chickens and the ducks.” It’s mostly an equine mix, including the donkey, pony, and miniature horses, plus goats. It makes sense that a woman of the land feels a kinship with this marble Diana, caught in a self-sufficient moment as she fastens her cloak. In the press notes for the Lancôme x Louvre collection, Seyfried calls her a “wild goddess,” despite an outwardly delicate appearance. “Claiming her own independence: that’s where her beauty comes from.”
The tour is winding down, bringing Seyfried closer to another like-minded deity in the museum this evening: Isabella Rossellini, fellow dog lover and benevolent ruler of her own animal kingdom. (Mama Farm, as her 23-acre plot on Long Island is called, recently collaborated with designer Aisling Camps on a knitwear capsule, featuring wool from her heritage sheep.) “She’s beautiful and she kind of goes by the beat of her own drum,” Seyfried says, describing a groundedness and deep sense of self. “She has the space for other people and their feelings, and she remains a singular, very powerful, and attractive human being.” Lancôme is doing something right, when one ambassador lifts up another with such reverence. “We kind of walk through life in a similar way,” Seyfried adds, “so I feel like I’m already ahead of the game.”
Still, the evening’s flurry of photo requests flips the Diana myth on its head. Does a public figure, even a self-directed one, have moments of feeling hunted? “Oh, for sure,” Seyfried acknowledges, though her geniality with strangers suggests she has found ways to mediate that. “I think a lot of regret comes from the emotional toll it takes when people hold you on some pedestal that you didn’t necessarily ask for,” she says of the churn of fame. “Some people get lost in that. I understand that I have a platform—that I have built a little bit of a pedestal—but I also know that I created a world very separate from what I’m asked to do with my career.”
The idea of the unblemished celebrity might seem to be reinforced by the collaboration’s classical and neoclassical pairings—marble sculptures of female figures, divine and real. In truth, ongoing scholarship shows that many Greek and Roman works were originally brightly (and, in some naysayers’ views, garishly) painted. Not objects of purist remove, but vibrant mirrors to life. “There is color in humanity,” agrees Seyfried, who bristles at a rigidly held concept of perfection. “Why not paint on marble? Why not make it as real as possible?” It’s a proposition facilitated by the night’s gift bag: warm red lipstick in a marble-print tube.
Lancôme x Louvre
Richelieu Wing Face & Eyeshadow Palette
Lancôme x Louvre
L’Absolu Rouge Matte Lipstick in French Touch
Lancôme x Louvre
L’Absolu Rouge Matte Lipstick in Celestial Rose
Lancôme x Louvre
Advanced Génifique Serum
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