Madame M’s romance is the fruit of o literary exercice : What would this collection look like if it were a 1920’s scene ? What would have happened to our muse Madame M if she had lived at that time ? The romance incorporates the name of the 32 references of the 2019 collection.

Madame M stopped on the highest step. She had arrived – at last. The two caryatides supporting the entablature of the doorway gave her their eternal smile. Proudly standing in columns for millennia, they held the heavy burden balanced on their elaborate Corinthian hairstyle, decorated with acanthus leaves.

The Sun, the colour of ambrosia was at its zenith. Madame M, bent double, caught her breath. She had been resisting the heat and her vertigo for many minutes. The young woman had climbed the twelve flights of stairs together, determined to stop only once she had reached the top. And there it was: the Temple of Aphrodite, perched on the hillside. What secrets were kept inside the acropolis ? She would soon find out.

But firstly, like Orpheus who, on escaping the Underworld, could not resist looking to see if Eurydice was still behind him, Madame M could not resist contemplating the Greek city which lay at her feet. She took a deep breath and turned around slowly.

It was even more beautiful than in her wildest dreams. A sea of marbled white rooftops spread out below her. A maze of streets, blind-alleys and squares with fountains dedicated to the glory of a Naiad, spirits of rivers and springs.

Either side of the stairs leading up to the temple, lush, terraced oases could be seen. Could even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have been more beautiful ? One thousand and one types of tree, plants and flowers composed a colourful and olfactory symphony. Delicate and rare essences, carried by a gentle breeze, filled the warm air. The winds of the Ithaca carried subtle hints of hibiscus, olive groves and rosemary to her.

The young woman gave the landscape one last admiring look, and decided that it was time to enter the temple – the heat was overwhelming. She turned and… screamed with fright. Her cry echoing around the surrounding hills.

She was no longer alone. From nowhere, a huge monster was guarding the entrance. The monster had human features. Its body, its legs and its tail were that of a Dantean lion. And, growing from its thick fur, two enormous birdlike wings covered its left and right flanks. Madame M recognised it: the Sphinx, from the legend of Oedipus.

The monster, standing on its four powerful legs, was playing the role of guardian. Its wings spread over its head – an extremely beautiful head. With its large obsidian eyes, full lips, and ancient headdress, the Page | 56

sphinx was a mysterious animal god, whom the aoidos – the classical Greek poets – revered for its legendary and feline beauty.

“Who goes there ?” asked the sphinx in its soothing voice.

Madame M took a step forward, her blood icy, her palms open, as a sign of peace.

“I do, she said. Just me. My name is M.

“Are you here to discover the secrets of the Akrópolis ?

Madame M nodded.

“In that case, here is my riddle: the most beautiful creations are often found nearby. You just need to open your eyes…

“What am I supposed to do?

This temple is a maze. The answer to the riddle is at its centre. You must go there.”

“And…if I become lost?”

The monster with a woman’s face held out its lion’s paw. Hanging from one of its claws was something which looked like…

“With this reel, said the sphinx, you can unwind the thread to find your way.”

Madame M took it with caution. She tied the end of the thread to the base of a caryatide. Then, after looking into the daylight for one last time, as if she imagined that she would never set eyes on it again, she stepped into the narrow entrance of the maze.

She made her way slowly, unwinding her reel like Ariane with her thread. Except she was not searching for a man like Theseus – because M wasn’t bothered with men anymore. No, what she expected to discover, she hoped, was much more exciting. And the obstacles placed across her path, would be worthy of the carefully guarded secret.

In the corridors, the scent of myrrh, heavy, heady. Myrrh….this natural resin linked with the prayers of Poseidon. Was Madame M to encounter all the gods of Olympus in this timeless place ? All sorts of echoes reached her in the heart of the maze. At first, she heard whispering. The enchantress Circe perhaps ? Madame M turned the corner of the passage and the whisperings stopped : M was not one of those heroes who had come to share the bed of the enchantress…she had probably lost interest in her.

In that passage distant clamouring could be heard, like a frenzied crowds during the Olympic Games. She was almost expecting to see athletes wrestling against one another or throwing a javelin. But there was nothing.

In the next passage, Madame M heard strange growling. She quickened her step, her stomach in knots. She was ready for anything. But she didn’t have the courage to face a beast as ferocious as the Nemean Lion; nor a monster as terrible as the Minotaur.

Suddenly, a galloping echoed behind her. M turned around, her heart beating in rhythm with the staccato of the hooves. A gigantic ram with wings appeared at the end of the passage. It was Chrysomallos, the ram hunted by Jason. The winged ram came straight at her, its Golden Fleece shining from its head to its hooves. Madame M took flight. The end of the passage was close. She just needed to reach the next passage and the ram would stop chasing her, she would stake her life on it.

As she went around the corner, the thread wrapped around one of her ankles, and the young woman fell flat on the ground, her feet entangled, her face in the dust.

“Who is there?”

M lifted her head. Was Morpheus, the god of dreams playing tricks on her ? One of the mythological Fates – Clotho, who spins the thread of life – was bending over her, her single, empty eye-socket open like a wound between her eyebrows. Behind, her two sisters, Lachesis, who unwinds the thread, and Atropos, who cuts it, blocked the way.

“Who is there?” repeated the blind Fate.

-My name is M. I must reach the centre of the maze. Will you allow me to pass?

– M….repeated the fate. M for misfortune. M for misery. No, M, you shall not pass.

– And if I go past regardless, said Madame M with bravado, how could you stop me? You see nothing.

– Then my sisters will put an end to your mortal life. And nowhere else will you go.

Between her long, crooked fingers, the second Fate, the one known as Lachesis, held a long, thick and shining thread – the life-thread of Madame M. Atropos, the cruellest, approached with the points of her shears.

Risking everything, M shouted:

“Wait! I also have a thread. The thread of destiny. If I fail to unreel it until the heart of the labyrinth, the destiny of men, the gods and all the divinities born to them will be in danger. Yours included.

– M for misleading !” screamed the Fate

Clotho wished to see the thread. Madame M let her touch it. The Fates became afraid and stepped to one side. The path was clear. As she walked away, Clothos addressed her:

“The room you seek is just behind. You have reached the end of your journey. May the Goddess deliver you from Page | 57

you burden.”

Clotho had not lied. On the left, surrounded by four high walls, opened a huge room. The centre of the labyrinth. Channels filled with clear water flowed within it, drawing an infinite number of Greek meanders on the marble tiled floor. The scene was taken from one of Homer’s poems : many characters from The Odyssey seemed to be present. On the right, an ephebe of great beauty – Narcissus perhaps ? – was leaning over the water absorbed in the contemplation of his own reflection. On his left, a suite of Nereids bathing, playing, splashing joyfully, under the wrathful eye of Cybele, the great Magna Mater, goddess and Mother of gods.

In the centre of the looping streams, the goddess Aphrodite, at ease in her domain, stood in all her splendour. She was naked, as on the first day of Creation; like Venus born from Botticelli’s seashell. The water from her hair was streaming onto her body. A magnificent Phoenix perched on her shoulder. She was waiting for her.

M bowed respectfully.

In her hands, Aphrodite held a reel of thread identical in every way to that which M had unreeled. The goddess repeated :

“The most beautiful creations are often found nearby. You just need to open your eyes.

– I…I don’t understand” said M, frustrated.

Aphrodite smiled. Her smile was like a ray of sunshine.

“Allow me to show you. My sisters.”

From behind Aphrodite appeared Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia, the Three Graces from mythology, as naked as those painted by Raphael – except these ones were not holding apples. They surrounded the goddess and gently took the reel of thread from her hands.

Something then happened which Madame M did not understand. The Three Graces began to sing and dance, faster and faster, in a joyful and unbridled round. And, as their crystalline voices rose, a shimmering garment was woven as if by magic, covering the naked body of the goddess.

The reel fell to the ground with a dull thud. The thread had disappeared, only the empty reel remained. However, covering Aphrodite’s body, a sublime, shimmering moiré fabric, perfectly draped. The folds like a shower of diamonds in the divine light. It flowed like a river between her breasts and over her hips. It dressed her curves created for love.

The most beautiful creations are often found nearby. You just need to open your eyes.

Madame M had just solved the mystery.

The writer opened her eyes. For how long had she been asleep on this bench? In front of her, the Sun’s disk was half-submerged in the azure water of the Mediterranean. Like a sublime pairing of Helios and Poseidon, the fusion of water and the flaming star, from the gardens of the villa, the young woman watched the Sun disappear below the horizon,

Behind the young woman, a large limed facade sparkled in the light of the setting Sun : Villa Kerylos, this impressive residence built on the cliff face. The architect, at the beginning of the last century, had based it on models of classical villas in Ancient Greece.

On her left, someone approached silently, Madame M jumped. It was the guide.

“The villa is closing, Madam.

-Oh, so sorry. I’m leaving.”

She stood and headed for the exit, but changed her mind at the last moment; retracing her steps. She had forgotten her notebook. It was awaiting her on the bench. She picked it up and hugged it against herself. Her beautiful heroine, Madame M was resting within the pages. That evening, the writer would take up her pen once more. The dream she had just had, in the mysterious city of Akrópolis, had inspired her next story.