Today we meet Julie, the face behind the Instagram account and Etsy shop, Manon Boudoir who is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. With a love for vintage aesthetics, the main heroine featured in her illustrations is Manon Lescaut from the 18th-century novel by the same name.
Julie’s illustrations are instantly recognizable with their various hues of pink, and in this interview, she gives us an inside look into when her love of vintage first began her biggest source of inspiration, and her most treasured vintage find.
When did you first fall in love with all things vintage?
I think it happened in high school when I was 15 or 16. I discovered the old Hollywood movies for the first time and just couldn’t take my eyes off these silver screen sirens lounging around in their elegant outfits, perfectly coiffured and with perfect makeup on. I fell instantly in love with vintage aesthetics, watching and re-watching the movies with Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Vivien Leigh, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Elizabeth Taylor, and Hedy Lamarr. My love has only grown stronger ever since and expanded further to other decades of the 20th century.
What is your biggest source of inspiration for your artwork featured both on Instagram and your shop, Manon Boudoir?
I find inspiration in life and the people around me. It’s in books, movies, art exhibitions, theatre performances, and even some little things I surround myself with. It’s in my community and my customers who support me and make me move forward and go a little beyond. It’s in constant rediscovering of my favorite artists which I have plenty of and find particular pleasure addressing to in my work from time to time.
Tell me about how you decided on the name Manon Boudoir.
As well as the main heroine of my watercolors, my shop is named after Manon Lescaut (Abbé Prévost’s heroine from the 18th century novel of the same name which I loved). She is a belle libertine pursuing luxury and sensual pleasures, and a brilliant production of the 18th century to me, all coquettish and refined even in its vices.
Your illustrations feature Marie Antoinette-Esque women and women in vintage Parisian settings… What drew you to Marie Antoinette and creating vintage illustrations in particular?
It was Stefan Zweig’s novel and Sofia Coppola’s movie about her. Also, my trips to Paris and Versailles in addition to learning French and studying French history at the university only raised my interest in the subject. And as a person who has a strong liking for all things old and with a history behind them, I think it might explain why all my illustrations are vintage-inspired.
Your primary medium is watercolors. What are your favorite brands of watercolor to use when creating new illustrations and which colors do you find yourself using throughout your artwork?
I use White Nights watercolor paints produced in Russia by the St Petersburg company. It has a symbolic meaning for me since my journey as an artist started in Saint Petersburg several years ago. This magnificent city with all its creative energy and history made me turn to paints and brushes to express my penchants.
Throughout my artwork, I enjoy using different pinks from blush to magenta. Even though I have a pretty large collection of paints, there are only 5-7 pans of colors that I mix and match to create an almost endless number of different shades. When I began it was quite a revelation for me to discover that you don’t need that many paints to paint almost anything.
Where is your favorite place to create your illustrations?
I love working on my illustrations from the comfort of my own home. I usually light a scented candle and play music while I’m working. It can be some Italian opera, classical ballet soundtrack, the Baroque classics, or 1950s jazz tunes depending on my mood.
One of the most recent illustrations that you posted on Instagram featured a ballerina. Tell me about the initial inspiration behind this illustration.
This was a little commission piece I created for one of my customers. There isn’t a lot I can tell about it since it was my customer who sent me the photo of the ballet outfit and described the ballerina’s posture. However I was very happy with how it turned out in terms of color and composition with its dreamy hues of blush pinks and golds, and an intricate frame giving it a “ballerina in a trinket box” vibe. The bow choker on her neck was a personal touch, a kind of petite homage to Degas’ ballet dancers.
Where are some of your favorite places to buy vintage clothing, and what has been your most treasured find?
I don’t have much true vintage in my closet, only a few accessories. I find that rare and beautiful vintage pieces are often pretty expensive while being challenging to wear on a daily basis due to their age and fragile condition, so I prefer to shop from modern designers with a vintage flavor. My favorite vintage-inspired brands are Ginger Jackie Tailorshop for impeccably elegant daywear and Maison Fifi Chachnil for a princess evening look. My most treasured find is not a find exactly but a gift from my husband, and this is the antique mother of pearl opera glasses. For a vintage enthusiast and a theatre aficionado like myself, it’s a treasured thing that holds a special place in my heart.
If there was someone from the past that you could meet in person, who would it be?
Oh, that’s a difficult question to answer! Right now it would probably be Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, known as Madame de Pompadour. I’ve been reading a lot about her lately and got positively inspired by the lady’s persistence, self-belief, wit, and many talents. At that time it was unprecedented for a mistress from the bourgeoisie to step her foot in Versailles, but this lady stayed and became one of the most influential women of the age both in the cultural and political milieu of France.
Are you working on a new piece or commission right now, if so can you share about it?
Currently, I’m working on several commissioned pieces and on new merchandise for my Etsy shop which I recently opened for U.S. customers after almost 6 months of being closed due to the pandemic. If everything goes well, soon there will be new stickers, notebooks, and tote bags featuring my illustrations. I’m also planning to return to one big project of mine I started this spring but didn’t have a chance to continue for some reason. It will be a series of illustrations of les grandes horizontales, some of the most famous courtesans of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their stories always captivated me as quite often these were the most cultivated and liberated women of their epoch, inspiring artists and poets.