With HBO Documentary and Bulgari Ad Campaign, Isabella Rossellini Brings the Age Debate Into the Spotlight

With HBO Documentary and Bulgari Ad Campaign, Isabella Rossellini Brings the Age Debate Into the Spotlight
"About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" on HBO
(© Timothy Greenfield-Sanders/courtesy of HBO)

In 1986, Isabella Rossellini sat for a photo shoot with her boyfriend, David Lynch, who had just directed her in his third film, “Blue Velvet.” The picture was shot by Annie Leibovitz and it’s become something of a classic. You could say its most distinctive feature is the fact that Lynch is engulfed entirely by his black turtleneck sweater, but that’s not exactly true. It’s much harder to forget Rossellini, whose dress is slipping off her right shoulder, her eyes peering out toward you.

Two decades later, Leibovitz and Rossellini, the daughter of screen beauty Ingrid Bergman, have teamed up again. Bulgari has its Isabella Rossellini bag, and for the fall and spring ads the company brought back Leibovitz to recreate that old iconic pose. In a picture obtained by WWD, the actress’s black dress strap is again slipping down her shoulder.


WWD says the picture was “inspired by the work of British painter Meredith Frampton, known for his neorealist and slightly surrealist portraits and still lifes.” There is a painted quality to the picture, an effect that makes Rossellini seem younger than her 60 years.

Age has been a sensitive subject for Rossellini. In 1995, her contract as the face of Lancome, a job she held for 14 years, was not renewed — allegedly because the company believed her to be too old. She discusses this and more in “About Face: Supermodels Then And Now,” an HBO documentary directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders that’s set to premiere on the premium cable network July 30.

“What has completely disappeared from society is the wisdom of the old people,” she says in the film. “As you grow old, you don’t count anymore, and that is, I think, the greatest fear about growing old.”

The documentary also checks in with 1980s fashion icons such as Jerry Hall, Cheryl Tiegs, Paulina Porizkova, and more, asking them about sexual harassment on the job, drug use, and the various way models attempt to stay in the game as they get older.

It’s relatively comforting, then, to see Rossellini appearing in the Bulgari ads — which will run in the September issue of Vanity Fair — and looking just as glamorous as she did for Annie Leibovitz decades ago. And as for the Lancome job, she can’t be too miffed about her replacement. Since 2004, the face of the cosmetics brand has been her daughter, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann.

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