Venice was abuzz with decadence and glamour on 3 September 1951, as the beautiful and the damned gathered for eccentric aristocrat Count Carlos de Beistegui’s high society gathering Le Bal Oriental.
Guests were invited six months prior, in order to give them enough time to design their decadent costumes, with the theme inspired by a fresco in his home, the Palazzo Labia. The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was the chosen artwork; it depicts a wager between Cleopatra and Mark Antony as to which one could provide the most expensive feast.
The guest list itself was superlative: the brightest stars and hottest young things of the era. Fashion designer Christian Dior attended in a costume designed by surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, while Dalí wore one by Dior. Cecil Beaton took the photographs, while director and actor Orson Welles held court alongside society beauties including Countess Teresa Foscari Foscolo and Patricia Lopez-Huici de Lopez-Willshaw, as well as Aga Khan III.