The Only Beautiful Eyes Are Those That Look At Us Tenderly

Coco Chanel? Gabrielle Chanel? Pierre Reverdy? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The eyes of a lover gazing at you are beautiful. The fashion icon Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Chanel) said something germane:

The only beautiful eyes are those that look at us tenderly.

Would you please help me to find a citation for the original statement in French.

Quote Investigator: In September 1938 “Vogue” magazine of Paris published a two page spread of “Maximes et Sentences” (“Maxims and Sentences”) by Gabrielle Chanel. The following statement appeared among the 31 items. Boldface added to excerpts buy QI:[ref] 1938 Septembre (September), Vogue, Maximes et Sentences (Maxims and Sentences) by Gabrielle Chanel, Quote Page 56, Condé Nast, Paris, France. (BNF Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France) link [/ref]

Les seuls beaux yeux sont ceux qui nous regardent tendrement.

Here is one possible translation into English:

The only beautiful eyes are those that look at us tenderly.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The 2011 biography “Coco Chanel” by Linda Simon included a slightly different English version of the quotation. The phrase “look at us tenderly” was rendered as “look at you tenderly”:[ref] 2011, Coco Chanel by Linda Simon, Series: Critical Lives, Unnumbered Page, Reaktion Books, London. (Google Books Preview) [/ref]

‘The only beautiful eyes are those that look at you tenderly’, became one of her repeated ‘maxims’.

Also in 2011, “Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War” by Hal Vaughan included a section about Chanel’s love affair with the poet Pierre Reverdy. The author suggested that Reverdy assisted Chanel in the composition of the “Vogue” maxims:[ref] 2012 (2011 Copyright), Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan, Chapter 3: Coco’s Golden Duke, Quote Page 59, Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, New York. (Google Books Preview) [/ref]

It was during visits to La Pausa that Reverdy helped Chanel compile a series of maxims that would years later be published in Vogue. Earlier, she had written articles for Parisian women’s reviews: Le Miroir du monde. Les Femmes et le sport, and Le Nouveau Luxe.

A website called “Snippets of Paris” included a version of the quotation attributed to Chanel on an undated webpage titled “31 French Love Quotes to make your heart flutter (with English Translation)”. The quotation was slightly altered via the replacement of the phrase “nous regardent tendrement” with the phrase “vous regardent avec tendresse”. The English translation reflected this change:[ref] Website: Snippets of Paris, Article title: 31 French Love Quotes to make your heart flutter (with English Translation), Article subsection: Famous French Sayings, Article author: Not specified, Date on website: Not specified, Website description: A blog about France by a Canadian who moved to Paris. (Accessed on December 28, 2020) link [/ref]

Les seuls beaux yeux sont ceux qui vous regardent avec tendresse.

English Translation: The only beautiful eyes are those who look at you with tenderness.

The legendary Coco Chanel had a dramatic love life herself, so she knew what she was talking about when she said these words.

In conclusion, the original French version of the quotation appeared in a piece by Coco Chanel published in the September 1938 issue of “Vogue”. The saying can be translated into English in different ways.

Image Notes: Fantasy image depicting eyes in a forest from KELLEPICS (Stefan Keller) at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to the anonymous person who requested the exploration of a large number of quotations attributed to Coco Chanel. This led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

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