warts and all

Misia Sert (born Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska; 30 March 1872 – 1950) was a pianist of Polish descent who hosted an artistic salon in Paris.  She married Thadée Natanson, a Polish emigre politician and journalist, who became the editor of a Parisian Dreyfusard journal.

Misia (1947) found here

Thadée started the Revue Blanche. Verlaine, Mallarmé and other famous painters duly gathered. Those who couldn’t paint Misia wrote poems for her. The painters had the privilege of immortalising her miraculous looks, which included a legendary pair of legs and a bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking.

Misia by Renoir found here

Being published in the Revue Blanche was like getting into a party: you had to know Misia. At a party thrown by Misia’s brother-in-law to celebrate the completion of nine large panels by Vuillard, Toulouse Lautrec was the barman. Misia met Liszt, whom she remembered for his warts, long hair and transvestite travelling companionThree hundred people were present, of whom a large proportion were already famous and all promptly became drunk, since Lautrec’s cocktails consisted of several layers of different-coloured liqueurs. A room was set aside for casualties and ended up jammed with the bodies of Vuillard, Bonnard, etc

Toulouse Lautrec found here

When Natanson was on the brink of bankruptcy, the newspaper magnate Alfred Edwards saved him, on condition that he surrender his wife to him. Misia began living with Alfred Edwards in 1903.

Edwards was a coprophile, among his other charms, but he was also loaded. There were butlers, chandeliers and an endless supply of Louis XVI furniture. Misia played for Caruso while he sang Neapolitan songs, and told him to pipe down when she grew sick of them. Renoir longed to paint Misia with the famous breasts naked, but she would never bare them to him, probably because Edwards was lurking heavily in the adjacent room, ready to exact jealous vengeance even though the artist by that time was an all but total cripple.

Alfred Edwards found here

Misia eventually lost Edwards to the gorgeous young actress Genevieve Lantelme, who had started off as a whore at the age of fourteen. In 1911, Lantelme drowned in the Rhine. The newspapers licked their tabloid jaws over every detail. Referring obliquely to Edward’s bizarre sexual perversion as the cause of the murder, one journalist wrote “An unspeakable idea that I cannot even describe crossed his mind, an idea that he wanted the horrified and indignant actress to put into practice. She struggled and screamed and he threw her body into the water.” Edwards sued for libel and was awarded damages of one franc. 

Lantelme found here

Misia moved on to José-Maria Sert, a colourful, muscular painter of colourful, muscular murals. Sert was a tirelessly fiery Spaniard with enough cash to keep Misia in the style to which she had no real intention of ever becoming unaccustomed.

By 1923 Sert and Misia were both in love with the same girl, Roussy Mdivani, a junior member of the marrying Mdivanis. Roussy was chic as opposed to artistic. She was also young as opposed to old. The triangle lasted for as long as Misia’s pride allowed, plus a bit longer. Then she consoled herself with Coco Chanel, who took her turn to assume the dominant role.

Chanel found here

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46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow — she really got around. And I hope I look that good at 75.

    • Yes, that’s photo of her is lovely isn’t it?

  2. Just the phrase “legendary pair of legs” makes me feel faint … *crash*

    • Quick… get the smelling salts and a packet of gingernuts

      • I think it was the ginger nuts that mad him collapse in the first place. ;)

      • Um.. make the “made”, not “mad”. Oops! :(

  3. Sert! Where Quaddaffi met his fate! Oh. Wait. That Surt.

    I’ve never been a Renoir fan. His stuff looks like greeting card art. No guts.

    • Kind of with you on the Renoir stuff. But that was a period that I wasn’t too into the art in general.

    • Much of it is reproduced as postcards…someone once sent me this very picture and wrote”nice pussy!”

  4. i had a coprophilic dog.

    coco was lovely, wasn’t she?

    • I think most dogs indulge in coprophilia. Cats of course have more sense.

      • You are right, nursemyra — and the interesting thing is that every dog I have had that was coprophilic thought that the product from the cats was basically some purely gourmet candy item. Weird.

      • If you mix a small amount of dried brewer’s yeast into their dog food (they have it at most supermarkets) then that will mostly take care of that need in their diet (an unpleasant left over from their wild days). Even if you don’t see your dog do it, a small sprinkle won’t hurt, and it’s easy to do.

        ps. queenwilly is not a vet but she loves her doggy friends and she read this once, somewhere. oh dear, sounds a bit flimsy doesn’t it. But I think it’s true. :-)

  5. I had to look up “coprophile.” Yuck.

    • Sorry :-(

      • I noticed you hadn’t provided your usual courtesy link but given the subject matter, that was probably a good choice. =)

  6. Whenever I start with one of your posts I always wonder where it will end, and what twists there will be through the tale. THis was a particularly fine one…sex and death marvelous

    • Misia was a fascinating person

      • I wonder who would play her in a film? Marion Cotillard?

  7. That pix of Chanel – she looks like a sculpture.
    Beautiful.

    • she had an exquisite profile

  8. a bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking

    I’m sorry, I haven’t finished reading yet… but this does make a change!
    Sx

    • I’m sure your delectable bosom has inspired sleepless nights too Miss Scarlet

  9. I bet the tails of Edwards’s coprophilia was just a smear job….

  10. I wonder, if her bosom kept strong men up at night, what it did to weak men?
    And while I, too, must go with “yuck” on what coprophilia is, I too had to look it up. Thank you for enhancing my vocabulary, dear lady, even if it was with a nasty concept.

    • Use your new word wisely….

  11. “A room was set aside for casualties.” Now that’s what I call a party.

    “A bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking.” The word thinking is presumably a euphemism….

  12. A fascinating life to be sure.

  13. Have you seen Midnight in Paris yet? No spoilers but…

    • Not yet, but I’m seeing it next weekend

  14. “a bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking”

    For some reason I keep reading it as ‘strong bosom’

  15. This is possibly the busiest post I’ve ever read here and that’s saying something. I am particularly taken with the bit about Toulouse Lautrec’s infamous cocktails and the room set aside to conceal the bodies of the victims.

    Makes me like him all the more.

    Chanel is stunning – I should nick that for my profile pic but I don’t think I’ll be fooling anybody.

  16. Hello. Your writing in general, and about Misia especially, is a lot more colourful than my dry scribble :)

    • hi 63, welcome to the gimcrack

      • Thank you.

  17. Probably one of my favorite lines ever: “in the style to which she had no real intention of ever becoming unaccustomed.”

    This post makes me long to be a salonista in Paris in the late 1890s. Unfortunately, I would probably have been one of the chambermaids, seamstresses, or scullery maids…

    • I love that line too!

  18. After a couple of computerless weeks it’s oh so wonderful to be back here- brit tattooists, mad Italians, lovely french women and a bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking? Everything that makes the world a grand place. Thanks Nurse!

    • You’re welcome Kirk ;-)

  19. I never assume the dominant role. But I’m *really* lazy.

  20. “…on condition that he surrender his wife to him” It’s nice that she was considered property to be passed along.

  21. Great Toulouse Lautrec museum in Albi, a lovely little town. Not sure what that has to do with this post, but hey, it got me reminiscing…

  22. “kept strong men awake at night thinking” – rational, conscious ponderances, I think not

  23. Bizarre. ;-) You tell the neatest stories.


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