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