Photos of Picturesque Socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig

Cuban-American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig (1875 – 1929) was in her heyday one of the foremost women of high society –  photographed by Adolf de Meyer, Edward Steichen and Gertrude Käsebier, she was regarded:

“the most picturesque woman in America.”

She was sculpted in alabaster by Malvina Hoffman and  painted by Giovanni Boldini and John Singer Sargent. Isabella Stewart Gardner, the creator of the Gardner museum in Boston, once asked their mutual friend, John Singer Sargent, why Rita had never expressed herself artistically. “Why should she?” Sargent answered, “She herself is art.”

Lydig was famous for her extravagant lifestyle, :

“…Rita was equally welcomed in Paris, where she spent parts of each year. She would arrive at the Ritz with a hairdresser, masseuse, chauffeur, secretary, maid,… and forty Louis Vuitton trunks…”

Saddly her overspending into heavy debt and she was declared bankrupt – shortly afterwards she died of pernicious anaemia at the age of 54.

Later her personal wardrobe became the basis for the start of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Rita de Acosta Lydig by Edward Steichen (1905)

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Rita de Acosta Lydig (1875-1929) photographed by Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934). Illustration in “Camera work”, n° 10, April 1905.

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Rita de Acosta Lydig’ by Adolphe de Meyer, 1913

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Rita de Acosta Lydig’ by Adolphe de Meyer, 1913

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Vintage Photos of Bloomsbury Clique Society Hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell

Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (1873 – 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. She was part of the literary Bloomsbury clique, along with Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Lytton Strachey, Clive and Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster and more.

Perhaps Lady Ottoline’s most interesting literary legacy is the wealth of representations of her that appear in 20th-century literature. She was the inspiration for Mrs Bidlake in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On. The Coming Back (1933), another novel which portrays her, was written by Constance Malleson, one of Ottoline’s many rivals for the affection of Bertrand Russell. Some critics consider her the inspiration for Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley. Huxley’s roman à clef, Crome Yellow depicts the life at a thinly-veiled Garsington, one of her estates.

Non-literary portraits are also part of this interesting legacy, for example, as seen in the artistic photographs of her by Cecil Beaton. There are portraits by Henry Lamb, Duncan Grant, Augustus John, and others. Carolyn Heilbrun edited Lady Ottoline’s Album (1976), a collection of snapshots and portraits of Morrell and of her famous contemporaries, mostly taken by Morrell herself.

NPG x144140; Lady Ottoline Morrell by George Charles Beresford

Portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell by George Charles Beresford, 4 June 1903

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Lady Ottoline Morrell by Cavendish Morton

platinum print, 1905

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Portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell by Adolf de Meyer, c. 1912

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NPG P1008; Lady Ottoline Morrell by Baron Adolph de Meyer

Lady Ottoline Morrell by Baron Adolph de Meyer
platinum print, 1912

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Lady Ottoline Morrell, by Cecil Beaton (1927)

© Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s London

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Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1929.

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NPG Ax142145; Lady Ottoline Morrell ('Mummy in her bedroom at Amerongen') by Lady Ottoline Morrell

Lady Ottoline Morrell in her bedroom at Amerongen, 1925.

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Collection of Glam Celebrity Portraits by Baron Adolph de Meyer

Baron Adolph de Meyer (1868 – 1946) was a photographer famed for his elegant photographic portraits in the early 20th century, many of which depicted celebrities such as Mary Pickford, Rita Lydig, Luisa Casati, Billie Burke, Irene Castle, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Ruth St. Denis, King George V of the United Kingdom, and Queen Mary. He was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913.

Today, few of his prints survive, most were destroyed during World War II

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Billie Burke by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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 Ruth St. Denis in The Revelation of the Goddess from Omika by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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Lillian Gish by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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Irene Castle 1921 by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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Mary Pickford Wedding Portrait by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Adolf de MeyerPortrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati by Baron Adolph de Meyer

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Vintage Photos of Dandy, Muse and Celebrity Luisa Casati

Luisa Casati  (1881 – 1957) was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. A celebrity and femme fatale, the marchesa’s famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. She dramatically altered her appearance to become a bewitchingly beautiful figure from some bizarre fairy tale. She wore live snakes as jewellery and was infamous for her evening strolls; naked beneath her furs whilst parading cheetahs on diamond-studded leads.  Nude servants gilded in gold leaf attended her.  Bizarre wax mannequins sat as guests at her dining table, some of them rumoured to contain the ashes of past lovers. Without question, the Marchesa was the most scandalous woman of her day.

She became a muse to Italian Futurists , captivated artists and literary figures and had numerous portraits painted and sculpted by various artists. She posed for photographs by Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Baron Adolph de Meyer. Many of them she paid for, as a wish to “commission her own immortality”.  She is famous for saying “I want to be a living work of art”.

Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati [photographer unknown] (ca. 1903)

Casati ca. 1903

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Luisa Casati by Alberto Martini ca. 1906 featuring Luisa Casati on one of her night strolls along the Grand Canal in Venice

Marchesa Casati: Fabulous creation

Luisa Casati in a fountain costume by Paul Poiret, 1910s

Luisa Casati – 1913 by Adolf Demeyer

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Luisa Casati, 1922 by Man Ray

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Photo by Cecil Beaton 1954