Vintage Portraits of the Infamous Dancer Lola Montez (1821 – 1861)

Lola Montez or Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld,  was an Irish courtesan, actress and dancer. Her year of her birth is disputed, as are many aspects of her life. She famously wrote her own biography creating a completely fictional and self-indulgent fantasy of her life.

She launched herself on the London stage as ‘Lola Montez, the famous Spanish Dancer’ despite not being Spanish or even a dancer! Within years she had toured Europe with her scandalous dancing.

Her friends, lovers, and clients included Franz List, Alexandre Dumas and King Ludwig I.

In 1851, she came to the United States and in San Francisco, first performed her notorious “Spider Dance”—in which she pretended to be bitten by a spider, flailing and wiggling in a way calculated to induce maximum lust in the mostly male audience

King Ludwig I of Bavaria made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.

In 1858, she published The Arts of Beauty: or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, full of her own thoughts and advice. One excerpt read as follows:

Without a fine head of hair no woman can be really beautiful. A combination of perfect features, united in one person, would all go for naught without that crowning excellence of beautiful hair. Take the handsomest woman that ever lived—one with the finest eyes, a perfect nose, an expanded forehead, a charming face, and a pair of lips that beat the ripest and reddest cherries of summer—and shave her head, and what a fright would she be! The dogs would bark at, and run from her in the street.

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Lola Montez

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Lola Montez, Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes, 1851 via

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Lola Montez, 1851 via

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Lola Montez, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler for Ludwig I of Bavaria and his Schönheitengalerie, 1847 via

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Nicolas Toussaint Charlet´s portrait of Lola Montez via

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Lola Montez via

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Lola Montez  via

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Spider Dance via