Vintage Photos of French Salon Queen Comtesse Greffulhe (1860-1952)

Aristocrat, Élisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe (1860 – 1952) was a renowned beauty and queen of the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris. She was the daughter of Joseph de Riquet de Caraman and his wife Marie de Montesquiou-Fezensac. In 1881 she married the unfaithful, quick-tempered Henri, Count Greffulhe (1848-1932), of the Belgian family of bankers. The comtesse has been described in these words:

“The Comtesse Greffulhe is always beautiful and always elsewhere. But it would be a mistake to think that her life was merely the pursuit of pleasure (…) not only is she beautiful, but she is a lady. Preferring the privacy of her own house in the rue d’Astorg and at Bois-Boudran in the country, the Comtesse Greffulhe never dined out except at the British Embassy. When Edward VII came to Paris, he dined informally at her house. After a restricted youth (…) she set herself to attracting musicians, scholars, physicists, chemists, doctors.”

She regularly entertained the cream of Parisian society at her salon in the rue d’Astorg. The comtesse helped establish the art of James Whistler, and she actively promoted such artists as Auguste Rodin, Antonio de La Gandara and Gustave Moreau.

She was the inspiration for the Duchess of Guermantes in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, she regularly ordered – notably from Worth – sumptuous outfits that highlighted her splendid waist. She was a patron of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets russes, and launched a fashion for greyhound racing.

Fascinated by science, she helped Marie Curie to finance the creation of the Institute of Radium, and Edouard Branly to pursue his researches on radiotransmission and telemechanical systems.

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Comtesse Greffulhe photographed by Otto Wegener (around 1886)

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Comtesse Greffulhe  wearing a ball gown photographed by Otto Wegener (ca. 1887) via

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Comtesse Greffulhe looking sideways photographed by Félix Nadar, 1900 via

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Comtesse Greffulhe shows off her bare shoulder and, fashionably semi-concealed, her striking figure in a turn-of-the-century dress via

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In this puzzling image, Comtesse Greffulhe  is seen embracing her own double. The Comtesse wears an elaborate dress with decorated blouson bodice and swirling fabric and a simple dress that could be worn today, 1899 via

 

 

A Collection Vintage Photos Feat. Amazing Ballerina Ida Rubinstein

Ida Rubinstein (1883-1960) was a famous Russian ballerina, actress, patron and Belle Époque figure.

As an idol of the fin de siècle, she was renowned for her beauty, mimetic powers and enormous wealth. She was a significant patron and she tended to commission works that suited her abilities, works that mixed dance with drama and stagecraft.

She was born in Kharkiv (Ukraine) and was orphaned at an early age. The family was wealthy, cultured and Russified, a merchant-banking clan that had moved up the social ranks; her father’s title, Hereditary Honorary Citizen, conferred gentry status.

She made her debut in 1908 in a private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. The part brought her to the attention of Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929), who included her in the earliest Paris seasons of his celebrated Ballets Russes.

She was not in the top tier of ballerinas; she began her training too late for that to have been a possibility. Because of her limited dance training, she was cast in “mime” roles such as Cleopatra (1909) and Ta-Hor in Schéhérazade (1910), which capitalized on her dark, exotic looks and stunning stage presence. Both ballets were choreographed by Fokine, and designed by Léon Bakst. Her partner in Scherazade was the great Nijinsky. Rubinstein left the Ballets Russes in 1911.

By the 1920s she had become a grande dame of the French theatre. In 1928 Rubinstein formed her own dance company, using her inherited wealth, and commissioned several lavish productions. Her last performance was in the play Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher in Paris, 1939.

In 1940 she left France during the German invasion, and made her way to England via Algeria and Morocco. She later returned to France, living finally at Les Olivades at Vence, where she lived in strict seclusion, reading the Bible and occasionally visiting the Abbey of Cîteaux. She died in 1960 and was buried nearby.

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Ida Rubinstein, 1912 via

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Ida Rubinstein via

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Ida Rubinstein, Antoine and Cleopatre, 1920 via

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Ida Rubinstein in the Ballets Russes production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheharazade’, 1910 via

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Ida Rubinstein, 1922 via

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Ida Rubinstein with a baby leopard by Otto Wegener, via

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Ida Rubinstein by Otto Wegener, via

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Ida Rubinstein by Otto Wegener, via

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Ida Rubinstein, 1920s via