So, with the clock ticking and the calendar pages flying, we conducted a search far and wide for just the right card, one with a very beautiful image and an enticing history, to grace the collection of one very special customer. And we found it!
|NOT FOR SALE Exquisite Cleo De Merode Giveaway Card, circa 1900|
Cléo de Mérode (September 27th , 1875-October 17th, 1966) is possibly the most well-known dancer of La Belle Époque. Certainly she was the postcard queen of the era, and took great care with the images of her, making careful use of the medium to help promote her public recognition. Her postcard images are some of the most sought after and often the most expensive of all the "artistes."
The daughter of the Austrian-born nobleman and landscape painter Karl von Mérode, and given the exotic name Cléopâtre Diane de Mérode at birth (although her mother called her Lulu), she started taking dance lessons when only 7- or 8-years-old and made her stage debut at the tender age of 11. As Cléo de Mérode, she went on to become an international star, known for her tiny waist, grace, and exquisite beauty. As one of the most glamorous of the stars of that time, she was sought after by many artists and photographers. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Puyo, Alfredo Muller, Giovanni Boldini, and Gustav Klimt painted her, Alexandre Falguière sculpted her, and photographers such as Léopold Émile Reutlinger, who took the image above, Félix Nadar, Henri Manuel, Charles Ogerau, and others vied to immortalize her image. There was even a wax effigy made of her in 1895 by sculptor Leopold Bernstamm, which was displayed in the Grevin Museum.
Early in her career, in 1896, when Cléo was just 22, King Léopold II of Belgium became entranced by her performance in a ballet. Léopold, then 61 years of age, already had two children by a woman rumored to be a prostitute and his pursuit of Cléo was enough to damage her reputation. Cléo, and her mother, who traveled with her, rejected the allegations. In an October 5th, 1897 interview with the New York Times, her mother, Mme. Mérode, insisted that although Cléo had been required to meet with the king, she did so only with her mother's chaperonage. Cléo herself said, "It Is horrible - horrible - that they should so pursue me with such monstrous lies! The King of the Belgians is no more to me than any other great man who has admired me on the stage, whom I have seen for a few moments off the stage very rarely, and always in the presence of many other persons."
For some months New York has been anticipating the arrival of Cleo de Merode, the Parisian dancer, the fame of whose wonderful beauty is now worldwide. And not only New York, but the whole country has felt more than common interest in the arrival on these shores of this odd young woman who has done nothing but dance and yet has turned the heads of monarchs, and at whose feet have been showered jewels and gifts that in the aggregate are worth an immense fortune.
Now that she has come to America, the interest in her attractive personality amounts to a continuous furore. Indeed Cleo de Merode is charming. Lithe and elegant, in an ecru gown embroidered in openwork over white silk, beautiful enough to dispense with wit, she replied to a thousand questions asked her by her many admirers as naturally as if she were witty enough to dispense with beauty. Her hazel eyes reflected a world. Her delicate features, animated by the excitement of her arrival, harmonized admirably with her rich, silky hair, dark with tints of red, and dressed in two wavy bands over her ears. Her black eyebrows commanded. Her smile was sweet, and what a spectacle it was when she lowered her eyelids and let one admire in their length her immeasurable brown lashes!
"I dance the ancient dances," she said, "the Louis XIII, the Louis XV, the gavot, the pavan, the minuet, and I led at Royan Louis Ganne's ballet of 'Phryne.' I am gowned by a real dressmaker. I know music very well, and play the piano as little as possible. I know how to arrange a basket of fruit, place flowers in a jardiniere and touch a book without spoiling it. I have read the poets and the historians, and I do not write. I wear stockings that are as fine as a woven mist. What other accomplishments shall I speak of?"
|Figures 14, 15 of La Belle - Jaconda, by Leonardo da Vinci for Hohenstatt Analysis|
Wikipedia [France] contributors, "Cleo de Merode," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cl% C3% A9o_de_M% C3% A9rode & oldid = 93532911 (Accessed June 20, 2013).