16 February 2011


On September 14, 1897 disembarking from the steamer Spree arrives to Ell’s Island the most desirable woman in Europe: Cléo de Mérode. She’s only 22 years but she is already the star of the Paris Grand Opera and the favourite model of Nadar, Giovanni Boldini and Toulouse-Lautrec. She has scandalized the Paris of the Belle Epoque performing at the Folies Bergere and posing for the sculptor Alexandre Falguière, which depicts her dancing naked and full-size. Her wardrobe was created by Doucet, the greatest couturier of the period. 

King Leopold II of Belgium follows her everywhere, becoming the laughingstock of the European press that renamed him Cleopold. Her image on postcards, advertising, calendars and magazines it’s  a real fetish. To accompany her on tour in the United States there is the inseparable mother Zenzy de Mérode, who in 1875 fled from Vienna to Paris to give birth to Cléopatra, the result of illegitimate love. She is the author in the shade, she weaves the myth of the daughter, in which she put her desire of social redemption. She teaches her to dose  virginal innocence and impudence, seduction and denial, elegance and freedom.

At the reporters who were waiting for her on the platform Cléo first shows ironically ears, with a sensual gesture differs long brown hair from the sides of the face “To demonstrate that I haven’t the ears of a faun … as someone wrote” and then she laughs, blushes, her eyes light up and immediately go beyond.

(text found on the net)

by Cecil Beaton 1964

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