Misia Sert

Misia Sert (born Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska; St. Petersburg, 30 March 1872; † Paris, 15 October 1950) was a pianist of Polish descent who hosted an artistic salon in Paris. She was a patron and friend of numerous artists, for whom she regularly posed.

Her father, Cyprian Godebski (1835-1909), was a renowned Polish sculptor, and professor at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg from 1870. Her mother, Zofia Servais, was the daughter of a noted Belgian cellist, Adrien-François Servais.

Life

Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska was born on 30 March 1872 to a Polish father and a half-Belgian, half-Russian mother, in the Russian town of Tsarskoye Selo outside St. Petersburg, where her father was engaged in reconstruction of the tsarist palace. Her mother died giving birth to her. She was called Misia, a Polish diminutive of the name Maria.

Early in her youth Misia was discovered to be a gifted pianist. She married Tadeusz Natanson (known as Thadée Natanson) a Polish emigre politician and journalist, when she was 21, although later she lied about her age and claimed to have been married at 15. Later her husband was to become the editor of La Revue blanche, a Parisian Dreyfusard journal. When Natanson was on the brink of bankruptcy, the newspaper magnate Alfred Edwards saved him, on condition that he surrender his wife to him. Misia began living with Alfred Edwards in 1903. Around that time she started hosting a literary-artistic salon in Paris. She acquired considerable influence in Parisian musical and artistic circles. Stéphane Mallarmé, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, as well as painters such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, and Pierre Bonnard were among her guests. She was a confidante of Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, an early patron of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and a close friend of the designer Coco Chanel.

Misia's third marriage was to the Spanish painter Jose Maria Sert (1876-1945). She loved Sert, and gave him up when he fell in love with another woman, Isabelle Roussadana Mdivani.

Misia was a noted beauty who was painted many times. She was one of the models for Toulouse-Lautrec's poster for La Revue blanche in 1895, in which she is shown as a skater. A portrait of Misia by Renoir is now in the Tate Gallery.[1]

Ravel dedicated Le Cygne (The Swan) in 'Histoires naturelles and La Valse (The Waltz) to her. In June 1905 Misia and her husband invited Ravel to join them, and the painters Bonnard and Laprade as well as their parents, on their cruise-ship "Aimée" for a six week holiday trip on the rivers and canals of northern France, Begium, Holland and Germany.

Sources

H.H. Stuckenschmidt - "Maurice Ravel" Variationen über Person und Werk


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