Cléo de Mérode. 1898. Crayon lithograph with scraper. Delteil 152; Adhémar 174; Adriani 268; Wittrock 258. 11 x 9 1/2 (sheet 15 3/8 x 12). Series: Portraits d'Acteurs & d'Actrices: Treize Lithographies. A fine impression printed on china paper (chine volant). From the first edition of about 400, printed before 1906 (40 impressions were printed for Les XX in 1913. Monogrammed in the stone. Housed in an elegant French mat and a 20 x 17-inch black and gold leaf wood frame. $4,500.
Cléopatra Diane de Mérode (1875–1966) was born in Paris. At age of eight, she was sent to studied dance and made her professional debut at age eleven. She became renowned for her glamour more than for her dancing skills, and her image began appearing on such things as postcards and playing cards. At sixteen she debuted her trend-setting, hallmark hairstyle: over the ears, usually in a chignon, often worn with metal bands. Her fame was such that Alexandre Falguière sculpted he in The Dancer , now in in the Musée d'Orsay. Charles Puyo, Alfredo Muller, and Giovanni Boldini also did her portrait. Images of her circulated widely in the press and in postcards. She became an international star, performing across Europe and in the United States. At the peak of her popularity, she chose to dance at the Folies Bergère, an unusual career change for a ballerina.
Very popular in her ancestral homeland of Austria as well as in Germany, her character appeared in the German film Frauen der Leidenschaft (1926), played by Fern Andra. In Vienna, her beauty caught the attention of painter Gustav Klimt, whose primary focus was on female sexuality. Their story was the basis of the film Klimt (2006), in which the character "Lea de Castro" is reputedly based on Cléo de Mérode.
She continued to dance until her early fifties, when she retired to the seaside resort of Biarritz in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. In 1955, she published her autobiography, Le Ballet de ma vie (The Dance of My Life). She died in 1966 and was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in Division 90. A statue of her, mourning her mother, who is interred in the same plot, decorates the gravestone.
A fuller biography is available at Cléo de Mérode.
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