Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Cléo de Mérode

I have a new heartthrob - Cléo de Mérode.  (Interestingly, the word heartthrob has been used to describe someone who makes people feel romantic since the 1920's but in many dictionaries it is only used for a man.)  She does not, of course, replace Audrey Hepburn!

Cléopatra Diane de Mérode (27 September 1875 – 17 October 1966) was a French dancer of the Belle Époque.  She was born in Paris, the daughter of Austrian landscape artist Carl (also Karl) Freiherr von Merode (1853–1909). At the age of eight, Cléo was sent to study dance and made her professional debut at age eleven.

Cléo de Mérode became renowned for her glamour even more than for her dancing skills, and her image began appearing on such things as postcards and playing cards. A particular new hairstyle she chose to wear became the talk of Parisian women and was quickly adopted as a popular style for all. Her fame was such that Alexandre Falguière sculpted The Dancer in her image, which today can be seen in the Musée d'Orsay. In 1895, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec did her portrait, as would Charles Puyo, Alfredo Muller, and Giovanni Boldini. Her picture was taken by some of the most illustrious photographers of the day, including Félix Nadar.

In 1896, King Léopold II attended the ballet and saw Mérode dance. The 61-year-old Belgian King became enamoured with the 22-year-old ballet star, and gossip started that she was his latest mistress. Because the King had had two children with a woman reputed to be a prostitute, Cléo de Mérode's reputation suffered, and she had to live with it for the rest of her life. Nevertheless, Cléo de Mérode 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, taking the risk to do something other elites of the ballet had never done before. Her performance gained her a whole new following.


  1. Beauty, talent, and rumors -- not much has changed among those who entertain us, has it?

  2. I agree that she has a stunningly beautiful dreamlike quality (which can also be seen in Audrey Hepburn).

  3. She had very beautiful eyes, didn't she?

  4. A very beautiful lady indeed! What became of her later in life? I imagine a professional ballet career won't last very long for most people, with the strain it puts on the body every day.

  5. I can understand... She is gorgeous! I'd never heard of her, so thank you for the introduction.


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