Thursday, July 18, 2019


Misia met and became the mistress of famous and accomplished artist Jose Maria Sert, who was patronized by the Spanish royal family. They lived together for twelve years before they married in 1920 when he was 45 and she was 48. She knew he had a lifetime habit of affairs. Two marriages behind her, she was finally with a man who wanted and needed more than a playmate or wife to show off. She was finally with an equal. Misia was said to be - for the first time - "Sexually overwhelmed" for the first time.  And she became serious with Sert quickly, so quickly that he seemed to want to back out of a relationship.  But she followed him to continue the affair and they went on an art and architecture tour where he played tour guide. She was now considered a liberated woman but she did not want to go it alone. Her money came from a settlement with her last ex-husband, Edwards, in their divorce.  (Before he died in 1914 he had even begged her to marry him again.)

Her life was continually entwined with the up and coming and the renown artists, sculptors, ballet dancers, choreographers - the biggest talents in arts, culture, and society in France. Together the couple were friends with ballet dancer Serge Diaghilev, who had been born in Russia in 1872.  He was a fashion "dandy," a homosexual and he and Misia gossiped and intrigued for the next twenty years as special friends.  Friends even said that she was the only woman Diaghilev could ever have married. By 1910-1911 Paris season his ballets were considered to be a "revelation" attended by aristocrats, royals, high society, and homosexual society, (Including Isadora Duncan, the dancer, who has also been a Mistress of the Month here at Mistress Manifesto.)

Misia rarely visited Sert at his studio, thinking of it as his sacred space but it is there that the young Georgian Princess Roussadana Mdivani, called Roussy, as a neophyte sculptor herself appeared, looking for advice in 1925.

For some reason, Misia did not initially feel threatened when she heard about her.  But then the young woman was young enough to be a daughter and so Misia felt that she and her husband could take the playful Roussy underwing. The day came though when she showed up at the studio hoping to meet her.  She was enchanted. Misia had grown up without her birth mother and Roussy's mother was dead.  The Serts were childless.  

Misia and Jose Maria had a Catholic marriage in Spain, considered impossible to divorce and had been married for 20  plus years and Misia loved the girl too but the idea that she would remain a surrogate daughter to the couple was ridiculous. The girl had once even crept in on all fours and watched Misia and Sert have sex!  The girl claimed she loved Misia as well. Would they go on as three?

They sure didn't want Misia along on their honeymoon.

Was it an act of love on Misia's part to let him go to the girl?  She cooperated with civil divorce and an annulment (considered invalid in France) so her old husband and the girl could marry.  She agreed there was something wrong with her sexual organs and he said he had married Misia in order to have an heir!  (Well, we wonder, how the childbirth adverse Misia managed to perhaps never become pregnant at a time when contraception was not what it is today.)

As the truth came to her, Misia became depressed, even driven insane.  She even took a job in a dress shop in New York to get away and it was there that she got the letter from Sert saying he had married again and in the Catholic church.

Roussy died of what sounds to be a throat infection that she went to Switzerland to cure, not having created an heir, and then Misia and her ex-husband lived separate but became friends.  They visited daily and sometimes went out to dinner.

Sert died November 27, 1945 and she didn't make it to his death bed. He left his property to others but he did give Misia his apartment and everything in it on the rue de Rivoli including paintings, furniture, and the library.  Over the next five years Misia sold whatever when she needed money as she herself had little.  It was there she died.

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References for this post are Misia's own memoir and the book about her by Fizdale and Gold.

Monday, July 15, 2019


"Every woman decides to be either eighteen, thirty, or eighty for life.  Poor CoCo chose 18, the most difficult age.  I chose thirty."  Misia Sert

quoted by Fizdale and Gold

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Misia (En busca de la musa perdida) Espectáculo de teatro musical (1998).Idea, selección musical,estructura dramática y puesta en escena de Eduardo Cogorno.
Cristián Zabala (Nijinsky),Eduardo Cogorno (Diaguilev), Marta Blanco (Misia Sert) y Alicia Mazzieri ( Cocó Chanel), Enrique Prémoli (piano), Beatriz Chaiquín (coreografía)
Música de Strawinsky (Tango) y Liszt (Debería ser algo maravilloso)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Alfred Edwards was married and 30 years older than Misia, who was married to her first husband Thadee Natanson, when they met.  She was out shopping when he saw her and approached.  From the beginning he seems to have been obsessed with her and determined to get her alone.  She evaded him some of the time.  Considered to be extremely wealthy compared to Natanson and his family, Edwards gave her jewelry and with Thandee out of the country so much, she began to consider him.

Edwards offered Thandee the chance of a lifetime, to be in charge of a coal mine he had in Hungary.  Thandee went and as Edwards pursued his wife, seems to have become complicit in Misia becoming Edward's mistress.

However, Misia went to meet his Edward's mother, another person now encouraging her to remain a mistress and not pursue marriage with the her son. 

As for Edwards, he had her followed.  He would probably be considered a stalker today.  He was considered rude and crude, even perverted; not saying she complied.  He purchased fans for her and she owned a beautiful and expensive collection of them. But he once locked her in a room so she couldn't get away from him.  He managed a  fast divorces and after that they married quickly.  He had a house boat built just for Misia called the Aimee.  The houseboat figures in what happened a couple years later.

Having acquired Misia as a trophy wife, near 60 years old, he began an affair with a famous actress named Lanthelme who had been born in a brothel and entered that profession young.  He became obsessed and had her followed. He set her up as his mistress. He brought the affair home to Misia's torment, claiming that this woman, who didn't shy away from his perversions, disgusted him. Yet he divorced Misia and then quickly married Lanthelme: there's a pattern here. His marriage with Misia ended exactly 4 years after their marriage, on Feb 24, 1909. 

Lanthelme drowned in the Rhine River on July 25, 1911.  It was called an accident.  Edwards was accused of murdering his latest wife but he sued for libel. Seems she would have found it awkward to jump out of a window.  Maybe someone was hoisting her from behind and pushing.

Edwards died in 1914.  Misia needed to see him but his newest young mistress, Colonna Romano, who also had been painted by Renoir) fled after he died.  He left everything to her including his theater and casino.

Misia had come to think she had been a playmate to her first husband.  With Edwards she came to think of herself as a show piece, a trophy wife, someone to show off.  She needed more. 

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References for this post are Misia's own memoir and the book about her by Fizdale and Gold

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Raised in France and Belgium by relatives acquainted with Belgium royalty, Misia Sert was ethnically Polish and an expatriot born in Russia to a father who had a mistress and a mother who died after having her.  She had one Jewish grandparent.  Her first husband Thadee Natanson was from a family that were friends with hers.  He was half Jewish.

Years later when the Nazis were occupying Paris during World War II, Misia was for the Resistance. She also volunteered, arranging cars to be used as ambulances and physically carried wounded to the cars during World War I.  (And her good friend CoCo Chanel, who has been featured here at Mistress Manifesto as Mistress of the Month twice - who is in contemporary times accused of being a Nazi collaborator?  It seems to me that if CoCo were truly anti-semitic she would not have had Misia as a friend.)

Wealthy enough to be part of a young social crowd involved in literature and the arts, who frequented the theatres and the music halls,  Misia and Thandee Natanson were members of Parisian society. She was a pianist and asked to sit as model for paintings. Thandee and his brothers started a prestigious literary magazine.  While other business enterprises kept them in money, they also spent a fortune on the magazine.

And the day came when Thadee realized he could not refuse the offer of businessman Alfred Edwards, who had become obsessed with Misia, and so the young husband went off to Hungary to a coal mine that had yet to be productive. The financially successful Edwards, thirty years older than Misia, was probably seeking a way to get rid of Misia's husband so he could pursue her.  She states in her memoir that Thadee encouraged her towards "arranging everything" with his boss, Alfred, which she took to mean that he was OK'ing she be Alfred's mistress.  Author's Fizdale and Gold state that in her memoir she gives the impression of a whirlwind relationship from when she met Edwards - while out shopping - and she completely left Thadee and married him actually took four years. 

Looking back at her marriage to the family friend when she was just a bit older than fifteen, she saw that it was more of a friendship than erotic connection.  Yet she had to be compelled to stay married as was expected of society women at least for a while.  

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References for this post include Misia's memoir and the book on her by Fizdale and Gold.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


MISIA SERT: Perhaps you have heard this woman's name because fashion designer CoCo Chanel, once a mistress herself, and Misia were great friends. Misia is called Gabrielle Chanel's "Confidant." And Chanel - the company, in 2015, introduced a new perfume named after her, Misia. Like Chanel, she went to a convent school for some time.  Unlike Chanel she was surrounded by high society and the fine arts from childhood, her family knowing Liszt, Wagner, and Von Bulow.

Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska 
                   30 March 1872 – 15 October 1950
                 The year of her birth is uncertain

Misia Sert became a famous and well loved patron of writers, artists, and dancers, especially in Paris, but this woman who was a gifted pianist,  was also a muse, modeling for so many works of art by now famous and respect artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir.  She was born into an aristocratic ethnically Polish family with ties to Saint Petersburg that left Russia for ex-patriot life in France. Her father was a sculptor who was unfaithful to her mother, and her mother died when she was born and so Misia was raised by relatives. Her sculptor father had mistresses. Still, she was presented at the Court Ball and met the Queen of Belgium - a friend of a grandmother's. 

She used the 300,000 franks in gold that she received along with diamonds from her mother in law on lingerie, all at one store, and settled in Paris. She was married for the first time young. She was just a bit over 15 years old when they married.

Her patronage of the arts was first supported by a well to do half-Jewish husband first husband she knew from childhood as a family friend, Thadee Natanson. (She herself was a quarter Jewish.) The young couple were involved with the literary social scene as he and his brothers published a literary magazine, Le Review Blanche, which featured writers such as Colette. The artists and composers she name drops in her memoir such as Picasso and Debussy were in their twenties when she was in her teens.  She became a "snobinette."

One thing about Misia that perhaps had a profound effect on her life: She found childbirth and everything connected to it gross.  Perhaps because her mother died after having her? Clearly she avoided the fate typical of being a woman because despite three marriages she remained childless.  And her childlessness would be used against her to end her third marriage to the man whose name she carried, Spanish sculptor and artist Jose Maria Sert.

Her relationship with Thadee Natanson was not based on passion but it was good while it lasted. And was soon enough challenged.

One day while out shopping, Alfred Edwards, 30 years older than Misia, and the owner of Theatre de Paris and lots else, saw her and became obsessed. He plotted for a way to remove her husband from Paris.  Edwards was rude and crude and yet he courted her with enormous bouquets and foisted endless attention - when he could find her - and Howard Hughes-like, had her followed. 

The literary magazine was respected but Natanson and his brother had sunk a fortune into it. The young couple were social but Natanson's weak spot was that he needed money.  Edwards offered Natansan the opportunity of a lifetime, to be the Director of a virgin coal mine in Koloschvar, Hungary.  Bye Bye Thadee.  In her memoir she seems to portray the courtship as whirlwind. Actually it took four years for the marriage to end. She was still a very young woman. Misia said Thadee kept encouraging her to make an arrangement with Edwards, as if he wanted her to be his boss's mistress.

Misia says she refused Edward's calls 80 times as Lautrec was painting a portrait of her, but finally she met Edwards at his flat where his wife and brother encouraged her to just become his mistress. Instead she took the Orient Express train to be with Thadee in Hungary. When the train got to Vienna, there was Edwards waiting.  His persistence broke her down.

Image result for misia sert memoir
She became Edward's mistress and then married him or maybe she didn't. However, he who went from being obsessed with her went to being obsessed with a famous actress who had been a prostitute.  

For some time Edwards funded her post divorce lifestyle.

Finally after being his mistress, Misia had a third marriage to a famous painter,  Jose Maria Sert who was patronized by the Royal Family of Spain, known for his massive paintings for palaces.  She had married first a little girl and second as a playmate.  This third marriage was life with an equal, she a mature woman.  The marriage lasted twenty years into her old age but ended in a heartbreaking betrayal. 

Luckily my library had a copy of Misia's own memoir. 

When you read her memoir you may feel as I did that she drops a lot of names which, when it was published, might have been more familiar to readers but which generations later might take some research to understand their importance. Misia is, to me, not a great beauty and in fact rather plain, but she apparently was extremely attractive to men and had a lovely personality, bright, enthusiastic, and caring.  And she had enough money to help some of the creative people she believed in, some of whom despite their great talent were paupers.

In her old age she was probably depressed over what happened with Sert.  She was a morphine addict and she and CoCo Chanel would go to Switzerland to buy their drugs.

Towards the end of her memoir is a chapter composed of an impassioned and heartbreaking letter to the long lost husband Sert. He'd found a much younger woman to marry and love but for a time there seemed to be an agreement that they would go on as three. For a while Misia though of this young woman, as a third party in her marriage, almost a daughter, and then she accommodated through divorce. She survived divorce obtained in another country, annulment by the Catholic Church in Spain (which wasn't recognized in France), and the remarriage of Sert to the young woman, called Roussy, first civilly and then in the Catholic church. The annulment was based upon Misia's inability to give old Sert heirs - their childlessness.

While she believed she loved him enough to do as he wanted, freeing him to marry again, he apparently thought if she loved him she would never divorce him. She signed in agreement to the annulment. The young woman shockingly died  young, without providing Sert an heir. Misia survived the betrayal and she and Sert had a second act with each other as good friends after the young woman died. They saw each other frequently but no longer lived together.

Misia outlived both the young woman he had thrown her over for and Sert.  And who was at her death bed?  CoCo Chanel.

At a time and place when marriage was thought to be forever, even if it was supported by Mistresses or to be endured, Misia's life was quite unconventional. She lived fully and endured much emotional turmoil. 

This month, using both books as references, I'll give more detail about Misia's marriages, in particular to artist Sert.  There are some surprises - even Hollywood connections.

To learn more about CoCo Chanel  who was last Mistress of the Month in June 2018 and is mentioned in other parts of this blog, use my archives or the Search feature! 

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