On this day in 1871, the Baroness Olga de Meyer was born.
Olga, later called Mahrah de Meyer, was a British socialite, model, and fashion
icon of the early 20th century.
Olga photographed by her husband Adolph de Meyer in 1910 (x).
Born Donna Maria Beatrice Olga Alberta Caracciolo in London
on August 8, 1871, Olga was born into a noble family. Her mother was the daughter of a French diplomat and her father was a Duke, although it was frequently rumored that her true birth father was King Edward
VII! Olga grew up in Dieppe, France with her mother and grandmother –
her father having separated himself from the family amongst the many rumors
about Olga’s paternity. After the death of her mother in 1891, Olga entered
into her first marriage to a nobleman named Marino Brancaccio.
The Baron and Baroness de Meyer photographed some time in between 1905 and 1910 (x).
After her “short and dramatic union” with Marino ended, Olga
married the famous German photographer Adolph de Meyer, whose name would
skyrocket her own to international fame. The marriage was one of
convenience, as both Adolph and Olga preferred their same gender. Among Olga’s
lovers were Winnaretta Singer, a sewing machine heiress, and Violet Trefusis, a
wealthy author who eventually became known for her affair with Vita
Sackville-West. Now comfortably in a marriage where she was financially secure
and could also love who she chose, Olga’s artistic merit began to rise. She
became a popular model for the who’s who of painters, such as Giovanni Boldini,
Walter Sickert, and John Singer Sargent, and also inspired characters in the
novels of Elinor Glyn and Ada Leverson. Olga later became a writer herself,
working for a Paris newspaper by the name La
Galoise and publishing several short stories and one novel.
A sketch of Olga as drawn in 1907 by her longtime friend and iconic artist John Singer Sargent (x).
Throughout her life, Olga moved in undeniably privileged,
artistic circles and indulged in parties, drugs, and alcohol. She
eventually developed a cocaine addiction and would pass away in a rehab
facility in 1930. Despite her tragic ends, today she is remembered as a wlw icon of the past and the
eternally confident figure who smirks back at us from the canvases of some of
the best artistic minds of the 1920s.