MISIA, QUEEN OF PARIS
FROM JUNE 12 TO SEPTEMBER 9 2012
Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) La Nuque de Misia, 1897-1899 Huile sur carton contrecollé sur panneau parqueté, 13,5 x 33 cm Private collection © Archives Vuillard, Paris
Misia (Marie Sophie Olga Zénaïde Godebska, Saint-Petersburg 1872 - Paris 1950), who was taught by Fauré, associated with the most inspired composers of her time: Debussy, Ravel, Stravinski, Satie and Poulenc. Paintings by Vuillard and Bonnard and a print by Vallotton depict her playing the piano, a reminder of the recitals she used to give for her friends.
Extracts of pieces by Ravel, dedicated to Misia, complete the portrait of the musician along with an extract from Satie’s Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear, her favourite composition
In 1893, Misia Godebska’s marriage to Thadée Natanson, a childhood friend who was then
Thadée, ruined by La Revue Blanche, pushed Misia into the arms of the extremely wealthy press baron Alfred Edwards, the founder of Le Matin, whom she married in 1905. From then on, she presided over the artistic soirées and intrigues of the Parisian cultural élite in the years before the First World War and Années folles, spending Edwards’ fortune on productions of the Ballets Russes. With The Afternoon of a Faun (1912), The Rite of Spring (1913), which caused a huge scandal, and Parade (1917), a new generation of creators emerged around Misia: Diaghilev, Debussy, Stravinski, Ravel, Cocteau, Reverdy, Gide, Picasso and Marie Laurencin. Misia’s apartment on the rue de Rivoli became a home from home for the Ballets Russes.
Her tempestuous relationships with her husbands, friends and artists are evoked in paintings and prints by Vallotton, Vuillard and Marie Laurencin as well as in numerous photographs. The decorative border painted by Bonnard in 1906-10 for the dining room in Misia’s apartment at 29, quai Voltaire, is a cryptic allusion to her jealousy in affairs of the heart: the pearl necklace that adorns the panels is a reference to the accidental death of the actress Geneviève Lantelme, her rival for the affections of Edwards – a death that remained unexplained.
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