Interesting Women: Misia Sert

Maria Sophie GODEBSKA, known to the world as Misia SERT (1872-1950) (Ger., Eng.)  was born in St.Petersburg. Her mother died while giving birth, so her father Cyprian GODEBSKI (Eng.), a Polish sculptor working at the restoration of the Tsarist palace Tsarskoye Selo (Ger., Eng.), sent her to her grandmother and hereby Misia grew up near Brussels. The household of her grandfather Adrien-François SERVAIS (Ger., Eng.), a noted Belgian cellist,  was something of a salon: Many artists dropped by; friendships and connections were maintained. MISIA early showed musical talent and she became a gifted pianist. She played piano sitting on the knees of the old Franz LISZT (1811-1886) (Ger., Eng.); Gabriel FAURÈ (1845-1924) (Ger., Eng.) was pleased to teach her and fell into despair when the fifteen year old decided to escape into a marriage. Together with her father and his new wife she had come to Paris and was educated for some years in the monastery of Sacre-Coeur, from where she fled to London at the age of fourteen. She returned to Paris in the following year, only to tie the knot with Tadeusz NATANSON (1868-1951) (Fr.): This is the “romantic” version. In fact she was 21 when she married for the first time, and it’s a bit difficult with saied monastery.
The pair had an open house and naturally nearly all artists of  fin de siècle (Ger., Eng.) Paris sooner or later dropped by: The inevitable TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (Ger., Eng.), RENOIR (Ger., Eng.), the old MALLARMÉ (Ger., Eng.) sent confect and verses, VERLAINE (Ger., Eng.) dedicated a sonnet to her, MAILLOL (Ger., Eng.) wanted her as model (blabbing something about flesh’s deathlessness), and PROUST (Ger., Eng.) forgave (!) her, that she had called him a snob. She later was the female witness at PICASSO’s (Ger., Eng.) first wedding and godmother of his first child. She was a friend of (the great) Coco CHANEL (Ger., Eng.).
1905 she divorced NATANSON and married, for whatever reasons, the pretty rich Alfred Charles EDWARDS (1856-1914) (Fr.), an important figure in the media scene of the time. She seemingly became friendly with him 1903, when she started her salon for reals. They stayed married until EDWARD’s death caused by a severe Grippe (seemingly an influenza (Ger., Eng.)) in March 1914.
The man of her life indeed was Joseph Maria SERT i BADIA (1876-1945) (Ger., Eng.), the Spanish painter of his generation. From 1908 onwards she was his mistress, they married 1920. SERT left her 1928 for Isabelle Roussadana MDIVANI (1906-1938) (Ger., Eng.). The MDIVANI’s were known for their lucrative marriages and somehow Roussie was able to get Misia’s  consent on this marriage. Roussie’s life was short and tragic: After the death of her favourite brother Alexis in a car accident in  1935 (after his divorce from Barbara HUTTON (Ger., Eng.)) she seemingly overdosed on something.
After SERT’s death 1945 Misia left the public stage. Her memoirs were published posthumously.
Misia SERT was at the center of the cultural scene of Paris from the late 1890s well into the 1930s; she had a salon in one form or another since 1903 up to the late thirties and met more or less anybody who played a role in the European scene from the fin de siecle onwards until the the start of WWII. The scene of her life was by a kind of somnambulistic surety, or self-assurance, always connected with some of the most important figures of the European cultural developments of the late 19th and early 20th century. COCTEAU (Ger., Eng.) once called her a sorcière.

An interesting woman.


14 thoughts on “Interesting Women: Misia Sert

  1. Rather like my dear old Buffon’s Macaw Tacho (who’s final words were ‘En Dios Confiamos’… so patriotic even unto death) Misia Sert final years were to be marred by near blindness and morphine addiction.

  2. A witch indeed! I found a picture of her and I believe the men were frequently enchanted by her breasts, however this should not discount that she was probably a good conversationalist and business woman to have her success for owning a prestigious salon for so long.

  3. She was always where it happened, XL.

    Ah, Boxer, the story tells itself … it’s only midwifery (Hebammenkunst).

    But she never met you, Roses

    Dear Mrs. Westmacott, so poor Misia opened the inner eye.

    Yes, they say the Sprossen would be the culprit. It’s a bit strange after all, XL.

    AN autobiography was published posthumously and there is a newer biography, from th ’90s I think. You’ll surely will find it, dear Scarlet.

    I just read, LGS. Sorry, there is really nothing more to it.

    She was called a beauty, Melanie. I have no idea whether she did business of any kind. But I am sure that she had a marvellous art collection. Would be interesting to know whether it was kept together, and who inherited it.

    A bit of distraction is never wrong, dear Savannah.

    Exactly, dear MJ. Would she use it?

  4. Fascinating! I knew about Josep MªSert but not about Misia! Isn’t history a bit unfair sometimes? Some people have the ability of gathering the talented near them… like her.


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