Liane de Pougy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Liane de Pougy (2 July 1869 - 26 December 1950), was a Folies Bergères dancer renowned as one of Paris's most beautiful and notorious courtesans.


Early Life and Marriage

Born Anne Marie Chassaigne at La Flèche, Sarthe, France, the daughter of Pierre Blaise Eugène Chassaigne and his wife Aimée Lopez, she was raised in a nunnery. At the age of 16, Anne-Marie ran off with Armand Pourpe, a naval officer. They only married once she became pregnant. The marriage was not a happy one. Anne-Marie later claimed in her memoirs that her new husband took her violently on their wedding night, an event which left her emotionally scarred. When Armand Pourpe's naval career led him to a billet in Marseilles, Anne-Marie took a lover (the Marquis Charles de MacMahon), and her husband found them in bed together and shot her. She ran away to Paris, leaving her infant son (the future pilot Marc Pourpe) with his father. Armand sent his son to live with the boy's grandparents, in Suez.

After this marriage failed, she began dabbling in acting and prostitution and it is now known that she was heavy user of both cocaine and opium.

After Paris

After moving to Paris, from her position at the Folies she became a noted demimondaine, rival of "La Belle Otero". She took her last name from one of her paramours, a Comte or Vicomte de Pougy. Actress Sarah Bernhardt, faced with the task of teaching Liane to act, advised her that when she was on stage, it would be best to keep her "pretty mouth shut". Her lesbian affair with writer Natalie Clifford Barney is recorded in her novel Idylle Saphique, published around 1901. In 1899, after seeing de Pougy at a dance hall in Paris, Barney presented herself at de Pougy's residence in a page costume and announced that she was a "page of love" sent by Sappho. Although de Pougy was one of the most famous women in France at the time, constantly sought after by wealthy and titled men, Barney's audacity charmed and seduced her. The two were said to have had deep feelings for one another for the remainder of their lives.

Second Marriage

Upon her marriage to Prince Georges Ghika in 1920 she became Princess Ghika; this marriage ended in separation, though not divorce. Her son's death as an aviator in World War I turned her towards religion and she became a tertiary of the Order of Saint Dominic as Sister Anne-Mary. She became involved in the Asylum of Saint Agnes, devoted to the care of children with birth defects. She died at Lausanne, Switzerland.


Portraits by Antonio de La Gandara -

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