“Lola” Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld (17 February 1821 – 17 January 1861), better known by the stage name Lola Montez, was an Irish-born dancer and actress who became famous as a Spanish dancer, courtesan and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. Montez is reputed to be the inspiration for the saying, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”, which, in turn, inspired the popular song by that name.”
She met and had an affair with Franz Liszt, who introduced her to the circle of George Sand, which was one of the most sophisticated and advanced in European society. After performing in various European capitals, she settled in Paris, where she was accepted in the rather Bohemian literary society of the time, being acquainted with Alexandre Dumas, père, with whom she was rumoured to have had a dalliance. After the 1845 death of her lover, newspaperman Alexandre Dujarier, in a duel (unrelated to her), she left Paris.
UNCROWNED QUEEN OF BAVARIA
In 1846, she arrived in Munich, where she was discovered by, and became the mistress of, Ludwig I of Bavaria. After auditioning for the State Theatre, Lola was told her dancing might cause moral offence by the theater’s manager. He’d heard rumors of her scandalous performances elsewhere. Determined to defend her reputation, and probably banking on Ludwig being taken by her allure, Lola stormed the palace unannounced to plead with the King Ludwig of Bavaria himself for help. (source: scandalouswoman.blogspot.com)
There is a legend that Lola cut the strings of her bodice with a letter opener when the King asked her if her bosoms were real. No matter what really happened, Lola got her wish. The King agreed to let her dance and, ironically, Lola made her debut in a play called The Enchanted Prince. At the time that they met, Lola was 25 years old and Ludwig was 60. Ludwig I (1786-1868) was responsible for turning Munich into a cultural mecca. He was the son of King Maximilian I and Wilhelmina of Hesse-Darmstadt, and one of his godfather’s was Louis XVI of France. He sponsored artists, writers, craftsmen, and architects. While he was quite free with the country’s money, he wasn’t quite as free with spending it on his family. The occasion of his marriage to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810 was the first ever Oktoberfest. His father had forged an alliance with Napoleon I of France, which Ludwig objected to, but he dutifully joined the Emperor’s wars with the Bavarian troops. His father owed his crown to Napoleon. Maximilian was forced to consent to the marriage of Ludwig’s sister Pauline to Napoleon’s step-son Eugene de Beauharnais. Despite the inauspicious beginning, Pauline and Eugene ended up quite happy. Ludwig disliked and feared French political connections. He became King of Bavaria in 1825.
During the early years of his reign, Ludwig undersaw the completion of Germany’s first raildroad line in 1835. He had several beautiful buildings constructed including the Walhalla Temple, modeled after the Parthenon in Greece. In his early years, his policies as King were quite liberal for the time. However, as time progressed, Ludwig’s reign became more oppressive, he began to impose censorship and high taxes.
Lola’s career on the Munich stage lasted a scant two performances. Ludwig became smitten by Lola, and the dancer enjoyed a new role – as his mistress. Within weeks she had a powerful hold over Ludwig. She agreed to sit for a portrait which would be included in Ludwig’s renowed Gallery of Beauties, which included portraits of more than 30 women. During her sittings, Ludwig would join her, spending the time getting to know her better. He’d fallen hopelessly in love with her, and Lola claimed to return his feelings. During the next few months, the king remodeled a stately home for her, spending millions of dollars along the way.She soon began to use her influence on the king and this, coupled with her arrogant manner and outbursts of temper, made her unpopular with the local population, particularly after documents were made public showing that she was hoping to become a naturalized Bavarian citizen and be elevated to the nobility. Despite the opposition, Ludwig made her Countess of Landsfeld on his next birthday, August 25, 1847. The entertaining rumour that at the time they met Ludwig had asked her in public if her bosom was real, to which her response was to tear off enough of her garments and prove it is entirely unfounded, and the story only first appeared many decades after Lola’s death. It seems likely that Ludwig’s relationship with her contributed greatly to the fall from grace of the previously popular king., Lola convinced him to replace them with ministers who were more sympathetic. The previously pro-Catholic government was now swinging more incline with Lola’s own anti-clerical, liberal positions.
It was during this period in Bavaria that Lola’s animosity toward the Catholic church fermented. Although Lola’s family were Irish, they were also Protestant, and her stepfather Craigie was more than likely Presbyterian. Bavaria was a very Catholic country and the Jesuits were horrified at the king’s behavior and the insult to the queen. Lola had developed a long standing paranoid suspicion of the Jesuits. Whenever things went wrong for her later in life, as they often did, she would attribute this to sinister jesuitical plots.
Lola was soon to learn that being a royal mistress was not all it was cracked up to be. She hungered for social acceptance from the nobility in Munich but it was not forthcoming. Most of her admirers of course were men who sought to see advancement at court through the King’s mistress. In 1848 under pressure from a growing revolutionary movement Ludwig abdicated, and Lola fled Bavaria, her career as a power behind the throne at an end.
After a sojourn in Switzerland, where she waited in vain for Ludwig to join her, she made one brief excursion to France and then removed to London in late 1848. There she met and quickly married George Trafford Heald, a young army cornet (cavalry officer) with a recent inheritance. But the terms of Lola’s divorce from Thomas James did not permit of either spouse’s remarriage while the other was living, and the beleaguered newlyweds were forced to flee the country to escape a bigamy action brought by Heald’s scandalized maiden aunt. Mr. and Mrs. Heald resided for a time in France and in Spain, but within two years the tempestuous relationship was in tatters, and in 1851 Lola set off to make a new start in the United States, where she was surprisingly successful at first in rehabilitating her image.
From 1851 to 1853 she performed as a dancer and actress in the eastern United States, then arrived at San Francisco in May 1853. There she married Patrick Hull, a local newspaperman, in July and moved to Grass Valley, California, in August. This marriage failed shortly after, and Montez remained in Grass Valley at her little house for nearly two years. The restored Home of Lola Montez went on to become California Historical Landmark No. 292. Lola served as an inspiration to another aspiring young entertainer, Lotta Crabtree. Lotta’s parents ran a boarding house in Grass Valley, and Lotta soon attracted the attention of a neighbor, Lola Montez, who encouraged Lotta’s enthusiasm for performance.
In June 1855, she departed for a tour of Australia to resume her career by entertaining miners at the gold diggings during the gold-rush of the 1850s arriving at Sydney on August 16, 1855. (Wikepedia)
Edgar Degas (born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas on July 19, 1834) was a well-educated and gifted sculptor, photographer, and painter born into a wealthy Paris family. His father’s name was Pierre and he was a successful banker and his mother, Celestine Musson was an American, a New Orleans born Creole. Some Degas’s in Naples and France altered the spelling of the last name Degas to De Gas for more aristocratic appearances. Originally Degas used the altered “De Gas,” but returned the spelling to its roots in the 1870s.
“I would like to be illustrious and unknown.” – Edgar Degas
Degas retained a solitary, melancholy disposition for most of his life, some believe it was the result of his mother’s death in 1847 while he was still a child. Degas was fully aware of the reputation he had. “It was perhaps a vicious impulse arising from skepticism and bad temper which caused me to appear unpleasant towards everyone. I thought about myself as inferior, so fragile, so unable, my artistic calculations being on the other hand, so precise. I was ill-tempered toward everyone, including myself,” he once said.
Ludovic Halévy and Paul Valpinçon were contemporaries and friends of Degas who were born in the same year. They had an intimate friendship and the men included Degas in family activities until Degas’s antisemitism grew and their friendships were severed. (www.metmuseum.org)
Degas even featured Halevy in a book he was hired to illustrate for his friend and portrayed him as greedy and over emphasized his semitic features. Halevy rejected the illustrations. He is portrayed not as a narrator but at a greedy, snobby, jew who is responsible for prostitution.