Mona Von Bismarck cried Three Days when Cristobal Balenciaga retired (part two)

14 Sep
Mona von Bismarck. Photo by Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936.
 Mona von Bismarck. Ph. Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936.
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Countess Mona Bismarck (February 5, 1897 – July 10, 1983) was an American socialite and fashion icon. She married five times and was celebrated by Cecil Beaton and Salvador Dalí, satirized by Truman Capote in Answered Prayers, and memorialized in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue! In 1933, she was voted “the best-dressed woman in the world” by Coco Chanel and other top designers, and she developed a close friendship with Cristóbal Balenciaga in her 30 years as a client and patron.

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Short Biography

mona von bismarck
mona von bismarck
mona von bismarck
 Mona von Bismarck wearing Balenciaga in her Parisian hôtel particulier . Photo by Cecil Beaton, 1955.
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In January 1955 Mona married her “secretary” Albrecht Edzard Heinrich Karl, Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen (1903-1970), an “interior decorator” of an aristocratic sort and the son of Herbert von Bismarck and grandson of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. First the civil marriage in New Jersey and a year later the religious marriage in Rome. Mona became Countess von Bismarck. 

Countess von Bismarck outdid heiress Barbara Hutton when she bought new 88 outfits, following this with a total of 140 items over the next two years. 

Ever energetic, for her own enjoyment, Mona read, swam, did needlework, wrote a book, and cultivated prize tulips. She kept dogs, her favorite being Mickey, a lap mutt.

Eddie von Bismarck died in 1966. Mona now resident in Capri and cut herself off from most of her friends.

Count and Countess von BismarckCount and Countess von Bismarck
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Cristóbal Balenciaga, who made her gardening clothes, too, showed his last collection in 1968 and retired. Mona grieved for three days, shutting herself behind closed doors in the villa in Capri.
Perhaps Mona was not designed for life alone, in 1971, she married Bismarck’s physician, Umberto di Martini, she was 74 and he was 60. Through her old friend, Italy’s exiled King Umberto II, Mona purchased the title “count” for him. Martini served simple pasta dishes with inexpensive wines and dismissed her long-time employees (he was alleged to keep her medicated). It was only after his death in a sports car accident in 1979 (later referenced by socialites as “Martini on the rocks”), Mona realized that de Martini, like Bismarck, had married her for her money (exactly the same way she had married Schlesinger, Bush and Williams, so many years before), only di Martini turned out to be already married and having told her that he was opening a clinic, he had already pocketed $3 million in a Swiss bank account .
mona von bismarck
Mona von Bismarck

Mona’s old friend Cecil Beaton visited her at Capri and was shocked to find that all traces of her famous beauty had left her. “She is now suddenly a wreck. Her hair, once white and crisp and a foil to her aquamarine eyes, is now a little dried frizz, and she has painted a grotesque mask on the remains of what was once such a noble-hewn face, the lips enlarged like a clown, the eyebrows penciled with thick black grease paint, the flesh down to the pale lashes coated with turquoise… Oh, my heart broke for her.”

Cecil BeatonCecil Beaton

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Mona’s health started to fail. She spent her last years putting her affairs in order and on 10 July 1983, she died at her house in Paris. She was buried in a Givenchy gown with her third and fourth husbands, Harrison Williams and Count Eddie von Bismarck, at Glen Cove on Long Island. Of the $90 million she had inherited from Williams, $25 million remained.
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Hubert de Givenchy’s comments on Countess Mona von Bismarck

On one occasion Monsieur de Givenchy was reported to have made the following comments about his favorite client Countess Mona von Bismarck, ” She was splendid as could be seen in the portrait that Dali had painted of her, and had seduced five husbands. She was mad about pearls and brought them in kilos during cruises in the China Sea and the ports of Japan. She had two lifts of different speeds installed in her apartment in Ave de New York; the faster one was for the domestics so that they could reach the landing before her to open the door.”

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Exhibition of Mona’s wardrobe curated by Hubert de Givenchy

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Book

Kentucky Countess: Mona Bismarck in Art & Fashion

book cover

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info: Wikipedia, VoguePedia, Style.com, The Independent & the Mona von Bismarck foundation
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4 Responses to “Mona Von Bismarck cried Three Days when Cristobal Balenciaga retired (part two)”

  1. Soul Safari 14 September 2014 at 13:51 #

    fantastic post -as usual-. To be buried in a Givenchy! Now that is what I call style….

  2. Edward Young 31 January 2015 at 05:02 #

    Good take. I grew up next door to Mona, and wrote a novel about that experience ~ I remember her well, and my parents sued her three times in an official capacity to tone‑down the development of her estate in Bayville, NY. Two minor details, she is buried in the Locust Valley Cemetery, and Count Bismarck died in 1973.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. La eterna elegancia de la moda del misterioso Balenciaga seduce en Londres cien años después | | Fadaokom - 2 May 2017

    […] Mona von Bismarck, que encargaba todas sus prendas de vestir al couturier y de quien se dice que llloró durante tres días cuando éste anunció su retirada en 1968. Se exhibirán más de un centenar de prendas y accesorios, acompañados de bocetos de archivo, […]

  2. La eterna elegancia de la moda del misterioso Balenciaga seduce en Londres cien años después » Pon la oreja - 2 May 2017

    […] Mona von Bismarck, que encargaba todas sus prendas de vestir al couturier y de quien se dice que llloró durante tres días cuando éste anunció su retirada en 1968. Se exhibirán más de un centenar de prendas y accesorios, acompañados de bocetos de archivo, […]

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