18 September, 2008


Marie-Laure de Noailles

Vicomtesse de Noailles (31 October 1902 - 29 January 1970), was one of the 20th century's most daring and influential patrons of the arts, noted for her associations with Salvador Dalí, Balthus, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Francis Poulenc, Jean-Michel Frank and others as well as her tempestuous life and eccentric personality. She and her husband financed Ray's film Les Mystères du Château du Dé (1929), Poulenc's Aubade (1929), Buñuel and Dalí's film L'Âge d'or (1930), and Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1930).

She was born Marie-Laure Henriette Anne Bischoffsheim, the only child of Marie-Thérèse de Chevigné, a French aristocrat, and Maurice Bischoffsheim, a Paris banker of German Jewish and American Quaker descent. One of her great-great-great-grandfathers was the infamous Marquis de Sade, and her maternal grandmother, Laure de Sade, Countess de Chevigné, inspired at least one character in In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Her nephew Philippe Lannes de Montebello is the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Her stepfather was the French playwright Francis de Croisset, and her former sister-in-law, Jacqueline de Croisset, became the third wife of the actor Yul Brynner.

After a brief romance with the artist Jean Cocteau, Marie-Laure Bischoffsheim married, in 1923, Arthur Anne Marie Charles, Vicomte de Noailles (26 September 1891- 28 April 1981), a grandson of Antonin-Just-Léon-Marie de Noailles, 5th duc de Mouchy and younger brother of the 6th Duc de Mouchy (father of the present Duc), himself a cadet of the French ducal house of Noailles. Though events eventually transpired to reveal that Charles de Noailles preferred men sexually, the ill-matched couple had two daughters, Laure Madeleine Thérèse Marie (Mme Bertrand de La Haye Jousselin who died 1979) and Nathalie Valentine Marie (former wife of Alessandro Perrone, who died 2004).

Marie-Laure de Noailles's fabled hôtel particulier at 13 Place des Etats-Unis in Paris, which was built by her grandfather Bischoffsheim, is now the headquarters of Baccarat, the crystal company. Its interiors, which were redecorated in the 1920s by French minimalist designer Jean-Michel Frank, vanished in the 1980s, due to a subsequent owner's redecoration and remodelling. Today the interiors have been renovated by Philippe Starck and house the Musée Baccarat.

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