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Cléo de Mérode (1875–1966)

Author of Cleo de Merode

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Born Cléopatra Diane de Mérode in Paris to an Austrian family. She entered the Paris Opera Ballet School at age 7 and made her professional debut as a dancer at age 11. Her beauty and glamour quickly made her the toast of Belle Époque Paris. By age 13, she had already posed for Edgar Degas. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted her portrait, as did Giovanni Boldini, Charles Puyo and Alfredo Muller. King Leopold II of Belgium was said to be infatuated with her. She became an international star, performing across Europe and the USA, and her image adorned collectibles such as postcards and playing cards. In Vienna, she caught the attention of the painter Gustav Klimt -- their story was retold in a 2005 film titled Klimt. Mérode continued to dance until her early fifties, when she retired to the French seaside resort of Biarritz. In 1955, she published her autobiography, Le Ballet de ma vie.
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