Portrait of Mona von Bismarck by Savely Abramovich Sorine

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A classic 1930s portrait in pastels of Mona Countess von Bismarck a leading light of international cafe society between the two world wars. Born Mona Travis Strader in Louisville Kentucky in 1897 Mona married five times her marriages propelling her steadily upwards in international society, her third marriage in 1926 to Harrison Williams the richest man in America gave her the platform that made her the worlds first fashion icon.
Famous for her beauty, her trademark silver hair, aquamarine eyes and sense of fashion, Mona was the first American to be declared the Best-Dressed Woman in the World in 1933, a distinction bestowed upon her by Paris designers Chanel, Mainbocher, Lanvin, Vionnet, Molyneaux, Lelong and her personal favorite, Balenciaga. Upon the closing of Balenciaga’s fashion house in 1968, it was said that Mona took to her bed for three days in despair. She regularly appeared on the best-dressed lists on both sides of the Atlantic. Her homes, clothes and lifestyle were chronicled in newspapers and magazines, especially American Vogue. Salvador Dali also painted her portrait now in the Mona Bismarck American Center for Arts and Culture Paris. Cole Porter included her name in a song when Ethel Merman sang in Riding High: “ What do I care if Mrs. Harrison Williams is the best dressed woman in town”, she was mentioned in movies and alluded to in books. She was photographed by famous photographers of the day, including Steichen, Horst and her close friend, Cecil Beaton.

Mona is seen here wearing the Harrison Williams Star Sapphire one of the most famous stones in the world now reset in the Bismarck necklace bequeathed by Mona to the National Museum of Natural History, Washington she having married Count Von Bismarck – Schonhausen, her fourth husband in 1955.

An iconic portrait of an iconic woman, dressed here as the icon of 1930’s fashion.

The portrait is by Savely Abramovich Sorine (1878 – 1953), a Russian portrait painter of the most important figures of the cultural and artistic environment of pre revolutionary Russia such as Feodor Chaliapin , Anna Akhmatova , and Tamara Karsavina. He won the Rome Prize and a scholarship that allowed him to continue his studies in Paris. In December 1916 in Moscow Sorine participated in the exhibition " Mir Iskusstva " and in 1920 , he emigrated to Paris, then to New York. Sorine’s portraits of the Duchess of York (1923) and Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen are still at Clarence House. As a White Russian in exile he painted Balanchine, Michel Fokine and Anna Pavlova.

Working in the tradition of Ingres, Sorine has exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1922 and 1923 at the International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1923/1924, and the Salon des Tuileries in Paris from 1926 to 1930, then in London , Washington DC , Chicago , New York. He also worked as an illustrator and in particular interpreted the works of Maxim Gorky .

A near contemporary of Paul Cesar Helleu the most famous painter in pastel of Belle Époque women.


  • Condition
  • Dimensions
    29 in. H x 25 in. W x 2 in. D
    74 cm H x 63 cm W x 5 cm D
  • Dealer Location
    Chudleigh, Australia
  • Number of Items
  • Reference Number
About the Seller

1stdibs seller since 2016

Located in Chudleigh, Tasmania

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