Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe

Marie Joséphine Louise Élisabeth de Riquet Anatole de Caraman - Chimay, by marriage with Henri Grefullhe Comtesse Greffulhe ( born July 11, 1860 in Paris, † August 21, 1952 in Lausanne) was a Parisian lady of society, because of its beauty and elegance was famous. In the Parisian high society they spoke their names from Greffeuille.

She was the center of a fashionable salons of the Faubourg Saint- Germain in Paris during the Belle Époque, where politicians and diplomats, scientists, musicians and artists as well as members of high finance and the European nobility met. She was a patron of art, music, theater and the Ballets Russes.

Become immortal, it is as one of the models for the Countess de Guermantes in Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time.


Elizabeth was one of seven children of Prince Joseph Guy Marie Henri Philippe Riquet (1836-1892) and Countess Marie Josephine Anatole de Montesquiou -Fezensac ( 1834-1884 ). Her mother had been informed by Clara Schumann and had concerts with Franz Liszt. All children of the pair playing an instrument. As a 18 -year-old Elizabeth was married to Henri Jules Charles Emanuel Greffulhe ( 1848-1932 ). Henri Greffulhe belonged to the Belgian branch of the family and inherited the title of count next to a huge financial and real estate empire. Élaine 1882, was the only child born of the pair. Elaine married Armand de Gramont, Duke de Guiche and 12th Duke of Gramont ( 1879-1962 ), who was friends with Marcel Proust. In 1887 they received as a gift from the Father Greffulhes Villa La Case in Dieppe, a small castle in the Anglo -Norman style in which they spent the summer months and selected guests received.

Through a costly and elegant wardrobe that she moved from the renowned fashion houses such as Worth, Fortuny or Doucet, she continued her beauty impressive scene, as have handed the many written statements of their guests. The Comtesse Greffulhe was a cousin of Robert de Montesquiou, she was his life a close confidante. In 1884 she made ​​Montesquiou familiar with the 20 years old highly educated Prince de Polignac, who with whom she had a close friendship very veehrte and from there. On a trip to England in 1887 she learned through the mediation of Montesquiou Whistler know, like Montesquiou led the lifestyle of a dandy. It provided access to Whistler Parisian society and promoted him as other Parisian artists of their time, even financially.

Also on Montesquiou, she met Edmond de Goncourt, José -Maria de Heredia, Stéphane Mallarmé, Judith Gautier (1845-1917), Anatole France and the Abbé Mugnier ( Arthur Mugnier, 1879-1939 ), who detailed diary led the exponents and events of Parisian society from 1878 to 1939. A Rue d' Astorg 10, she led a salon where she received the cream of Parisian society and important personalities from politics, finance, science and art regularly. The wealth of the family allowed her a generous patronage that stretched on art, literature, music and science.

Set rather monarchist From its origin and base sentiments, but they also maintained contacts with representatives of the Third Republic as Théophile Delcassé, Pierre Waldeck -Rousseau and General Gaston de Galliffet who briefly held the post of Minister of War in Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet. In the Dreyfus Affair and Montesquiou they were on the side of Waldeck- Rousseau, who has significantly contributed to the rehabilitation of the defendant. An epistolary intervention in favor of the falsely accused of spying for the German Empire, she has made with Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899, it was chalked foul of the right-wing press.

La société des grands auditions

Founded in 1890, the Société des Grands auditions and became its President, a unique position for a woman in that time. This privately funded by subscriptions company had initially aim to present works by French composers in Paris, which had been already listed abroad or were rarely played in France. In the same year the opera Béatrice et Bénédict by Hector Berlioz, which was already played in Baden -Baden, Weimar, Karlsruhe and Vienna, was listed at the Théatre Odéon. 1892 followed Berlioz 's opera Les Troyens à Carthage. Comtesse Greffulhe had the music of Richard Wagner in 1891 met during a visit with Montesquiou in Bayreuth and sat down for a performance of Lohengrin at the Paris Opera in the same year. For 1893 a performance of Tristan was planned. But as for the budget of 75,000 francs were missing 20,000 francs, the premiere came three years later. After the success of the opera, the company expanded its program on orchestral concerts. Have been performed works by Bach, Handel, Beethoven and Edward Elgar. 1884 was a concert with works of avant-garde music by Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Alberic Magnard, Vincent d' Indy, Charles Bordes, Ernest Chausson instead to Paul Dukas. Salome by Richard Strauss, 1907 conducted by Strauss himself, witnessed at the Théâtre du Châtelet several performances ..

Reception in art and literature

The couple Greffulhe inspired Marcel Proust to the fictional characters of the Duke and Duchess of Guermantes in his novel In Search of Lost Time.

The Comtesse Greffulhe has been portrayed by many painters and photographers. Nadar, in which she took lessons in photography itself, she has photographed several times.

  • Paul César Helleu: Comtesse Greffulhe. Watercolor. To 1886-1890 image
  • Paul César Helleu: Helleu: Studies of Countess Greffulhe. 4 drawings with colored pencils
  • Philip Alexius de Laszlo: Comtesse Greffulhe Henry, née Comtesse Elisabeth de Caraman - Chimay 1909, oil on Ln, private collection
  • Jacques -Émile Blanche: Comtesse Greffulhe. To 1895. Image
  • Ernest Hébert: Comtesse Elisabeth Greffulhe. Paris Private Collection
  • Antonio de la Gandara: Comtesse Greffulhe.