Monday, August 26, 2013

Birthday Girl: Vissi d'Arte

Marguerite Seligman Guggenheim Vail Ernst, 115 years old today, had the great good fortune to have been born at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place - and to have had a great good fortune, to boot.

Of course, she did lose her father on the Titanic, which would have a put a crimp in the style of a less decided personality, but she was born of sterner stuff.  She grew up to be the twentieth century's great art groupie, mistress of her very own palazzo on the Grand Canal, and wielder of a pair of spectacles unrivaled until the advent of her Antipodean counterpart, the almost equally colorful Dame Edna Everage.

Imperious, heedless, extravagant, voracious, she was a marvelous hostess, a generous muse, a rather disastrous mother, and in the end the curator of her legend almost as much as of her remarkable Modernist collection.

And Peggy Guggenheim loved terriers, which takes her a long way in my books - and which makes this post a twofer, as it were, for today is also National Dog Day.  If you can't adopt, as Peggy did, the occasional stray Surrealist, why not follow her lead on the canine front?


  1. My great aunt knew Peggy, having spent WWII in NYC. Recalling with her a visit to the Venetian palazzo in the '80's, she remarked what a 'lovely woman' she was, but married to 'that funny little man'. I knew she was a louche character, but this really surprised me, and I stammered out "do you mean Max Ernst...?". Once confirmed, I then asked who else she knew during this period, only to get an enigmatic "Oh, people..." in reply. Further inquiry was rebuffed as being 'nosey'...

    1. How infuriating! But then again, think what leeway it gives you to embroider on her adventures...

  2. I read a FABULOUS biography about her, which I highly recommend. Peggy: The Wayward Guggenheim, by Jacqueline Bograd Weld. Well worth checking out!

  3. Reading it right now. What a piece of work!
    I mean her, not the bio.