LIANE DE POUGY, Parisian courtesan and nun, born (d: 1950); On her first trip to Paris as a young woman, Natalie Barney walked the fashionable streets of the city studying women while her mother was at a studio studying portrait painting. One day she saw an exquisite woman in the Bois de Boulogne, and, making inquiry, learned that the fur-cloaked beauty was Liane de Pougy, the most famous courtesan in Paris. What she learned as well, was that Liane was a Lesbian just like herself, yet sold herself to men, and at a very high price. Natalie Barney resolved on the spot that she would rescue Liane de Pougy from her “dreadful life” and make her her own. She even when to the courtesan’s house, but was turned away by the maid who informed her that Madame never rose before eleven.
Just then Natalie received the news that her father wanted her to return to America, where she was to make her debut. Undaunted, she swore that she would return someday to Paris and take Liane de Pougy, whom she had only once glimpsed, as her lover. And she did. De Pougy’s affair with Barney is recorded in her novel Idylle Saphique, published around 1901. In 1899, Barney presented herself at de Pougy’s residence in a page costume and announced that she was a “page of love” sent by Sappho. Although de Pougy was one of the most famous women in France at the time, constantly sought after by wealthy and titled men, Barney’s audacity charmed and seduced her. The two were said to have had deep feelings for one another for the remainder of their lives.
Upon her marriage to Prince Georges Ghika in 1920 de Pougy became Princess Ghika; this marriage ended in separation, though not divorce. Her son’s death as an aviator in WWI turned her towards religion and she became a tertiary of the Order of Saint Dominic as Sister Anne-Mary. After a life as the most celebrated courtesan of la belle époque, serving both men and women, Liane de Pougy retired to a convent as Saint Mary Magdalene of Repentence. She became involved in the Asylum of Saint Agnes, devoted to the care of children with birth defects. She died at Lausanne