Mata Hari was born Margaretha Zelle on 7 August 1876, in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. She was the eldest of four children of Adam Zelle and his first wife Antje van der Meulen. She had a lavish childhood and attended exclusive schools until the age of 13. Margaretha's father went bankrupt in 1889, her parents divorced and her mother died two years later. Her father got remarried in 1893 to Susanna Catharina ten Hoove, but this didn’t stop the family from falling apart. Margaretha moved to live with her godfather in the Dutch town of Sneek.
She studied to become a kindergarten teacher but this came to a stop when the headmaster began flirting with her. Margaretha was removed from the institution by her offended godfather and had to leave Leiden for The Hague, where her uncle lived. At 18, Zelle married Rudolf John MacLeod. The couple moved to Indonesia in 1897 and had two children: Norman-John and Louise Jeanne. Unfortunately, their happiness was short-lived. MacLeod was an alcoholic and regularly beat his wife. He also openly held a concubine. Zelle abandoned him temporarily but when she returned to him, his behaviour did not change. The couple officially separated on 30 August 1902. The divorce was finalized in 1906, with MacLeod failing to pay support for his wife and their daughter (the son died at only two years old). Zelle studied Indonesian traditions and later and gave herself the name “Mata Hari” which means “sun”("eye of the day") in the Malay language.
In 1903, Zelle moved to Paris. She started out as a circus horse rider using the name Lady MacLeod, which displeased her husband and in-laws. By 1905, Mata Hari began to win fame as an exotic dancer. Hari captivated the audiences and by was an overnight success with her debut at the Musée Guime. During that time, she became the mistress of the millionaire Lyon industrialist, Émile Étienne Guimet. She was photographed numerous times during this period, nude or nearly so and posed as a Javanese princess of priestly Hindu birth. -> continued. ♡
Work hard for what you want because it won't come to you without a fight. You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to. If somebody puts you down or criticizes you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive.
Today's Sunday, when I talk about a piece from my own collection.
Several years ago I first saw this shape and I was entranced - so gorgeous, with an asymmetric rim shape and the astonishing piercing detail around the rims, all amongst superb refined styling and very detailed moulding. It would already be wonderful if that was all there was to it, but these pieces are in rich blush ivory colour, thin like eggshell, and with some truly fantastic handpainted decoration, with meticulous gilding details. I fell in love on the spot.
I have looked high and low for more of these duos ever since. They are exceedingly rare, not surprising given how difficult and expensive they were to make in the late 19th century (or even today). Very few were ever made and, tragically, even fewer remain; and after several years of searching I've only been able to find a couple more. So I can't express how excited I was when I spotted this beautiful jewel on a recent buying trip. Decorated with a handpainted thistle design, which in itself is uncommon on blush ivory, and I adore the bright pop of colour from the tiny orange-red flowers, it shows such artistic talent from the painter.
A truly special piece for me, which is even more precious because of how ethereally delicate it is - a true work of art which, against all the odds, has survived 140 years. An exquisite treasure. 🎁