Meet the most “picturesque woman in America”

Ritadeacostalydigphoto1913When Rita de Acosta Lydig was a young New York socialite in the late 1890s and early 1900s, there were no paparazzi to chase her around the trendy clubs and restaurants of the Gilded Age city.

Yet her image was all over the place—photographed, sculpted, and painted by artists such as Edward Steichen, Augustus Rodin, and John Singer Sargent.

That’s how Lydig, born in 1875 to a prominent New York family of Spanish and Cuban descent, earned the title “the most picturesque woman in America.”

Ritadecostalydig1911Like many socialites, she had what sounds like a messy romantic life: Lydig divorced twice and had a very public broken engagement. Yet she also possessed “a rare charm and intellectual brilliance as well,” states her 1929 obituary in The New York Times.

Lydig had legendary style and a deep appreciation for the arts, socializing in creative circles here and in Paris and holding salons in her home that attracted artists and actors such as Sarah Bernhardt.

She died in 1929 in her apartment at the Hotel Gotham at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, her image immortalized in art.

Her lavish collection of clothes and shoes, interestingly, were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

[Top photo: Adolf de Meyer; bottom painting: Giovanni Baldini]

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6 Responses to “Meet the most “picturesque woman in America””

  1. Noelle Says:

    After enjoying each and every post since I found Ephemeral New York a few months ago, I feel compelled to thank you for all you do to make this a stellar blog. It really is a testament to hard work and an obvious love for the history of NYC. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Wow, thank you!

  3. Ellen Levitt Says:

    Any connection to Lydig Avenue in the Bronx?

  4. notmsparker Says:

    brilliant. As always:-)

  5. Beth Says:

    Rita de Acosta was buried at Trinity Cemetery on Broadway and 155th Street. Eric Washington does very enjoyable tour of this under appreciated place in Hamilton Heights.

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