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July 5, 2024

22 Vintage Portraits of a Beautiful La Belle Otero From the Early 20th Century

Caroline Otero (1868–1965) was among the most dazzling figures in France between 1889 and 1914, one of those incredible women who symbolized the era known as La Belle Epoque and emerged as one of its most flamboyant characters – La Belle Otero.

At the height of her fame, or notoriety, this spectacular Spanish dancer was described in the press as “the most scandalous person since Helen of Troy.” During the twenty-five years of her reign she enjoyed the patronage of such men as kaiser Wilhelm II, Edward VII when Prince of Wales and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. At one time she lived in a sumptuous establishment near Bois de Boulogne, built for her by a French duke in gratitude for a champagne supper she had given for him, and was waited on by a staff of seventeen.

Of her multitudes of admirers, she reduced some to near ruin, a few to suicide, and many to their knees in proposals of marriage. Several duels were fought over her and, never afraid of violence herself, she even fought one with an actress who had ridiculed her.

Although she was regarded as one of the most acquisitive courtesans of all time, a reputation she enjoyed with former French royal mistresses, she was essentially a dancer, a Spanish dancer, whose sensuous performances had won her international acclaim. Later, she added singing and acting to her repertoire, using her artistry as a springboard from which to attract her admirers.

The Great War brought her career to an end just as it also affected many of her European patrons. An era was ended, a way of life destroyed, and with it the fortunes of her lovers and suitors. However, though it may have forced her abdication it did not extinguish her legend.


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