Dormition of the Heathen Madonna

Ninety-nine years ago today came the premature end of an inspiring and inexhaustibly fascinating life: that of Fanny (Franziska) zu Reventlow.

Born in 1871, Reventlow abandoned her aristocratic family once she achieved her majority. Her goal was Munich, at that time Germany’s pre-eminent centre of arts and letters. Reventlow herself switched between both categories, initially studying fine arts before turning to translation and original written works, most of them drawing from her own life. In 1897, between her two (brief) marriages she gave birth to son Rolf, her beloved “Bubi”. Possibly the most emancipated woman of her age, Reventlow became a “heathen Madonna”, the “bohemian countess” of legend, a focal point of the alternative society being modelled in the Schwabing district, one which continues to influence modern lifestyles in ways we barely recognise.

Numerous German exponents of these new modes of living furthered their experimentation in the Swiss town of Ascona, particularly the artists’ colony known as Monte Verità – Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, Gusto Gräser, gustaf nagel, Mary Wigman to name just a few. Reventlow moved there in 1910, hoping to finally better her fraught finances by entering into a sham marriage, but she came away with little more than another book – Der Geldkomplex.

In the last summer of World War One, Reventlow fell off a bicycle and succumbed to complications in the ensuing operation. She has been the subject of periodic posthumous interest in her native Germany, but it has long vexed me that Reventlow’s life, and her compelling fiction, are all but unknown elsewhere in the world. So having written about the author’s life on a number of occasions (listed below), I am also very pleased to announce that I will soon be issuing the first English-language translation of Reventlow’s work.

Details to come!

Further reading
Cosmic countess
Everything all the time
Franziska zu Reventlow | artworks
Dress-down Friday: Bohemian Schwabing
Munich
Circles: Fanny zu Reventlow
Dress-down Friday: Fanny zu Reventlow
Der Geldkomplex
Fanny and Sissi’s Corfu

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2 comments

  1. Somehow I’d never come across Reventlow before. I just went through all your previous entries about her and I am thoroughly charmed. Looking forward to the translation!

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