Born as Dina Aibinder into a Jewish family in Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Chisinau, Moldova),  Vierny was a 15-year-old lycée student in Paris when she met the almost 60 years older artist Aristide Maillol, in the mid-1930s. The architect Jean-Claude Dondel, a friend of her father, decided that she would make the perfect model for the artist, who was then 73 years old, and reportedly in the professional doldrums. She was Maillol's muse for the last ten years of his life. Both Matisse and Bonnard, artists for whom she also posed, attributed a renewed inspiration for painting and sculpture to Vierny.
World War II
In 1939, Maillol took refuge at his home in Banyuls-sur-Mer, at the foot of the eastern Pyrenees. Vierny, who had already begun working for a French Resistance group in Paris, was approached by Varian Fry, whose organization in Marseille helped smuggle refugees from occupied France into Spain. Without Maillol's knowledge, she began working as a guide, identifiable to her fleeing charges by her red dress. The work was doubly dangerous as she was Jewish.
The story came out, and Maillol, a native of the region, showed her secret shortcuts, smugglers' routes and goat paths to use. After several months of working for the Comité Fry, Vierny was arrested by the French police, who seized her correspondence with her friends in the Surrealist movement but failed to notice stacks of forged passports in her room. A lawyer hired by Maillol won her acquittal at trial, and to keep her out of harm's way the artist sent her to pose for Matisse in Nice. Matisse did several drawings and proposed an ambitious painting that he called a Matisse Olympia, after the famous painting by Manet. When Maillol heard that the project would take at least six months, he hastily recalled her to Banyuls.
After the war, Ms. Vierny opened an art gallery in Paris, where she exhibited Maillol's work, as well as that of others. After traveling to the Soviet Union in the 1960s, she began collecting and showing work by dissident artists.
She accumulated no fewer than 90 antique carriages, including the omnibus that Toulouse-Lautrec used to pick up his friends and the carriage used by Chateaubriand when he was ambassador to Italy. In the early 1970s, Dina Vierny decided to start a Maillol museum. She began buying up apartments on the Rue de Grenelle in Paris, selling off her collection of 654 dolls along the way. In 1995 she opened the Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, whose permanent collection also includes work by Degas, Kandinsky, Picasso, Duchamp and other artists.
Dina Vierny died in Paris, aged 89. She was survived by her two sons, Olivier Lorquin, the director of the Maillol Museum, and the art historian Bertrand Lorquin, its curator.