Berthe de Courrière

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Berthe de Courrière (June 1852, Lille – 14 June 1916, Paris) was a French artists' model and demimondaine. She was the mistress, model, and heir of the sculptor and painter Auguste Clésinger.

Life[edit]

Born Caroline Louise Victoire Courrière, she set out for Paris at age 20 and first became the mistress of General Georges Boulanger and several ministers. The sculptor Auguste Clésinger, an intimate friend of George Sand, remarked on Courrière's full form and gigantic proportions, bringing her the nicknames la grande dame ("the big woman") or Berthe aux grands pieds ("Bigfoot Bertha"). She was his model for the bust of Marianne for the Sénat as well as for the colossal statue of the Republic for the 1878 Exposition Universelle. On Clésinger's death, in 1883, Berthe was his sole heiress and found herself with a large fortune.

In 1886, she met Remy de Gourmont, then making his literary debut, and commissioned from him a study on Clésinger. She became Gourmont's mistress and muse. Gourmont lived with her, at first on rue de Varenne then at number 71 rue des Saints-Pères, until his death in 1915. She died in 1916 and was laid to rest beside him in Clésinger's vault at the cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Gourmont's passionate letters to her over 1887 were published together in one volume as Lettres à Sixtine (1921).

In popular culture[edit]

She was the heroine of Sixtine, roman de la vie cérébrale (1890) then of Le Fantôme (1893).