The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Harriet Blackford

Harriet Blackford / Fanny Lear

A cabinet card portrait of the American adventuress and traveller Fanny Lear. Born Harriet Blackford in Philadelphia, she had a notorious affair with the Russian Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich, a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I. The subsequent scandal, which included the planned theft of some Romanov jewels, resulted in the Grand Duke being banished from court.

First published in Brussels in 1875 – under her nom de guerre Fanny Lear –she titled her account of her adventures and travels in Russia and Europe Le Roman d’une Americaine en Russie. The story has more recently formed the basis of a novel by Prince Michael of Greece, himself a Romanov descendant. First published in French in 2005, an English version appeared titled The White Night of St Petersburg but the reviews were unfavourable.

Photographed by Charles Reutlinger of Paris.

An extensive inked inscription verso in a fine period hand identifies the sitter and gives brief biographical details in French. This translates as: ‘Mlle Phoenix or the Beautiful American Miss Blackford, who was asked to leave Russia after the theft of his mother’s diamonds by His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich. She was also banished from Paris after the suppression of a booklet written by her in 1875. The medallion worn around her neck represents on its surface the Grand Ducal crown and the initials of the Grand Duke N.C.’


Code: 123596
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© Paul Frecker 2018