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Mata Hari part 2: A Dancer, A Lover

At twenty six Margaretha was divorced, had no money and no place to live. She decided to go to Paris, leaving her daughter Non with Rudolph.

Margaretha worked as (nude) model for painters but this was not enough to make ends meet. She was forced to return to The Netherlands after a year. In 1903 was the last time she saw her daughter, Non in the train station in Arnhem, close to Velp where Non lived with Rudolph. Shortly after Margaretha departed again for Paris. This time she found a job as an amazone (a horse rider) in a circus. She performed using the name Lady MacLeod. Beside this she danced in various salons (clubs) from where she climbed up to performing in exclusive salons. In one of these salons she met Émile Guimet. Through him her way to fame & glamour had opened.


Lady MacLeod to Mata Hari
Émile Guimet was the owner of Musée Guimet (officially called Musée national des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet). He asked Margaretha to perform there but he found the name Lady MacLeod not fit to the occasion. The name Mata Hari was chosen. Mata Hari means Eye of the Dawn. It is an Indonesian word, if it is spelled as Matahari it means Sun.

At 13 March 1905 Mata Hari performed for the first time as an exotic dancer revealing much to see of her body. She danced in Musée Guimet which was transformed into an Indian temple. The public reacted enthusiasticly. It was an exotic and religious dance judging the testimonials of the public. At the end of the veil dance, the naked Mata Hari, portraying a priest, kneel before a giant bronze statue of four arm Hindu God Shiva. There her body was covered with a golden cape by four Indian dancers. Mata Hari then stood up naked and elegantly thanked Shiva and the public. The audience went crazy.


Note from me: unlike many Indonesians think, Mata Hari didn’t perform Indonesian inspired dance. The choreography of her dance was inspired from India not Indonesia.

Mata Hari the courtesan
The mythe Mata Hari was born after the spectacular show. How did she become so famous?  Mata Hari was the first dancer to strip naked on the stage at that time. In combination with the tasteful and exotic Indian accessories and costumes she fascinated Parisian elite. To strengthen the mystery around her, Mata Hari made up stories by telling the press she was an Indian princess. The other day she claimed she was a Javanese princess and in the palace in Java she had learned how to dance. Press took this over and printed it on newspapers. This causes some incorrect ‘facts’ about her. In the pic below Mata Hari poses wearing flesh coloured body suit.


Note from me: As I stated in the first post, I was triggered to write about Mata Hari by an article in Indonesian National Geography website. It was said that Mata Hari’s mother was a Javanese. This is not true. Her mother, Antje van der Meulen came  from Leeuwaarden, north of The Netherlands. Her parents (Mata Hari’s grand parents) were Johannes Hendericus van der Meulen en Sjoukje Faber from Leeuwaarden. If Antje van der Meulen was a Javanese or of a Javanese origin there must be some records available about this whether in the church or municipality. Birth records and other info about Antje van der Meulen living in The Netherlands Indie were not even available.

Up from that moment, Mata Hari became a popular dancer. She performed in most exclusive (private) salons in Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Vienna. The peak of her fame was a show she held at the prestigious La Scala Theater in Milan, Italy in 1911.


Mata Hari the femme fatale
At that time Mata Hari could ask 10.000 Francs for a show. She was so popular that her name and picture was used on brands of cigars, cigarettes, and other products. Despite this success, Mata Hari did not pursue her dancing career consistently. From 1908 to 1912, she lived mainly off of men. Mata Hari was a high in demand high-class prostitute in Paris. She had numerous clients and lovers. Beside her special fondness for military officers, she also preferred wealthy and powerful men: diplomats, bankers, and lawyers.

The list of Mata Hari’s certain or alleged lovers is long and impressive to say the least. It consists of wealthy, famous and powerful men such as:

  • The composers Jules Massenet and Giacomo Puccini.
  • The financier Baron Henri de Rothschild.
  • Gaston Menier a chocolate magnate, art collector, and enthusiastic amateur photographer who shot Mata Hari in the nude.
  • Edouard Clunet, a leading expert on international law.
  • General Adolphe-Pierre Messimy, French minister of war in 1914.
  • Henri de Marguerie, French ambassador to The Netherlands and Japan.
  • Jules Cambon, French ambassador to the United States, Spain, and Germany. Rue Cambon in Paris where the famous high end fashion brands have their boutique, is named after him.
  • Felix Xavier Rousseau, a succesful Parisian banker who bought Mata Hari an expensive villa in the fashionable Parisian suburb of Neuilly.
  • Alfred Kiepert a wealthy German cavalry officer.

Most of these men were married but Mata Hari did not care. She was living an easy glamorous life where she did not have to work hard. With some men she even had an on and off affair for 2 – 3 years. I wonder how she managed her time to deal with her lovers and clients.

The reason I included Mata Hari’s lovers names in this post is to illustrate how she easily had access to corps diplomatique, banking world and military officers. This would play a role in the next chapter: Mata Hari The Spy. Stay tuned for the last part of this chain post.

Read also: Mata Hari: Part 1 The Early Life

Fries Museum: Mata Hari exposition
Mata Hari De levende legende by Marijke Huisman
De tranen van Mata Hari by Tomas Ross
Nederlandse geschiedenisboek


12 thoughts on “Mata Hari part 2: A Dancer, A Lover

      • Ha..ha.ha..kemungkinan bisa begitu kejadiannya 🙂
        Dulu kayak gitu aja udah heboh yah, bayangkan kalo Inul sudah lahir dijaman itu, mungkin namanya yang terkenal..ha.ha.ha.

  1. Aku seneng deh mba baca history ttg Matahari ini. Seruu. Sampe googling segala karna penasaran. Ditunggu lanjutannya ya Mba 😀

    • Sip Maria. Ini lagi nulis draft untuk bagian terakhir. Harus buka buku-bukunya lagi & merangkai kalimat supaya enak dibaca.

      Seru ya Mata Hari, gabungan antara It girl, sosialita, femme fatale & spy ha…ha…

      • Ok mbaa.. *mantengin blog mba lorraine*
        Seru bacanya, karna alur ceritanya jadi lebih mudah dipahami 😀
        Iyaah mba, aku bingung kok bisa ya dia jadi semuanya sekaligus. Smart in her own way. Bisa-bisanya juga tiba2 jadi penari yang dielu-elukan orang. Salute.

  2. Makin seruuu.. 😀
    Btw jadi nama Mata Hari (Eye of the Dawn) itu dari bahasa Indonesia? Ada cerita di balik pemilihan nama itu nggak ya? Hehe.. penasaran.

    • Yup. Itu usulnya Margaretha aja. Dia mulai pake nama Mata Hari untuk show perdananya dia di Musée Guimet. Emile Guimet, si pemilik museum menganggap nama artis Margaretha, Lady McLeod, terlalu biasa. Jadi mulai deh Margaretha pake nama Mata Hari, eksotis dan sesuai dengan image yang dia buat.

      Salah satu alasan lain ganti nama adalah keluarga ex suami, clan McLeod yang keberatan Margaretha pake nama artis Lady McLeod. Konon clan McLeod ini masih keturunan bangsawan di Skotland, walaupun udah lama tinggal di Belanda sejak tahun 1500-an. Begicu.

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