Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs


Fanny Lear, American adventuress
Charles Reutlinger of Paris

A cabinet card portrait of the American adventuress and traveller Fanny Lear, born Harriet Blackford in Philadelphia.

The indiscretions of this American adventuress included a notorious affair with a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, the dangerously liberal Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich. 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, a later English version titled The White Night of St Petersburg received unfavourable reviews. 

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.’

Photographed by Charles Reutlinger of Paris.

Condition: The print presents some spotting, mainly in the area of the background but some also intruding on the area of the sitter’s arms and dress. The mount is in excellent condition. Two small paper labels verso identifiy the Paris stockist where the cabinet card was originally purchased.

price:  £140
code: cat011
Harriet Blackford, Fanny Lear, Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich, scandal, courtesan, courtesans