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    Description

    Mata Hari Autograph Letter Signed "Marquerite". Two pages, front and back, 8.5" x 10.75", Amsterdam; no date. Addressed to Piet van der Hem. Although undated, the letter is likely from late 1914, as she was living in neutral Holland after the start of World War I. Mata Hari had a brief affair with van der Hem, an unusual pairing for the femme fatale, who was famous for her alliances with wealthy and aristocratic men. The exotic dancer, later turned spy, writes to the young and still unknown artist about a sketch he is making of her. The letter is written in French on Victoria Hotel letterhead. Translated, it reads in full:

    "My dear Piet. Is it possible for you to finish this pretty drawing without the hat? Or should I still ask? I would like you to exhibit it in Amsterdam. I'm leaving for The Hague I'll be back tomorrow. Send word to me."

    The Dutch-born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod (1876-1917), more widely known as Mata Hari, began her career in the circus and as a model before taking to the stage in 1905. Her assumed identity of a Javanese princess (which made her seem more exotic) coupled with her seeming lack of inhibitions made her an instant success. Her career as a dancer only lasted ten years, but by this time, and despite the fact that she was married, she became a successful courtesan, having several relationships with very powerful men.

    When the First World War broke out, Mata Hari was offered 20,000 francs to turn on her adopted home of France and to spy for the Germans. By all accounts, it appears she pocketed the money, but did not provide any French intelligence. Instead, she agreed to act as a double agent and spy for the French in return for being able to visit her fiancé, Russian captain Vladimir de Massloff. However, as the war dragged on, French officials sought to raise the country's moral by making an arrest on a high-profile agent. Mata Hari caught the attention of the Head of the Ministry of War, Georges Ladoux, and he alleged that she was passing information to the Germans. She was arrested in her Paris hotel room on February 13, 1917, put on trial the following July, and found guilty. She was executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917, and stories of the event say she remained proud and tall until the end, even blowing kisses at her executioners. Ironically, Ladoux was arrested just a few days after Mata Hari's execution on charges of being a double agent himself.

    Condition: Flattened folds, with areas of foxing throughout, concentrated at the folds. There is a very small hole at the center cross fold, which does not affect any of the text. Overall good.


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