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Remarkable Archive Relating to an Acclaimed Female Illusionist
Of the Early 20th Century, Known as Ionia The Enchantress
Includes Manuscript, Water-Colored Russian Estate Plans
Magic/ Russia/ Women's Studies.
Archive containing seven manuscript plans, some hand colored, of an estate in Russia.
With about 40 legal documents, letters and property inventories, in Russian and French, some in ms., many typewritten or copies thereof, the majority dating from 1916-17, though some estate plans from the 19th century, and some documents later. All in good condition.
An archive that sheds light on the life of an extraordinary woman, known on the stage as Ionia the Enchantress, and on the tangled process of disposing of property in Russia in the fraught years of the Russian Revolution. Many of the documents relate to the sale of estates in Russia in 1917 by Clementine De Vere, Ionia's given name, who at some point had married Prince Vladimir Eristavi-Tchitcherine of Russia. The estates were sold to her son, Frank H. Wirtheim (also Weedon and Tchitcherine), from her first marriage. This was perhaps a legal expedient given that it occurred as the Russian Revolution was underway. Weedon later bequeathed the property back to his mother in his will. These documents are supplemented by seven estate plans, many attractively hand colored, and inventories of the estate's possessions. Other documents relate to both mother and son during their time in Paris after fleeing Russia. While there, both were reportedly in the employ of the Russian government.
The Princess, as she styled herself most of her adult life, was born Clementine De Vere (1888-1973) in Belgium to circus magicians, Charles and Julia De Vere. At age 15, she eloped with the American circus aerialist or animal tamer, Herman Wirtheim, with whom she bore a son three years later, the abovementioned Frank Wirtheim. This archive has notes in the son's hand attached to some of the documents explaining their contents, indicating that it had been in his possession. In 1911, Clementine with the backing of her father, developed a spectacular show, in which she, as an illusionist, was called Ionia, the Enchantress or the Goddess of Mystery. The highly successful show involved tons of equipment and elaborate Egyptian costumes. Posters of the period richly display the star's dark, voluptuous beauty. Posters of her remain highly sought by collectors. (See image--not included in archive). Although the Ionia production flourished for only three years, it was significant in the history of stage magic. One source has it that Clementine divorced Wirtheim in 1917 and then in 1919 married Prince Vladimir Eristavi-Tchitcherine of Russia. However, since some of the documents that involve Clementine and her son date from 1916 and 1917, a re-ordering of the chronology of her life appears to be supported by this archive.
Frank H. Wirtheim (1907-84) was educated at Cambridge, where he was a prominent, Olympic-calibre athlete. He became an American citizen and was in Washington, DC in the 1930's along with his mother. One account has him working as deal maker in the arms industry. The Princess returned to Europe and lived prosperously in both Paris and Monte Carlo. However, details of the later lives of both she and her son are shadowy. Both seemed to have lived out their lives in financial comfort, the son in Connecticut, though the sources of the wealth of either are not known. Using the name of Tchitcherine while in Connecticut, he was known to describe himself as a "private consultant."