The legendary Mona Bismarck (née Strader), 1897-1983, lived a glamorous and luxurious life, defying convention and later sharing her good fortune to support the arts, fashion and culture. Following her marriage in 1926 to Harrison Williams, reputed to be among the wealthiest men in America, Mona swiftly became known as one of the most glamorous and beautiful women in New York, and was named “the best-dressed woman in the world” by contemporaneous arbiters of fashion.
Williams’s vast wealth and elevated social position afforded Mona a lavish lifestyle, and the couple divided their time between residences in New York, Palm Beach, Paris and Capri. Several years after the death of Harrison Williams in 1953, Mona married her longtime friend, Count Edward von Bismarck, grandson of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Mona’s quintessential style was celebrated in song by Cole Porter, while her distinctive beauty and elegance captivated artists and photographers, including Salvador Dalí, Leonor Fini, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen and H. P. Horst. Her social circle included American Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower, socialites the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Princess Grace of Monaco, as well as an impressive number of writers and actors, including Truman Capote, Erich Maria Remarque, Tennessee Williams, Greta Garbo and Paul Newman. She was the muse for couturiers Cristòbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy, with whom she maintained intimate and life-long friendships.
All Photographs on this page are Courtesy of The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
Watch a short documentary on Mona Bismarck. This film shows the unique personality of this extraordinary woman, known as “the best-dressed woman in the world”. Directed and produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland.