Maria Zambaco (29 April 1843, London - 14 July 1914, Paris) was born Marie Terpsithea Cassavetti (sometimes spelled Maria Tepsithia Kassavetti), was an artist and model favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites.
Maria was a daughter of wealthy Anglo-Hellenic merchant Demetrios Cassavetti (d.1858) and his wife Euphrosyne (1822–1896) and niece of the Greek Consul and noted patron Alexander Constantine Ionides. Maria and her cousins Marie Spartali Stillman and Aglaia Coronio were known collectively among friends as "the Three Graces", after the Charites of Greek mythology.
Familiar within the circles of the Pre-Raphaelites, her most notable modelling was for the British artist Edward Burne-Jones. She also sat as a model for the American Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and was admired by George du Maurier.
She frightened off her first admirer, George du Maurier, who called her 'rude and unapproachable but of great talent and a really wonderful beauty'. Instead she married Dr Zambaco in 1860, initially living with him in France. The marriage was not a success and she moved back to live with her mother in London, where she studied painting. Burne-Jones first met her in 1866, when her mother commissioned him to paint her as Cupid and Psyche, and they had an affair which lasted until January 1869. Burne-Jones left his wife for her which caused a great scandal, with Maria ultimately threatening to commit suicide. After they broke up, Maria continued to appear in Burne-Jones' paintings as a sorceress or a temptress, such as in The Beguiling of Merlin and the controversial Phyllis and Demophoön.
The Cassavetti family's sarcophagus at West Norwood Cemetery
Maria dedicated herself to art, and studied at the Slade School under Alphonse Legros and under Rodin in Paris. She died there in 1914 and her body was returned for interment in the family sarcophagus at the Greek Orthodox necropolis of the South Metropolitan Cemetery at Norwood, where she is recorded under her maiden name.
Media related to Maria Zambaco at Wikimedia Commons
West Norwood Cemetery Purchase Registers
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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