Natacha Rambova

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Natacha Rambova, 1920

Winifred Hudnut , better known as Natacha Rambova (born January 16, 1897 in Salt Lake City , Utah , † June 5, 1966 in Pasadena , California ) was an American costume and set designer , graphic artist , writer , actress , fashion designer , Egyptologist , archaeologist and collector of antiques .

Natacha Rambova was also known as the second wife of silent film - legend Rudolph Valentino .


Winifred O'Shaunessy was born as the daughter of electrical engineer Michael O'Shaunessy and his wife Winifred Kimball. Her parents separated when she was little. After that she grew up with her grandparents and her mother. Her mother later married Edgar Sands de Wolfe, a brother of the well-known interior designer Elsie de Wolfe , whose business partner she became. After the early death of her husband († 1906), the widow married again. After the adoption by her stepfather, the cosmetics manufacturer (now L'Oréal ) Richard Hudnut, Winifred took his name retrospectively as his birth name.

Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova, 1924

At the initiative of her aunt Elsie, Winifred received extensive and excellent training in Europe . After completing her schooling at the Schloss Salem boarding school on Lake Constance and the École des Roches in Normandy , Winifred joined the Imperial Russian Ballet . She had a long love affair with his Russian choreographer Theodor Kosloff (1882–1956) and then changed her name to Natacha Rambova .

In the United States, Natacha Rambova caused a sensation not only as an artist, but also through scandals and affairs - with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino , among others .

In 1922 the capricious heiress was hired to produce the equipment and costume designs for the film Salomé by the actress and film producer Alla Nazimova , with whom she had previously shot Billions and Camille . To have translated the magical, fantastic book illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley into scene backgrounds and costumes, is then also the greatest achievement of Nazimowa and Rambova; her film perfectly reflects the decadence of the 1920s and the eccentricity of its creators. Although Salomé is now considered the first art film in the United States, his financial failure ended Nazimova's career as an independent filmmaker.

In 1923 she married the actor Rudolph Valentino in Mexico , whom she met on the set of one of his films. After the couple returned to the United States, their husband was arrested for bigamy . Since he had not waited the full year between his divorce with Jean Acker (1892–1978) and his new marriage, as required by California law, he was jailed for three days and fined $ 10,000. Shortly afterwards, the two married again. Natacha Rambova steadfastly refused to move into his home - Falcon Lair in the mountains above Los Angeles - and began negotiating Valentino's contract terms and controlling him on the sets of his films. Her marriage to Valentino was divorced in 1926.

After her divorce, Natacha Rambova also worked as a fashion designer and opened her first store in New York in 1928 . Her clients included Beulah Bondi , Aline MacMahon and Mae Murray . In the late summer of 1931, she had to close her shop again, likely due to the economic depression and decreasing interest in Russian-inspired clothing. That same year she was in love with Talbot Mundy . A little later, Natacha Rambova met and fell in love with her second husband, the Spanish journalist and aristocrat Alvaro Conde de Urzaiz. They later lived together on Mallorca . After her divorce, she went back to America and worked with the German-born Egyptologist Alexandre Piankoff in the 1960s.

On June 5, 1966, Natacha Rambova died of a heart attack at the age of 69 in a Pasadena hospital . While she was still alive, she had acquired a large burial site near her ex-husband, Rudolph Valentino, in a New York cemetery.


  • 1923–1926 Rudolph Valentino (1895–1926, actually Rodolfo Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla)
  • 1934–1939 Alvaro Conde de Urzaiz

Filmography (costumes / equipment)

  • 1917: The Woman God Forgot
  • 1920: Why Change Your Wife? by Cecil B. DeMille
  • 1920: Something to Think About by Cecil B. DeMille
  • 1920: Billions with Alla Nazimova
  • 1921: Forbidden Fruit by Cecil B. DeMille
  • 1921: Camille with Alla Nasimowa and Rudolph Valentino
  • 1922: A Doll's House with Alla Nasimowa
  • 1922: The Young Rajah with Rudolph Valentino
  • 1923: Salomé with Alla Nazimova
  • 1924: Monsieur Beaucaire, the royal barber (Monsieur Beaucaire) with Rudolph Valentino
  • 1924: The Hooded Falcon with Rudolph Valentino
  • 1925: Cobra (also actress)

Works (selection)

  • 1926 Rudy: An Intimate Portrait by His Wife
  • 1927 Rudolph Valentino Recollections by Natacha Rambova


  • Michael Morris: Madam Valentino: The Many Lives of Natacha Rambova , Abbeville Press Inc. (1991) ISBN 1-55859-136-2

Web links

Commons : Natacha Rambova  - collection of images, videos and audio files