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Winner - the International Historic Motoring Awards 2016

La Belle Otero, star of De Dion Bouton advertising!

Feb 28 2021

This article was earlier published in the magazine.

When this picture was found in a December 1902 magazine, a quick search showed that 'La Belle Otero' was one of the most famous 'artists' of the day, sometimes even called the most beautiful woman of her time.

Caroline Otero (full name Augustine Caroline Otero Iglesias) was a Spanish-born dancer, with a rather troubled youth and a turbulent love-life. However, with her shrewd mind, she battled her way to the top. She starred in films, and traveled the world with her dance partner Evariste, performing in New York, Moscow, St-Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna. Having built up a career in Paris (she became a success at the Folies-Bergère), she also provided services as a courtesan, but only to the richest and most powerful men of Europe including Dukes and Kings. Expensive gifts from her lovers included houses and much jewelry, and she became one of the richest women in the world.

La Belle Otero was hired by the De Dion Bouton company for the advertising of the new 6 hp Populaire, and a few illustrations of La Belle Otero and a De Dion Bouton car exist, strangely always together with Zélélé, De Dion's valet. In good De Dion Bouton tradition, artwork enhanced the advertising of the company, like the one that Henry Thiriet did, with a fancier white cliff background. One of the photographs with La Belle Otero on the new De Dion Bouton is made part of a beautiful Art Nouveau work by Arsène Herbinier. The same illustration is used in a more plain advertisement in the women's magazine Femina, promoting the car for 3900 francs! Marketing strategies were certainly already very clever then because including this most controversial pop star was definitely a stunt! 

Words photographs by Nick Jonckheere. With thanks to De Dion Bouton Club.

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