George Biddle, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
The notorious Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven ripped through New York’s bohemian community in the early 1920s. A German-born artist, poet, and performer, she was especially transgressive in breaking the conventions of gender roles. Together with Morton Schamberg, she made one of the earliest “readymade” Dada sculptures, God (1917), now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In his autobiography, Biddle describes visiting her apartment and the large piles of found objects from the city streets that she would use in her art.
The baroness likely suffered from mental illness, and Biddle’s lithographic portrait shows her as a woman with six identities. The work was published in Playboy: A Portfolio of Art and Satire (a short-lived publication not to be confused with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, created decades later). Biddle’s portrait appeared with a poem by one of the baroness’s lovers, Djuna Barnes.