Georgian Surnames

 

Meri Shervashidze

Winner of World Beauty contest. Original model of Coco Chanel.

Upon his arrival in Georgia (1912), Nicholas II of Russia was introduced to many Georgian ladies. Unable to conceal his admiration, the Emperor exclaimed, ‘What beauties!’ and then addressed one of them directly, ‘It is sinful to be so beautiful!’

These words were addressed to Meri Shervashidze, very soon to be the Emperer’s mother’s maid of honour.  As her father, an Abkhazian prince, the Major-General, Prokophy Shervashidze, was a member of the Russian State Duma (State Council), the family lived in Petersburg.

After Meri’s father died the family mainly lived in Kutaisi. In 1918, Meri’s fiance, Gigusha Eristavi, aide-de-camp to Nicholas II came to Kutaisi from Petersburg and they got married. Meri Shervashidze. 1913

In 1921, when the independence of Georgia was nearing its last days, she calmly and legally boarded a ship sailing from Batumi. Shewas traveling to France, joining her husband in Constantinople, Turkey on the way. It was here that Meri took part in a beauty contest and won.

‘You got married that night, Meri’...  Nobody knows precisely who this poem was dedicated to. Every Georgian associates the image of Galaktion’s ‘Meri’ with Meri Shervashidze’s name. 

Meri Shervashidze’s remembered as being tall, well-built with dark straw-coloured eyes and chestnut coloured hair, never laughing, only smiling.  She had a very narrow circle of friends but everyone who knew her noted her modesty, humbleness and gentleness.

In Paris, Meri Shervashidze settled down in the prestigious sixteenth district in the Rue de La Tour near Boulogne forest. For a while the family endured hardships.  Meri’s mother, Nino Mkheidze and her twin sisters, Elene and Tamar lived together with Meri.  Nino began to work at one of the famous sewing workshops. After some time the family managed to open a saloon of their own. At this time Meri Shervashidze became the Coco Chanel model. The worldly Parisians particularly noted Meri’s style of dress as well as her ability to manifest the beauty bestowed on her by God. Meri’s portrait, painted by the famous artist Saveli Sorin, hangs in the palace of the Prince of Monaco (even though the painter had dedicated the picture to the Georgians).

In 1935, in France, Galaktion Tabidze happened to see Meri Shervashidze by chance. She was sitting in a park in front of the Louvre and was even more beautiful than ever. After this, the poet dedicated a number of poems to Meri Shervashidze.

Gigusha Eristavi passed away at an early age, leaving Meri with no heirs so she raised her sister’s children, Constantine and Nino. 

Meri Shervashidze spent the last years of her life in a nursing home. Meri died at the age of 97, retaining her beauty, nobleness and stateliness until the last day of her life.

 

 

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