Zambaco, Maria

BORN 29 Apr 1843, London - DIED 14 Jul 1914, Paris
BIRTH NAME Cassavetti, Marie Terpsithea
GRAVE LOCATION London: West Norwood Cemetery, Norwood High Street, Norwood (square 28, grave 1971 (Greek-Orthodox section))

The greek heiress Maria Kassavetti was not only wealthy but also a ravishing beauty. Her father was Dimitrius Cassavetti (1811-1856) and her mother was Euphrosyne Ionides (1822-1896). Together with her cousins Marie Spartali and Aglaia Ionides she modelled for the painters Whistler and Rossetti. They were known as 'The Three Graces' at the time. She frightened off her admirer George du Maurier who stated that was she talented, but also rude an unapproachable.

On 20 Jul 1861 she married Dr. Zambacco at the Church of Our Saviour, London Wall, London. She lived with him in France and they had wo children. But the marriage failed and she went to London with her children to live with her mother and become a sculptor.

In 1866 her mother hired Edward Burne-Jones for a painting of her (he had chosen "Cupid finding Psyche") and they fell in love. Burne-Jones often painted her in his studio. In January, 1869 his wife Georgie found a letter of her to him in his clothes and he reluctantly ended the affair. There was a scene in which Maria threathened to kill herself with laudanum and soon the story of their stormy relationship was all over literary London. Possibly there had been a suicide pact followed by a change of mind.

Afterwards Burne-Jones was unhappy in his marriage, although his wife Georgie was admired by many. But he couldn't get Maria out of his head and kept painting her as a sorceress or a temptress, for example in "The Beguiling of Merlin". A Diary entry by Jeanette Marshall (the daughter of a well known anatomist) suggests that they had studio's next to each for a while around 1879, but there is no further evidence that their relationship was resumed, alltough they may have met in Paris afterwards.

During the 1880s she studied scupting and was taught by Rodin. She died in Paris in 1914 and was buried in the Greek part of West Nordwood Cemetery. The name on her tomb is Maria Tepsithia Kassavetti.

Related persons
• was painted by Burne-Jones, Edward
• had a relationship with Burne-Jones, Edward
• has a connection with Du Maurier, George
• was pupil of Rodin, Auguste
• was painted by Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• was a friend of Spartali Stillman, Marie
• is cousin of Spartali Stillman, Marie


'Portrait of Maria Zambacco' by Edward Burne-Jones.


The tomb of Maria Zambaco at West Norwood Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (19 Mar 2006)


The tomb of Maria Zambaco at West Norwood Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (19 Mar 2006)


• Flanders, Judith, A Circle of Sisters, Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin, W.H. Norton & Company, New York, 2001
• Wildman, Stephen, John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones 1833-1898, Un maître anglais de l'imaginaire, Réunion des Musées Nationeaux, Paris, 1999

Zambelli, Lega

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 19 Jan 2022