Rita DeAcosta Lydig and Mercedes DeAcosta, Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleum, NYC
A certain grassy knoll in Trinity Church Cemetery is spiritually linked to Goya’s full-length painting of the Duchesss of Alba of Spain. Here, on the grounds of the cemetery’s Westerly Division, lie descendants of that 18th-century noblewoman whose likeness reigns over the interior court of the Hispanic Society Museum on Broadway, just across West 155th Street. Beneath a slab of pink granite are buried Rita DeAcosta Lydig and Mercedes DeAcosta, American-born sisters who reigned over disparate artistic circles of the New World.
Rita DeAcosta Lydig (1880-Oct 19, 1929) was a prominent socialite and philanthropist, but, most notably, she was a legendary beauty. Painter John Singer Sargent described her as “a work of art!”, and her likeness captivated the brushes and chisels of such other great artists as Boldoni, Madrazo and Zuloaga. Her shoe trunk is housed at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Her younger sister, Mercedes DeAcosta (March 1, 1893-May 9, 1968), was a poet, playwright and screenwriter. But whereas her older sister had attracted adoration, Mercedes’ drew public scrutiny. In the 1920s and 1930s, her severe “mannish pants, pointed shoes… with buckles, tricorn hat, and cape” marked her as “That Furious Lesbian,” the title of a recent biography by Robert A. Schanke. According to Schanke, Mercedes was wont to boast, "I can get any woman from any man.” And Alice B. Toklas is said to have concurred: "Say what you will about Mercedes DeAcosta,” Toklas reportedly commented. “She's had the most important women of the twentieth century."