Nicolas Louis Alexandre, Baron de Gunzburg (12 December 1904 – 20 February 1981), aka Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg, was a banker and socialite of Russian, Polish, and Portuguese descent, who became an editor at several American publications, including Town & Country, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. He was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1971.
Baron Nicolas “Niki” de Gunzburg was born in Paris, France, a scion of a wealthy and influential Russian-Jewish family, whose fortune had been made in banking and oil.
The Günzburgs, as they were originally known, were ennobled during the 1870s by Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and when family members began spending a great deal of time in France later in the century, the umlaut was dropped and the particle “de” adopted. Their Hessian title was made hereditary in 1874 by Czar Alexander II of Russia.
His father was Baron Gabriel Jacob “Jacques” de Gunzburg (1853–1929), a nephew of the Russian philanthropist Baron Horace Günzburg.
His Brazilian-born mother, Enriqueta “Quêta” de Laska (died 1925), was of Polish and Portuguese descent, a daughter of Doña Joaquina Maria Marqués de Lonza Lisboa; she had been previously married to French collector and bibliophile Germain Bapst (1853–1921) and married thirdly, after her divorce from Jacques de Gunzburg, Prince Basil Narischkine.
Raised primarily in England, where his father worked for the bankers Hirsch & Co. and served as a director of the Ritz Hotels Development Corporation, Gunzburg spent his later youth in France. Living the life of a bon vivant in the Paris of the 1920s and 1930s, Gunzburg spent money lavishly, and his costume balls featured extravagant sets designed by architects and artists.
Gunzburg had an elder half-sister:
Audrey Manuelle Alexandre Joaquina Bapst(1892–1940), a painter and set-and-costume designer, who was a muse to French writer Paul Claudel.
She married, firstly, British diplomat Raymond Cecil Parr, and, secondly, Norman Robert Colville, before being killed in a road accident near her home in Cornwall, England. She had two sons: stockbroker Capt. Anthony James Parr (1914–1996) and naval architect Martin Rennel Charlton Parr (born 1928), who were her brother’s sole heirs.
One of Gunzburg’s relatives, Baron Dimitri de Gunzburg, was a patron of Russian dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes and portrayed by actor Alan Badel in the 1980 Paramount film Nijinsky in which Alan Bates played Sergei Diaghilev.
His cousin Baron Pierre de Gunzburg’s daughter, Aline, married, as her third husband, the British writer and philosopher Isaiah Berlin.
Gunzburg, who was homosexual and never married, had two known long-term companions:
Erik Rhodes, an actor.[
Paul Sherman (died 1985), an artist
Gunzburg was a summer resident of Highland Lakes, in Vernon Township, New Jersey for the last twenty years of his life. In December 1959, he purchased a two-acre island he called “Hemlock”, and constructed a causeway, and summer house, which he went on to decorate and furnish in a Tyrolean style.
Gunzburg died at New York Hospital at 76 years of age. He was buried the following spring near his summer home in Glenwood Cemetery, with a small private service at which Blass, de la Renta, and Klein were among the mourners.