Mata Hari

the myth and the maiden

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The exciting story of the world-famous Leeuwarden native Mata Hari. Discover everything about her special, eventful life in this beautiful exhibition at the Museum of Friesland. You’re taken on an in-depth journey into the myth of the Frisian girl who ended her life as a famous spy.​

On 14 October 2017, one hundred years after her death, the Museum of Friesland will present the largest Mata Hari exhibition ever. Based on personal belongings, photos, scrapbooks, letters and military files, you meet Margaretha Zelle, the girl behind the iconic Mata Hari. Travel with her from her native city of Leeuwarden to the Dutch East Indies, where fate follows her. Relive her glorious rise in the Parisian dance theatres and discover the web of intrigue she got caught up in during the First World War.

At the age of 29, the Frisian girl Margaretha was a media sensation in Paris. As Mata Hari, she enchanted society audiences with her exotic dance, where she slowly bared her body. The newspapers couldn’t write enough about this sensation. Her name was synonymous with sensuality and glamour for ten successful years. But the countless affairs with men in uniform and her travels through Europe during the First World War made her suspicious in the eyes of the French secret service. In early 1917, she was arrested on suspicion of spying for the Germans. Mata Hari was executed on 15 October of that same year by a French firing squad in the woods near Paris.

The myth

Mata Hari took on mythic proportions after her death. Her life is the subject of countless books and speaks internationally to the imagination. Movie stars such as Greta Garbo, Sylvia Kristel and Marlene Dietrich all played the role of Mata Hari. She was a style icon, sex symbol and femme fatale. Very few know that behind this world famous icon was a girl from Friesland.

The girl

How did the daughter of a wealthy hat seller in Leeuwarden grow into an international myth? Why did her marriage fail and how was Margaretha doomed by fate in the Dutch East Indies? What role did motherhood play in her life? Was she a dreamer or a spy, and then for the Germans or for France, or for both?

The exhibition Mata Hari: the myth and the girl is made possible by Provinsje Fryslân, VSBfonds, Stichting Het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis, Fonds Bolsward Dronrijp 1993, Stichting Siebolt Foundation, Stichting Juckema-Sideriusfonds and Boelstra Olivier Stichting. The Museum of Friesland is partly-funded by the Ir. Abe Bonnema Stichting, the province of Friesland, the Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas, the BankGiro Loterij and Aegon.

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