Le comte Robert de Montesquiou, né à Paris le 19 mars 1855 et mort à Menton (Alpes-Maritimes) le 11 décembre 1921, est un poète, homme de lettres, dandy et critique d'art et de littérature.
« Poète et dandy insolent », il aurait servi de modèle à des Esseintes dans À Rebours (1884) de Huysmans et à Monsieur de Phocas de Jean Lorrain. Il fournit aussi à Marcel Proust l'un des modèles du baron de Charlus dans À la recherche du temps perdu, ce qui le rendit furieux malgré les dénégations de Proust. La postérité l'a malmené sans tenir compte de la diversité de ses activités et de la qualité de ses écrits.
En 1897, Boldini est chargé, par l'intermédiaire d'une amie commune, Madame Veil-Picard, de faire le portrait du comte Robert de Montesquiou. Le peintre ne peut qu'être attiré par la personnalité de cet homme de lettres, emblème de l'esthète contemporain et nouvelle incarnation du dandy baudelairien.
Marie Joseph Robert Anatole, Comte de Montesquiou-Fézensac (7 March 1855, Paris – 11 December 1921, Menton), was a French aesthete, Symbolist poet, art collector and dandy. He is reputed to have been the inspiration both for Jean des Esseintes in Joris-Karl Huysmans' À rebours (1884) and, most famously, for the Baron de Charlus in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–1927). He also won a bronze medal in the hacks and hunter combined event at the 1900 Summer Olympics.
Robert de Montesquiou was a scion of the French Montesquiou-Fézensac family. His paternal grandfather was Count Anatole de Montesquiou-Fézensac (1788–1878), aide-de-camp to Napoleon and grand officer of the Légion d'honneur; his father Thierry bought a Charnizay manor with his wife's dowry, built a mansion in Paris, and was elected Vice-President of the Jockey Club. He was a successful stockbroker who left a substantial fortune.
Robert was the last of his parents' children. His cousin, Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe (1860–1952), was one of Marcel Proust's models for the Duchess of Guermantes in À la recherche du temps perdu.
Montesquiou had a strong influence on Émile Gallé (1846–1904), a glass artist he collaborated with and commissioned major works from, and from whom he received hundreds of adulatory letters. He also wrote the verses found in the optional choral parts of Gabriel Fauré's Pavane.
The portrait Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac was painted in 1891–92 by Montesquiou's close friend, and model for many of his eccentric mannerisms, James Whistler.
The French artist Antonio de La Gandara (1861–1917) produced several portraits of Montesquiou.
Tall, black-haired, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand—the poseur absolute. Montesquiou's homosexual tendencies were patently obvious, but he may in fact have lived a chaste life. He had no affairs with women, although in 1876 he reportedly once slept with the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, after which he vomited for twenty-four hours. (She remained a great friend.)"
Montesquiou had social relationships and collaborations with many celebrities of the fin de siècle period, including Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897), Edmond de Goncourt (1822–1896), Eleonora Duse (1858–1924), Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), Gabriele d'Annunzio (1863–1938), Anna de Noailles (1876–1933), Marthe Bibesco (1886–1973), Luisa Casati (1881–1957), Maurice Barrès (1862–1923), and Franca Florio.
While Montesquiou had many aristocratic women friends, he much preferred the company of bright and attractive young men. In 1885, he began a close long-term relationship with Gabriel Yturri (March 12, 1860 – July 6, 1905), a handsome South American immigrant from Tucuman, Argentina, who became his secretary, companion, and lover.
After Yturri died of diabetes, Henri Pinard replaced him as secretary in 1908 and eventually inherited Montesquiou's much reduced fortune.
Montesquiou and Yturri are buried alongside each other at Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, Île-de-France, France.