As I was preparing the new section of my website, Torn From Yesterday’s Headlines!, I was organizing a set of newspaper clippings I had found in the course of doing genealogical research that had no relation to my family history but that were too interesting to ignore. And among those clippings (virtual clippings, mind you, found through online services) was this magnificent article from 1925, “Albany Girl Weds Prince of Spain.” Now, you would think that would merit more than an inch and a half of attention, but perhaps it was a busy news day. In any event, the whole story goes like this:
ALBANY GIRL WEDS PRINCE OF SPAIN
Daughter of Former State Senator Becomes Princess of San Fuastino
Rome. March 31 – (AP) – Miss Katherine Sage, daughter of former State Senator Henry M. Sage of Albany, N.Y., was married today to Don Ranieri Bourbon del Monte, prince of San Fuastino [sic]. The ceremony was performed by Cardinal Lega in the Church of San Tandrea, next to the Quirinal palace. Ambassador Fletcher gave the bride away. The new American princess has been an art student in Rome for the past two years.
Never mind the paper’s misspelling of San Faustino, the point here is that you would think that if an Albany native had become some kind of princess, that someone would know about it around here. Well, it turns out that Katherine Sage was, in fact, pretty well known.
Henry Manning Sage was one of the leading men of his day. Lewis Historical Publishing Company’s 1927 “The History of New York State” barely touches on his activities, noting that Sage was a member of “an old Albany family and himself a native and lifelong resident of New York State’s Capital.” He managed enormous tracts of land from the Sage Land and Improvement Company at 33 State Street, an outgrowth of his father’s lumber interests. He was educated at Albany Academy and some place called Yale, and served in the Assembly and the State Senate. From his first marriage to Ann Wheeler Ward, he had two children, Ann and Katherine Linn, born in 1898.
Her parents divorced when Katherine, who came to be known as Kay Sage, was quite young, and her mother took the children off to Italy around 1900. Though she maintained ties to family who remained at the family estate in Menands (now cut up into the mini-mansions of “Sage Estates”), that was the end of Albany for Kay. Kay came back to the U.S. for schooling from 1914-1919, and then returned to Italy, taking a position with the Scuola Libera dell Belle Arti in Rome. She painted and was active in the Roman art scene. She met and in 1925 married Prince Ranieri id San Faustino. After that ten-year marriage, she ended up in Paris and fell in with Surrealists. In 1938, she met Yves Tanguy, who would become a noted surrealist painter. At the beginning of the war, they moved from Paris to the United States; they married in Reno, Nevada in 1940, and settled in Woodbury, CT. She had her first American exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York that same year, and they were the subject of a joint exhibition in 1954. Generally, though, Tanguy’s success overshadowed hers, a common enough theme in ’40s and ’50s America and even more common among artistic couples, but her paintings are quite something to look at, great examples of the surrealist style.
After Tanguy’s death in 1955, Kay Sage is said to have become something of a recluse. It is reported that she was suffering depression, and that she was also losing her eyesight, forcing her into painful surgeries that were unsuccessful. She continued to create both paintings and poetry through this period, despite these troubles. In 1959, she attempted suicide. In 1963, at 64 years of age, she succeeded in her second attempt.
Not tucked into her own collection of papers but instead in the papers of her friend Flora Whitney Miller is a collection of poetry by Kay Sage. In Rome in 1924, the year she met the prince she would marry, she wrote this:
– The Story of the Unhappy Girl –
Once upon a time there was a girl
Who loved a fairy prince.
She loved him because
He was not like anyone else,
Because his eyes were like the sea,
His body strong,
His sould [sic] clean,
And his heart greater than the universe itself.
And he loved her because
She was not like anyone else.
Because her eyes were like the stars,
Her body slim,
Her soul like the petals of the lotus,
And her heart as great as his own.
So the girl married the fairy prince,
And they became like everyone else.
So in the end, there’s very little Albany in the story of the Albany girl who married a prince, but it turned out to be much more interesting than that. For more on Kay Sage, there’s a whole book about her. And there’s plenty of online material, including the Smithsonian’s collection of her papers, and many of her letters to her close friend Flora Whitney Miller. And if you just want to look at the pictures, they’re easy enough to find.