I have long been fascinated by the lives, the art, the magic, the truth, and the power of women who could command simultaneously the lives of multiple men perceived formidable each in his own right.

Frau Lou Andreas-Salomé, Russian-born psychoanalyst and author, who, while married to Friedrich Carl Andreas, was simultaneously muse and lover to Paul Rée, German author and philosopher, and friend of Friedrich Nietzsche; Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and scholar of Latin and Greek; Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis; and Rainer Maria Rilke, Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist; among others.

Frida Kahlo is another. During her marriage to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo was muse not only to Rivera, but lover and muse to many other men and women, including Isamu Noguchi, Japanese-American artist and landscape architect; Josephine Baker, French-American singer, dancer, and actress; Leon Trotsky, Russian/Ukrainian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and forest leader of the Red Army; and Nicholas Muray, Hungarian-American photographer.

Both Rivera and Kahlo were active Communists. When Trotsky fled Norway to Mexico to seek political asylum from Stalin’s Soviet Union, he lived first with Rivera, then with Kahlo in her parents’ house in Coyoacán, outside of Mexico City. In 1939, Rivera and Kahlo broke their allegiance to Trotskyism and became open supporters of Stalin. Trotsky was assassinated in Coyoacán in 1940.

Throughout history, as wives, mistresses, paramours, courtesans, and concubines, women have adeptly circumvented the rules and expectations of polite society to thrive amongst men, reigning over their hearts and minds, while also empowering them.