Eustahija Arsic Wrongly Portrayed as George Sand

Illustration, FakeNews Tragač

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 12/01/2024; Author: Marija Zemunović

A reader recently brought to our attention that various websites and media outlets have mistakenly used the wrong image to represent Eustahija Arsic, a pioneering Serbian writer from the 19th century. Instead of Arsic, the image often displayed is that of George Sand, a noted French writer.

Sand as Arsic

Eustahija Arsic holds the distinction of being the first published female writer in Serbia. She was not only an associate of Matica srpska, the oldest cultural-scientific institution in Serbia, and Letopis Matica srpska, but also a significant benefactor. Despite her notable legacy, a Google search for Eustahija Arsic frequently yields images of George Sand, leading to confusion about Arsic’s true likeness.

The wrong image was shared by the following web portals: Frontal,, 24 sedam, Zenski muzej (1, 2), Na danasnji dan, Vaseljenska TV i Riznica, and it was also shared on Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. In Romania, on the website of the district library “Alekandru D. Xenopol” from Arad, the photo in the text about Eustahija Arsic is actually of Sand.

It is important to note that accurate depictions of Eustahija Arsic do exist in various sources. For instance, authentic imagery exists in the texts published by Politika, RTS, IN4S, P-Portal, Facebook page “Eustahija Arsic – a poetess”, then in the book “Eustahija Arsic and her age” by Vladimir Milankov, in the work “The first Serbian writer: From the history of women of Nineteenth-Century Literature” by Ilija Vinitski from Princeton University, as well as in numerous other places.

Conversely, the photo frequently misattributed to Arsic is actually of George Sand, taken in 1864 by Nadar, a renowned French photographer—approximately three decades post Arsic’s demise. This photograph of Sand is widely recognized and utilized in various contexts, including the MoMa museum, the Britannica encyclopedia, and the Serbian version of Wikipedia, among texts discussing Sand.

Image from a porcelain cup

The discovery of Eustahija Arsic’s portrait is indeed a fascinating anecdote, shedding light on the historical figure’s visage, previously shrouded in mystery. The tale begins with Ladislav Varga, an author, publicist, and playwright, who was compiling his book “Mosaic of the Irish People” in 2001. Varga was determined to feature portraits of each individual he discussed, including the elusive Eustahija Arsic. Despite her notable contributions to literature, no known image of Arsic existed until then.

The breakthrough came unexpectedly from Karlovac, Croatia. There, Drago Domitrovic, a former parish priest, stumbled upon Arsic’s likeness on a porcelain cup within the household of Tomislav Radovanovic’s descendants, who was married to Arsic after her first husband. This cup bore the only known portrait of Arsic, which Domitrovic copied and subsequently shared with Varga. Varga confirmed the authenticity of this portrait and shared the intriguing backstory of its discovery with us (1, 2).

The Arsic/Sand confusion most likely came from Arsic being dubbed the “Serbian George Sand” in various texts (1, 2, 3…). This comparison was drawn because Arsic, akin to Sand, initially published her works anonymously. In her debut publication, “Sovjet matrnij” from 1814, she concealed her identity, revealing her name only subtly at the end of the book, beneath one of her poems.