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Interesting Women of the Nobility

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The Marchesa Luisa Casati was a legend of her time, she was one of the greatest hostesses in Europe and would find fame and infamy as a muse for some of the finest artists of the day.  Word of mouth did not do her extravagance credit, nor did the eccentricity of this woman.  Luisa was a egocentric who found that in the role of ‘muse’ she could have an eternal presence in art, her popularity as a subject form lay with her successful attempts to distinguish her very own life as a forrm of art.

She was a Milanese heiress, born in 1881 and dying in 1957.  She would contribute much of her drive for glamour and extravagance to the stories of Europe’s courts, which her mother would relay to her, filling her head with icons such as ‘Sissi and ‘Eugenie of France’.

Here is a summery from wikipedia (I know…but I had a big night last night!)

International Italian society figure, beauty, and eccentric, she was born in Milan, Lombardy, the younger daughter of Conte Alberto Amman, and his Austrian wife Lucia Bressi. She was married (1900) to the Marchese Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino (1877 - 1946).
A famous celebrity and femme fatale, the marchesa's famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. She captivated artists and literati figures such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Augustus John, Erté, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, and Jack Kerouac. The character of Isabella Inghirami from d'Annunzio's Forse che si forse che no (1910) was said to have been inspired by her, as well as the character of La Casinelle, who appeared in two novels by Michel Georges-Michel, Dans la fete de Venise (1922) and Nouvelle Riviera (1924).
Casati collected a menagerie of exotic animals, and fashion designers vied for her patronage. Later, when she had lost her immense wealth, the marchesa retired to England, spending her last years in London, where she died at the age of seventy-six. She was portrayed on the stage by Vivien Leigh in La Contessa (1965) and by Ingrid Bergman in the movie A Matter of Time (1976).
The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished Venetian society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery. Her numerous portraits were painted and sculpted by artists as various as Giovanni Boldini, Paolo Troubetzkoy, Romaine Brooks, Kees van Dongen, Man Ray and Augustus John; many of them she paid for, as a wish to "commission her own immortality".
She lived in the unfinished pink marble palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice, (now the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection) around 1910 and 1924.
She was muse to F. T. Marinetti, Fortunato Depero, Umberto Boccioni and, more recently, to Dita Von Teese. John Galliano based the 1998 Spring/Summer Christian Dior collection on her. Gowns from this collection have been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Fashion Institute.
As the concept of dandy was expanded in the twentieth century to include women, the marchesa Casati fitted the utmost female example by saying: "I want to be a living work of art".
[edit] Debt and flight
By 1930, Casati had amassed a personal debt of twenty-five million dollars. Unable to satisfy her creditors, her personal possessions were auctioned off. Rumour has it that among the bidders was Coco Chanel.
Luisa fled to London, where she lived in comparative poverty. She was rumoured to be seen rummaging in bins searching for feathers to decorate her hair. She died on 1 June 1957, and was interred in Brompton Cemetery. The quote "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety" from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra was inscribed on her tombstone.

omg luisa casati is FIERCE. imagine wearing real live snakes as a necklace! adore her.


I've always liked this portrait of Casati by Augustus John - I saw it many years ago at an exhibition of his paintings and thought it was the best thing there.


I also like the Boldini portrait, though of course it's a fairly standard swagger Edwardian painting, with Boldini pretending to be daring and unconventional.

I love that second portrait! I saw it on a site sometime ago and fell in love with it. I also love her less-daring portrait from 1905: http://www.style.com/slideshows/standalone/beauty/icon/100604ICON/01f.jpg
She's very beautiful there. Does she have any living descendants?


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