|John Galliano for Christian Dior - Ball gown - Tribute to Luisa Casati|
Welcome to the world of The Divine Marchesa - Art and life of Luisa Casati from the Belle Epoque to the spree years. It's Autumn at Fortuny.
|John Galliano for Christian Dior - Tribute to Luisa Casati|
|Bronze of Marchesa Casati with Greyhound by Paolo Troubetzkoy, 1914|
Early photos reveal a perfectly proper aristocratic family, spending their time doing perfectly proper aristocratic things. Then, on April 15, 1894, Luisa's mother died (I have yet to uncover the reason how) when Luisa was just 13-years-old, and then, on July 11, 1896, her father died when she was 15-years-old, making Luisa and Francesca the richest orphans in Italy -- at impressionable ages.
In 1900, Luisa continued her proper aristocratic life by duly marrying Marchese Camillo Casati Stampa, and producing her only child, Cristina, the next year. Then, in 1903, Luisa met the flamboyant writer, poet and playwright, Gabriele D'Annunzio at a fox hunt; he was 18 years her senior and lover to Eleanora Duse. Luisa became his lover, and started her transformation into a living work of art.
|Luisa Casati as Empress Theodora|
"I venture to add a few lines of introduction, as it seems to me there exists among a certain class of people, particularly in America, a misapprehension as to the value and meaning of titles. True it is, that in a democratic country like our own, there is little place for the consideration of this subject; but democratic as we Americans are theoretically, practically it is well known that we all respect a foreign title without any definitely expressed reason to ourselves. ...Had George Washington been made an emperor, the signers of the Declaration of Independence might have been made dukes or princes; but our forefathers began with other names: hero, patriot, statesman are the titles of the New World, for we are a New World and a young country."
Tryphosa was a well-connected Catholic, even scoring an audience with Pope Pius X and an invitation to meet Her Majesty, Queen Elena of Italy, complete with instructions on what to wear ("visiting dress with hat" and, for her husband, "morning dress, frock coat"). Her memoir flits from visits to the estates of this countess or that princess, interspersed with an occasional visit to an historic site. She first sets eyes on Luisa Casati at a Bal de Têtes at the Grand Hotel in Rome.
|Luisa Casati as Empress Theodora|
"It was supposed to be a ball characterized by the fancy dressing of the head and hair, but, as a matter of fact, most of the women came in elaborate and beautiful costumes. Far and away the most elegant and most beautiful costume was worn by the Marchesa Camillo Casati, of the famous Casati family of Milan. She was dressed as the Empress Theodora, in a perfect fitting princesse gown of cloth of silver heavily embroidered in gold. The costume was an exact reproduction of one worn in Paris by Sarah Bernhardt a short time ago. The Marchesa wore on her head a crown formed of eagles, and had some of her diamonds set up in a large diamond eagle, which was her only corsage ornament. Two or three ropes of her wonderful and famous pearls hung loosely about her beautiful neck, and altogether she was quite the most stunning persona at the ball. She is a handsome woman, tall and slight, with a beautiful figure and splendid carriage. Her hair is a light chestnut color, and she is always pale, though her paleness is of that attractive sort that does not indicate ill-health. She is said to be one of the best dressed women in Rome on all occasion."
Our American socialite runs into Luisa Casati again on March 23, 1905, writing: "We have just come in from the last hunt of the season, and a very pretty and brilliant sight it was, too. ...You remember about my speaking of the Marchesa Casati with her lovely gowns and jewels, but I forgot to say then, that she is one of the finest horsewomen in Italy. I am sending you a little picture that shows her in her long leopard-skin coat, just as she rode out in her carriage to the meet before mounting."
You can read Tryphosa's exuberant tome, Glimpses of Italian Court Life, online here.
|La marchesa Casati by Lorraine Brooks, circa 1920|
|Marchesa Casati with Giovanni Boldini and a man in masquerade at Ca' Venier dei Leoni, Sept 1913|
|La marchesa Casati by Augustus Edwin John, 1919|
"But she was not only bizarre and over the top, theatrical and chameleonic, megalomaniac and narcissistic: new studies published for the first time in the exhibition catalogue duly recognize a more consciously “artistic” aspect by tracing her activity as a collector and acknowledging the aesthetic scope of her actions and masquerades, which anticipated performance and body art."
|La marches Casati by Man Ray, 1922|
|Luisa Casati wearing Paul Poiret, 1913|
LUISA'S PRIVATE ALBUM gives an intimate look at the Marchesa's life through personal photos. The chapter headings are: "Childhood Fantasy," "Wife and Mother," "Luisa Alone," "Dream Houses," "Friends and Lovers," "Fur, Fang and Snakeskin," "Role of a Lifetime," "Media Darling," and, finally, "Last Act in London." The album is the most revealing thing about a woman who seemed bold and outrageous in public, but in private moments appears timid and shy. LUISA'S PRIVATE ALBUM is upstairs on the second floor on the long table.
|Serpent Necklace by Cartier - yellow gold, white gold, diamonds and turquoise|
Luisa Casati, The Divine Marchesa, was a comet that collided with Earth, then orbited out into the Solar System, leaving behind a trail of cosmic dust that reverberates today.
The Divine Marchesa
Art and life of Luisa Casati from the Belle Époque to the spree years
From October 4th, 2014 to March 8th, 2015
Palazzo Fortuny, Venice
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Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog