La Divina Marchesa
Luisa Adele Rosa Maria Amman born in Milan, Italy
#January 25, 1881
Guggenheim Venice, Provocative Muse & Patroness, Cartier, Cheetah & Brilliants, Scandalous Life, Eccentric, Exquisite, Extraordinary, Wearing Live Snakes as Jewelry, Ritz, Palais Rose, Art Performer, Ballets Russes
The Marchesa’ s personality
All the while, Luisa journeyed wherever her fancy took her–Venice, Rome, Paris, Capri–collecting palaces and a menagerie of exotic animals and spending fortunes on lavish masquerades. Frequently blurring gender lines–as well as those separating the human and extraordinary–her progressive personal aesthetic made her a legend throughout the continent. She was tall and thin. A thick blaze of flame-colored hair crowned her pale, almost cadaverously white face with its sensually vermillion lips. Above all, however, the Marchesa’s large green eyes cast the strongest spell of her unique beauty. She exaggerated these further still with immense false lashes and surrounding rings of black kohl, while droplets of poisonous belladonna made them glitter like emeralds. It’s no wonder she caused a press sensation during a sojourn in the United States during the 1920’s that featured stays in New York City and Hollywood. So intriguing was her fantastic persona, Casati also influenced playwrights and filmmakers both during and after her lifetime. Characters based specifically and more loosely on her came to be portrayed by such legendary actresses as Theda Bara, Tallulah Bankhead, Vivien Leigh,Valentina Cortese, Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman. The lore of her riveting gaze even inspired famed American writers Ezra Pound, Tennessee Williams and Jack Kerouac.
“I want to be a living work of art”
She inspired John Galliano for Dior.
Gabriele D’Annunzio about La Divina Marchesa
“But her alchemy was much more complex, producing many other marvels. By what fire did she transmute the substance of her life into the beauties of such moving power? She demonstrated how true it is that all enchantment is a madness induced with art. But what was the real essence of this creature? Was she aware of her continuous metamorphosis, or was she impenetrable to herself, excluded from her own mystery?”
The Marchesa’s Parties
Nude servants gilded in gold leaf attended her. Bizarre wax mannequins sat as guests at her dining table, some of them even rumored to contain the ashes of past lovers. She wore live snakes as jewelry and was infamous for her evening strolls, naked beneath her furs whilst parading cheetahs on diamond-studded leashes. Everywhere she went, she set trends, inspired genius and astounded even the most jaded members of the international aristocracy. Without question, the Marchesa Casati was the most scandalous woman of her day.
Artists & La Divina Marchesa
For the first three decades of the twentieth century, the fabled Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957) triumphed as the brightest star in European society. Possibly the most artistically represented woman in history after the Virgin Mary and Cleopatra, the portraits, sculptures and photographs of her would fill a gallery. In a quest for immortality, she had herself painted by Giovanni Boldini, Augustus John, Kees Van Dongen, Romaine Brooks and Ignacio Zuloaga; sketched by Drian, Alberto Martini and Alastair; sculpted by Giacomo Balla, Catherine Barjansky and Jacob Epstein; and photographed by Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Baron Adolph de Meyer. She frightened Artur Rubinstein, angered Aleister Crowley and intimidated T.E. Lawrence. As muse to the Italian futurists F. T. Marinetti, Fortunato Depero and Umberto Boccioni, she conjured up an elaborate marionette show with music by Maurice Ravel. Accompanied by her pet boa constrictor, she checked into the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where it escaped. Considered the original female dandy, Léon Bakst, Paul Poiret, Mariano Fortuny and Erté dressed her. She adorned herself with the jewels of Lalique and directly inspired the famed ‘Panther’ design for Cartier. Her parties and appearances at others became legendary–at one celebration in her Venetian palazzo, Nijinsky invited Isadora Duncan to dance; Picasso attended a soirée at her Roman villa; while she costumed herself as a living artwork inspired by Dalí for another. She was a subject of intrigue to Marcel Proust and the Comte Robert de Montesquiou. She whirled through Parisian nightlife, making an unforgettable impression on Colette, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. She was the only woman ever to astonish her lover Gabriele D’Annunzio, one of Italy’s most notorious and revolutionary writers.
by her daughter on Marchesa Luisa Casati’s tomb
“Age cannot wither, nor can habit make its infinite variety tasteless.” Shakespeare